Twenty Six

2020 is the year I turn 26. October 1st is that day! As always with every year for the past seven years now I reflect back on the past year by sharing some accomplishments and progress with life.

Travel

Given Covid-19, things have been different but manageable. Before the craziness started I travelled to Nashville in November for RubyConf (a conference for developers) with a number of teammates. We had a great time exploring the city and sampling the different foods over the few days we were there. I never realized how much of a party city Nashville is. The live music and bar scene wants me to go back again with friends. I’ll have to grab a cowboy hat next time I’m there.

PEI lighthouse

In the new year there was a work trip to Montreal for a couple days. Great times were spent getting to know new colleagues from our greater team, and having fun with existing. The city never gets boring. This trip is my best celebrity claim to fame: at a speakeasy in old Montreal, Harrison Ford (of Bladerunner, Star Wars) showed up with a few people and had a discreet time. They didn’t want any attention, therefore the group I was with and myself weren’t able to actually meet him. Oh well, at least he walked around a bit so that we could try to remember him a whole lot better.

Right before things started shutting down in Ottawa at the end of February, my mom and sister gave me a surprise visit. The highlights were hitting up the town with my friends and going to some new restaurants. Recommendations are for the Duelling Pianos event at the Sens House Saturday nights, and breakfast at the Manx on Elgin.

Isolating in Nova Scotia

Part way through the pandemic, I had the opportunity to travel out east to Nova Scotia with a few friends out to their family’s beach house. We had to quarantine for two weeks while out there but that wasn’t too difficult when the weather was hot, the beach was there, and light beer was plentiful. It was so great the first time that we decided to go back a second time (including a second quarantine) for an entire month. During these two trips I attended one of my best buddy’s wedding, his bachelor party, made apple cider, experienced the east coast cultural norms, and rekindled my love of rocks. Home base was Merigomish, Nova Scotia, but we also stayed in Fredericton, Moncton, Charlottetown, and French River, PEI. It was surreal to experience the relaxed Covid restrictions out in the eastern bubble. I’m thankful that I was able to work remotely while out there and it having no impact on my work. I’m glad to have been able to travel during the pandemic.

Fitness

To stay fit throughout the winter I invested in a smart trainer for my bike. Tied with the virtual cycling app, Zwift, I started crushing seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine while keeping my fitness up.

With Fridays being days off during the summer months at Shopify, this gave my friends and I a lot of great summer days to get up to trouble. Many of the days were spent cycling around Ottawa and going to different beaches in the area. We frequented Aylmer beach on the Quebec side. It was a scenic hour long cycle and great sandy beach, perfect for very hot days. One time we went out to Sablon Beach for hanging out at the large beach and camping over for a night. With all this travel and sun, it’s been satisfying to work on getting a nice, even tan.

Many cycling trips into Gatineau Park

A few friends and I signed up to run the Ottawa Race Weekend 10k. The last time I did this was in 2017! The official race was cancelled, but could still be run any time over the summer, and anywhere to still get ranked. On the last day to submit the results I was running a 5k and decided to see how much further I could go. Pacing myself and keeping good enough form allowed me to run the 10k successfully! and in a fair time, albeit with some breaks.

Work

At work my team and I have transitioned to working in a different problem space. It’s quite a refreshing feeling being immersed in a little-known area as it keeps me on my toes. There was a several month period where I was leading two teams of developers on two different projects – one being the old team and project that is wrapping up, the other being the new team and project. This was challenging as my time was split between the two teams. Prioritizing, delegating, and providing the right nudges to influence the projects were critical throughout this period, especially when one team was coming up to a big launch, and the other team was trying to get off the ground. At the end of the day, the launch was wildly successful, and the new team is just about to ship its first version of the service we’re building.

Earlier in 2020, our greater team moved from the Support org into the Trust org. We’re still solving problems for Support, but our scope has expanded to accelerate the rest of the business. This is a great opportunity for us that hasn’t fully come to fruition just yet. A lot of our services can be leveraged by other teams. The mindset we have now is building services that provide a whole lot of leverage and speed to other teams. Every year things change a whole lot on my team for the better. Three years in now and it’s still a wild ride.

Numbers

As always, here’s some numbers on what I’ve accomplished over the year:

  • 110 km of running, 11 hours total
  • 1,039 km of cycling, 47 hours total
  • 1,010 Github contributions from work and personal projects
  • 3 books read, 5 on the go
  • 6 posts published on this blog, 5 unpublished
  • 2,373,358 steps, 1,642.99 km, 868,256 calories recorded via my Fitbit

Looking back, my running and cycling rival my 2017 numbers. It’s been a great time outside this year!

🍻 to another year!

Twenty Five

My friends half-jokingly call it my quarter-century birthday. This year I’m a day late, and according to previous posts, sick again at this same time of year surprisingly. It may have been from the surprise birthday party my friends threw. Oh well, lets get on with the show.

It’s always hard to remember back to what October of last year was like, especially after a year like this. Around November of 2018 I had a wonderful surprise promotion: becoming my own team’s manager. With that came a whole new challenge of understanding people instead of just software. I was thrown in the deep end one day and had to figure out what managing people was all about. From talking with colleagues to reading books, I performed a lot of research over the past year to understand what it means to manage people, especially as a manager of a development team.

Besides career-related achievements, I also had the great opportunity to vacation in Mexico and New York with a bunch of my close buddies, and to partake in a few extra ski trips over the winter to Mont Tremblant and Camp Fortune. I surprised myself with my skiing skills – I must not have gone very recently. Over the summer a number of visits to the cottage was made, one of the times with a bunch of good friends.

Something I wasn’t expecting to have happened at all was to get my SSI Open Water Diving certification. This allows me to go scuba diving to maximum depths of 60 ft. A friend of mine suggested the idea to a few of us and we all had nothing to lose, so why not! Five pool dive sessions, three classroom sessions, and four dives at Morrison’s Quarry over a weekend gave the three of us the ability to travel anywhere around the world and go diving. It was a great learning experience as we had excellent instructors and one on one training as luck would have it. The three of us will be planning a diving trip in the new year!

This was the year where more weddings made it my way. One of them was for my longtime cottage neighbour who is around my age, and another wedding was for my Aunt. Both were vastly different weddings, but both were very enjoyable.

In late fall and early spring there’s a large period of time where bad weather holds me back from going running and cycling in the summertime, or skating on the canal in the wintertime. To keep myself active I bought myself an indoor trainer for my road bike. I was able to train indoors a few times a week pretty consistently over the winter. Keeping this training up for all of the cold months allowed me to jump on my bike in the spring and not miss a beat.

Here’s a few interesting stats of mine from the past year:

  • 57 hours of running/cycling/training, 1220 km total
  • 14 articles for this blog written, 7 published
  • 7 books read – the either being In The Plex, or the Elon Musk biography
  • 1932 GitHub contributions from work and personal projects

🍻 to another year!

Twenty-four!

It’s hard to come up with the content for this post while fending off a sickness, but I know it’s a yearly ceremony for myself to look back and reflect on the prior year. As always, what better of a time to do this than on my Birthday!

One word can really describe my primary focus over the past year: Career. This time last year I was just about to pass the 90 day mark at Shopify.

Whether it’s been building close and trustworthy friendships with teammates and other colleagues, levelling up new hires through mentoring, or continually delivering impactful work – this year has been nothing more than exemplary.

Let’s get right into things! Since this time last year I moved to downtown Ottawa and am now living without roommates. Crazy to think that it only happened 10 months ago since it feels like forever, but I am enjoying all the perks of having no roommates and downtown life.

This summer was one of my most active to date. There was always something going on during the week or weekend from July straight through August. I had the opportunity to travel with a friend to his home town of Fredericton, New Brunswick. For the first time being on the east-coast I was expecting an east-coast accent out of everyone, but the place seemed more like Ontario than not. It was a great time hanging out with his friends and attending a party at the local hotel.

I had a great time with friends at two music festivals: Bluesfest and Escapade. Escapade was especially fun since there was a number of great acts: Alesso, Tchami, Zedd, and Kaskade. One private festival I went to was about 15 people camping at a buddies lakeside property in Quebec. A DJ booth was set up and the trance music was going on late into the night.

Being so close to downtown has its perks – I was within walking distance to both festivals.

Another bunch of cool moments were centred around exploring other Shopify offices. Barrel Hall in Waterloo was the coolest looking since it was once a distillery. It still has all of the characteristic aging barrels and wooden structure. Montreal’s office has the best artwork and looks like the most liveable city. Toronto’s offices and the city in general was a grand party since it’s mostly new to me, but I have friends, family, and colleagues everywhere.

Barrel Hall, Shopify’s Waterloo Office, definitely had the most character.

Even though I didn’t do as much cycling as last year, this year I took advantage of Ottawa’s Sunday Bikedays. On Sundays throughout the summer certain parkways were closed for the morning. This allowed for coasting down some long stretches of smooth roadway. The midpoint for some of these outings were spent taking a break at a local brewpub. Some friends joined me every once in a while too!

One of the many destinations – where the Rideau Canal meets the Ottawa River.

Investing and personal finance has become a hobby of mine and ever more important as I get older. It’s better earlier than later to learn about the do’s and don’ts of personal finance. A year of listening to related podcasts, plenty of reading, and managing my savings has enabled me to go from zero to pretty competent. I’m lucky to have a representative group of people to bounce ideas and plans off of.

I went to my first conference, BSides Ottawa, which was quite fun. I met a number of colleagues and played in my first capture the flag event. I found out that I can defend, but am not too good at attacking. I’ll try again to attend this year!

December was when myself and a few others started a rewrite for Shopify’s Help Centre. Unknown to us, there was quite a lot of feature creep – either from “that one little feature that’s existed forever”, to adding multiple language support. This resulted in the project taking seven months, but we’re glad to have done it. Throughout the process we started and built our own kick-ass team. When the rewrite shipped it went off without a hitch! 🎇 Now all of our current projects hinge off of the benefits that this rewrite brought.

Some of the team which traveled to Montreal to launch the Help Centre.

I attended a few training sessions that should benefit my career – Visualizing Software Architecture with the C4 Model, as well as Agile Scrum training. The latter has definitely transformed my team for the better.

There was a lot of various work events – planned or unplanned, official or unofficial – which I’m pretty grateful to have experienced with friends and colleagues. Alas, there are too many to mention.

For example: that one time we had a marching band…

Here’s to another year of learning, growth, exploration, and good times.

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.