Name: Daniel Chang
Location: New York, NY, US
Occupation: Software Engineering Manager
Room size: A cosy 40 ft² (less than 4 m2) nest right in my living room
Cost of setup: Let’s just say it’s an investment in happiness and sanity, shall we?
Hello! Tell us a bit about yourself
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when my affinity for technology began.
From a young age, I found myself naturally attracted to gadgets, video games, and computers.
This early interest didn’t just remain a childhood curiosity; it blossomed into a deep-seated passion that carried through my college years and into my professional life.
Today, as a software engineering manager, it feels as though each experience I’ve gathered along the way has fallen perfectly into place, shaping the fulfilling and dynamic career I have now.
It’s an environment where my youthful enthusiasm for technology meets the innovative nature of my work, and I find genuine joy in it.
Diving into this field has allowed me to create a space where I can develop and oversee platforms and applications that are not only innovative and aligned with my own technical inclinations but also contribute significantly to enriching people’s experiences and lives.
Regarding social media, I’ve consciously reduced my presence to focus on personal well-being, finding simple pleasures and a good dose of fun in exploring the realms of YouTube and TikTok.
Take us through your setup
Picture a cosy yet inviting corner situated in a bustling living room, where the urban ambience of NYC harmoniously blends with a gentle infusion of sunlight.
Despite its compact size, it encompasses everything I need.
This is my special place.
It screams “me” from every angle, an amalgamation of minimalism and functionality, adorned with an ergonomic design that is aesthetically pleasing and fosters productivity.
Along this journey, I’ve found joy in gradually infusing the space with pieces of art that resonate deeply with my personal journey and echo the nuances of my evolving self.
The evolution of this space has been a conscious and deliberate journey, marked by a particular focus on meticulous cable management, culminating in a setup where the entire desk can be moved with ease — thanks to a set of cables neatly bundled together.
It is a living project that mirrors my personality and aspirations.
Over the span of three years, I have sculpted an environment that strikes a harmonious balance.
Nestled strategically between the entertainment and dining areas, it serves as a subtle separator that maintains a distinct identity within the broader living space.
Additionally, the layout of the desk was chosen with care, facilitating occasional gazes out the window during work hours and avoiding the monotony of a blank wall.
The setup even transforms into a VJ station, becoming the heartbeat of gatherings with friends.
Certainly, the pandemic brought its own set of challenges, including escalating prices and extended wait times.
Yet, it spurred a wave of creativity, giving birth to makeshift solutions like utilising Amazon boxes as temporary standing desks.
For a while, my bedroom assumed the role of an office — a setup that, admittedly, wasn’t the most conducive due to the lure of daytime naps beckoned by the nearby bed.
As I think about future enhancements for my workspace, I’m considering adding a sleek Apple Studio Display or perhaps splurging on a Pro Display XDR (though it’s quite pricey) to give my setup a visual boost, inviting a stream of natural light to brighten up the room.
I’m also eyeing a stylish Craig Hill Eyewear Stand to keep my glasses handy while adding a dash of sophistication to my desk.
On top of that, I’m on the lookout for the perfect chic desk footrest. If you have any recommendations, I’d welcome them with open arms!
What’s your favourite item on your desk?
Oh, let me tell you about my Gentoo keyboard.
When the pandemic started, everyone in NYC seemed to turn into a baker overnight.
Not me, though.
I went down the mechanical keyboard rabbit hole. Yes, it was quite a journey with a few bumps along the road.
Tracking down the right parts turned into a treasure hunt, with a fair share of waiting and hurdles. But, you know, it’s all been worth it.
Now, I have this fantastic keyboard that is just a joy to use. It looks great and feels even better.
Though I’m not that active in the community anymore, this keyboard is a precious reminder of that vibrant period.
Then, there’s my standing desk, a real game-changer for my daily routine, especially since I’ve been grappling with back pain for a while.
It nudged me to embrace a more dynamic working style.
I’ve learned to alternate between standing and sitting, keeping things fresh throughout the day.
Initially, standing desks were quite a luxury, so I got creative with boxes and whatever I had lying around to make my makeshift standing workstation.
Thankfully, now I have a proper one that I can adjust as I please, and it’s made a massive difference in my comfort level.
Moving on to my chair, it’s another favourite of mine.
I’ve always had a thing for the sleek Aeron design, a classic from Herman Miller.
It’s not just a chair; it’s a piece that brings together style and comfort in the best possible way, making my working hours a delight rather than a chore.
Lastly, I can’t forget to mention my little green friends.
Initially, I didn’t think I had a knack for taking care of plants. But I decided to give it a try, and guess what? It’s been a joyful journey.
I started with one, and now I have a small, but growing green family.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a “Plant Dad”, nurturing these plants has indeed brought a new, lively energy to my space.
What apps or tools do you use to get things done?
Oh, where would I be without my trusty digital helpers?
My everyday routine is peppered with the use of a handful of apps and tools that just make things a breeze.
They help me keep my life organised and my ideas flowing freely, always by my side like a reliable buddy.
First off, let’s talk about Apple Notes.
This simple yet nifty tool is pretty much like my digital notebook.
It’s the hub where I jot down all sorts of things, from to-do lists to my sudden bursts of creativity, where I find myself sketching or editing PDFs.
The seamless integration across all my devices is just the cherry on top! However, I must say, I do wish it played with Google Keep. That would be a great match in my book!
If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist!
This helps me keep a clear focus on my daily goals, ensuring I don’t stray off course.
And can I just say that finally adding the new recent feature of appointment schedules has been a game-changer!
Then there’s ChatGPT, my go-to space for stimulating chats and developing ideas that spark my interest.
It’s been an exhilarating journey, exploring the vast avenues of conversation and watching this groundbreaking technology reshape our world perspectives.
I must admit, diving deep into fascinating topics with ChatGPT has become a cherished part of my daily routine, opening doors to new possibilities and ways of thinking.
What books, blogs, or podcasts recently caught your attention?
Lately, I’ve been completely absorbed in Maker Stations, a haven for someone who has always been fascinated by the world of desktops like me.
It blends my love for technology with a sense of style, making it a perfect match for my geeky tendencies.
While I’m not usually one for podcasts, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown has caught my ear and quickly become a highlight of my listening routine, offering intriguing insights into mental health and emotional well-being.
But my interests stretch far beyond the digital screen.
My spirit thrives on the rhythms curated in Spotify’s custom playlists and their fresh DJ feature — it’s my personal dance party at my desk, a moment of joy in the daily grind.
Outside the virtual sphere, I am passionate about photography, fashion, and interior design.
I find immense inspiration in my travels around the world, soaking in various cultures, a journey that continually enriches my soul.
Whether it’s a leisurely walk through the dynamic streets of NYC or absorbing profound insights from TED talks, I constantly seek avenues to broaden my horizons.
And let’s not forget the virtual treasure trove that is YouTube, housing gems like Mark Rober’s engaging channel and the sartorial wisdom found in publications like GQ and Mr Porter Journal, making it a well-rounded source of daily inspiration.
Any tips for other makers who want to improve their workspaces?
To revamp your home office, start with a clear desk — it’s my golden rule!
Stash away the extras in a box, keeping only the essentials, and then reintroduce items as needed, finding them a permanent spot.
And don’t forget to sprinkle in your personal style with elements that uplift you, like a bit of art or your favourite tunes, to create a perfect balance that boosts your productivity.
What does your typical day look like?
My mornings start with a can’t-miss ritual — whipping up a hot cup of coffee.
While I wait for it to brew, I take a minute to skim through new messages and notifications on my phone.
Group chats aren’t really my thing, but I try to keep up with recent messages and replies.
Once the day really gets going, work becomes my main focus.
But it’s not all work all the time, thanks to my two playful pugs, Frida and Gala, who make sure to sprinkle bits of joy throughout my day.
Frida, always on the move, is often by my side looking for treats or just some affection, while Gala prefers to spend her time snoozing on the sofa.
Their little interruptions are a delightful break, reminding me to enjoy the small, happy moments even on busy days.
To keep things organised, I block out times in my calendar for different tasks.
This isn’t a rigid schedule, but more of a flexible guide that helps me focus on the most important tasks each day.
It’s a straightforward way to steer through my day with clear goals and direction.
I’m not tied to one spot for work in my house.
Sometimes, I switch it up and set up at the dining table with my iPad tagging along.
And when the weather is just right, I love taking my work to the park nearby to enjoy some fresh air while I respond to emails or make calls.
Changing my surroundings from time to time not only breaks up the routine but also freshens up my mindset, giving a nice energy boost to my working day.
After wrapping up work, I love to chill with my PlayStation, the PS5.
To mix things up, I dive into Overwatch 2 for a game or two.
The pandemic reshaped how we work and has made me value those casual team meet-ups to strengthen bonds and team spirit.
It looks like many companies are getting into this work-from-home groove, making room for occasional in-person meetings, a shift I feel creates a more vibrant and connected work culture.
Your tips for working from home?
You know, winding down at home after a bustling workday isn’t always straightforward, especially when your commute has turned into a walk from your desk to the couch.
I’ve found that a small but significant ritual has been a game-changer for me — tidying up my desk.
It’s like saying, “Hey, work time is over!”
I must admit, I do miss those commute times when I could just unwind with a good book.
So this little end-of-day clean-up has become my new signal to switch off from work and slip into my comfy, homey vibe.
Now, about meetings — oh, they can be quite a handful, can’t they?
I found my groove with this neat little trick: starting meetings five to ten minutes later than the scheduled time.
It helps to have that buffer, a moment to catch your breath before jumping into the next discussion.
I enabled “Speedy Meetings” by default on Google Calendar, helping me avoid that whirlpool of continuous back-to-back meetings.
Just a small tip: it works wonders if you’ve got a well-maintained calendar — it’s like giving yourself permission to take a mini-break, making the work-from-home journey just a tad bit lighter and more pleasant.
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