2020, there isn’t much to say that could explain what this year ended up being. For many this year was incredibly challenging; mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. I consider myself incredibly grateful for everything that this year has brought me and my family, as well as all of the things we did not encounter! This post is meant to be a mostly positive reflection on this past year, a celebration, and a milestone in life. This post is no way intends to downplay, ignore, or question the challenges faced by so many, near and far.
The biggest personal thing I’m taking away from 2020 is a new mindset. A new perspective. A renewed sense of excitement and purpose. The year has been like someone pressed the big reset button 🔴 on the world. This has caused me to rethink priorities, focus more inwardly, and continue to develop myself into the person I want to become.
Even coming into 2020 I knew that I wanted to find a new challenge. A new role that would continue to push my skills and abilities to new levels. While I took many interviews, and turned down a few exciting offers, it took me a while to find a role that really matched the vision I had for the next step in my career. I was looking for a role that would push me both technically and intellectually. A role that lead to where I wanted to go in my career and not to the next logical step that many take in technology, i.e. People Management. While I have absolutely nothing against taking this path, I knew that for me, right now, it’s not a path I wanted to take. I did however want a role that would allow me to mentor other engineers and influence major technical decisions.
In late October I announced to my team that I was leaving Capital One to take on a new role at a startup called WealthForge. I was moving from being a Senior Engineer to becoming an Application Architect. This wasn’t an easy decision to make, with the state of the world, the risks that some startups can bring, and the unknown of a new role and organization. With the loving support of my wife, I’m incredibly happy to have made the move to the new role.
Over 2 years ago, when I was approached about filing a US Patent application for a software security pattern that myself and a team mate designed. I thought it was super cool, but didn’t think much would come of it. To my surprise, at the end of November I found out that an official US Patent was issued, naming me as one of the two inventors.
In 2019 I had a goal of releasing a paid training course focusing on Securing NodeJS APIs. I successfully launched the course to the world, on December 31, 2019 😃. My goal was to go through the creation process, understand all of the moving pieces and see if it was something I’d like to continue doing. I definitely learned a lot in the process.
I released the course on the Udemy platform, and I’ve largely left it alone since then. Probably not a great idea if my goal is to sell courses and help developers build more secure APIs. But without any attention, each month I receive a few developers signing up and asking questions.
Courses like this will become a new focus in 2021.
In a classic walking the dog 🐕 AHA moment, I thought it would be a great idea to start a podcast. The Dev Advice Podcast would be a podcast for all developers, at any stage in their career, looking to learn more about the non-technical aspects of being a successful developer in today’s fast paced industry. The idea came as I was reflecting on many of the recent interactions I’ve had with developers earlier on in their careers seeking candid advice. I also reflected in the twisty, turvey path that my career has taken and everyone I’ve admired along the way.
I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences and so I enlisted the help of my good buddy Kevin Galang to help me kick off the idea. Kevin and I have worked together at Capital One and share a lot ideas on technology, career growth, and personal growth.
The podcast has seen steady downloads, recently surpassing 🎉 500 total downloads! 🎉
Working from home has become the new normally for soo many industries! I’ve seen the trend for partially or fully remote roles on the rise for a few years, especially in technology. This year made every industry, company, and role rethink how and where they work. Outside of the forced circumstances, I think this is huge shift in a positive direction for so many organizations and employees.
For me the transition was incredibly easy, especially early into the global COVID pandemic. I’ve been fortunate to work from home for much of my career. I’ve always preferred to work from home for a majority of the time. While I enjoy in-person collaboration and office comradery, I don’t need it everyday, 9-5. Thankfully I was well equipment for the change, with a well-appointed home office and track record of successfully working remotely. Heck, one of my crowing “I’ve made it” moments was living/working for myself, as a consultant, from a Caribbean island!
I’m excited to see how this will play out for so many organizations and employees now that we’ve seen it work on such a large scale.
I’ve always been very fortunate to spend a significant amount of time with my wife and daughter. Having a short commute (a flight of stairs) and flexible schedule has allowed me to be present in their day-to-day lives. I always look forward to having lunch and short play dates with them.
Of course when you’re forced to be in the same house together for long periods of time, it can be tough, very tough!
Late this year we purchased a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter Adventure Wagon. I’ve wanted one of these for several years, but this year I was serious about finding one. Apparently so was everyone else who now had the flexibility to work from anywhere.
After searching locally for something that was already converted or a blank shell that we could convert ourselves, I came up empty. The developer in me had a solution! I built an aggregator that would search nationwide on sites like Craigslist and Autotrader for Sprinters that matched my criteria and return filtered results. The tool worked like a charm, I was seeing results from Washington to California to Florida. Unfortunately, for me as a buyer, adventure vans hold their value and are hard to come by in great condition, and moderately affordable.
With a few months of searching I had a result pop up that was just an hour away. We went for a test drive and were sold. Thankfully my wife wasn’t too hard to convince, she loves adventure just as much as I do.
I won’t say that 2020 was the reason I’ve sought and found a new perspective, though it has certainly helped to expedite the process. For many, 2020 has been a mentally and emotionally draining year, myself included.
This year I’ve either started, restarted, or given more focus to several practices to help bring mental clarity and deal with emotions and my internal voice. For starters, I’ve focused a lot on my internal voice, studying what it says, how it makes me feel, and if those feelings match the person I intend to be. This practice might formally be referred to as mindfulness, but for me, it’s helped me understand what I feel and why. Now that I know, I can make a conscience effort to change it to match my intentions.
I’ve been reading, a LOT. Reading has always been something that I’ve struggled with. I’m a slow reader, I’m a lazy reader, I fill in words or phrases, lose track, and become distracted. All things I’ve improved some over time, but are still discouraging. This year I made a concerted effort to read (“listen”) to as many audiobooks as possible. Audio is a medium that resonates with me. I can listen and absorb and retain far more information than I can by reading. Like a metric ton more information. So this year I quit fighting it and imbrassed audio as my preferred method. In doing so I’ve been on a constant journey to find the best books available and reading them at 2-3x speed.
I’ve started journalling regularly (somewhat regularly). I’ve adopted the Bullet Journalling method which has worked really well so far.
I’ve meditated more. While I still don’t feel like I’m “doing it right” I have found benefits from the practice. I mostly practice Transcendental Meditation.
I’ve participated in therapy. This has been a big hurdle but a very positive impact for me. Understanding why and how I think. And having tools to further explore and explain my own self has been incredibly beneficial.
I’ve forgiven myself. I’ve carried regret throughout my life, acting in ways that are far from desirable, harming relationships, and strangling my self-confidence. This has been a big weight to remove. While not totally gone, I can now focus entirely on the future, and only learn from the past.
I’m not a huge New Years resolutions person. I think it’s something best suited for gym owners. If you’re going to make a change in your life I believe the best time to start is now, today. For me I plan to continue growing personally and professionally. While I’m still solidifying my goals for early next year I know that they will include strengthening my relationships, helping others grow, and contributing to the greater good, whatever that might be.
As I wrap up with wild and crazy year I look forward positively to the future and everything it might hold.