The Inquisitive Anthropologist

by Astrid Willis Countee

Software Developer. Social Scientist. Innovator. Creator of and Contributing writer at

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Achievement AND Fulfillment

Today I was listening to a podcast on my blazing hot ride home (like I always do). In it, Tony Robbins was being interviewed about living life at the top of your game (click the title to hear the interview). He said a phrase that struck me. Please excuse the crude a quote that is about to follow:

“Most of us are living our lives for achievement, but not for fulfillment”

By achievement he means success. And he is right about that. Google how to be a successful… fill in the blank, and you will see what I mean. But fulfillment loosely translates to happiness. From my experience, this is where many of us get stuck, and Tony talks about this as well. There are always people who achieve all the goals that they set for themselves and then they look and say…is that all there is?

I know about that one. That is what happened to me a few years ago. It is one of the reasons that I decided to

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Authenticity Aint for Sissies

Authenticity1.jpgThese last few months have been a time of transition for me. Usually when I say that, what I mean is I may be doing all new work, or have new goals that I am working towards. But this time has been different for me.

After pushing myself for the last two years to aggressively pick up new tech skills and start a software engineering career, I found myself laid off. Even though my initial instinct was to immediately look for my next job, something inside me tugged against it. Instead, I decided to take moment to slow down and reflect on where I was and where I wanted to be.

What I realized was that I needed the chance to find my authenticity.

It’s not to say that software engineering wasn’t and authentic career for me. In many ways, I feel that making the move to engineering connected me back to a part of myself that I had neglected. As obsessive I can be about my love for technology

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Creating Meaningful Work

Recently I have found myself at a new beginning.

After working at my first real job as a software developer for a year, the company had lay offs, and I was one of them. This gave me the chance to determine what it is that I wanted to do next.

The obvious next step was to get a new job. But as I started my job search, something didn’t feel right. I knew that I wanted to keep working as a software developer, but I wasn’t sure that the right next step was to join a new company.

Because while I was on my Christmas Break I had decided something.

I decided that this next year was going to be a year where I started to build meaningful work. I wanted the things that I did to represent my true interest and desire, and not necessarily follow a particular career path. I wanted my work to be a reflection of me.

And that isn’t something that you normally find a job posting.

Instead, I

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Using MongoDB with Rails

NoSQL databases have gone from being a curiosity to being the backend of enterprise web apps. Likewise, Rails has also matured enough to be adopted by large organizations while still being a startup favorite. Rails grew up with SQL so implementing a NoSQL database may seem to be unconventional. This guide will help any user be able to easily set up one of the most popular NoSQL databases, MongoDB.

When you set up your initial Rails project make sure to skip active record.

rails new my_app --skip-active-record

Active record uses migrations to control your database, which won’t be needed with MongoDB.

Use Mongoid. Mongoid is a ODM (object document mapper) framework for Mongo in Ruby. It will make the rest of the process much simpler and will help you manage your database without active record.

Mongoid is wrapped up in a gem which makes installation a breeze.


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Are You A Fox, or Hedgehog?


I ran across this question while I was digging away, deep in the internet. I had never heard of such a question. Come to find out that this link may have been mysteriously brought to me by little internet fairies who knew that I was pondering my place in my career.

Are you a fox or a hedgehog?

To get to the heart of it, we should start with what this question really means. The hedgehog and the fox is a short story that is based on an ancient Greek fable. The story goes a little something like this

A fox and a hedgehog were strolling through a country path. Periodically, they were threatened by hungry wolves.The fox — being blessed with smarts, speed and agility — would lead packs of wolves on a wild chase through the fields, up and down trees, and over hill and dale. Eventually the fox would return to the path, breathless but having lost the wolves, and continue walking. The

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2016 Level Up List

Its that time again and I have my own list of resolutions. Last year I only wanted to stick to reading, and created a reading list. The problem is that I didn’t do so well. I read a few books, but nothing to be impressed by. Which is pretty pathetic, so this year I decided to be more determined and detailed.

I will resolve that reading list issue, and add to it some new resolutions:

1. Write every day

I have already started doing this one and I have to say that I am seeing a big improvement. Not so much in my writing, cause its not like I am editing it, but more so in my thoughts. Writing helps to clarify what it is that you want to say. A good reason to pick up a writing habit if I ever heard one.

2. Code every day

And by this I don’t mean what I do at work. I have found that even though my learning curve is steep I still need to find the time to practice. I started this one

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Raising the Barre


I am on Christmas break. Just saying that feels like a luxury after a year of constant working and more work and more work. But I have had some victories.

I became a freelancer with regular clients. I started working as a full time software developer, first in QA and now in DevOps. I started my second masters, interdisciplinary in computer science and math, and got a 4.0 this semester. I joined a startup as a co-founder. I got my thesis published into a book and started a blog for it. So naturally I am ready for my next challenge ( not to say that I have mastered what was already listed).

Since I am on a break, I have had a chance to do a bit of reading, for pleasure. I choose, Raising The Barre by Lauren Kessler because I have a dream that somewhere inside of me lives and artist that will come out if I just keep reading about it. I approached this book as a light read, and a

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Over the last few months I have been obsessed with stories.

Not because I am looking for a good way to be entertained, but because I am looking. Yes looking. Looking for snippets in the lives of others who have grown themselves beyond the usual. I want to be one of them.

This has been a long time coming for me. I have never exactly fit into one place or another and I often seem to go against the crowd. Like being a anthropologist who needs to learn to code. Or, learning to code and landing that coveted full time paying job, and needing to become a computer scientist because learning to code is just not enough. I have a thirst for knowledge yes, but truth be told my real hunger is for reinvention.

I feel compelled to push myself further in order to become a higher version of myself.

So I listen to stories of others who go beyond the norm. And like a good researcher, I noticed

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Annie Malone

Because I love listening to podcasts I periodically hunt out a new and interesting one to add to my collection.

This week I decided to try out Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour partly cause the latest episode was on work. As a woman trying to find my place in the world, I tend to focus on discussions about careers for guidance. In the Lena’s Corner section of the show, she highlighted a female entrepreneur that I had never heard of, but bears repeating her story named Annie Malone.

Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone was an American Businesswoman and Philanthropist that lived from August 9, 1869 – May 10, 1957. She was the 10th of 11 children born to escaped slaves in southern Illinois. Annie was orphaned at a young age, and was subsequently raised by her older sister in Peoria. In high school, she excelled at Chemistry, but never got to finish because of frequent illness.

Her fascination

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What Matters


This week of thanksgiving has been for me a much needed break and a chance to spend long overdue time with family. It has also given me the chance to think. The past few years have been like a whirlwind for me, and in many ways I am still trying to catch up.

Taking time to access yourself, for yourself, is important and should be done from time to time.

As a person who often feels alone in my path, a periodic reflection is my only touchstone. This reflection usually revolves around life and career and this week was no different. What kind of life do I want? and what kind of career do I want? I am much more aligned with my ultimate goal now than any other time I can think of. But, I keep asking myself these questions in order to give myself a guiding post to watch in the distance.

Being a junior dev, in many ways, opens up more questions than I had a year ago. Last year I wanted

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