2017 year end review

Recap for 2017

Now that I am off of work for the rest of the year I decided that it was a good time to work on my annual year end review for 2017 and see how my year went. This is the post I did at the start of the year for my plan on what I was going to focus on: Themes for 2017.

I am going to start with just an overview of my year and then I will drill down into my themes. 2017 was a whirlwind of a year. In the 4th quarter of 2016 we made a push to make Choose a profitable company. We achieved that by the beginning of the year and in my mind we were going to run hard for another year and really grow the revenue and hopefully sell the company in 2018. Instead the board decided to sell the company in May which led to major changes for me.

The new company decided that they didn’t want to keep a remote office and I was not in a position to be able to relocate my family so I knew that I would have to find a new role. As luck would have it on the day preceding the announcement of the acquisition I had received an email from a recruiter with a role that seemed like a perfect fit for me. The timing was perfect as my 4th child was 4 months away and that is a scary time to have the stress of job uncertainty. That ended up working out perfectly so I was able to transition into a new role by the end of July. The whole Choose experience was very bittersweet. One the one hand we did what we set out to do which was see a positive equity event for everyone. We built up a pretty amazing business and it was a wonderful experience to be a part of that. On the other hand it meant breaking up the strongest engineering team that I had worked on in my career, and it left me with a lot of what might have been if we could have run one more year. In my imagination I feel like with another year of growth we might have been able to go out at a valuation 3x higher, but perhaps instead the Hurricanes in south Texas would have completely killed our Texas business in our busy time of the year, so maybe we lucked out selling when we did.

The next major change in my life was the arrival of my 4th child. If you want to see anything kill blog updates take a new job and have a new born. It has definitely been a transition year to adjust to the new changes in our life. In sad news for 2017 my best friend has been fighting cancer this year. I am looking forward to the announcement in 2018 that he has finally beat it, and life can go back to normalcy.

On the stats side of thing I ended up with 20 blog posts for the year (including this post). That is actually only 1 worse than 2016, but in 2015 I had averaged about one post a week, and that is much more in line for where I would like to be. Given the change I was dealing with this year I am pleased that my post count wasn’t even lower than it was. I had a pretty good start at the beginning of the year which carried me through.

And now on to the themes:

Theme 1 – Update the blog

I am going to call this a fail. I was pretty much non existent the last part of the year. But there is always next year to do better. Sometimes life gets crazy busy.

Theme 2 – Regular reading

I would call this a win. I am sort of surprised that I was able to keep my reading up with a new born and the lack of sleep. My favorite technical book that I read in 2017 was Functional Programming in Java by Venkat Subramaniam. Of all the regular conference speakers Venkat is my favorite. He has a way of taking complex topics and breaking them down and making them very intuitive.

Another book that I really enjoyed this year was Angel by Jason Calacanis. I am very interested in the startup scene in general having worked at 3 startups now in my career. And I found this look from the investor side very fascinating as well. It really makes me want to focus on reaching accredited investor status in the next 5 years and start investing in some syndicates on AngelList. Then again with the trend this year of Initial Coin Offerings and people skipping the whole VC thing and going directly to the blockchain to raise money who knows what that space will look like in 5 years.

Back when I was in high school I used to read a lot of fiction, but these days I mostly just read non fiction. However I was talking about the Dark Tower series that I had read back in the day by Stephen King with a coworker and he mentioned that there was a book released between 4 and 5 a few years ago that I wasn’t aware of. I immediately had to buy it on my Kindle as that was one of my favorite series of books that I have read (though I hated the end). I read The Wind Through the Keyhole when I was out on paternity leave and it was perfect. I was too exhausted to taking on any heavy reading, but a little fiction in the downtime was really relaxing.

I also read Never split the difference by Chris Voss. Prior to this I had never really read anything about negotiation or looked into the topic. I wasn’t aware of the author or this book, but I heard him on a podcast interview. I was intrigued so I bought the book and read it, and found it to be very valuable. It is probably worth rereading that one in 2018. I actually put a few techniques from the book into practice this year in some negotiations and found them to be very effective. I would say I got my money and a lot more out of this book just by applying what I learned.

For 2018 the 2 technical books on my radar right now are: Effective Java 3rd Edition. The second edition of that book is one of the most timeless books for professional Java developers and is still extremely relevant after all these years. What I am looking forward to in the 3rd edition is ideas on best practices regarding Lambdas and Streams. I went ahead and preordered this book.

The other book I want to dive in more in 2018 is Domain Driven Design by Eric Evans. I started trying to dive into this over my paternity leave, but in the state of exhaustion I was in I found that I didn’t have the brain power to tackle this at that time. Now that I am getting better sleep again I would like to work on this book some more and play around with the design concepts in it.

And the third book I am planning on picking up in 2018 and working through is Learning Spring Boot 2.0 by Greg Turnquist. I have the first edition of Learning Spring Boot by Greg and the book was phenomenal. It got me up and running really quickly when I wanted to transition from the old Spring Monolith architecture to a microservices architecture, and I put the book into action when I joined Choose Energy. 2.0 dives into the new reactive programming model in Spring 5.0 and Spring Boot 2.0 which leads into the next theme…

Theme 3 – Learn about reactive programming

I would call this theme a failure. I did start playing around with reactive a bit in June around the end of Choose before I started my current role, but I didn’t get very far into it. I think I will use the book I mentioned above in 2018 to take a deeper dive and figure out if I see a role for this in our current service architecture.

Theme 4 – Architectural Changes at work

We did roll out service 3 at Choose, but unfortunately we didn’t get to build it to its full potential. We just had something interesting in place when the acquisition took place. This really only reached half of what we envisioned for it. I think it would have been a game changer for the company as we would have had a capability that no one in the energy market has which really would have increased stickiness of our site. I think that is part of my what might have been thinking earlier in this post about the acquisition.

Theme 5 – Master Angular / lodash

I definitely didn’t master angular. I will say I got more proficient as we were reworking the funnels quite a bit near the end of 2015 which started getting me more into the front end code. I figured with what we were doing at Choose that would have grown quite a bit, but after the new position, there has just been too much back end code to learn and understand to really dive into the front end yet. I started playing a tiny bit with angular and progressive web apps a bit on the side to get a feel for how that works, but I didn’t get a chance to dive too deeply into it.

Theme 6 – Healthier eating

I think I did a great job on this in the first half of the year and a poor job in the second half of the year. I dropped 30 pounds in the early part of the year using the slow carb diet out of the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. I neglected to mention this book above but it was clearly a great book for me as well as I saw a huge benefit out of it. Slow carb is interesting, in some ways it is easier to do that Primal since you get the cheat day each week. I think that makes it more sustainable long term as the things you really miss you know that at most you are just 6 days away from being able to eat. But even so I really only maintained this until I went into Intermittent fasting for lent. I have some new diet ideas I am playing around with to try out for 2018.

Conclusion

All in all 2017 was a great year. There were definitely a few lows and things that could have been better, but on the balance things were good. As always even if I don’t hit my themes I don’t get too upset about it. There are just too any unknowns to take it too seriously. The real goal of the themes are to challenge myself and to review just to hold myself accountable that I am trying new things and growing. The point is to avoid getting complacent. I am starting to kick around some ideas for new themes for 2018, and that is probably what the next blog post will be.

Recap for 2016

End of year recap

It’s that time again. Time to reflect on my themes for the year and see how I did on them. This is an annual tradition of mine to see how I am doing in general. I find it is a useful accountability tool for myself to make sure I am not wasting too much time on unimportant things and am spending the time that I would like on personal development.

Theme 1 -Regular Blog Updates

This theme was an epic failure. I count 21 posts for the year. Less than half of last years posts. I could make a couple of excuses but it all comes down to the major changes in my life in 2016. It started in February with the birth of my 3rd child. The first 3 months of a new baby wipes you out mentally and physically so that already made things a challenge.

After that I made another major life change, I took a new position as a Principal Engineer at a startup company. This was a great change for me and I am really happy to be working on a new exciting project. Back in April I was working on a major architectural project at my previous company and all of a sudden 3 different recruiters hit me up with 3 interesting opportunities. Like most people in software development I see about 3 – 4 job inquiries per week from various recruiters. I would say 95% of these positions sound terrible, so it is pretty easy to dismiss them generally. I was in a very good position in my previous company so it is also easy to be selective about what you are willing to take. So to see 3 really good opportunities at the same time where the work sounds exciting, the companies sound interesting and the pay is very competitive is most unusual for me.

I started down the road with the first company, when the second recruiter contacted me. So I started talking with them and it is at this time I realized that the first company wasn’t going to be a culture fit for me. Their culture would require that I fly to Portland every 6 weeks to meet up with the other development team there and that was just too much travel when I have 3 young children. The morning that I was going to do my onsite interview with the second company a recruiter that I have talked with for about 8 or 9 years dropped the 3rd opportunity into my lap. Another startup position which had me interested. I arrived for my onsite interview at the second company and we spent some time discussing the type of Software Development that I enjoy doing as well as what I would like to do ideally with a software architecture. The interview went great and about 3 hours after I returned home from that interview I was contacted by my recruiter and he said they wanted to move forward with an offer. I was pretty excited by everyone I had met so I didn’t end up moving forward with the 3rd company as I had found what I was looking for.

Theme 2 – Read Lots of Books

As expected this fell off for the year compared to the previous year with all the new changes in my life. But I did really get back into it in the fall here and have read some good stuff. On the religious side I have been working on Last Testament by Pope Benedict XVI, and The Confessions by St Augustine. On the programming side I have been working on Functional Programming in Java by Venkat. I can’t recommend this book enough it is absolutely amazing. In Non Fiction I read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. This book is also amazing to understand a part of the country that is often ignored. Anyone who was confused by the election results this year should really read this book as I think it lays out why middle America is so angry. Anyway that is a small selection of what I have read or am reading.

Theme 3 – Work Stuff

My third theme was some work stuff that I wanted to get done. That didn’t happen due to me changing jobs, but at my new company I have a new list of things that I want to get done for 2017.

Theme 4 – Swift

While I didn’t get around to Swift or iOS development this year I did spend some time in a different language. For the last 2 months we have been doing a lot of front end work at the office, so I have been learning angular.js and lodash. In the past I haven’t found JavaScript that interesting, but I have to say with using angular and lodash it is growing on me. Lodash is ridiculously powerful and I feel like the key to being productive in the JS world is to know this library. Angular brings a lot of patterns that remind me of Spring development which is also nice coming to it from my background.

Theme 5 – More work stuff

Again I didn’t hit this theme as I left my previous role before I got to this, but I did do something sort of similar. When I was interviewing for my current role I mentioned that I would like try doing a micro service architecture built around Spring Boot. I felt like this might make for more maintainable code long term. One week into my new job I was tasked with rolling out this architecture and designing and implementing the first micro service. We had 2 sprints to get it done. It took a big push, but we made it and it was a huge success. Later this summer we rolled out the second micro service. The other developers have been very happy with this architecture and it looks great from both a scale-able application standpoint and from a devops standpoint as Spring Boot is built with devops in mind which really makes it easy to roll out new services.  We will be beginning our 3rd Spring Boot app starting with the first sprint of 2017.

The other aspect of this theme which is relevant to my new role is there are certain aspects of our legacy app’s architecture that I would like to evolve and improve and I have already begun working on that. I am reworking the persistence layer to more heavily lean on Spring Data JPA and less raw Hibernate. I am also reworking the Controllers to use the latest Spring annotations like GetMapping and PostMapping as well as the way we wire the services with the goals of just making all new development on the older platform faster and more lightweight.

Theme 6 – Open Source Contributions

This was a failure. I did some reporting on issues so I at least tried to work through issues I saw, but with the new baby and new job I was far too short on free time and mental energy to dive into another code base and try to contribute to it.

Closing thoughts

If we just want to score this on what I hit it looks pretty bad. That being said I am really happy with my year. It has been a great year. As I said in the post laying out the theme, it doesn’t really matter to me whether I do these things what I care about is personal growth. That is part of the reason for themes and not concrete goals. And on the growth concept this has been a fantastic year. The year turned out completely differently than it started out and I am really happy with where I am. Over the next few days I will lay out the themes for 2017 for me.