2012 year in review
After I got back from traveling in late May, I had a big decision to make: do I try to go back to my old job as an immediate, “good enough” solution to replenish the coffers that traveling so depleted? Do I stretch my finances thin and attempt to stay the course on my goal of creating a self-sustaining business? Do I try to find another company to work for?
Thankfully, the decision kind of landed in my lap as the wonderful Laura Reitel took me to lunch and insisted on showing me around the TechStars Boulder office where she was the Program Manager. She introduced to several members of the kickass Boulder 2012 class, and I spent the summer helping one of the companies build and launch their product. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the startup community, so this was a great way to confront a fear and put myself out there.
The contract naturally came to a close, but the friends and contacts I made over the summer changed everything. I followed the initial contract with ones with PivotDesk and BirdBox. My experience with both companies has been superlative, and I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve accepted a position as senior engineer with Birdbox starting this week. I’m excited about working more closely with Birdbox because it merges my passion for photography with technology, and I’ll be working daily with a group of top percentile talent. The potential for personal and professional development is huge.
Secret Santa Generator
I redeveloped Secret Santa Generator from scratch using Ruby on Rails and test-driven development, both as a technical exercise and as a strategic business decision. When I originally created the site in 2011 using PHP, I found that I pretty much never bothered fixing bugs or responding to user feedback or support requests, mainly because I knew the site had issues and I simply didn’t find myself motivated to fix them. Rewriting everything in Rails changed that, as it was far more relevant to my chosen consulting specialty and I actually liked working on the codebase. The test suite that accumulated from building it with TDD proved invaluable as I made changes during the holiday rush — saving major headaches on a number of occasions.
|Total unique visitors:||42,304, a 316% increase over last year|
|Total completed secret santa events:||5,365|
|Highest # of participants in an event:||93|
|Median # of participants in an event:||7|
|Average # of participants in an event:||8.3|
|Total revenue:||$67.35 versus $0 last year|
Obviously, the revenue is not enough to even cover the costs of the servers the app is running on, but I’m not deterred. I learned a ton from interacting with the customers this year and have a number of concrete plans to boost revenue from the project next year.
I woke up on January 1 of this year in a hotel room in Delhi, completely overwhelmed. The adventures that followed took me to Nepal (where I nearly got mugged), Thailand (where I learned to ride a motorbike and got stung in the face by a bee at 60mph), Malaysia (where I had the most memorable birthday of my life), Japan (where the ghosts of an abandoned strip club creeped me out), New Zealand (where I lived in a minivan with Cassie and learned the true meaning of ‘close quarters’), Australia (where a visa mixup allowed us to spend a day exploring), and Hawaii (where I swam at midnight with 10 foot manta rays). My personal growth was tremendous, though perhaps less than I might have originally suspected it would be.
Toward the end of the trip, I became profoundly homesick. I’d spent nearly a year with 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 7 pairs of boxers, a point-and-shoot camera, and a slow-as-molasses $250 netbook I shared with Cassie. Many of the priorities and hobbies I value most in life had been neglected for the duration of the trip: time for introversion, programming projects, skiing, and cooking had all been nonexistent. I wanted to sleep in my own bed and look at the mountains I love so much and take a deep breath of the dry air to which my body seems so adapted.
Getting back, while a relief, was a bit rough until I started setting small goals for myself and got back into the groove of my life here. I redesigned and redeveloped Secret Santa Generator. I reached out to the friends I hadn’t seen in so long, and I made a bunch of great new friends through TechStars. I reinvigorated my career and took it to the next level. I reconnected with my family and resolved to be present where I was. I’ve almost gotten good at ping pong.
Goals for 2013
I want to help these guys build a product that will revolutionize the way we share and organize photography.
Secret Santa Generator
I want implement and monetize wishlists, improve user engagement, and to use the site as the basis for an upcoming web development educational series.
I want to be a balanced, happy man who goes skiing, makes his woman smile, and continues to go on adventures.