In my post covering 2017, I wrote about how much of a roller coaster last year was. In many ways, this year continued that trend, but looking back it’s hard to find some of the specific accomplishments similar to what 2017 brought. I went on a vacation in March, and feel like ever since I came back I haven’t had a chance to breathe. I think this is in large part to me not having as many active projects outside of Blue Apron, and Blue Apron taking up more of my time and mental space, giving it a bigger influence on my overall view.
I am not alone in these feelings though — many of the 2018 year in reviews I’ve read have talked about how hard this year was, either personally or just dealing with the sheer volume of news in the world (there was an Olympics? What?). One point of view could be looking back on the year, and deciding if I’m better off now that I was a year ago, or if the world is better off now than it was a year ago, and it’s hard to say in the former and arguably not in the latter. I don’t think this year was bad per se, but it was a challenge and much more tiring than I thought it would be at the start.
January was fairly quiet in my personal life. I started a new birthday tradition of eating a fancy dinner on my actual birthday, this year enjoying a meal at Masa with Keyan with the best urchin I’ve ever had in my life. We had the seventh Clinelympic games, quickly becoming a perennial favorite in NYC. I got my second tattoo, which I designed myself and the talented Jonah Ellis at East Side Ink made it real.
At work, I started managing a second team that was focused on building Blue Apron’s merchandising and personalization systems. It was my first time directly managing a second team, and I was excited to learn more about a new area of the business and get to know some of my colleagues better working more closely with them.
This ramped up more in February, as we closed on the performance review cycle and started to get underway with the new team on a project to build out a more flexible merchandising system. I also gave a webinar with Optimizely about how we use their platform to experiment at Blue Apron, which you can still watch the recording. The mostly same group of friends went on a second ski trip, this time closer to Stratton VT, which was a blast and on track to become a yearly event.
In March, I took a week long trip to Costa Rica on a yoga and surfing retreat with Love Surf Yoga, and had an incredible time. We stayed at a resort near Puerto Jimenez, in the south west, and basically did nothing except yoga twice a day for a week. It was exactly what I needed, and I’m thankful for a continuing tradition of taking a beach vacation in February/March to get out of the Northeast cold for a bit. The food was some of the best I’ve ever had, the people were amazing, and I didn’t surf but it looked fun for those that did.
The vacation came at a lucky time, because as soon as I came back work quickly ramped up. Blue Apron was struggling with lower than expected growth in the early part of the year, and there were several processes ramped up to see what could be done. This was intended to go through June, and the idea being trying to find fairly quick projects that could help bring in more revenue. This was in addition to the work we were already doing, so between my new second team and this effort I had plenty to do.
April saw a quick weekend trip to Austin to visit Kyle and Larkin, a party at the Guggenheim that served dollar pizza slices (it was 💯), with the big news opening applications for our second cohort of students in the Tech Career Accelerator Program started in 2017. We helped out at a CUNY Hackathon and continued to work on getting internships for the first cohort of students. I realized I needed help at work, and we opened up a role for a manager to take over one of my teams and report to me. I was excited at the prospect of managing another manager for the first time and learning that skill.
In May I went to Seattle for my 10 year college reunion weekend (yep, I officially feel old now). The reunion event itself was ok, but it was really great seeing some old friends that I hadn’t in a long time and spending the weekend hanging with Bonnie. We interviewed and selected the second cohort of students for TCAP, welcoming ten new students and their mentors into the program. They are a phenomenal group of people and it was really amazing to see the program expand. Over Memorial Day weekend, I also got to go camping again with some new friends in upstate NY for the Ommegang Brewery festival featuring Jack White.
June did not slow down work wise, but I visited Switzerland for the first time. I made a friend on the trip to Costa Rica who lived in Basel, and thought that was a good enough excuse to visit for Art Basel. The show itself was overwhelming (especially since we tried to do it in a day), but Basel itself is a lovely little town. My friend Karen showed me many of the hip places, and I took a day trip to Zurich for their pride parade as well.
July saw a trip to Colorado for a little over a week, which I had not visited in about a year and a half. I saw some old friends from high school, and some friends from NYC who had moved, and spent a few days at Great Sand Dunes National Park, one of my favorite places in the country. Spending time back in Denver, and with people for where it was new, highlighted for me just how much our memories of a place are wrapped up in the feelings about it. I appreciate Denver and the front range for what it is now, but it’s so hard for me to love it because of my history there and the choice I made to move away.
August saw me speaking at my first conference, where I presented at eTail East in Boston about how we do experimentation at Blue Apron (yes, it was a reworking of my earlier webinar). This was my first time in Boston, which was fun to explore a bit, and I think the talk went well. I met some great people, and it was really interesting to hear the perspectives and challenges of more traditional retailers. They are all struggling with how to bridge the gap from brick and mortar to ecommerce and mobile, whereas Blue Apron is going the other direction and trying to figure out retail. Towards the end of August, the manager we had hired to take over one of my teams started, and I also found out that my boss was leaving and I would be taking her role. This was great that there was confidence I could do that, but also sad as I had really enjoyed working for her.
September saw a lot of news and travel. I spent Labor Day weekend in Cape Cod, the following weekend in Portland for my first XOXO Festival, and later in the month a day trip to Philly with the Young Collector’s Council at the Guggenheim and a week in Austin and Houston for a work trip to the Grace Hopper Conference. On the new front, my boss left and I officially took over her responsibilities, the third partner in our bar left the partnership, and my roommates of five years decided we weren’t going to renew our lease when it ended in October. Also, we were kicking the second year of TCAP off in mid-September. Needless to say it was a long month.
Cape Cod and XOXO were great ways to start, and XOXO in particular was the most welcoming conference I’ve ever attended. There were some really amazing and interesting guest speakers that opened up my views and challenged my beliefs and I’m going to make an effort to go again in the coming years (assuming they keep having it). TCAP got started off well, and I started the apartment hunt to find my own place (looking fairly close to my old place).
October I moved into a new apartment, traveled to London for the first time to see Keyan (who had since moved there), had another quick trip to Austin, threw a final rooftop party at the old apartment, starting going to physical therapy, and then also started two new efforts at work. The new apartment moved happened fairly easily all things considered, and London was super cool. We saw a play, had many fancy cocktails, saw a bit of art, and walked around a decent amount, but there’s still a ton to see. The new projects at work that kicked off were both large efforts — one a new product that launched at the end of the year (the product support for our partnership with WW), and the second was onboarding a new group of offshore developers. At the end of the month, my old roommates and I finally moved out and said goodbye to our home of five years, which brought us all closer together and friends forever. Also, everyone at worked dressed up as me for Halloween (including an array of complicated red and blue tattoos).
In early November, I started my office hours mentorship with New INC, the New Museum’s incubator program. I found out about the program through an email and met the director of New INC at XOXO, and was lucky to be accepted as a mentor. It was really cool to see the very wide variety of teams and companies being worked on.
In mid-November, Blue Apron unfortunately had to do a round of layoffs. This happened the year prior, around the same time, and this time around I had to let go of people. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. We tried to help folks who were affected transition, and one of the great things about Blue Apron is that people there care a lot for each other (both present and past employees), so there was a lot of support. This had a big impact on morale at the company as you would expect, especially being the second time in as many years.
Thanksgiving happened the following week, and I spent it with some family I had near Detroit. It was a nice break from the tension at work, even it for a few days.
December went by fairly quickly, as we finished up the new project at work and I spent the last week of December in Chicago visiting my sister and her husband with my mom.
What a year.
Last year, I hoped that 2018 would bring more growth and stabilization in the three main focuses I had that year: Blue Apron, TCAP, and the bar. Growth, yes and no; stabilization, definitely not. This was a tough year, and the burnout I was feeling towards the end of 2017 did not get much of a pause. With work, it was like I was mostly just staying afloat for the year — taking care of what was immediately in front of me or reacting to issues without any time to look a bit further down the road. It’s difficult for me to feel productive like this. I enjoy planning and strategizing, and trying put the pieces together as we go towards something rather than just as they come at me.
Reflecting on the year though, I did find time to catch up with many people who I had lost touch with. I have some very fond memories of the college reunion, of Colorado, and trips to Austin and London to see friends who had gone through some serious life changes. The blur of stress and work is punctuated by these few brief but dear moments of quality time with quality people, and that’s something to be very thankful for.
One of the things I’ve thought a lot about recently is intention, and how being mindful of the details when you are designing a new process, or thinking through a new project, allows you to ensure your values take a central role. Many things that happened this year were not intentional, and that meant that parts of it got lost, or fell through the cracks, and they ended up being less than what they could have.
Being intentional is something I want to focus on more this coming year, and making sure that I’m not letting things happen as they may but rather that the things that happen come from an intention. Being more intentional about spending quality time with quality people, and making that a greater portion of my year to help balance the challenges at work. Being intentional at work to help balance the stress I may be feeling there. I don’t think 2019 is going to be any easier than 2018, but I can approach it differently and intentional in that approach.
Resolutions from 2018
Read at least two books
Blew this one out of the park! In March I ordered some wireless earbuds, after deciding that the only way I would actually do more reading would be to do audiobooks and listen to them on my commute (about 30 mins walking each way). I set up a GoodReads profile (here) and got to work. I ended up reading 24 books, which is way more than I would have anticipated. Here’s the list:
- Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
- The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
- The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Alice Schroeder)
- Modern Romance (Aziz Ansari)
- Walden (Henry David Thoreau)
- Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things can Make a Big Difference (Malcolm Gladwell)
- Call Me By Your Name (Andre Aciman)
- Debt: The First 5,000 Years (David Graeber)
- The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
- The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change (Camille Fournier)
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Greg McKeown)
- Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond)
- A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords (George RR Martin)
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)
- Places I Stopped On the Way Home (Meg Fee)
- Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (John Perkins)
- Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)
- The Course of Love (Alain de Botton)
- Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng)
- The Epiphany Machine (David Burr Gerrard)
- Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
Some thoughts I had about these books:
- The Handmaid’s Tale, Call Me by Your Name, and Debt were my favorite books. Handmaid’s Tale and Call Me by Your Name were both incredibly immersive in their respective worlds, and I couldn’t wait to get through them. Debt was the most interesting book I read this year, hands down.
- Walden was amazing, I’m going to re-read it every year (and have already started for 2019)
- Debt, Guns/Germs/Steel, and Sapiens made for a very interesting trio. They all follow the same rough ideas of how human society has formed and transformed and what makes it work, with I think Debt being the most clear in it’s thesis. If you have the time, I would strongly recommend reading them back to back.
- The writing in GoT is trash, and I wanted to stop after the second one but didn’t have any other audiobooks downloaded at the time and so went through the third.
Take care of myself better (regular workouts, doctor’s appointments)
Partial credit here. I got all my expected doctor’s appointments, and started to see a physical therapist for a hip issue I’ve had for a few years but wasn’t doing anything about. Towards the end of 2018 I started searching for a psychologist/therapist, which is a good step. I did not work out for most of the year, with some very intermittent efforts here and there, which is not great.
Visit the southern hemisphere
This did not happen, but I did get to travel to fun new places which I’m OK with. I hit over 50K miles on Delta again, which means I get those sweet Gold status benefits for another year.
Write at least one post per month
I got a good start on this, but as mentioned above I got pretty busy with work starting in March and that’s when I stopped writing. I got four published, three on leadership and one satirical post. I still have several ideas for posts, but need to go through and actually write them.
Finish the Last of Us, Alan Wake, and Assassin’s Creed Unity
Partial credit, as I finally finished Assassin’s Creed Unity. It was a bit of a slog through the end, and I think I might be done with the series? I’ve really enjoyed those games, but the new ones have so much to do and I realistically don’t have the time to work through them.
I ran 42.06 miles (down to 2016 levels from 90.73 in 2017), with an average pace of ~9’00”/mi (up from 8'06"/mi last year). I ran from July through November, with the most miles in August.
I took 230 CitiBike trips this year (down from 283 in 2017). This came out to 409 miles (starting at 880.9 total miles at the beginning of the year and ending at 1289, up from 380 last year). It’s interesting that I rode fewer but longer trips, probably accounted for by biking being my main way to get to the bar in Greenpoint (which is 4mi one way).
I wrote six posts this past year on Medium, same as the year before. For all my stories, I had about 6K views, 3K reads, and 104 fans. My most read post by far was My Manager Toolkit, followed by My Manager README. These counts are up about 6x from the previous year, due in large part to the Toolkit post being a continual favorite and something that still gets decent promotion.
My tumblr had 213 pageviews (up from 180 last year). I still didn’t post anything on Tumblr, and am probably going to delete it since I no longer ever use it.
I didn’t have as many contributions this year as I did last year (I had 1,112 in 2017). You can see a big decrease here in September, which maps to when I moved into my current director role. I’m much more removed from the code and day to day, given my broader scope. I would expect next year’s contributions to be significantly less as I continue in this role.
I almost doubled the amount of music I listened to according to Last.fm, with 3,634 songs scrobbled (up from 1,445 the year before). I stuck with my habit of basically listening to the same few albums on repeat most of the year, with this year featuring Poolside’s album Heat. Washed Out similarly took up a bunch of my listens as I discovered their awesome 2017 album Mister Mellow.
I acquired seven new pieces of art this year: a photograph by Todd Hido, two watercolors by Nick Naber, a collage by Man Ray, a painting by Lowell Nesbitt, an undated print by NASA signed by Buzz Aldrin, and a small painting by Robert.
Resolutions for 2019
- Be intentional about how I spend my time
- Continue to take care of myself (therapy, actually working out)
- Read at least 20 books
- Visit the southern hemisphere
Here’s to an intentional 2019.
Follow me on instagram for more great pictures next year.