pooja sethi

hello there
I'm Pooja. I'm a Software Engineer at Facebook and a @UWCSE '17 graduate. I'm from sunny Seattle, where we have coffee and code for breakfast.

2017 in Small Moments

30 Dec 2017

The ups and downs of 2017, reflected in the small moments.


Running around Green Lake Getting up early in the morning to go for a run around Green Lake before class, especially in the chilliest and wettest part of a Seattle winter, was not always easy but always worthwhile (when I did manage to wake up, at least). The combination of gray skies and deep breaths of dewy fresh air after it rains has a magical way of making me feel alive.

January was a hard month, and I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted for my future, since the decision for post-graduation life was near-approaching. Running allowed me to live in the present and clear my mind.


Aishu and Karishma's Birthday The best part of being a college student are the bonds you get to build with other people. This picture was taken on the birthday of two of my best friends. It was one of those crazy weeks in the middle of the quarter where we all had many assignment deadlines, midterms coming up, and could have used some more sleep.

Despite all of that, we planned a dinner and scrambled to pick up this ice cream cake from “un”-Safeway on the Ave; it sort of melted on the way. The great thing about true friends is that they see you at your worst and at your best, and still love you anyway.


Gas Works Gas Works is such a cool park because of its mix of industrial, forgotten tanks against gentle green hills and ocean. It’s almost post-apocalyptic to see the earth reclaim human machinery so naturally. The park is also so… Seattle. Once on New Year’s eve, I saw street artists juggling fire here. Another night, my friend and I saw one of the reddest sunsets I’ve ever witnessed from the park.

On the day we watched the sunset, my friend and I also began scheming for the IPO of our “chai dhukaan” startup (“tea shop” in Hindi) and our eventual takeover of the skyline, analogous to Amazon; it’s a bit of a long running joke… There are so many memories I’ve made here, but let’s leave it at this for now.


Seattle skyline from a cruise I had never gone to a SASA (South Asian Student Association) / ISA (Indian Student Association) formal while I was at UW until this year, when I decided it was something I should cross off my bucket list as a senior. Held on an Argosy cruise with a view of the Seattle skyline, this was a night of Bollywood music and dancing at its best. Afterwards, we hungrily devoured Greek fries on the Ave.


UW CSE women's graduation banquet This was a very emotional pre-graduation ceremony, held for the senior undergrad women of the UW Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) department. The amazing advisors of CSE planned the event, wishing us luck for our future and sharing their parting wisdom. We took turns going around the room, and every graduating woman gave a short impromptu speech on their experiences in CSE and what they were thankful for. Each person was in tears by the end of their speech.

I remember being the last student to give a speech. I don’t think words could have expressed how I felt, but I said something along the lines of CSE was to me as Hogwarts was to Harry Potter. It was like home.


Golden Gardens beach Golden Gardens was also one of those places that had eluded me as a UW student. Though it’s not too far from campus, I never managed to find the time to visit until after graduation. I’m glad I finally did though! Much to my surprise and delight, I found that the water and sand is, in fact, golden if you wait for the right moment.

Green Lake in the summer Green Lake was a popular destination for me this year. During the summer, it became full of boats, kids playing in the water, joggers running around the lake, and picnics in the grass. Sometimes on my bike ride back from work, I would stop and just sit besides the water.


Sequim lavender festival Sequim, a small town on the Olympic peninsula of Washington, has an annual lavender festival. I went with one of my friends and her family, and it was probably one of the most fun adventures I had all summer. We took a ferry ride to the peninsula and spent the day hand-picking lavender and eating lavender ice cream. The best part of the day was when we visited the nearby Dungenes Spit, a strip of beach along the Pacific Ocean. We couldn’t stop saying the word “spit” after that.

Paradise at Mt. Rainier The last time I went to Mt. Rainier had been in an elementary school, so I was really excited to road trip there with friends this summer. We hiked up to an area that is aptly named Paradise. The photo speaks for itself.


ACL conference in Vancouver This year, I travelled to my first two CS research conferences. I attended ACM CHI in Denver, which is a conference in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). It was really exciting to see a project I had been working on since my freshman year, on crowdsourcing speech transcription for low-resource languages, culminate.

This photo is at ACL in Vancouver, another awesome conference in the field of computational linguistics and Natural Language Processing (NLP). One of the best parts of this year has been going from a complete newbie to the field of NLP, to taking a graduate class in the subject, to doing research, to now doing NLP as my full-time job at Facebook. While I still feel there is a lot more for me to learn, it truly is astounding how fast your knowledge of a field can go from 0 to 1 if you are willing to dedicate yourself to it.

Burke Gilman bike ride Eventually, my friend and I would like to bike the entire Burke-Gilman trail, which is a total of 27 miles. Though we’re biking novices, we made it through almost half of it on our first attempt this summer. We stopped along Lake Washington on our way back to catch our breath and some water. It was really hazy in Seattle during late summer due to forest fires that started in Vancouver. I had never seen so much smog in Seattle before.

August was also a bit of a hazy month for me emotionally, as I began to realize my energy wasn’t as unlimited of a resource as I thought it was. After graduation, rather than taking a break, I had decided to double down on research and working part-time at a startup before having to start my full-time job in the fall. But after months and months of pushing it to the extreme, my body decided that it had enough of me. I wanted to see sky through the haze, an answer to whom I’m supposed to become, and I learned that there isn’t one.


Goodbye CSE Leaving behind UW, Seattle, and my family felt very bittersweet. While I was excited to start the next phase of my life as a software engineer in the Bay Area, I also knew I would dearly miss home. Before I left, I went up to the balcony of CSE, out of habit. CSE 2, our new building, is like a child – it seems to grow more and more everyday. Whether you want it to or not, the world keeps moving on without you.


Thanks Arathi for the birthday cake Settling into the Bay Area was made sweeter by the wonderful people I’ve met through the past few years of interning. On my 22nd birthday, I danced to Taylor Swift’s “22” song, as any millennial girl should. My friend made me the most beautiful birthday cake I’ve ever eaten in my life. Yes, the strawberries were delicious. Cheers to adulthood.


Reflecting on the Bay Shore Facebook’s headquarters in California are along the Bedwell Bayfront park, an area of sprawling salt flats that are teeming with wildlife. The park is a perfect place for reflection and solitude.

I was heading to my desk from the gym one morning, when I saw a crane posing calmly and picturesquely along the side of the trail. Naturally, I had to take a picture of it. And Instagram it, because well, I do work for Facebook. I wonder what the crane was thinking about.


Tahoe ski trip A few weeks ago, I went on my first-ever downhill ski trip to Lake Tahoe. My friend and I got in her car and as we road-tripped through California, we caught up on each other’s lives, travels, and thoughts on the past and on the future. I went down my first green-level run, falling half of the way and managing to ski the second half, barely holding my balance (internally screaming “pizza” while trying to slow myself down). You know have good friends when they literally pick you up when you fall – a successful trip overall.

We are seeds This year, the hardest pill to swallow has been that there is no clear path blazed in life anymore. It’s up to me to choose my own adventure. I’m learning to live for everyday, the small moments.

The walls at Facebook are covered with posters, and this is one of my favorites. This year, the seeds took root. Tomorrow, they’ll grow.