Twenty seven

October 1st just passed yesterday. Another year in the pandemic, though I tried to make the best of it! Here’s the 27th edition of of my yearly reflections on what I’ve been up to, what I’ve achieved, and where I’ve grown. You can find previous years reflections since I’ve been Twenty, Twenty-one!, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three!, Twenty-four!, Twenty Five, and Twenty Six.

I made the biggest purchase in my life to buy a duplex here in Ottawa’s Centretown neighbourhood. I’ve also become a lead of leads in my engineering organization. I’ve even had a few big accomplishments with my road cycling hobby thanks to a few friends.

One of my friends asked me about the high and lows of the year. After a bit of thinking, buying the house was definitely the height of the year. The low likely was not spending as much time as I usually would with family and friends either up at the cottage or travelling around. Let’s get in to a few of the highlights!

House

I bought a house, and moved in on the 5th of July! The landlord of the place I was renting previously was a seasoned real-estate agent. He shared some of his marketing materials with me sometime last year. With lots of people buying places in the country instead of the city to gain more space, the tradeoff wasn’t particularly worth it to me. Over a year into the pandemic and I approached my landlord to ask him if he’ll be my agent. He agreed and a month or two later of not many listings going up due to the lockdown, one place in Centretown meeting my criteria eventually showed up. I viewed it, ended up falling in love with it, and put in an offer for the place. As luck had it, my offer was accepted!

The dining room after some fresh paint and furniture

Over the past few months, most of my free time has been going towards making cosmetic improvements to the place, running ethernet cables through the walls, deep cleaning everything, buying new furniture, and starting the never-ending decorating journey. I’m quite glad that all of the DIY skills and confidence I’ve gained helping my family with their projects when growing up is helping me greatly now. Having extra time on my hands certainly helps as well!

I’m quite thankful for having an interior designer friend who’s been very handy when suggesting furniture pieces and paint colours. I definitely wouldn’t have as cool looking of a place without it! Another great friend has also lent me a number of tools to help with the handful of jobs I’ve been doing around the place.

I’m most excited about entertaining and enjoying the house when I’m not in DIY mode all the time. This Christmas should be a blast hosting my family, and there’s likely a few house parties I want to throw as things open up more. As long as I’m enjoying the space with others, I’ll be fulfilled.

The top floor deck with obligatory string lights

Career

Earlier this year I received a promotion to become a manager of managers! Yes, I’m in full Office Space-esque “What do you do here?” territory. Jokes aside, this has been incredibly exciting as I am now accountable for the people and product across a handful of teams. Very recently many of my previous responsibilities have been handed over to two fantastic people leads on my team. The conversations I’m having with them, some senior developers, and high growth individuals are very focused on helping them grow their careers and impact that they bring to the team, which has been quite fulfilling.

On the product side of things, a recent trend has evolved from “build extendable features for the long term” to “build self-service, or low-code features for the long term”. This is a neat observation and paradigm shift, which reflects on the development teams being more mature, and the need to build the right knobs and switches into the system to more easily enable the business to change how they work.

For a number of months, I was short a people lead for one of the teams and took on the extra load of performing all of the people management work until we hired on a permanent replacement. I had something like 17 half-hour weekly one on ones with everyone who normally reports to me, and every developer from the team that didn’t have a people lead. This took a crazy amount of time out of my schedule, but I loved the chaos and leaned into it. This was a great test of my time management, prioritization, and delegation skills. Since I wasn’t able to be involved in each team’s day to day, I heavily leaned on the seniors of each team to take ownership over the technical and product decisions. This worked out miraculously well, and was an amazing growth opportunity for these individuals to take on more ownership and make more decisions. Each team being in a mature enough state to not require my day to day involvement was key for me to focus on the more important people management side of things.

Growing of these teams also took precedence, as it periodically does every year. We grew the teams by several developers, hiring folks from Ireland, around Canada, and even the US. I still have to remind myself that we truly hire great people to work with, both professionally and socially.

Cycling

Happily cycling from the cottage to Bala in my Shopify-branded kit

Where to begin. One of the biggest forces that has helped push myself out of my comfort zone and see just how much cycling I can endure was thanks to a great amount of healthy competition with some friends. When the weather got cold, indoor cycling started, and a number of cyclists from work came together to do some virtual group rides. Three of us wanted to go further and ended up cycling multiple times a week. Over a number of months of seeing our cycling strength and endurance increase, we signed up for some very tough challenges in our virtual cycling app of choice, Zwift. Those challenges were:

  • The PRL Full route, consisting of 175 km, 2281 m of climbing. It took 7 hours!!!

I have to pause here, since going into this, we knew that this would be pushing our limits, and then some. Our times continuously riding were about 4 hours max. My cycling buddies and I were expecting this to be a 6-7 hour ride for us. Cycling for this long becomes quite the mind game along with the expected fatigue. As I shared above, my cycling buddies and I were able to finish it! I was seriously questioning why I enjoyed this whole cycling thing for a few days after that. To get over the pain and suffering of riding the same hilly route 11 times during the challenge, I forced myself a few days later to go ride it once more to get over my newfound loathing of it. It worked. I got over it. The best part about this challenge was that every other challenge paled in comparison since none were as challenging as this!

Otherwise here’s a few other notable achievements from doing all of the indoor cycling on Zwift:

From all of the cycling, the amount of power I could exert increased from 2020 to 2021 significantly! Some quick number crunching shows a 40-60% improvement, which is mind blowing!

2020 (lighter line) to 2021 (darker line) watts/kg power curve.

When the weather warmed up, there was a number of great adventures and achievements that were had:

One of the funnest hills to climb on the Forks of the Credit ride, this switchback was beautiful to take in

I can’t wait to see what I’ll get up to next year cycling-wise!

What’s next?

Well, there’s probably a decent amount of travel I’m looking forward to over the next year. Some already figured out such as a handful of business trips to hang with the teams, and an unknown amount of personal ones with friends and family that I’m most excited about.

Once the renovations and DIY around the house have settled down, figuring out what I’ll do with the other unit is on the list. Having a second source of income can only help set myself up more for the future.

Hopefully I’ll do some even bigger cycling trips, and get around to that bike camping I wanted to get around to this past summer. Buying a bike computer and power meter would help on these adventures and regular training too.

2022 is looking bright!

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.