Brad Allen bio photo

Brad Allen

Absent-minded, but always learning.

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So, I’ve just finished setting up the layout for this website and it took more work than it should for any reasonable blog - but for me, that’s part of the point…

A short background

Unexpectedly, business school helped me rediscover how much I loved building things. My undergraduate degree was in chemical engineering, but at Stanford I focused more on tangible (ie, less process oriented) things. I spent a lot of time in the Product Realization Lab learning from their great TAs and slaving away on the lathe.

A spaghetti holder for Andrea. The lid taught me how to make a reveal, and how design can create great experiences despite manufacturing limitations.

For a mechatronics course, my team and I built a basketball-playing robot, Legolas. (We knew it would be a long, arduous journey and we called ourselves “The Fellowship.”)

Notice the resemblance?

I also created a personal curriculum centered on “data in society” / “actionable data.” From this, I started a course that is still taught(!) at the GSB and put on a seminar series in the School of Engineering called “Information Pioneers.” I got a better sense of the role I could play on a team for whom these technologies are part of the product, and developed a rudimentary intuition.

All the learnings, all the time

One thing I loved was the balance of both short- and long-term orientations required to do these things well. It’s not useful to spend all of one’s time planning, and a lot can be learned from just getting started. At the same time, having an intuition of how technology is used at scale (eg, the finish on an injection molding machine, or how to do data science on Cassandra) will make sure that the up-front time is used most effectively.

I’m using this blog to document my own personal learning process. Even just getting to this point, I got some practice with AWS, and am hosting the site with an S3 bucket. I pulled some templates from Git and Bitbucket, mashing together some code and practicing with HTML, CSS, and MD files. I also got hit with a $1,450 bill (that was waived) when I accidentally left my private key in my Github account. It was scraped and within 12 hours I had 150 EC2 instances set up in my name. (Amazon waived the fee - but still, “so much learning.”)

So what’s next?

Some preliminary projects I’m planning:

These are all areas in which I’d like to improve, and documenting that process is why I’ve called the site “The Perpetual Apprentice.” It’s a public to commitment to one of my favorite quotes, from a lecture Vladimir Nabokov gave called “The Shaded Lanes”:

The more things we know the better equipped we are to understand any one thing and it is a burning pity that our lives are not long enough and not sufficiently free of annoying obstacles, to study all things with the same care and depth as the one we now devote to some favorite subject or period. And yet there is a semblance of consolation within this dismal state of affairs: in the same way as the whole universe may be completely reciprocated in the structure of an atom,… an intelligent and assiduous student [may] find a small replica of all knowledge in a subject he has chosen for his special research… and if, upon choosing your subject, you try diligently to find out about it, if you allow yourself to be lured into the shaded lanes that lead from the main road you have chosen to the lovely and little known nooks of special knowledge, if you lovingly finger the links of the many chains that connect your subject to the past and the future and if by luck you hit upon some scrap of knowledge referring to your subject that has not yet become common knowledge, then will you know the true felicity of the great adventure of learning…

Awesome. :) If you have any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or just want to chat - reach out anytime!