July Off

Two years ago I got to visit Newport, RI for a couple of days in October, but because we were right before Dreamforce I had to work almost the whole time I was here. I realized that even if I hadn’t needed to work I wouldn’t have been able to experience all of Newport that I wanted to experience, a weekend just isn’t enough. I promised myself that I would take the summer of 2017 off from work, and when I got back, I started asking my bosses how I could do it. Guess what? It’s the summer of 2017, and while I’ve decided not to take the whole summer off (I technically could have), I am taking July off.

There are no rules about this month. I’m not allowed to get mad at myself about doing a thing or not doing a thing. I’m not going to berate myself if I don’t build something spectacular, I’m just going to relax and do the things I feel like I need to. I’m reading a little about swift, I’m looking at a couple of other programming things that I’ve been meaning to look at but been too busy, but there are no requirements. I’m not accountable to other people this month, I’m accountable to what I want to do.

About half way through the month, I’ve driven across the country, done an acro yoga festival, visited seven different Patagonia stores (eight if you include Newport, which is a technically not a corporate owned store, but might as well be), sailed four of the last five days, been to Maine for the first time in over a decade, seen my niece and nephew, played with dogs, driven a scooter, and eaten at some of my favorite childhood restaurants (though I’m still searching for a good latté in Newport).

In short, my dream two years ago has been realized and I’m ecstatic about it, and I still have two weeks left!

As people we often talk about what we want to do, but if what you want to do turns into a dream, I suggest you find a way to make it happen. This one ended up not being that hard to pull off and I encourage you to look at your dreams and evaluate what it would to turn them into reality.

May The Cilantro Be With You

In one of my many office pranks, I’ve created a new website. A coworker of mine just crossed his three year mark at the company. At SalesforceIQ we value our people and we celebrate milestones. Three years is a big a deal, so much so that my coworker made me this wonderful website: ZackCohensVan.com. Well, my fiend Fabian just crossed his three year mark and wanting to make sure his anniversary experience was as pleasent as mine, I decided to create a website for him.

I went through several iterations of domains before I settled on the site that I chose:


I used a responsive template and used some crazy images and stories I have collected over the 3 years I’ve worked the Fabian.

Aside form the site, I’d just like to say that I really appreciate how our company really promotes these anniversaries. They celebrate the fact that the company is made up of a bunch of individuals working together to make something happen.

Five Dollar Fifth, ACLU

Today is the fifth of January. I’ve started taking the position that each month I’d like to doante to something related to national holiday of the month. Not all months have holidays, but most do. This month’s is Martin Luther King Day. There are lot of charities, but I’m particular about where I want to donate. I don’t want to donate to any charity’s whose focus is about increasing one group’s “power”, or “influence”. I’m about equal rights, about getting to the point where race is not the consideration, but peopel are evaluated on more fair criteria.

This belief in supporting freedom led to me to ACLU. If you would like to join me, please visit them at:


Five Dollar Fifth – The Conservation Fund

I’ve been thinking a lot about the environment ever since we elected a President that doesn’t believe in Climate Change. Apparently, so has my favoriate company Patagaonia. They donated 100% of their Black Friday sales to grass roots movements to help the enviroment, totally around 10 million dollars.

For this month’s fifth, I chose The Concservation Fund this month for my donation. Found it from Charity Watch, they have an A+ ranking. If you feel like going out and exploring is important to you, maybe you can consider donating as well.

I have a podcast

I create a lot of things. I really enjoy starting projects. I’m not so good at carrying them through.

I started a podcast with my friend Evan to talk a little about climbing. We are both based out of the South Bay so we called the podcast South Beta. It’s a play on our location and route Beta. We have three episodes with no real purpose yet. That is the goal for the next episode, start putting some meaning behind it and start getting something to build for our listeners. Not quite sure what that is supposed to be.

Anyway, it’s an intersting listen and if you climb at planet granite it covers some gym related news. We also talk about going outdoors in this area and climbing tips.

If you have a chance, go to the website and check us out. You can also find us on iTunes.

Career Fair Tips

The past couple of months I’ve been doing some recruiting for my awesome company SalesforceIQ. Part of it has taken me to some career fairs. While I’ve met some really great candidates, there are several things I’d like to share from the recruiter perspective.

Firstly, there is always a hot topic of the day. Currently, it’s Machine Learning. There are several other ways of saying it, Data Science, or NLP (Natural Language Processing) for example. They all refer to the same thing. Working with large amounts of data and discerning information from it.

It makes sense because one of the biggest problems facing computer scienctists these days is how to make sense of all this data we have. It’s a big problem. It appears like a fun problem, because no one really has a certain way of solving it yet.

The issue is, everyone says they want to work on it.

As a tech recruiter in a career fair, I may talk to 30+ people an hour. If you are saying the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s going to be hard for that recruiter to remember you. If you express interest in an area that everyone else is also interested in, you are in a larger group of candidates. Recruiters will naturally find a way to shorten the stack of resumes they need to consider to make it managable. Maybe they will exclude base on degree level (in Machine Learning, PhD is starting to be something we look for). Maybe, they will look for super high GPAs. The thing is, you don’t know the criteria, and the only thing you’ve done is lump yourself in the group with everyone else. You aren’t doing anything to give yourself an advantage over other candidates. You want to find a way for the tech person to turn to a recruiter after words asking if they followed up with “that person you remembered had interest in….”

Not all remembering is good. You don’t want to remembered as that person who kept asking the same question for 30 minutes. In general, however, you do want to make a memorable positive impression on the recruiter.

One way to do this is to talk about a specific interest you have that may differenciate you. Lets say you have a strong interest in Human Computer Interaction, and you have done some research on density of information. Distilling your interest and beliefs down to a 30 second talk on the subject may be the ticket to making a positive impression which can help move you along quicker to the next step in the interview process.

Five Dollar Fifth: BCRF

It’s the fifth of the month. I started a thing a while back and have stopped doing it. I give $5 to charity on the fifth of every month. It makes me feel better. Five dollars isn’t that much.

This month, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’ve donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They are rated A+ from Charity Watch.

You can donate here. You can see information about the charity here.

The whole concept behind $5 fifth is that if we all did it would make a difference. If you can, please consider donating.

The Story

This post is originally posted on clairevango.com

When I was a kid my family moved around a bit. We lived in CT, PA, KY and then back to CT again. We spent a couple summers on a boat in RI while parents handled the move between states. While my brothers and I were seperated by years, interests, and social cirlces, we found a way to coexist. We weren’t close, but we were never too far apart.

As an adult, I feel like I’ve missed something something by moving the west coast. I’ve missed opportunity to be closer to my family. I’ve missed the opportunity to see my brothers grow to be men. I know I will be missing much as they begin to start families and I’m 3000 miles away.

When my youngest brother told me I was going to be uncle, I felt emmense joy and also sadness because this was a transition in stage of life for him. I haven’t been around since he got out of the marines. I’ve never been close to him as an adult.

When the middle brother told me several weeks later that they were expecting, I realized that both of the relationships with my brothers were about to change.

I thought of the things I wish I had done with my brothers. I thought of the times I missed the most. My first thought was the long annoying road trips we used to take. From our home in Connecticut to skiing in VT. That time we traveled all the way to Maine, to visit our best friends the Beckers. At the time, these were painful experiences, but looking back on it, these were times where we learned about each other. One brother would pick the first CD we would listen to, another the next. Spencer got us into listening to the entire Harry Potter series on tape.

We learned a lot about each other on the road, stuck in a metal box for hours at a time.

These memories inspired my crazy idea:

Buy a van, build it out, and travel with them before they had their first children.

I’m a firm believer that I learn about myself and others on the road. This is the story of me, trying to learn about my brothers and myself on the open road.

Zen and the Art of Zack

This week I caught myself hunting for new sneakers. I’m in my room right now, and I can see no less than 5 pairs of sneakers in sight. I know have a bunch more around my room. The thing is, I don’t need more sneakers. I’m hunting for sneakers. I could find the perfect pair of sneakers. You know, sneakers that at the same time magnificently comfortable and also incredibly stylish and durable. Sneakers that would be great to run a marathon in or take to the tumbling gym.

This whole thought process makes me think of a TED talk I heard called: The Paradox of Choice. The general concept is that as we have more choices we get consumed by finding the best choice. This exercise is somewhat futile because even if we find something good we are consumed with the thought that there is something better out there.

This idea that there is always something better has haunted my life in all aspects. There must be a better way to train. There must be a better food, one that is both healthy and tastes like candy. There must be a better pair of pants that is both cool (in temperature) and cool (in style). There must be a shirt that fits me perfectly. There must be a better way to make this View Controller (for all you iOS programmers out there).

I’ve been consumed with the hunt for the better. While some level of striving for better is a good thing, the obsession I have with it doesn’t feel healthy. I’m never going to stop pushing myself, it is just part of my ethos, but I am going to try and accept more. Be tolerant of more. Take the steps I need to get there.

As another aside, I’d like to mention that I recently re-watched the last two episodes of Life. It is a great show, and has a lot of Zen concepts. I used to be sad that this show ended in only two seasons, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that it was the way it was supposed to be and I have to be content taking the lessons I can from the two seasons that were produced.

Reverse Quitting

I was listening to a radio ad the other week about quitting smoking. It was very compelling. The ad said that all people who quit smoking are people who have tried to quit before, failed, and kept trying until they didn’t fail. They learned each time what didn’t work, until they found what did.

I’m not quitting.

I’m starting.

I love beginnings.

I love the beginnings of each day, I’m a morning person.

I love the intro skill, the back handspring, the toss hands, the hello world program, the basic rule of thirds photograph, the empty notebook before it has been marked.

There is a lot of promise in a beginning. Somewhere along the way I feel like I mess it up. I make a errant mark in the notebook, miss the exposure or composition of the photograph, lose the technique on a harder stunt, each too much junk food by the end of the night.

I keep trying to get started and don’t make very much progress. I give up and live in despair for a couple of days, and then try again.

The problem is, that I’m not sure I’m good at keeping track of my mistakes and avoiding them the next day, the next start.

I’m going back to my “Make Something” manifesto. I’m going to stop ending each night by just watching NCIS episodes. I”m going earn each episode. I’m going to earn each nights sleep. I’m going to earn it by eating better, working on building my projects (van, travel, climbing), and taking care of my body.

I will keep trying to figure it out, and if/when I fail, I’ll figure it out and start again.

Today doesn’t feel like a failure, and I’m excited about carrying this beginning into tomorrow!