2019 has been a big year for me. Many things changed in significant ways…
I changed my job in January.
At the beginning of the year, I left my consulting agency, where I was leading large distributed engineering teams, to join a global Fortune 500 corporate as an individual contributor in a newly created Chief Architect role. Every aspect of this new role was in stark contrast to my old one: from the nerdy and sometimes deeply specialized engineering communities to the broad spectrum of business, marketing, and operations communities; from staring at debug logs and discussing design patterns to explaining relevant microservices and engineering concepts to the eager non-tech business and operations audience; from pitching new ideas and proposals to being on the receiving end of a diverse range of pitches and deliberating on them…
Life often turns out to be quite peculiar. In all of my professional career, I viewed anyone that called herself an “architect” with a bit of initial skepticism and avoided wearing a pure “architect”-only hat myself. To me, it tends to paint someone who likes to draw on paper only and often has no idea how things are built in reality (and consequently has no real influence over the actual engineering process and the outcome). I decided to take on this job only after I had been repeatedly assured that I would be as close to the action on the ground as I wish and have equally easy access to the CIO.
Looking back on the year, my “chief architect” experience has been highly stimulating, gratifying, and rewarding. Given the scale of the business, never have I learned so much and gained such broad perspectives of technology innovations and offerings across so many disciplines. At the same time, never have I felt my work was so broadly respected and influential in so many aspects of the business, especially given that this was more of an advisory role than an operational one.
We traded one lucrative income source for the pursuit of an app idea.
At the end of 2018, Aaron made the decision to stop his lucrative consulting gigs completely, to devote 2019 (and beyond) in pursuit of an app idea. It was a joint commitment, as we both envisioned its many potentials, while fully prepared to embrace its implications financially, especially when we also had 2 college students to be paid for at the same time.
After 6 months of dedicated development (along with setting up the web site and all other things you have to do running an indie app), Aaron launched TimeStory 1.0 in July, averaging 1 major update each month since.
Last time he wanted to do an app, not two months after he quit his job, he was persuaded by a startup co-founder to join their venture. This time is different. He has already turned down multiple offers/opportunities this year to stay invested in this app vision. Indie app development is a hard and sometimes lonesome journey that may lead nowhere, but while at it, it’s an adventure rich with ups and downs, with the pride and pressure of shipping a high quality product on high velocity to a diverse global user base, and with the chores and insights of marketing and support. 2019 is just the beginning. We have a lot to look forward to in 2020.
I became an empty-nester this year.
On the family side, the youngest of our two sons graduated from high school in the spring, and started college in the fall. While it was gratifying to observe him rapidly maturing into adulthood, we also didn’t waste any time starting to formulate our own new, “empty nest” lifestyle norm. Cooking became a lot less stressful and a lot more experimental — imagine not having to worry about having enough of the right kinds of food to feed an always-starving tall teenager any more! In the mornings, evenings, and weekends, we went from revolving our life around kids’ extracurricular activities, to filling up calendars with our own extracurricular activities. It seemed as if I were envious of the opportunities the kids had when growing up and now that they have moved on it’s time for me to start. The kids have noticed too. Their Christmas gift for me was an Alfred’s piano book and a “daily practice” bear (yet another irony?).
On the decade past and the decade ahead
2019 is the year it seems, I took not one, but at least two major leaps of faith. Reflecting more on the decade, they were actually the culmination of previous years’ earnest though unwitting personal and professional explorations. For example, the year-long Chief Marketing Technology Officer program (an executive MBA-style leadership training program) I went through in 2016-2017 forever changed the lens I used to conduct myself and my life, and to view beyond the current events of technology and society. (I would have never guessed from the face value of the program name itself.). The hypotheses and big ideas I formulated during that year and since, I was able to test and validate to some extent this year in my new job; the skills I learned in those years became my secret weapon to navigate and be successful in my new role and new environment.
In many ways, this moment in my life feels like a juncture point, where one chapter ends and a new one begins. There’s a feeling of lightness, excitement of many ideas and possibilities, and a sense of experience, maturity, and preparedness to weather what may come of the adventure ahead.