Who are you, and what do you do?
I'm Jackie Luo, and I'm a software engineer and photographer in San Francisco. I work at Square, and I was previously at Nylas, where I worked on Nylas N1, the open-source, extensible email client built on Electron and React. Before then, I studied philosophy at Columbia University.
I have a few personal projects that keep me occupied. First, I run IRL Society, a monthly event series for people looking for a different kind of social space. It gives me an outlet for event-planning – I've organized everything from blind wine tastings to readings nights to afternoon teas for women. I started The Framework Project, a series of conversations with people in tech about the tech industry and its impact on society. I write an irregularly published (really irregularly published) newsletter called The Dream Machine.
A lot of my life is about finding a balance between making a big impact through my career and feeling interpersonally and creatively fulfilled. And, of course, the two aren't mutually exclusive, but I've found that chasing one at the expense of the other inevitably makes me less content.
What hardware do you use?
At home, I have an early 2015 MacBook Pro. In fact, I bought it in early 2017 – I really disliked the Touch Bar MacBook and decided to opt out of it. Unfortunately, not long after that, I got one for work anyway, so that's what I use during the day. Touch ID is nice; the battery life and the dongles are not.
I have an iPhone X, primarily for the camera. My "real" camera is a Canon 5D Mark II, which I got way back in high school. It works well for me, and I never saw a reason to upgrade, which is pretty shocking if you really think about it – it's probably the oldest hardware I own. I usually shoot with a 50mm f/1.4 lens and recently got a 17-40mm f/4 lens to have a wider-angle zoom lens in my arsenal.
And what software?
Many people have heard me say it, but I love Notion dearly. I feel like I waited my whole life for a tool that works that well for me – it's flexible and powerful and beautiful, and I can plan my whole life (well, most of it) on it. The one place where it still falls short for me is spreadsheets, and for that I use Airtable. It's a spreadsheet that masks a lightweight database that comes with its own autogenerated API, ready to go, and I've found that invaluable more than once. For writing, I like to use iA Writer. It's just so easy and simple, and it helps me focus on what's important. I use Apple's native calendar and email apps, though I wouldn't hesitate to switch if I came by better tools. 1Password is great.
I use Adobe Creative Cloud for most of my creative work – Bridge and Photoshop for photography, InDesign for event planning. I really, truly wish I didn't need CC because it is so expensive… but, as it is, I haven't found a good replacement for the tools it provides, so here I am.
On iOS, I use Halide and Darkroom for taking pictures. I keep track of my period with Clue, and I keep track of everything else in my quantified self with Gyroscope. I am one of the dedicated last Swarm users out there (with a few important mayorships, I might add), and I am vehemently opposed to Venmo, so I convince as many people as possible to use Cash.
What would be your dream setup?
From a practical standpoint? I really like desktop computers, so I miss having an iMac. I've been dealing with worsening RSIs lately, too, so good ergonomic equipment would be nice! I am super jealous of the really cute (but really expensive!) Ergodox keyboards I've seen lately.
But if we're really dreaming – a big, spacious home with huge windows and lots of light and enough space to host dinner parties for, say, fifty people. Plants. An office with a reasonably sized desk and lots of bookshelves. A little photography studio. A kitchen with lots of counter space and shiny new appliances and beautiful dinnerware. A reading nook. A wine cellar. Maybe even a vineyard. The peace and quiet to do all of the projects I want to do.
I have a lot of dreams, and it feels like there's never enough time or money to make them happen to the fullest, but hopefully sometimes I can get pretty close.