A look at 2015

For the first time ever, I have the next week off from work. SAS closes down during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, giving employees a chance for mandatory relaxation. Yes, it is completely awesome. I plan to catch up on my reading and find out if my wife likes red velvet pancakes for breakfast.

Even besides the 70-degree weather we’re currently having in Carolina, one thing I like about this time of year are the year-end posts everyone writes: summaries, best-ofs, predictions for 2016. Here’s mine.

2015 was a big year for us. I started the year by quitting my job at IBM and joining Demandware. I spent most of this year hustling between Chapel Hill and Demandware’s HQ outside of Boston – lots of 6AM flights and time away from Laura and our dogs. Demandware is a great company with awesome people, but it was a rough gig. My wife, Laura, and I were just married in late 2014, and so much time apart really sucked. I had planned on just making lemonade there, but when SAS approached me this fall about joining the product team for an interesting new project they were working on, the right answer was obvious. Two months in, and I can confirm it was the right decision.

So, chalk up a big “W” there.

One of my goals for 2015 was also to work on my skills as a developer. I had started brushing up on Javascript in 2014; in 2015, I started experimenting with Express, and then discovered Meteor, which was a total eye-opener for me. After writing a few personal-use test applications (including a Twitter bot and a stock tracking console), for the past few months I’ve been working on a much bigger project: a web version of my favorite BBS door game from the early 90s. You can check it out here.

I’ve learned far more from the slow, sometimes painstaking, process of building my own apps than from any of the books/online courses I’d looked at previously. I found that the Twitter API isn’t as bad to work with as I’d heard, MongoDB is tricky to wrap your head around, and I still loathe HTML/CSS. By contrast, Javascript is my jam. I guess no one ever claimed full-stack development was a snap.

As an amateur developer, in 2016 I want to work on broadening my skills in Meteor, including using it as a framework for building mobile apps. Meteor already features Cordova integration, and I may try using PhoneGap with Meteoric to create a full mobile app experience. I’ve considered just taking the leap and jumping full-on into Swift as well – though for the stuff I’m building, I don’t know if it would be worth the big investment of time. I’m starting from almost nil – but what I’ve found is that lots and lots of other folks are too, making one’s lack of experience (or formal CS credentials) seem less foreboding.

I sometimes think that if I were starting my tech career again, I would just go straight into software engineering. There’s just so much cool shit out there to build. But I love the mix of business, strategy and software development that makes up product management too much to make the switch – at least for now.

Building these side projects on nights and weekends has also reminded me of the value of staying up to date with technologies totally unrelated to what you’re using at your day job. It might not have to be actually building other projects – programming as a hobby can get very time-consuming – but other channels, like Twitter, keep me aware of what else is going on in the industry. Not doing that is what makes any organization insular and brittle – not a good look.

Outside of coding, working from an office again has enabled me to make “gym time” more scheduled and habitual in my weekly schedule. I’m running more, and loving it – SAS’s campus features an extensive network of trails that makes for an awfully scenic quick run.

And finally, for anyone who cares, my reading list over the next month or two looks like this:

  • The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Ed Baptist) (link)
  • The Big Short (Michael Lewis) (link)
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Mary Beard) (link)
  • The Shining (King) (link) (A good re-read every decade or two)
  • Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Stephen Ambrose) (link)

I find myself reading less and less fiction as time goes on, and more and more history. If you have suggestions that should make this list, please let me know!

So that’s my year in review. I look forward to reading yours! Happy 2016!


So, what do you think ?