2022 - My year in review
First of all, big thank you to Dawn for suggesting people to write a year in review post. If you aren’t already following her, you should.
Since I didn’t have goals set for 2022, it’s hard to qualify the year as anything other than itself. Looking back at it, I feel content and proud for the most part.
To make things easier, here’s a table of contents for navigating this post.
5 year anniversary
I know many people go for much longer, but this relationship is by far the most important relationship in my life. It has the largest influence on my happiness and well-being. Sharing my experiences with Emily amplifies the joy and energy of life. Emily is the person who pushes me to be the best person I can be in every aspect of my life. She helps me be accountable to my opinions and actions. She has made me more empathetic, assertive and driven. My pride for 2022 can largely be attributed to her.
Beef and Roland
These are the two kittens we acquired. They are rambunctious, stressful, and wonderous creatures. Beef must watch everything I do, while Roland is always telling you how he feels. They have added responsibility and joy to my life. Thank you Emily for bringing these furballs home.
Curt’s sickness and death
Cancer sucks. Part of me wishes I would have visited him again, but then again maybe he didn’t respond because he preferred to spend it with family. I’m happy for the time I did spend with him and his family. It was heartwarming to see him and his son together building mechanical dinosaurs. Regardless, there are likely some unresolved feelings here that will work themselves out over time.
While I have zero impact on the team, my mood is swayed by their efforts and results. It was a down year and I felt it. It’s interesting to have some visibility into the inner workings of an organization operating in a literal zero sum game. It’s fun to find the similarities and differences. The biggest one that has become obvious is that in athletics you must do the things that your opponents won’t do. In my career that’s not quite true. You can continually carve out a more specific niche and capitalize on that. But with athletics there is only so much talent, time and health. Knowing how to utilize those to maximize performance and growth is difficult.
Visit to Charleston
This was the first of our vacations this year. My younger brother was living there at the time which made it more enjoyable. I really enjoyed being in the warm weather and on the beach. I particularly enjoyed eating at Sorghum and Salt, a farm to table vegetarian restaurant that serves fantastic dishes. As I walked through the city and took in the sights, I could feel the reverberations of slavery. We still have a long way to go to reach some type of resolution.
Visit to Cleveland
I don’t understand the people of Cleveland. You have a gorgeous city. A great lakefront! Multiple sports teams. Great restaurants. Fantastic breweries. A number of museums. A nearby national forest. But yet people still are disappointed by their city. Come on folks! Take pride in your city, I loved it there! Perhaps my perspective is skewed because I visited with my wife and best friend during the summer, but still, it was great people!
Race relations sub-committee and community conversations event
Cripes, that was a long header. Late in 2021 I wanted to do something in my community. I reached out to a few organizations, but only heard back from a county run organization Champaign County Coalition. The coalition had a subcommittee focused on improving race relations within the city and I joined it. I was happy to have met the people there and would gladly participate in future community conversations, but the group wasn’t for me. For context, a community conversation was an event we organized where people who wanted to talk about race got together at the library, listened to a podcast episode on race then discussed it in the context of our community. It was a great event and I learned new things. However, the organizing and logistics of the group drained me more than the event rejuvenated me. Part of it was that it’s run by the city which imposes a stifling need to be and appear non-partisan. In the end I decided to switch my efforts to a more action-based organization, the Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center.
This year presented some challenges for my family. I can’t get into them specifically since they aren’t my stories to share. Thankfully most of the challenges are manageable and are in process of being resolved.
Relationship with my brother
I’ve grown much closer to my younger brother this year. This is largely due to us playing the video game Halo Infinite together online. Our conversations during the game are largely surface level if they aren’t about the match we’re in. It has provided us with a regular cadence to have conversations about life, family and work. This development has allowed us to better handle the family challenges we’re dealing with and I’m extremely thankful for that.
Conversations with Jason
For a while now my long time friend Jason and I have been having weekly conversations. He’s an easy person to converse with since we have a similar background, value system, and have a number of overlapping interests. We provide each other with an outside perspective on our challenges, accomplishments and opinions. It’s an enjoyable activity that provides a lot of value to me.
Last year, I participated in the three cohorts of Project Underdog as a mentor. It’s been a while since I’ve helped a beginner learn how to program for an extended period of time. I experienced challenges, successes and failures. Mentoring is difficult. It requires a level of vulnerability and trust that needs to be developed. I know I could have done better in at least one case of building that trust and vulnerability. It has been difficult to know how though since I’m not sure where things went awry. I’m able to sleep at night knowing I tried, but it doesn’t change the fact that I could have done better. On the other hand, seeing a mentee get their first software job was exhilarating. Plus, I was able to meet them in person when their job sent them on-site an hour away from me. Unless other volunteer work comes up, I plan to continue to mentor people through the program.
DjangoCon US tutorial
The debugging tutorial I presented at DjangoCon US required way more effort than I anticipated. Perhaps that’s my naivete. My honest review of it was that the technical information was sound, the labs were excellent, and my talk could have used more work. I regret my slip ups during my tutorial for my usages of “you guys”. It’s something I’m working on. And there were a few moments where I got lost in my material or skipped something I wanted to say. I suspect I could trim the lecture portion of the lab significantly to focus more on the labs. However, I’m still unsure how to best let people try to solve a bug in a project they are new to. I adamantly believe that debugging is an unsung skill for developers that deserves more attention, focus and literature. Ideally I’d be a leader in that space, but that’s pretty daunting.
Attending DjangoCon changed the direction of my career. I’m thankful to my employer and boss Kim for covering the trip. The people I met there were fantastic. I actually have a really rough draft of a blog post thanking about 25 people and calling out what about our interaction I enjoyed. In the end, I couldn’t get myself to publish it. There was a sense of self-aggrandizing I couldn’t shake from it. Regardless, for weeks (even now) I still think about that conference, the people I met, the discussions I had and the ideas conceived. Emily may or may not have told me to shut up about it because I could not stop talking about it. The whole experience - accidentally stumbling upon Black’s Beach included - was a 10/10, highly recommend, will do again.
You can find my summary of the DjangoCon US experience here.
After coming home from San Diego, I lasted about a week before I emailed DEFNA to help organize for DjangoCon US 2023. I had hoped to make it a big longer, but when I looked at the roster of volunteers and recalled my experiences in San Diego I couldn’t resist. I’ve since applied to be on the board of DEFNA. I still feel uneasy about taking up space as a CISHET white male. I rationalized it by writing the application in the form of, “Anything I propose in this application I will gladly do as a volunteer organizer if not selected.” Or at least that was my intention.
Django Debug Toolbar
I really enjoy working on this project. Matthias does a great job as maintainer and allowing me to help him. We try to have a call every six months to connect and discuss the toolbar, work and the profession. And while I really enjoy working on the toolbar, there’s a good measure of guilt that I’m not doing enough there. Specifically around getting the toolbar async compatible. I’d love to knock it out, but getting it there requires a fair amount of effort.
This is an area that I would love to say I feel good about, but I rarely do. There’s always the sense I could be doing more. I was floored to see that I was nominated for the Malcolm Tredinnick Memorial Prize for my efforts on the Django Discord server. Maybe there’s a disconnect between my perceived impact and others’ perception of my impact. Either way though, this is an area I need to be more gracious with myself.
In January, I joined the Snok organization. It’s a small group of individuals collaborating on OSS development. I primarily help with the django-auth-adfs package. I’ve enjoyed working with the folks there and it has been my first experience in an OSS dev group for the social aspect.
Joining AspirEDU for my first W2 job in 9 years
After 9 years as a 1099 freelance contractor, I took a full-time role with AspirEDU. I had been working with them part-time for about eight years already. I decided that I no longer needed the absolute freedom of a freelance contractor. I was ready to focus on a single project and hopefully gain more tangible experience as a development lead. The experience has been a challenging one. Throughout the year the entirety of the engineering team has ranged from one to three members. Given the scale of the application, there’s a lot to maintain and to implement.
Hiring direct reports
I have never been on the hiring side of the interview process before so I leaned heavily on “Unpacking Interview Questions” series. I don’t feel great about my interviewing skills, but it’s a work in progress. I bounce back and forth about the questions I’m asking along with the technical assessment portion of the interview.
Failing a direct report
The toughest part of my professional year was failing to create an environment where a direct report could thrive. The person is a great human and I wish them all the best. At the core of it, there was misalignment on expectations and communication breakdowns. While this wasn’t a desired outcome it has given me a lot to learn from and motivation to do better.
I continue to do some contract work for individuals throughout the year. It’s primarily Django app consulting to help people better understand Django projects and plan for their future. I’m also paid to maintain ScoutAPM’s python agent, but I’ve been scaling back my work there in favor of community engagement.
With a wife who is a professional strength and conditioning coach you’d think I’d be great at exercising, but you’d be wrong. The ideal exercise for me looks is a daily 30-minute session with an elevated heart rate while doing mindless weight lifting in the garage with an audiobook playing. I’m very skeptical of running, though I did try it recently with my wife. And while I didn’t die my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest.
Hot sauce wise, I wasn’t impressed with this years batch. I forgot to link the previous years recipe and this years was not nearly as good. It ended up as spicy vinegar, which isn’t bad, but certainly isn’t hot sauce. Baking went pretty well. During the months I was preparing for my tutorial I didn’t bake anything. However, the starter kicked back up fine in November. I did start playing around with ancient grain flours which is exciting to me! Finally, I want to call out my absolute favorite recipe of the year, coconut curry butternut squash soup. It’s absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend it regardless of season! I particularly like it because the bake time allows me to make something else while the squash is roasting. This ends up making my cook session feel super productive which makes me happier.
Freaking beefsteak tomatoes are huge! … and squirrels love them. The tomatoes, carrots and peppers did well enough. I think next year that’s solely what I’ll do, then add herbs and a leafy thing or two. But I’m no longer messing around with broccoli, beans, peas and cucumbers. Though maybe I’ll try pumpkin…
My brewing this year slowed way down. I brewed seven 5-gallon batches of beer this year, two of which were for the homebrew club’s barrel project. The others that I brewed for myself alone turned out superbly by my standards, but I simply don’t drink enough to keep up. Up until recently my favorite beer of the year was the Banana Bread Imperial Stout, but the second Bocktoberfest is flat out good.
I did not set a goal for the number of books I’d read this past year, but ended up in the 22 books read/listened to range. I’m happy with this number overall. In past years, the number of entertainment fiction books vastly outnumbered the nonfiction. However, this year it’s 17 nonfiction to 5 fiction. 9 were audiobooks, 6 were physical books and 7 were digital books. Overall I’m happy with this breakdown.
DnD campaign ending
In 2021, my multi-year campaign that I was DM-ing finished up. This year, I ended my participation in a multi-year campaign as a player. The group and campaign were fantastic. I loved the DM, my character and the group’s characters. I decided I needed to take some of my free time back and allocate it to more productive channels. I also was still participating as a player in another campaign, though we’ve been on a fairly long break. Role-playing games are one of my favorite things; I love the exploration, humor and creativity it brings out in people and myself.
Brew club presidency ending
Another change in my hobbies was my involvement with the local homebrew club. For ~5 years I had been president of our homebrew club. Granted, for 18 months during the pandemic we didn’t do much. For a while I had been feeling empty when thinking about the club and realized it was burnout. I made it known early in the year that I would not be returning as president in October. Thankfully there was a new-ish member who has brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the club who has taken up the mantle. I’m still sorting out my feelings towards the club and brewing itself. One or both of them no longer provide as much joy as they used to. This is an area that I will be monitoring for myself into 2023.