TIME Business

8 Tips for Balancing a Job and Side Projects

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Know your circadian rhythm

Answer by Michael O. Church on Quora.

Don’t work unpaid overtime.

If you’re going to moonlight, you’re probably going to be working about 65 hours per week. Normal people can sustain 60-65 hours if they’re enjoying the work, but that’s about the limit for long-term exertion. There isn’t much slack at that point. Any unappreciated or uncompensated grunt work comes at the expense of something else. I’m not saying that you should clock out of your day job at 5 p.m. on the dot, but don’t let unreasonable deadlines or face time (management problems) cut in to your side projects. Perhaps surprisingly, you’ll get more respect from management (in many companies) that way. Saying “I have other commitments” often gets you out of the long hours grind, and the “get ‘er done” downside will be shifted to people who value their time less.

Build on your own time, learn on the clock when you can.

Don’t write production code for side projects on your work laptop or during working hours. Even if the work has nothing to do with your day job, you can very easily get screwed. Ownership disputes are costly, demoralizing, and generally best avoided. On the other hand, nothing prevents you from learning and researching at your day job during slow periods. You can even build prototype code. But anything you actually put in to production (e.g. an iOS app) has to be built on your own resources and time. You don’t want to mess this one up; most lawyers who are involved with tech have seen at least one promising project or startup get derailed by an ownership issue.

Don’t over-volunteer.

If you’re constantly available to do more work than you need to do, you’ll become a “go-to” guy. That’s good if people are “going to” you with work you enjoy and that advances your career, but it’s very common that people get loaded up with grunt work because they’ve developed a reputation for never saying “no.” That’s how you end up overcommitting at your day job and being too drained to do anything else. Instead, you should follow direct orders from your boss and do the work that directly benefits your career, but avoid any other kind of “helping out” that is orthogonal to your goals. If you don’t value your time, no one else will.

Always appear busy at work.

You can have a surprising amount of time for self-directed learning at your day job if you always look like you’re busy. Long water-cooler chats will attract grunt work. If you’re reading iOS development or machine learning (side project work) on your computer — i.e. don’t read a book at work if you can read the same material on your machine — it looks like regular work and you’ll be better off than if you’re seen flying a remote-control helicopter around the office. At work, there are fighter pilots and there’s “the pool.” If you always seem busy, you’re a fighter pilot and will be given the best “missions” and left alone when there isn’t anything interesting to do. If you goof off, you’ll be seen as part of the general “resource pool” with the others, and you’re more likely to be assigned grunt work.

Know your circadian rhythm.

If you’re a morning person, get up early and get 3 hours of work on your side projects before going to work. If you’re a night owl, then you’re best off doing the side project in the evening. Some amount of self-hacking (melatonin, caffeine) may be in order. When you’re working 65 hours a week, you need regularity. You’ll also be best to keep the same sleep schedule on weekends as weekdays, because you need for your body to cleanly separate the sleeping and wakeful states.


You need at least half an hour of physical activity per day. I’d recommend more: 45+ minutes of medium- or high-intensity exercise, and at least half an hour walking, since that clears the mind and helps you come up with the best ideas.

Make the side project work a habit.

Some evenings, you’re going to feel drained. You won’t want to work. Those are the times when you must get something done, because that’s when habits are made or broken. Observe the 45-minute rule. Commit to 45 minutes of focused and useful work (and quit, if you don’t feel like going further). You may catch a second wind; if you don’t, at least you accomplished some forward movement. If you don’t feel up to writing production code, then don’t. Refactor existing code, call potential clients, or do something else that won’t demand the parts of the brain that feel drained, but do something every day, at least 6 days a week. Sometimes, the times when you feel stupid are great for just looking at existing code, because if you can’t tell what it does when you’re stupid, then put a comment there reminding your future, smarter, self to refactor it.

Carry a book and a notepad at all times.

You’re going to have to become very efficient with time. If you’re waiting for 15 minutes for the barber, you should have something to do. It’s OK if that “something” is just thinking or zoning out (everyone needs to take breaks) but you always want to be prepared for the spirit to move you.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some good ways for a programmer to balance a day job and side projects?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

What It’s Like to Run a Fortune 500 Company

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"Most Fortune 500 CEOs have little power"

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Being a Fortune 500 CEO is, on the whole, not worth doing. The rewards are much greater pursuing other career goals. Here is why:

Being a Fortune 500 CEO is really, really hard

Being the CEO of a public company is unbelievably demanding. You need to be available 24/7 and you are often the slave of Wall Street, random investors that can buy in and out of your company, and all the new government regulations. It is a much harder job than any other comparable paying job. If you are looking to find career fulfillment and build wealth, you can do many things that are much easier than being a Fortune 500 CEO (like starting an awesome company, going into private equity, running a hedge fund, or becoming the CEO of a private company).

Most Fortune 500 CEOs have little power

Most Fortune 500 CEOs have little power and can be fired at anytime by their board (who are very attune to the current stock price). So it is very hard to make decisions that are in the best long-term interest of your company when you are always looking over your shoulder concerned about your job. So most Fortune 500 CEOs end up doing the “safe” thing and manage the company quarter-to-quarter and rarely have the opportunity to do what is the in best long-term interest of the company.

Most boards have very little power (ownership)

Most Fortune 500 companies have large boards that collectively own less than 10% of the company. In this case, your “boss” (the board) has also very little power and they have little long-term stake in the company. They are generally very well meaning and smart people, but they have lots of outside interests and rarely want to rock the boat.

That said, there are scenarios when it is awesome to be a Fortune 500 CEO.

You have power. If you have power (i.e. cannot be easily fired) you can make decisions that are in the long-term interest of the company. This almost certainly means that you have a very large ownership position in the company (and likely are a founder). Think Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Howard Schultz, etc.

Your board has power. Even if you don’t have power, if your board has power (collectively owns a large chuck on the company) and has faith in you, then you can act in the best interest of the company. The CEOs of 3G Capital companies (Heinz, AB Inbev, Burger King, etc.) all work at companies where their board has substantial power and the board members have a history of building long-term company value (and set up compensation systems to incent management to think long-term). Being the CEO of Microsoft is another example — his board has a lot of power and can back him to make the right long-term changes. Also being the CEO of a very large privately held company (like Mars, Levi Strauss, Bechtel, etc.) could be a great job.

Your company has a history of acting in the long-term best interests of shareholders. There are some companies, like Exxon, that have historically acted in the best interest of shareholders. In these companies, it is the norm to think long term and being a CEO could be a great job.

Overall, better to have other ambitions than being a Fortune 500 CEO

In general, if you have the ability to think long-term and do what is in the long-term best interest of the company, then being a Fortune 500 CEO is a great job because you can positively affect the lives of millions of people. But that represents only a small fraction of Fortune 500 companies — most Fortune 500 CEOs do not and cannot act in the long-term best interest and thus it is not a great job.

If you really want to run a company, I would suggest either starting one or running a smaller one where you think longer-term. If you do a good enough job, you can turn your smaller company into one in the Fortune 500. Good luck.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How hard is it to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME advice

An Important Piece of Life Advice for Those 30 and Younger

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Here’s a clear opportunity to avoid a future regret

Answer by Karl Pillemer on Quora.

I spend a lot of time interviewing older people about their lives (I’m a gerontologist by profession), and in one project we asked them the question: “What can young people do to avoid having regrets when they come to the end of life?” We found that one big thing people their age often regret is not traveling enough when they were young. Indeed, one of the most important messages they have for younger people is to travel — and to do it now.

A woman in her late 80s told me that among the most regretful elders she knows are those who put off travel until it was too late — a mistake she almost made, had it not been for her husband. She said:

Because they all wait until they retire. But my husband was the one that said, “I’m not waiting until I can retire, who knows what things will be like then.” And it’s true. How do you know if you are going to be able to travel later? I look at my father, who died young, and never was able to travel much. So if you can, without hurting your financial or social or family life, try to do as much traveling as possible while you are young.

So here’s a clear opportunity to avoid a future regret: Travel in your first 30 years, while you have the time, the openness to experience, and the energy. This message comes from some of the elders who delayed travel until it was too late. One 86-year-old I talked to expressed no complaints or regrets. But she had spent her life close to home, and it was with a very wistful look in her eyes that she told me simply: “I always wanted to go to Hawaii, but I never made it. Oh, it’s too late for me.”

I can hear some people saying: That’s all well and good, but how can we afford it? The elders counter that argument by saying that travel is so rewarding, it should take precedence over other things younger people spend money on. The key is travel’s value specifically for the young; it broadens their horizons, helps them to find a focus for their lives, and challenges them in new ways.

Of course, travel is by no means only for the young — although the elders do realistically note that the older you get, the more difficult it is to withstand the rigors of travel. Seeing the world and exposing oneself to different cultures is also important in the middle 30 years and the last 30 years. Travel is just that important to feeling like your life has been well-lived.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some of the things you should avoid or try doing in your first 30 years of life?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME advice

What to Tell an Interviewer Who Says You’re Overqualified

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Honesty is the key to many doors yet to be opened

Answer by Jason Ewing on Quora.

Be honest. If you’re looking for a job that’s lower in stress level and easier to manage while you go back to school, then say that.

If you’re applying for a position with a company you would be interested in working for post graduation then explaining that could help as well. “Ultimately, once I finish my degree, I’d love a chance to do X kind of job here, but for right now…”

If you aren’t interested in staying on longer than it takes to finish your program of study, be honest about that. You may get a follow up about how far in the future that is, but if it’s far enough out to pass the company’s reasonable expectation of an employee’s tenure there, there’s no reason not to say this.

Tell the interviewer what you’re looking to get out of the position. Hopefully, there is something you want more than a pay check. If you present yourself in a way that says “I’m just here for the money…” Well, that’s nice. Everyone comes to work for the money. Tell me why else you want to be here, and why else you want to be doing this specific job. Employees who only want a paycheck are hard to keep motivated and engaged because the job is just a paycheck and anyone can give them a paycheck.

There are tons of things we can do to put food on the table and pay the light bill. Tell the interviewer why you have chosen to do this specific job to accomplish those things. If you come off as someone who will “take anything” then don’t expect to go far. But if you have reasons that you feel the job would be good for you and that you would be good for the job, then focus on those positives.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do I respond when an interviewer tells me I’m overqualified for a job and asks why I want it?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

This Activity Will Make You More Confident

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"It's also made me better poised in high-pressure situations"

Answer by Adam Merberg on Quora.

I’ve been taking improv classes for almost two years. They’ve helped me in a number of ways.

Improv taught me that sometimes it’s okay to do things poorly. I mean, sure, I’d rather do things well, but doing something poorly isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t make me less worthy as a human. And it’s certainly no worse than staying home and not trying at all.

Since improv culture emphasizes supportiveness, I receive more positive feedback in two hours as the worst improviser in the room than I get in many years of Ph.D. study. This taught me that life is actually quite a bit more pleasant with some sources of positive feedback, which inspired me to make an effort to be more supportive of people in real life like my friends and my students.

Improv has given me a safe space to work on losing inhibitions. A big part of learning to improvise is learning not to worry about what others will think of you if you say this or that. That’s a useful skill in real life, too. Inhibitions can be useful if they prevent me from harming myself or others, but a lot of inhibitions aren’t useful. Improv has helped me to cut down on the needless worrying about what people will think. It’s made it easier for me to just go and do things.

Improv has made me more confident and better at thinking on my feet. This means I spend less time preparing seminar talks and feel more comfortable standing up and teaching a class. It’s also made me better poised in high-pressure situations like meeting with my supervisor or dealing with students who are trying to cheat.

Improv has also made me a better conversationalist. My improv teachers often talk about “making offers” which refers to bringing out new information. When an improv scene begins, it’s important to bring information out quickly to establish what’s going on. What are you doing? How do you feel about the other characters on stage? How do you know each other? And once somebody makes an offer, you don’t forget about it. Not every offer will play a central role in the scene, but the more things you can incorporate, the better.

So how has that helped me in real-life conversations? Real conversations are obviously different in that it’s better not to make up everything on the spot, but I think the idea of making and following up on “offers” has some application to real life. Like an improv scene, a conversation fizzles when nobody has anything to say. I used to be a very private person, so I was very good at making that happen. Improv training helped me to figure out that by revealing a bit more information, I’d make it easier for others to continue the conversation if they were so inclined. And it made me more aware of little tidbits that others had mentioned, which I might follow up on.

Improv has also made me much more aware of body language and subtext. It’s made me more comfortable doing silly things. It’s given me one more thing to talk about with people in real life. And it’s found me new friends, in my teachers and fellow improvisers.

There are probably many ways to make these things happen. But I can say that improv did them for me. And it’s a lot of fun.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How can improv classes help you in life?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Etiquette

Improve Your Patience By Making This One Change

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"I stopped fussing over the way things should be and just dealt with the way they are"

Answer by Ruth E. Smith on Quora.

Play the Prefer Game.

Impatience is often a demand that things be different from what they are. These are said to oneself, almost without realizing it. They’ve become a habit.

That person is too slow, they should hurry up. I must get to work NOW. He/she shouldn’t say that to me! This package shouldn’t be so tough to open. Cooking supper shouldn’t take long.

Note how each of those has the demand should or must attached to it. These words have a tendency to increase tension.

I don’t know what pushes your impatience buttons, but if you substitute the words would prefer or rather for should, ought, and must, you will be amazed at how you relax over such things.

I would prefer that person hurry up. I would prefer to get to work sooner. I would rather he/she didn’t say that to me. I would prefer that this package be easier to open. I would prefer spending less time cooking supper. These words take the emotional levels down a few notches.

If you are an angry impatient driver, like many around you in the traffic jams, then you get to join the tension and frustration. Then you get home/work in a bad mood because you’re stressed out.

If you play the Prefer Game, though, you begin to relax. That guy ran the red? You would prefer that he didn’t run the red, but there it is. Okay, next problem. You would prefer that the traffic not be piled up so you can get home. But there it is. You can choose to rail at the situation, or relax and enjoy your time.

I discovered myself, many years ago, that when I relaxed and enjoyed the required time in the commute, I got home at the same time. Only now I was in a good mood, unwound from work, and able to enjoy the short time I had at the end of the day with my family.

When I stopped fussing over the way things should be and just dealt with the way they are, I was a much happier person. And more stuff got done — I was able to come up with ways to make home cooking easier. My commute to work was downright enjoyable — music and audio books that I had no time for otherwise — and I began to find the traffic almost entertaining. Those poor benighted souls fuming away when they could be happy.

My aunt, who is very difficult to get along with, became easy to handle. It was as though all my buttons she would push were disconnected. My relationship with my husband and family improved — amazing what will happen when you relax.

I hope you manage to find more peace (and patience) in your life — it’s worth the effort.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do I improve my patience?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

The Secret to Strengthening Your Social Network

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Networking is not about what you can get in the short term

Answer by Brandon Lee on Quora.

1.) Add value
2.) Add value
3.) Add value

People have this idea that networking is sleazy and that it’s about trying to get something from someone, this clearly does not work and makes people avoid you like the plague.

If you approach every relationship with the intent to add value to people, see how you can help them, see how you can move them forward, how open do you think they’ll be to give back?

If you’re talking to someone who just started out in their career, fresh out of college, give some friendly advice to help them land a job, or dialogue with them to figure out what direction to take.

If you’re talking to a small business owner, ask how you can help improve their business or organization.

If you’re talking to an artist, see how you can help them market themselves better.

If you’re talking to a VIP of any nature, see how you can help them accomplish a goal, resolve a problem, and/or make them feel valued by asking for specific input/advice.

If you’re talking to an old friend, meet them where they are. Catch up with them and help them forward.

If you’re talking to someone that has hit a rough patch, lend an ear and help them up.

If you’re talking to someone who has a high profile, don’t be a starstruck fan, just add value like you would anyone else.

This has helped me build a network of friends from every kind of background/industry that would be happy to do a favor for me because I first did a favor (sometimes, many) for them.

Whether they are just a high schooler, an acclaimed author of 30 books, a star on TV, a millionaire, a single mom of 2, a guy struggling to get his business started, a CEO of a company of 100 employees, or even the lady at the bank, I only have one agenda — see how I can help them in a meaningful way.

This is a long term play, networking is not about what you can get in the short term. Networking is about planting seeds, watering them, and reaping a harvest down the road. Sometimes it takes a couple weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. Do not expect instant returns — that is the exception, not the norm.

I’ve been doing this everywhere I go for 5 years. Every example I mentioned in the previous paragraph is a real personal contact. My network becomes more and more valuable the more seeds I sow and the more I nurture my connections.

Be generous, and people will trust you, be glad to know you, and happy to help when you need a favor down the road.

This question originally appeared on Quora: How do I grow and strengthen my network?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME technology

Here’s Why the ISS Looks So Cluttered

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The ISS is continuously evolving as a vehicle on special missions

Answer by Robert Frost, NASA engineer, on Quora.

The ISS is kind of like my man-cave. When the house was being built I went in and pre-staged a few things. I ran speaker wire across the floor and taped it down so that the carpet would be placed over it. I told the contractor where I wanted the coaxial outlet for the internet and where I wanted the one for the TV. We moved in and I set my room up and everything looked crisp, clean, and smooth.

And then time went by. Suddenly, the 4.1 speaker setup wasn’t good enough and I wanted 7.1. And then a decision was made to move all of the furniture around. I abandoned my desktop PC and switched to a laptop. And then I got an AppleTV box and a game console. One powerstrip was no longer enough for all of the equipment. My internet provider made me switch to a cable modem that didn’t fit in the space I’d designed for the old one.

The ISS is about as old as my house. It has been continually inhabited for 14 years. Forty-two crews have lived and worked aboard the ISS. It is an evolving vehicle. Technology has changed. The equipment needed onboard has changed. Sometimes, the mission changes. For example, when ISS was designed, no one foresaw it having to support ventilation for some of the commercial visiting vehicles. The companies that built those vehicles didn’t even exist. So the mechanisms where they attach weren’t designed with internal plumbing for that ventilation, meaning ducts have to be fed through the hatch.

The ISS was designed so that most of its essential systems would be cleanly secluded behind panels. But just like in my man-cave where once it is built, it’s easier to run a cable down a wall rather than inside the wall, on ISS it isn’t practical to remove all of the panels and pull out all of the racks to install new cables. There are also complexities involved in doing so with regards to safety analysis. The inside of a rack has thermal control equipment designed to handle a certain heat load. Randomly putting power supply block and power converters back there would derail any of the previous analysis.

A lot of the equipment needed by the crew has to be somewhat portable and a lot of it requires cables for power and data transfer. The crew’s primary interface to the vehicle is through laptop computers. There are around a hundred laptop computers onboard and they each need power and data connectivity. There is a lot of other portable equipment that also needs such connectivity. For example, when a visiting vehicle is arriving, the crew need to use a control panel that can send commands to that visiting vehicle. There’s one panel that is used for the HTV and Cygnus vehicles and another panel used for the Dragon. That panel needs to be in the Cupola, where the crew are monitoring that vehicle, but the panel also needs to be connected to the communications box that is designed to communicate with the visiting vehicles. Sometimes that box is several modules away, so an umbilical cable has to stretch through the vehicle. One of them has to cross through seven hatches—which means it is actually seven cables connected together. The list of portable cables on board the ISS is 18 pages long.

Sometimes, malfunctions in hardware necessitate using jumper cables. For example, if a rack loses power, data, or cooling, we may need to jumper it to a nearby rack rather than lose everything in that rack.

Sometimes, new equipment has needs that were not part of the original ISS design. For example, we have to be careful about limiting the amperage through a utility outlet port (UOP), so sometimes equipment will be connect to power converters in parallel. Sometimes new equipment has different voltage needs, so external connectors are needed to drop the 120 v to 28 v or 16 v. There are over a hundred power converters onboard. Sometimes a piece of hardware is certified to only be used with certain power strips, but it needs to be used far from any of those strips.

A not insignificant reason is that the crew are very busy. When they connect a piece of hardware, they will do so to make it effective and to make it safe, but they don’t always have time to make it neat. They can’t really cut a cable that is a bit too long because that cable may be needed elsewhere, later, and they can’t run out to Home Depot every time they need a cable.

This question originally appeared on Quora: Why does the inside of the ISS and the space shuttles look so cluttered with wires and devices?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers

The Biggest Résumé Mistakes You Should Avoid

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Please don't go for the 'if you can't dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with nonsense' approach

Answer by Heather Spruill on Quora.

Here are my main complaints:

Readability: Formatting that doesn’t help me read the content. If my eye doesn’t know where to go, either because you’ve crammed too much onto the page, or haven’t broken up your information into digestible sections, you’re making it hard for me. I have hundreds of resumes to review. If you’re throwing obstacles in my way before I even get to the part where I’m thinking about whether you’re a fit, you’re only hurting yourself. Use formatting to organize the data. Present a polished, readable product.

Organization: Content that is arranged in such a way that I have to work really hard to figure out whether you’re worth contacting. There are many ways to organize information about your experience – there’s a point where I’m going to want to see something chronological, and something that speaks to the relevant experience that qualifies you for the job. It’s fine—and often helpful if it’s thoughtfully done—to organize experience into relevant categories rather than listing individual responsibilities in a strictly chronological account of your life at work. Somewhere, however, you’ll need to list your prior employers, tenure with each, and jobs you had there. I need that part of the story. And I need to be able to easily differentiate your summary of skills from your work history. When you get too far afield with organization, and give me a non-linear, haphazard collection of facts, I begin to wonder if you’re a good fit before I even know what you can do.

Relevance: Content that seems arranged for some other kind of job than the one for which you’re applying. Your best bet is to hand me a document that demonstrates that you’re the most appropriate candidate for the position. If you give me an unedited data dump of everything you’ve ever done or thought, you’re leaving me to analyze you and do that work for you. I’m tired. Give me what I want, and spare me the details about your paper route, big projects that have no relevance to this position (or frame that information so its relevance is immediately apparent), and highlight the experience that makes you a good fit for my open position.

Substance: Content that’s all jargon with no indication of the scope or depth of your experience. In the interview, it’s going to become very clear that you either know what you’re talking about or you don’t. Please don’t go for the “if you can’t dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with nonsense” approach. Instead, tell me what I need to know:

  • What did you work on?
  • How responsible were you for the design, execution, and outcome?
  • What was the scope of your responsibility?
  • How much technical skill did you have/need to do that job?
  • How much independent judgment did you exercise?
  • Did you progress to successively more responsible positions/assignments?
  • How well did that prepare you for the level of responsibility involved in the job to which you’re applying? Close match? Stretch? That’s what I’m asking.

When an entry-level applicant includes, “responsible for any and all aspects of…” on their resume, I assume that isn’t the case—they weren’t developing the policy, they didn’t have the authority to act independently…save me having to decipher, and be accurate. “Processed inbound customer requests” is not the same as “responsible for any and all aspects of customer service for the XX department.” Your boss determined the course, and you followed it—there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same thing.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the main issues with résumés?

TIME society

Eva Kor: What It Was Like to Be Experimented on During the Holocaust

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Auschwitz provided no limit for Nazi doctors and researchers to experiment on human bodies

Answer by Eva Kor, Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate, on Quora.

My twin sister Miriam and I were used in Josef Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz as ten-year-old girls. We were taken six days a week for the experiments. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we would be taken to the observation lab where we would sit for hours—naked—up to eight hours. They kept measuring most of my body parts, comparing them to my twin sister, then comparing them to charts. They were trying to design a new Aryan race, so they were interested in all these measurements. These experiments were not dangerous, but they were unbelievably demeaning and even in Auschwitz I had difficulty coping with the fact that I was a nobody and a nothing – just a mass of cells to be studied. On alternate days we would be taken to another lab that I call the “blood lab.” This is where they would take a lot of blood from my left arm and give me several injections in my right arm. Those were the deadly ones. We didn’t know the contents then and we don’t know today. After one of those injections, I became very ill with a very high fever. I also had tremendous swelling in my arms and legs as well as red spots throughout my body. Maybe it was spotted fever, I don’t know. Nobody ever diagnosed it.

As a guinea pig in Auschwitz, we had to realize that they could do to our bodies whatever they wanted and we had no control over what they put into us, what they removed, or how they treated us, and there was no place for us to go.

People often ask me, “Why didn’t you run away?” I am convinced those people know very little about Auschwitz. The barbed wire would electrocute you if you touched it. The whole camp was surrounded by that. Before you got to the high voltage fence, there was a ditch filled with water. So as you approached that fence, your hands were damp and you would be immediately electrocuted. At age ten, even if I succeeded to get out, where would I go?

Maybe I could have succeeded in running away when we were marched from Birkenau to Auschwitz I for some of the experiments. But as far as I could see when we were marching, that was all a military zone. Where on earth would I have gone if I escaped? I didn’t know how far I would even need to run. And of course, most of the time when someone escaped and they turned on the sirens, we would have to stand for roll call for two to four hours until the escapee was found dead or alive. If the escapee was found alive, they would be hanged in front of us. The lessons were very clear. If found dead, they would be brought in front of the group so we would know, nobody escapes from Auschwitz.

At age ten, I would not have dared to escape and I did not even think about it. That was so far from my mind. What I was thinking about every day was how to live one more day, how to survive one more experiment. I knew as the air raids were increasing, that this could not last for much longer. On the days when they would keep us for hours at roll call until the escapees could be found, I would often think, “Good luck – I hope you make it.” I never thought anyone did. I was lecturing in San Francisco about 15 years ago. They had about ten survivors who were introduced. One of them said, “I escaped from Auschwitz.” I was so excited! I went up to him and said, “Finally I know why I stood at roll call for so many hours – I am glad to know somebody made it.”

As twins, I knew that my sister and I were unique because we were never permitted to interact with anybody in other parts of the camp. But I didn’t know I was being used in genetic experiments.

I began lecturing about my own experiences in 1978. As I was telling my story, people would come up to me later on and ask about the experiments. Well, I remembered some details of my own experience, but I knew nothing about the bigger scope of the experiments. So I decided to read books about Josef Mengele, hoping to get more of an insight. But in all these books, it only had one or two sentences about him.

I was trying to figure out how I could get more information, and I was looking at the famous photo that was taken by the Soviets at liberation. I could see there maybe 100 children marching between those barbed wire fences who were liberated.

Here is a picture of me and Miriam, holding hands in the front row. I thought if I could somehow locate those other twins, we could have a meeting and share those memories.

It took me six years, but in 1984, with the help of my late twin sister Miriam, we found 122 “Mengele Twins” living in ten countries and four continents.

We had a meeting in Jerusalem in February of 1985.

We talked to many of them. What I found out was that there were many, many other experiments. For instance, the twins who were older than 16 or were of reproductive age would be put in a lab and used in cross-gender blood transfusions. So blood was going from the male to the female and vice versa. Sadly, they did not check—of course—to see if the blood was compatible and most of these twins died. There are twins in Australia who survived—Stephanie and Annette Heller—and there is a twin in Israel who was a fraternal twin—Judit Malick—and her twins’ brother’s name was Sullivan. I heard Judit testify in Jerusalem that she was used in this experiment with a male twin of reproductive age. She remembered being on a table during the experiment when the other twin’s body was turning cold. He died. She survived but had a lot of health problems.

The question is how many of these twins did survive? Most of them obviously died. I also know for a fact that Mengele did strange experiments on kidneys. Mengele himself suffered from renal problems when he was 16 in 1927. He was out of school three or four months according to his SS file. He was deeply interested in the way the kidneys worked. I know of three cases where twins developed severe kidney infections that did not respond to antibiotics.

One of them is Frank Klein, who lived in El Paso, Texas, after the war. He very much wanted to attend the gathering in Jerusalem, but he was on dialysis. He actually came with his nurse and very much hoped he would get a kidney so he could live like a normal person. He did get a transplant in 1986. I talked to him after the surgery and he said he was doing pretty good, but then three days later he died. The other twin whose name I don’t remember off the top of my head died also because of kidney failure problems.

Then, of course, my twin sister developed kidney problems with her first pregnancy in 1960. The problems did not respond with antibiotics. In 1963, when she expected her second baby, the infection got worse. This is when the doctors studied her and found out her kidneys never grew larger than the size of a ten-year-old’s kidneys. When I refused to die in the experiment where Mengele thought I would die (read about it here: What gives you hope during tough times?), Miriam was taken back to the lab and was injected with something that stunted the growth of her kidneys. After her third baby was born, her kidneys failed. In 1987, I donated my left kidney to her. We were a perfect match. At that hospital in Tel Aviv, they had been doing kidney transplants for ten years. None of them developed cancerous polyps except for my twin sister Miriam, in her bladder. All the doctors kept saying was that there had to be something in Miriam’s body that was injected into her that combined with the anti-rejection medication to create the cancerous polyps.

Other experiments I have heard of from survivors: Many twins who did not have blue eyes were injected with something into their eyes. Luckily Miriam and I had blue eyes. Mengele did some other strange experiments. Most of them were very much in the line of trying to understand how to make blue-eyed blondes in multiple numbers, the germ warfare experiments, etc. If one twin died, Mengele would have the other killed and then do the comparative autopsies. According to the Auschwitz Museum, Mengele had 1500 sets of twins in Auschwitz. There were only 200 estimated individual survivors. Everybody who has been researching that, including the Auschwitz Museum, said most died in the experiments and I agree. Dying in Mengele’s lab was very easy. I am one of the few I have heard about to be in the “barrack of the living dead” and get out of there alive.

I learned a great deal after the war in attending conferences, including one at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. This is where Mengele studied, and today it is called the Max Planck Society. They were trying to collect information about Mengele’s experiments. They invited several twins and a few other people used in experiments by Mengele. Here is a photo of me studying some of the vials used in experiments at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz was the laboratory for any experiments any Nazi scientists wanted to do. There was no limit on what doctors and researchers could do at these camps. So it was open season on twins and other human guinea pigs like us.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What was it like to be part of the genetic experiments on twins during the Holocaust?

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