Reflections and projections

December 26, 2019

Photo credit: Me, an alley in London, March 2019

As 2019 comes to a close it's time to look back on the last well as forward to the year to come. I will start with a look back on 2019, and then set some goals for the coming year.

Reflections on 2019

First, some reflections on the past year.

A year at Slack

I joined Slack in November of 2018 as an engineering leader. Joining Slack after 4.5 years at Netflix was a huge change. Slack is a very different company than Netflix. The business, culture, technology, people and even location all differ. While it is a tantalizing subject, I will save my thoughts on Slack and its comparisons to Netflix for a future post. Suffice it to say, I have been enjoying the challenges that Slack has provided and it has forced me to grow as a leader in ways I wouldn't have at Netflix.


My commute to Netflix was 18 minutes, door to door, in reverse traffic (both ways). I used to complain that it wasn't long enough to get through my growing podcast backlog, but in truth it was a glorious commute. When I lived in DC, I used to drive 30 minutes to the nearby metro station, wait (in the cold or heat) for the train, 30 minutes to the city, and then another 25 minutes of walking to the office. I swore I wouldn't take on another commute.

My commute to Slack is roughly an hour and 15 minutes door to door. I jump on my Niner RLT9, ride to the Mountain View Caltrain station, fight my way onto the bike car, politely navigate my way towards an acceptable seat, and fire up my mifi for a solid 50 minutes of heads down time. Upon arrival in San Francisco, I pack up and shuffle off the train with the other zombies, and begin a short cross town race through downtown. Since Caltrain has a fixed schedule, I typically leave the office at the same time each day to catch my regular train. I get a lot done on the train each morning and afternoon. It is nice having formalized "prep" and "closing" times to my day. As a result, I don't often open my laptop when I get home. It's also nice being on my bike a few times a day, even if it's for a short period of time.

Despite these benefits, the overall cost of commuting has proven to be exhausting. I suspect when it is time to leave Slack, a contributing factor will be my commute.

QCon London

In March, I was invited to give a talk on Discovering Culture through Artifacts at QCon London 2019. It was a wonderful experience. I was blessed to be part of a tremendous track on Culture, hosted by one of my heroes Dan North.

The highlight of the conference may have been a trip to the pub with some of the speakers. As an American, I have a profound appreciation for Britain's pub culture. Having a pint in the alley next to the pub with many of the great speakers was an awesome experience. (Note: the masthead picture for this post is from the alley.)

Special thank you to Dan North for the invitation to speak. It was an honor (sorry, honour).

Keynoting QCon San Francisco

I was lucky enough to be invited to keynote QCon San Francisco this year. I am told that my talk at QCon London was a big reason for the invitation. This would be the third time I keynoted a conference (previously Gradle Summit and DevOpsCon), but QCon was the biggest stage for sure. It was stressful and challenging, but absolutely worth it. I can remember first discovering and loving the quality of the content...and thinking I would never get a talk posted there. With this keynote in the bag, I feel like I've unlocked a personal achievement.

Thank you to Wes Reisz for the invitation to speak.

Back at Nike

To ensure I practiced my QCon keynote talk, I wanted to practice my talk first. As luck would have it, Thomas Lockney reached out to ask if I might be interested in speaking at an internal DevOps Day conference at Nike. This event just so happened to fall a month before QCon SF, providing me the perfect commitment device to prep my talk early. It also just so happened that I got the chance to hang with my friend Nora Jones (who was also speaking there), as well as Courtney Kissler (who was the event's exec sponsor). The talk I gave at that event wound up being very different than my keynote, so if you were disappointed with my Nike talk, I offer up my QCon SF talk for you instead.

Thank you to Thomas Lockney for the invitation.


The worse part of 2019 was my complete neglect for blogging. I used to love blogging and did it fairly regularly. It's not like I haven't been writing, I continue to write my Week in Reviews at Slack. This post will likely be my only one for 2019. Disappointing.


As most of us tend to do, I would like to look ahead to the new year and set some personal goals.

Goal #1: Less speaking

While I enjoyed my three speaking engagements this year, I do feel a bit burned out on public speaking. The process of writing a talk takes me about a month of increasing levels of anxiety. Frankly, I don't need more stress in my life. Also, I feel like I've achieved a fair amount with regards to public speaking.

I may feel differently in a few months, but as of right goal is to give zero talks in 2020.

Goal #2: Back to Blogging

I am going to blog more. I am going to maintain this blog. I have a list of about 30 topics that I would love to write about. For a week in May 2012, I wrote a blog post a day. That was an aggressive goal, and I don't think I can commit to that.

Instead, I think that I will set a goal of at least 36 blog posts in the year (3 a month), but with try to write a blog post a week.

Goal #3: Coding with JavaScript (and TypeScript)

Given my that all of my teams at Slack work primarily with JavaScript, I need to invest in learning the language and ecosystem better. I haven't been coding much recently and I do miss it. So, if I need to code, I should be doing it all in JavaScript (and TypeScript).

My goal for the year is at least 10 coding projects completed for the year, with the majority in JavaScript (or TypeScript).

Goal #4: Exercise

History has taught me that I am more productive and happier when I exercise. Although, it has been harder to find the time this year, given my 2.5 hours of daily commute time. Recently, I've started waking up at 5:30am to workout before work. This change has been hard, but immediate. I have found that rather than doing this a few times a week, committing to a daily exercise routine is easier. And so... goal for 2020 is to exercise everyday. I expect I will have to take a day off here and there, but a daily routine feels doable.

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