Sunday Snapshots (30th June, 2019)

Urban migration in the US, Organizational entropy, Cooking, and Dark Sky

Hey everyone,

This week was busy. I finally got into the rhythm of things at my internship, had a few calls with mentors, and helped a couple of my friends move into new places. During this week, I came across:

  • A memoir by someone called the “Trump Whisperer”

  • Another example of organizational entropy

  • Sharing as a gesture

  • An app with scarily accurate weather predictions

  • And much more!

Book of the week

This week, I reread Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. The book starts with a simple question – why do so few people from rural towns go to Ivy League schools? The answer might seem simple: something along the lines of fewer opportunities, disdain for the coasts, and poor economic conditions. All that is true, but it undersells how the very social fabric of industrial America is being torn apart by the forces of opioids, the fall of manufacturing in the US, and inequality catalyzed by globalization. There are two main parts of the book – the first about his family and their story of urban migration from Kentucky to Ohio, the second about his migration from a member of “fly-over” country to the nation’s elite. I resonated with his experiences at Yale Law School where he noticed that everyone around him “felt successful” and the recruitment process was foreign to him. Dinners with recruiters to see if you were a “culture fit.” Cocktail receptions to see if you could mingle. 1:1 interviews where you didn’t talk about your professional experiences, but about which golf club in New England you had tee time at.

I’ve seen reviews around the web calling Vance a “Trump Whisperer.” While I do think that he touches on parts of the rural psyche that Trump used, the book is a lot more personal than that. If you’re interested in understanding the 2016 election, don’t pick up this book. But if you’re interested in a moving story about urban migration and one man’s journey out of a dead-end life, I highly recommend you read Hillbilly Elegy.

Long read of the week

Venture Research: Fostering trust and freedom in research funding

The hypothesis of this paper is that “researchers with radical ideas would struggle to obtain funding through traditional means.” Therefore, the Venture Research Unit was set up and funded by British Petroleum (not the most popular company in the world, I know) and “provided £20 million in research funding to around 30 researchers and small teams from Europe and North America.” What’s most interesting to me in this paper is the reasoning behind the ending of the initiative – “the departure from BP of VRU’s high-level supporter Bob Malpas.” I’ve been thinking about the natural tendency of organizations to move towards a state of high entropy and the constant work that it requires to keep the center together. This is especially important as a company scales and it becomes more difficult to align every department towards a single goal.

Personal update of the week

This week, I cooked every single day of the week. I love cooking, but between classes and side projects, I rarely have time to cook fresh food everyday. My meals are usually either prepped ahead of time or bought at a restaurant. I’m really happy to get this small victory in!

Gesture of the week

In another example of something that takes a person very little time and effort to do, but has massive value for others, Brent Beshore shares his favorite newsletters so that they can have a broader following (which shouldn’t be difficult with his ~40,000 followers).

Business move of the week

Walmart Turns to VR to Pick Middle Managers (WSJ)

Having worked at a research lab at Northwestern where we looked at how different personality traits lead to better performance in particular tasks, this doesn’t surprise me at all. Future job applicants will be scrutinized on their eye movements, involuntary changes in facial expressions, and everything that can be measured, processed, and quantified. Resumes at the top of the funnel are already evaluated by machines and in my view, this type of VR assessment will become an expectation for entry level jobs with the aim of cutting down the time it takes to hire someone.

Random corner of the week

This Chicago summer has not been very …. summer-y. The last couple of weeks remind me of the Philippines during typhoon season – hot, wet, and humid. To time my commutes, I’ve been been using the Dark Sky app. It blows the default Weather app on the iPhone out of the water with its accurate and to-the-minute predictions. I never thought such a simple app could improve my daily routine so much. If you live in a city where it rains or snows a lot, it’s well worth the $3.99.

Meal of the week

Last week, I went to Cemitas Pueblas in Fulton Market. I used to go there a lot last summer when I had a MealPal subscription and they were the closest partner to my office. The Cemitas are pretty good and I’m a complete sucker for Jarritos on a hot day!


That wraps up this week’s Sunday Snapshots. If you want to discuss any of the ideas mentioned above or have any books/papers/links you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of Sunday Snapshots, please reach out to me by replying to this email or send me a direct message on Twitter at @sidharthajha.

Until next Sunday,

Sid