This has certainly been a roller coaster of a year. Last year was one of new adventures and challenges, and that certainly kept pace into this year. Looking back, I did a lot, and I’m not even sure how it all happened. A small list of these things in no particular order:
- We launched the Tech Career Accelerator Program!
- I flew 50K miles on Delta, visiting all four corners of the US and a bit of Europe
- Blue Apron went public!
- I opened a bar!
- I got promoted!
- I started mentoring through Plato and Everwise
- and I consulted for this art piece
The year started off fairly quietly, with not much happening in January (other than my birthday). I got a new boss at Blue Apron, and we were finishing up a project that had started at the end of 2016. I set up my travel plans, at least rough timelines, to help meet my goal of visiting the last four states I hadn’t been to (AK, HI, MT, ND). To close out January, my friend Gaby and I led the Collective Scream to Let It All Out and shouted into the void in the middle of Times Square.
February came with not much change on the work front but my first two trips. A group of friends (about 15 of us) rented a house near Killington for President’s Day weekend for a ski trip, and at the end I took my first big trip to Hawaii. I spent a few days each on Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii, and was able to visit an old high school friend who I hadn’t see in twelve years!! Hawaii was stunning, and I got to do so many cool things like go in a submarine, four wheel, ride in a helicopter, walk around real lava, hike, see a canyon full of fog, and a lot more.
Things started picking up in March, as we had finished our project at work and were moving onto new things. My friend Michelle found the place that would eventually become our bar, so we formed the LLC with our third partner Nik and started the long process to open a bar. There was also a significant change to the scholarship program I had been working on. With NY’s announcement of free tuition to public state universities for low-income families, it became hard to justify the existence of the program as we had set up. We pivoted slightly, keeping our core tenets of mentorship and professional development, and switched the focus from the high school to college transition to help with the college to career change. It was a tough decision, but turned out well (and is ultimately something that was solving a better problem for both students and companies).
April saw my first trip to a big conference (Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference), and work at Blue Apron transitioned to prepping for a major product launch that released in May. I also found out about the pending IPO, as my team was on the hook to support updating parts of the Blue Apron website in preparation for going public. I saw a lot of great art in April and May as well, with Doug Wheeler’s PSAD Synthetic Desert III leading the pack, but also the Whitney Biennial and Frieze.
The year really started to get moving in June. My team got underway on new projects, and Blue Apron raced towards our IPO on June 29th. I took a weekend research trip for the new bar to Mexico City with my partners, tasting the most delicious street tacos and mezcal that Condesa has to offer. My high school friend from Hawaii had moved stateside and got married in Missouri outside Kansas City (making my second trip there this year, the first in April for a recruiting trip). June also saw me start consulting on Haroon Mirza’s A C I D G E S T piece, essentially helping him figure out how to print the 16 million lines of the poem so they could hang it from the ceiling. Fun fact: printing each line of the poem at 12pt font would take over 28 miles of 8.5x11 paper.
The IPO on June 29th was a pretty awesome event. They set up giant Blue Apron boxes on Wall Street and were passing out samples of some of our favorite recipes to passerbys, there was a cook-off between our head chef and COO, and many of us got to go onto the floor for the opening bell. Despite the rocky events leading up to it, and what happened afterwards, it’s not often you get to be at a company that goes through an event like this. I thought it was really special to be a part of it. And for that day, many of us enjoyed the moment and celebrated.
I had half of July off to enjoy my Great Western Trip, going to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and driving across North Dakota before wrapping it up with a long weekend on Fire Island outside NYC at my roommate’s family’s house. The Great Western Trip was pretty great for a few reasons. It was the first time I’d gone camping since going to the Grand Canyon and Zion with my sister in 2013, and the first time I’d ever been camping alone. It wasn’t too difficult as I was doing car camping and staying at nice official park campsites, but still a new experience. I (probably fortunately) didn’t have cell service, so I spent a good deal of time reading, and then watching movies on my iPad after it got dark. I did a lot of hiking, covering about 40 miles despite getting some serious blisters the first day. I had nearly perfect weather the entire time, and it was great to have some substantial time to myself.
I came back refreshed, which was fortunate as work started to get fairly tumultuous. The stock price was dropping quickly, going from our open at $10 to settling around $5.50 by mid-August. Our COO stepped down, the company aligned around a newly set focus on profitability, and other leadership adjusted to the challenges of running a public company. Things with my team were going generally well, and the projects we worked on didn’t change, but the culture in the rest of the company did.
At the end of August, I took a trip to Miami to see A C I D G E S T in person (it was way cool!), and a week later went to Sweden for a friend’s wedding. I spent a few days in Copenhagen, then the wedding near Malmo, then the rest of the week in Stockholm. This was my first time to both of those countries, and I was fortunate enough to have friends in both Copenhagen and Stockholm to visit as well. Everywhere was really pretty, and my favorite part outside of the wedding was probably the experience I had eating at Sushi Sho in Stockholm. It was a fun night, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you have the chance.
Between those trips I was excited to find out I was promoted to Senior Engineering Manager as well! That good news combined with the formal launch of TCAP earlier in August, and finally getting the lease signed for our bar meant I came back in September to a lot on my plate. I got fairly busy, and I don’t feel like it’s let up since. We started conducting interviews for TCAP students and mentors in mid September, eventually selecting 10 student-mentor pairs from an application pool of 50 students! It was a great showing for the first year of a new program. I also gave my first meetup talk of the year at Code Driven in late September, speaking about using intent in location search.
September also saw my first purchases of art, through Artsy’s auctions. They frequently have very affordable pieces, and I was able to pick up some great stuff from Tauba Auerbach, Lana Z Caplan, Mel Prest, and Liza Ryan. I have wanted to collect art for a while, and this year was the first time I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a financial position to do so. I still need to get them framed, but I’m excited about having some cool new things to look at.
October kicked off with my trip to Alaska. I spent a few days around Anchorage, with day trips to the Kenai Peninsula and Denali National Park; then a day trip to Barrow, and a couple days in Juneau. You can feel the immensity of Alaska everywhere you go. It’s hard to put into words, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as small as I did driving around Alaska. I want to go back and spend more time in Denali, as I only had about an hour in the park itself. I saw my first glaciers up close near Seward and Juneau (Glacier National Park doesn’t have any glaciers off the main roads anymore), and the carving of a whale while I was in Barrow.
Work continued to be very busy, and in mid October there was a round of layoffs that hit the corporate office pretty hard. A number of friends and teammates were included, and while I think it was ultimately the right business decision it was sad to see some really great people go.
We did our first event for TCAP in early October, and it was really awesome to see the last two years of work finally come to fruition. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have phenomenal people involved in the project, from Chris at Code/Interactive, to my co-leads Miwa, Kendall, and Emilie, to the talented volunteers we’ve had and the current group of students and mentors. It’s one thing to talk about the goals of a program, but something completely different now that we’re actually trying to achieve those goals.
Late October saw a quick trip to Austin for a recruiting event (mostly focused on branding since we weren’t really hiring), which was a great opportunity to visit my best friends who live there.
The last two months of the year went by really quick. I gave a talk at Optimizely about how we do experimentation at Blue Apron, our founder and CEO stepped down, and my team started planning new projects for 2018. We opened our bar (Good Move, because tacos and mezcal are always a good move) over Thanksgiving, and it was great to have a bunch of friends and family come by for both our soft and official opens. TCAP kept moving, with our first professional development event in late October and an end of year recap in December.
The holidays were fairly quiet. I stayed in NYC for Thanksgiving for the first time ever, and celebrated with dinner hosted by a friend. My grandmother, Cleo Bracket, passed away on December 8th, just a month shy of her 93rd birthday. I flew back for the funeral in Nebraska, and it was really great to see family I don’t see that often and hear more about the cool life that my grandma led. In many ways she defied some of the cultural norms for women, and had an incredibly active work and social life. It’s unfortunate I didn’t get the chance to know more about this more at a point when I could hear her stories, but I’m glad to still got to learn about it. A week after that I went to Chicago to spend Christmas with my sister, her husband, and my mother.
There was a lot that happened in my life this year. I traveled a ton, took 40 days of vacation, worked at what felt like three different companies (#startuplife), brought a mentorship program to fruition, and worked with two friends to open a bar. With all of the new things from this year, I expect 2018 to be more of stabilizing and growing in these areas. I’m not sure how long I can keep going at the pace I have the last few months, so working to get my professional life and my side projects to a point where it’s more manageable is my first priority. But these are exciting problems to have! I wouldn’t want it any other way.
But what about the world being terrible?
All the solo travel this year gave me ample time to think, and I spent much of it wondering what to do in this new era of activism. In the early part of the year, I felt a strong desire to do something but wasn’t sure exactly what. As the number of things needing protesting or action started to increase, I felt more and more fatigued and helpless. As summer came I started to get busier, my energy and ability to commit my time to any political cause was being taken up by work, TCAP, and the other things going on. I’ve come to the point now where I think a little brightness and good in the world is a start, and TCAP is doing actual good (especially for those in the community), and that the best I can do is continue to give my efforts to make that program successful.
I also realized if I can’t commit my time, and I can afford to buy art, I can definitely afford to give money in support. I started a regular contribution to the EFF knowing that net neutrality was going to be threatened, and the wake of the muslim bans started a regular donation to ACLU as well (I don’t agree with everything they do, but they do some very good things). I gave donations to Resistbot, Planned Parenthood, a number of democratic political campaigns (including Doug Jones’ and The Great Slate). I signed up for Appolition to donate the rounding of my purchases to folks who can’t afford bail, and gave to the Hispanic Federation in support of Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts. Most of these organizations I contributed to came from mentions in my social feeds, and I’d love to hear about other organizations doing great work that need help.
The other thing I spent a lot of time thinking about this year was the new wave of feminism. I think it’s incredible that gender equality/equity is much more so a topic of national discussion, and that we’re starting to address the unique challenges that women face in their daily lives and the terrible things that men do. What I've been struggling with was how to voice my support without taking up space in that conversation and further contributing to the problem. Throughout Susan Fowler, #metoo, Weinstein, and everything else I’ve generally kept silent on the matter with an occasional retweet or share of some of the women far more eloquent and understanding of this topic than I am.
This relative silence still bothers me. Does it matter if I don’t share my stance as an ally online? I’ve been trying to make my actions speak on my behalf, working to improve the inclusion and address the inequality at my job and in the communities I’m a part of. Is that enough? I don’t have an answer to any of these questions, and rather than take up space in the online conversation I’ve chosen to continue to work for equity in my day-to-day life. That being said, I recognize that as a white cis hetero male I have a platform and privilege that I feel I should use to amplify and sponsor voices that wouldn’t get heard otherwise and would appreciate feedback on how I could do this better.
Resolutions from 2017
Read at least two books.
Check! I finally finished Dataclysm, after borrowing it from a friend a few years ago. I also read Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Huck Finn, and a book on kanban. Dataclysm was interesting, Huck Finn still holds up, Behind the Beautiful Forevers was heartbreaking, and a book about kanban is as interesting as you would expect (take that any way you want).
Finish The Walking Dead, the Last of Us, Assassin’s Creed Unity and Syndicate, Firewatch, and Alan Wake.
I got maybe halfway through this? I finished the Walking Dead game, and stopped watching the TV show. I also played through Firewatch, which was fantastic and heartbreaking and beautiful. I didn’t touch any of the others, so probably going to carry that into next year.
Workout at least three times a week.
I started this year off okay on this, doing yoga or the gym through the first couple months of the year. Then summer hit, then I got busy in the fall, and I basically haven’t worked out since September. I’m definitely lacking in motivation, and with everything else going on I need to figure out how to make fitness a priority.
Visit the remaining four states I have not visited (AK, HI, MT, ND).
Done, and then some! I logged over 50K miles on Delta, and as you can see from the map above covered a lot of different places. I wrote up a little piece about stories from my adventures to all 50 states, which was fun thinking back on basically my entire life experiences.
I ran 90.73 miles (up a lot from 42.57 in 2016), with an average pace of 8’06”/mi (down from 8'24"/mi last year). I was averaging about 14 mi/month for the first half of the year, but stopped running in august. There was no NYC 10K this year and I didn’t run the course on my own, so I don’t have a year/year comparison for that unfortunately.
I took 283 CitiBike trips this year (up a ton from 185 in 2016). This came out to ~380 miles (judging from just crossing 500 miles in last year’s writeup and currently sitting at 880.9 in total). The fact that I have to pay for transit card now (I used to be able to expense it while I was at eBay) makes me much less prone to taking the subway. I also started riding to/from work more this year, particularly this fall as I got busier, since I was sleeping in more and have been biking instead of walking to save time.
My tumblr had 165 visitors with 180 pageviews (down from 1,063 last year). I didn’t post at all on tumblr, and..well, it shows.
I definitely stepped it up from last year, and got back to my manager average of 1179 contributions in 2015. You can clearly see the vacations I took in February, April, July, September, and October, and the buildup to a big release we had in May.
I listened to more music this year! Which is great! And this also doesn’t count the large number of hours I was listening to Spotify offline due to a problem with the Spotify/Last.fm integration (which I wrote about). I listened to a lot of Classixx, mostly due to seeing them and Holy Ghost! perform in January in one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. In fact, according to Last.fm almost 6% of all music I listened to was Classixx.
Resolutions for 2018
- Read at least two books
- Take care of myself better (regular work outs, doctor’s appointments)
- Visit the southern hemisphere
- Write at least one post per month
- Finish the Last of Us, Alan Wake, and Assassin’s Creed Unity
Here’s to 2018.
Shoutout to Alison, Emily, and Max for their help in reviewing and editing. Follow me on instagram for more great pictures next year.