On Resolutions (and Writing)

On Resolutions (and Writing)

2020, Jan 01    

I don’t normally write New Years resolutions. I’ve always found them kind of arbitrary. I mean - what’s the point of promising yourself you will do something now that the date on the calendar has changed?

They are, however, an extremely convenient format to kick-start a long abandoned blog.

So here are my resolutions, and a bit about what I want to talk about on here and who I am. The following are presented without priority and are all important (although maybe not equally so).

1. Write More

My last post on this site was almost seven years ago. I used to really enjoy writing. Putting my thoughts out there on the internet once helped me land a job I stayed at for eight years and also got me in trouble from time to time.

So my first resolution I’m starting today, literally right now. I want to write more. I plan on doing that in two ways.

First - right here. I’m a big fan of something Scott Hanselman regularly says which is that online you should “Follow the whole person”. With that in mind if you are reading this you should expect me to cover a variety of topics that are important to me. From time to time I may write about my family, my wife and two wonderful kids. If we’re friends on Facebook you probably already see entirely too many pictures of the little ones. I also plan on writing about programming, technology - the core of my career and my professional passion for as long as I can remember. I’ve been in the industry for over 15 years but I was one of those kids hacking at home when I was 11 or 12 and computing, programming, security have always been important to me. I also don’t plan on ignoring politics. This is where some portion of people may drop off so lets just get the bias out of the way now - since I was old enough to vote I have been firmly in the progressive / liberal / democrat camp. Until very recently that never really was a problem. Living in Ohio I know a lot of people more on the Conservative / Republican side of our political divide and, in my opinion, that’s lead to some really interesting conversations over a beer or cup of coffee. I welcome those conversations, always have.

My second medium for writing is private and more personal. For Christmas Amanda got me a journal called I’m So Freaking Freaked Out. The thing about this journal is that it’s a really good present for me. You see I’ve has some anxiety issues for the last year or so (more on that later) and I tend to deal with that kind of thing with humor - so of course she got me a real gift with a real intent, that was also laugh out loud funny in the intro and format. So I’m going to give it a shot and I’ll record more of my inner monologue there. Maybe I’ll share some of that here, probably not much - but the resolution is to write and that will be one place I plan on doing it.

2. Make “Managing Remote Teams” My Non-Tech Specialization

About 4 or 5 years ago I officially became a manager. I stepped into the position at a time of transition when I was working for Level Seven and ran the Custom Application Development group for the rest of my time there. I had no clue what I was doing. I spent a lot of time off hours reading some great books. I also had a great mentor in our then-COO who supported me learning on the job until she left the organization a few years later.

Today, I’m the VP of Engineering at Groupize and my team is all remote. In fact I’m remote. Groupize is a Boston, MA area company and my team is in Boston, The SF Bay area, Argentina, Brazil, Barbados and Ukraine. Meanwhile I’m in Cleveland. I believe what we’re doing is the future of work, really it’s also the present of work with big companies like GitHub, InVision, and the folks at Basecamp serving as pioneers. In this role I want to figure out how to be a great remote manager. That means understanding how to change and improve our culture to make our remote team feel like a team. I want people to feel like they are part of the company and not like hourly consultants grinding out the work. Because my team is international that means embracing cultural differences and modifying our communication standards to overcome whatever barriers that brings.

To make this a specialization I’ll have to write about what I discover, maybe even present on it. That’s my goal for 2020 - share my learnings here with the world in whatever mechanism is available to me.

3. “Catch Up” With The SPA World

At Groupize we run a Ruby on Rails application and we are starting to roll out React components to enhance large parts of our UI. Rails makes this pretty easy - and that’s a topic for a future post, but I also don’t feel like an expert in our full stack. I’m a bit green on the React side - fortunately I have great team members who can own that part of our app and are doing great work, but the technologist in me wants to understand it more. So one of my goals this year is to be more productive in that space. To be clear I’m not criticizing myself here - being a deep dive expert on every single thing in our stack isn’t really my job (in fact you could argue it’s antithetical to effective technical leadership to try and own everything and not delegate pieces to other senior engineers). Never the less I like having technical goals so mine is to figure this piece out a bit better.

4. See My Kids Grow Up

I am NOT an absentee dad - never have been. This goal is actually a lot more specific and relates to #2. I work from home every day now and that has it’s positives and negatives but one huge positive is that I get to be here when the cool things happen. My baby girl is 9 months old right now and she changes so much every day. I can’t wait to see her first steps and I’m pretty sure I won’t miss it - since my commute is all of 15 seconds up the stairs. My son is in Kindergarten and I get to ask him how his day was every day when he gets home. So this goal is pretty easy to accomplish - just keep doing what I’m doing here and pay attention.

5. Get the Weight Loss Back on Track

I know, I know - a weight loss resolution. How much more cliché could I be? I promise I have an interesting angle on this one though.

In November 2018 I had bariatric surgery - specifically Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass. I started the program at about 435 lbs, the day of my surgery I was 361 lbs and at my lowest post-op I was 262. Today I’m about 268ish so I’ve gained back about 6 lbs over the holidays. Not terrible, but not great. Immediately after my surgery I had a lot of complications - I developed something called a stricture where the newly formed connection between my stomach and small intestine swole shut with scar tissue. That resulted in a number of additional surgical procedures and finally in about March of last year I was getting better. For about 3 months I couldn’t keep any food and almost no water down. I ended up being hospitalized with dehydration 3 times I think. So ya, that sucked. Since then I’m back to being able to eat most anything (in smaller quantities) but I attribute those complications to my failing to follow the post-op program to the letter. You see I would have been gradually reintroduced to things under the original program, instead it was all or nothing. SO that’s a really long winded way of saying - my habits still aren’t great (although they are better). So the resolution here is to get back on the program - the official program provided by my doctors.

6. Pay Attention to Mental Health

I mentioned earlier I was dealing with some Anxiety issues. I saw my doctor about that last year and was referred to talk to someone. Ironically that also makes me anxious but the goal is to finally get on someones calendar in the new year. I’ll combine that with continuing to take the, very mild, meds I was given and writing about my world. Hopefully that helps. I’ll talk more about this one in the future but I want to get a bit more down the path before I say a lot publicly. In short - it’s nothing to be concerned about but something I’m finally paying attention to.

Wrapping Up

So that’s my really long winded first post in 7 years. I promise future posts will be shorter and more strategic but when you haven’t written in as long as I gave sometimes you just gotta kick stuff off with wall of text. If you find and read this - thanks. Hit me up on Twitter or whatever if you have thoughts. Until next time.