Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Current gig: Researcher/environmental engineer at the Aquaya Institute
Current mobile device: iPhone 4S (personal) and Safaricom Yolo by Intel Android (work)
Current computer: 2013 MacBook Pro
One word that best describes how you work: iteratively
What apps/software/tools can't you live without?
My work in the past few years involved traveling to places with slow or unreliable internet, so I require tools with easy offline access, incremental file transfers, and lightweight software that won't drain a laptop battery in a long power cut. Dropbox is fantastic for transferring and backing up files when on slow internet, and I use Folx for downloading most files, since internet interruptions can be frequent. My iPhone is incredibly valuable as a tethered or wifi hotspot when the power is out or when in a place without internet. Offline google drive and gmail access is also convenient, as is gmail's HTML-for-slow-connections version - when desperate for email when traveling and no phone access, I can turn to my 4 year-old kindle with 3G and it's experimental browser for an "I made it safely"email send. I use Sparrow for emails so I can read and draft while offline. When I've needed to prolonging laptop battery life during a power outage, I use only Sparrow and texteditor, jumping online every hour or so to download emails or look up a list of saved questions. The flashlight app on my phone is also useful during a power cut. When i don't have a printer or scanner, TurboScan on my iPhone and the insert signature functionality on Preview are really useful. An external cd-rw drive is also important in many places as data from government agencies is often only in this form and flash drives are a recipe for virus disaster (also for watching movies when traveling since you can't stream on slow internet). Also, i carry several empty flash drives that I use to transfer files to an Internet cafe for printing and immediately reformat before it touches my computer. Mpesa, the mobile money service invented and incredibly popular in Kenya, is essential for paying for electricity, internet, my CSA farm box, taxis when you don't have cash, and airtime for stranded friends. FaceTime works better for video on slow internet than Skype or google hangout, but google hangout is sweet for group conversations and ridiculous hats, and Skype is still great for voice calls with multiple people and sending text messages anywhere in the world. For texting, I use iPhone messages when I can (including back to the US for free), WhatsApp for non-iPhone users and groups, and actual SMSs occasionally. Nairobi traffic news is best obtained from the radio, Twitter, and Waze. As an academic, I use TeXshop for writing papers or drafting ideas, R with RStudio for data analyses, Zotero for managing reference material and PDFs, Rescuetime for keeping me on track, and Word/Excel paired with Dropbox for collaboration.
What's your workspace like?
I have a platform a local carpenter made on half my desk to make it a half- standing desk. I move my modestly-sized monitor and computer to the left half to sit and to the right half to stand. A small work table is to my right for an informal, disorganized inbox, and an organized filing drawer for keeping a minimal amount of papers. I share an open office with the 4 others in our organization, which makes communication easy. We have a fantastic cafe in our building that delivers vegetable curry, lattes, or mandazi (delicious fried dough) up when we call them.
What's your best time-saving trick?
Leaving a supply pre-mixed (with raisins, nuts, cinnamon, sugar, etc) dry quick oatmeal at my office for a quick add-boiling-water breakfast (or afternoon snack) at my desk.
What's your favorite to-do list manager?
Toodledo, by far, and occasionally paper. I love Toodledo's timer function and ease of sorting and scheduling future tasks. Combine this with a GTD weekly review and I've found a system I've been sticking with for 2 years. I use the calendar for reminding me of regular tasks that must be done on a certain day. Also Toodledo's iPhone app is great for when there's no or slow internet.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
Kitchen scale. Incredible for baking, cooking, sending packages, and any number of other unexpected tasks.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Waking up and getting out the door very quickly.
What are you currently reading?
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss - a wonderful gift from a friend - and The Cholera Year: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866 by Charles E. Rosenberg. I like having at least one fiction and one nonfiction going at the same time.
What do you listen to while you work?
My classical collection or my colleagues shared iTunes music. I haven't found a streaming service that works well here, though I have tried that hard.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
What's your sleep routine like?
I plan to read for 20 minutes but get sucked in for 2 hours, or stay up later than planned with phone calls with family and friends in the US (8-11 hour time difference can make it tricky). Sleep around 12/1, up around 830/9, off to work usually within 10-15 minutes of waking up.
Fill in the blank:
I'd love to see Deb Perelman answer these same questions.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
When looking for interesting research ideas, question assumptions.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?