Twenty-Three!

I’m Twenty-Three dude! The first of October fell on a Sunday this year. The personal milestones and events that have occurred certainly make this a year for me to remember. Here’s a few of the main ones to note:

  • Completed my Bachelor of Computer Science – five years of hard work has finally(?) paid off
  • Started a new job at Shopify – one of the hottest, fastest growing, and prestigious unicorn companies
  • Ran my first 10k race during the Ottawa Race Weekend
  • Travelled along the California Coast, around the heart of New York, and all over Montreal

The celebrations started with Saturday morning. A bunch of friends and colleagues of mine grabbed breakfast to wish a colleague farewell and best wishes being back at school.

The crowd storms the field as Carleton wins at Sportsball!

Just like last year, a larger group of us met up at the TD Place for the annual university football Panda Game between Carleton and Ottawa U (Carleton won, of course :P). A lot of time was spent laughing at our once younger selves acting foolish in the crowd. After the win we spent a few hours pigging out at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.

To finish the day off we visited the pool and hot tub at a friend’s apartment, and played the card game What do you Meme? Sunday, my actual birthday, has been spent relaxing and writing this post. I’m sure my colleagues will have more festivities planned for next week.

Additionally, this year I got more into road biking – putting just over a thousand kilometres on a new road bike, and visiting a few new locations in the Ottawa-Gatineau area – Cafe British in Alymer, Quebec is worth the trek on a nice sunny day.

Since I’ve been interested in craft beers, this year I received a homebrewing kit as a gift. The process is laborious for a day or two but is quite rewarding at the end. I’ve completed two large batches so far – a wheat beer and an IPA. They’re pretty drinkable, but the quality isn’t high enough for the ingredients I used. I’ll definitely have to make a higher quality batch of beer, or even delve into making wine.

At the end of October last year I travelled with my Aunt and a few of her friends to Manhattan in New York. What a city! The sheer size and bustle of everything going on at all hours of the day is intoxicating. The restaurant scene was tasty, even when eating within a reasonable budget. The attractions and Central Park were fascinating. I would recommend any first-timers to get a City-Pass to get access to the major attractions. It was definitely a memorable week.

Me shaking Leo’s hand at the TWiT studios.

For a graduation trip in June I flew over to California with my mom. We spent a solid 10 days rv-ing and camping from north of San Francisco all the way down to San Diego. The climate, scenery, and attractions made it an amazing experience. We stopped by the TWiT studios to see Leo Laporte, a longtime mentor of mine for 11 years. Leo’s podcasts have taught me a staggering amount about technology news and computer security. It was great to have been able to see him in person and watch a live recording of Security Now with Steve Gibson.

A San Diego sunset.

During the trip we had to stop by the Computer History museum. Holy cow! That museum is big. I could have spent a few days there reading everything. One particular part of the museum I found memorable was showing my mom a diagram of the history of programming languages, pointing to the ones I knew, and the ones I would soon learn at Shopify. Seeing some of the first Google servers were pretty nostalgic in a way with how scrappy they were to get a lot of computing power for cheap.

Some of the rough goals I have this year are to advance my career, improve on my social skills, become friends with more people, and build up some muscle. I have surprised myself already with the speed and progress that has been made across these goals so far.

Since starting work at Shopify the thought of moving closer to work has really been bugging me. A 20 minute bike ride is great in the summertime, but Winter is Coming – and Ottawa doesn’t fall short with its winters. The social scene with colleagues and all the activities that are had downtown are more attracting factors for moving closer. I’m really liking the idea of moving into a 1-bedroom apartment – gaining more privacy and being able to focus more on myself compared to living with my entertaining and sometimes distracting roommates (in a good way).

I’m not sure how I can top the major events from this past year. Maybe moving into my very own place, attending a conference or two, performing my first conference talk, or even some travelling with friends? I’m down for all of those.

Twenty-Two

Another grand year has gone by since my last birthday. Here’s my look back on the year as I turn 22 today. I’m on the edge of finishing my Computer Science degree (yay!), had a blast spending time vacationing with my family, and succeeded at completing a few personal goals, to name a few.

The view from above! – At Champlain Point Lookout in Gatineau Park

I have accomplished my goal of biking to Gatineau’s Champlain Lookout – a hefty 60km ride on a franken-road bike that safely got me there. Getting hooked on the Strava app has helped gamify my cycling fitness. When my Grandmother passed away this summer we spent five days in Owen Sound, a quiet town on Georgian Bay. I had the itch to go biking one day and ended up renting a proper road bike compared to what I have. Two hours later and I’ve cycled 42km, swam in the water and enjoyed the scenery pass by, completely satisfied.

This time last year ZDirect, the previous name of the company I work at, got acquired by TravelClick. Over the year we’ve hit home run after home run at delivering on making changes, namely a successful datacentre migration, rebranding of the UI, new profile screen and plenty of features to boot. We’re expanding rapidly: acquiring new office space, hiring more developers, account managers and support people. An incremental integration into TravelClick has been happening, involving processes, infrastructure and software. The sales figures show we’re doing something right. Not a few weeks from now I’ll be in New York for a short vacation. During this time I’ll stop by TravelClick headquarters in Times Square to say Hi and see if I can grab some swag.

Celebrating our hard work with a barbeque
Celebrating our hard work with a barbeque

My main achievement during this summer of working at TravelClick has been implementing a weekly Continuous Improvement meeting for my team where we improve our processes and software by discussing and planning items of action. Seeing the entire team engage and drive the discussion, including planning on what should be done is the truest sign of having succeeded, not to mention the improvements that are being made.

I have started listening to a lot more software-related podcasts. Learning FTW! It’s crazy the amount of information you can learn just by listening when you’re not doing any brain-intensive tasks.

Continuing to experiment with new recipes, I have begun making sourdough bread as it’s much healthier than your regular white loaf. Vegetables and fruits have become more prominent in my meals, as well as Thai coconut soups every once in a while. I’ve reduced the number of unhealthy foods I eat such as bucket-loads of homemade pizza and frozen foods like perogies.

christmas-vacation
No better way to surprise my aunt than with a diorama

On the topic of health, I was disciplined for the first half of the year when it came to performing workouts five to six nights a week. Freeletics is an excellent social exercise app that only requires your body, a pull-up bar and a small amount of space to do short but intense exercises. Besides the pre-programmed workouts, performing 250 sit-ups a night definitely helped get that six-pack ready for the February trip to the Dominican Republic. (On a related note, Long Island Iced Teas became my new favourite drink).

When the summer started it was an abrupt transition from school-life to work-life. I eventually stopped using the Freeletics workout app and instead went for hour-plus bike rides a couple of times a week, using Strava to track my distance. I miss the disciplined workout. I want to get back into the routine again when my joints aren’t complaining.

Having a second (but small) source of income as well as keeping my other skills sharp was prominent this past year. I performed some freelance logo design and web development with a great friend of mine. At the moment I feel like the work I’m doing is valued at less than what it should be. I plan on being actionable for future jobs by valuing my time more.

Here’s some raw metrics that represent part of what I have been up to over the past year:

A bad practice that I want to take control over is the number of hours of YouTube videos that I consume per week. I could easily spend that time reading, sleeping or getting things done. I feel that if I visualize my video consumption and set a goal of reducing the hours watched per week I will gain back valuable time.

Posing in the Dominican
Posing in the Dominican

Some good practices that I want to continue with this year is getting good sleep, writing every day, practicing mindfulness, taking notes while reading books, being fit and listening to podcasts and conference talks.

 

Reading about and using the Getting Things Done method is another goal of mine that I think would help me perform better and achieve more given all my work and personal tasks. Being able to organize better and be disciplined about getting things done will enable me to feel more fulfilled day-to-day.

Well time to publish this and pack it up for the night as it’s just past midnight. Today my friends and I are attending the Panda Games, an annual football game with a decades-old rivalry between Ottawa’s two big universities: Carleton and Ottawa U. It’s a big party and it’ll be a write-off for all of us.

Twenty-one!

“Why am I not in the US of A right now?” Good question. That’s what my dad asked me when he congratulated me on my 21st birthday this past October 1st.

Not being in the US this Thursday evening for academic reasons, I spent Wednesday night with my roommates grabbing a few exotic beers at our local pub. The past week has been heavy with assignments and a midterm already, which is why this post has been delayed – but enough with the excuses!

Some of the achievements or big changes that have occurred since my last birthday have been the following:

  • Visited and vacationed in the USA for the first time
  • Moved into a new (and nicer) house with my roommates
  • Became a happier person through mindfulness
  • Expanded my beer and wine taste

This past year I’ve also been working on a bunch of small projects, some of them I’ve been actively working on, others I haven’t. I’ve pressed 3,139,757 keys and 769,532 mouse clicks, made 310 contributions to repos on my GitHub, read 5 books, and am still reading 6 books.

I’m more than half-way through my Computer Science program at Carleton. 3.5 years in and I’ve got less than a year and a half to go. It gets more exciting as the topics I’m studying get more advanced and interesting. I’m looking forward to finishing and starting my full-time career.

I must have read a countless number of articles; pretty much every day covering topics from Docker, continuous delivery, microservices, distributed systems, coding, and programming languages. I’m amazed at how much I’ve read and how I apply it to my work and experiment.

This year I really want to make drastic improvements to the operations side of my job at ZDirect, learn Go, Ruby and Coffeescript (in that order), become more mindful, and get into shape (because keyboard arms aren’t sexy).

Twenty

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

Gone are the years of figuring out what this whole life thing is about, time to finally take that knowledge and have the time of my life shaping my future into whatever I please.

Looking back over the year, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve landed an awesome co-op job working at a small company solving issues in the hospitality industry, a much busier freelance web design job on the side, and started cooking healthier meals. Not to mention, its been at least a year having moved out of my parents house into my current Ottawa residence with all of my roommates 🙂

Here’s a few other miscellaneous achievements:

  • Made and barbecued the perfect homemade burger
  • Read more fiction, non-fiction and computer science books and articles
  • Found my love for Cherry MX blue keyboards
  • Commute to work every day via bike
  • Expanded my music tastes

Some things that I’m looking forward to this year are going back to school after my co-op term to take some advanced third year courses, work on some personal programming projects, and cook more delicious food. But who knows? Much more notable events will definitely occur in the next year. Those unknown events are the ones I’m most looking forward to!


Just like what Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress has been doing, I like the idea of writing a post on your birthday for reflecting on the past and future year. Here is it’s first form on my blog.