Last weekend I turned 32. I started my 31st year on a happy note (the happiest!). Our son Javier was born on March 3rd, two days before my birthday.
Two weeks after he was born, the pandemic lockdown took effect in Virginia. Under normal circumstances, Emily and I would have leaned on friends and family to help balance two full-time jobs and the kids. But for obvious reasons, we could not. Nor did we feel comfortable going anywhere where we might bump into other people, indoors or otherwise.
Much like the rest of the world, we spent lots of time indoors. Luckily, our house is big enough to fit the four of us and still have separate work spaces. We held out 7 months without daycare, splitting the day in two and taking turns. It wasn’t easy.
After a while, we decided to send the kids to daycare again. There was an outbreak shortly after we went back, but fortunately we didn’t get sick and everyone who did came out the other end ok.
Lots of change in my work life this year. It feels like I compressed 2-3 years of experiences into one.
For the first five months, I worked at Upside. After the travel restrictions took place, things got tough. Upside saw a wave of departures, which included me. I’d been at Upside longer than I’d been at any other job. Lots of lessons learned. I still have a number of colleagues there that I like and respect and I wish them well.
After Upside, I joined Capital One’s mobile team. This job was eye-opening. Mobile development happens at a scale I’d never experienced before.
This was also my return to IC work after a 2-year hiatus as a tech lead. Thankfully, it all came rushing back. There was a lot of “flow”. Swift flowed out of my fingers for hours and hours. Even better, things that I’d previously overlooked as an IC happened naturally this time (e.g. bash scripting, spike reports, team presentations). Even the new stuff, like the app’s unidirectional architecture and RxSwift just clicked.
In many ways, Capital One is exactly what I was looking for circa 2016, when we left New York. I think that’s what made it so appealing to try out and so difficult to leave. In the end, I didn’t see myself there long-term.
This might sound old-fashioned, but if I can’t see myself staying somewhere at least 5-10 years, I think it’s best to pass. Even stranger, I’m now wishing I could do the same thing for 30+ years! This raises the bar to an uncomfortably high level, both for the actual work and for the people involved. The next section covers how I resolved this.
A decade into my career, I’ve tried many different work arrangements. I’ve worked at bootstrapped companies, startups, subsidiaries and public companies. I’ve also been an IC, a tech lead, a full-time employee and a contractor.
Drawing from past experience and knowledge about myself (this second part is important, do not try this at home!), here’s where I landed.
By default, I’m a freelancer/consultant at Sweetpea Mobile. There are many situations, especially early on, in which hiring a full-time employee doesn’t make sense. That’s where I can help. From time to time, I might come across an opportunity to join a startup or start a company if there’s a very, very good fit. That door is still open.
But isn’t this just going back to 2016? Not really. I don’t have any aspirations to build a dev agency anymore. My heart is in product work, not in selling services.
I now know there are more lucrative, less complicated ways to make a living as a developer. Everyone’s different, but I don’t think I can do those for 30+ years. I’ve made my peace with this.
Anecdotally, I know a few people that follow this same model of consultant by default and startup when the stars align. I think it will suit me well.
This all brings me to Appetize.io. Appetize is an online service that lets you stream native apps through a web browser. Internal distribution, especially on iOS, is a pain. You have to handle provisioning profiles and get code signing right if you’re doing ad hoc distribution. Or you have to deal with TestFlight.
If you use Appetize.io, all you have to do is upload a build and share a link. The recipient can start using your app right away. It removes most of the transaction costs from sharing your app internally.
I’ve known the two co-founders for a long, long time. I even did a couple of small projects with them in 2018. The engineering that makes Appetize.io work actually made my jaw drop. I’m very fortunate to work with them. Appetize.io has the kind of team that makes me hope the stars will align. Time will tell.
My other big project this year was writing a book for raywenderlich.com. Back in July, I sensed an opportunity to use the extra down time for writing.
The writing process felt completely different this time. Before this year, writing was a torturous affair for me. I think that’s why it took me so long to take on another book project after Core Data by Tutorials (7 years!). I don’t know how the book will be received (it’ll come out next month), but I think it’s my best technical writing so far.
Writing a book about iOS app distribution reminded me of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”, where all the question in the game show tied back to specific points in Jamal’s life. There were many points during the writing that triggered specific memories of things I did and the people I did them with. If we worked together on an iOS app in the last 10 years, thank you. Our work together inspired me to write this book :)
I have the habit of closing my social media accounts during big writing projects. I’ve been doing so since my senior thesis in college.
However, this time it was more than the writing. I felt like I had reached a breaking point. My mind fixates and obsesses (isn’t that common with developers?). I was also tired of seeing so much anger all the time. So I cut it all out.
I closed everything that had a dynamically-generated feed like Facebook and Instagram. Not even Venmo and Spotify survived. I let Twitter and LinkedIn live for professional reasons, but I uninstalled their mobile clients from my phone.
Speaking of my phone, I also did something to curb my phone addiction. I bought a cellular Apple Watch and turned my phone off during the day for a few months. I’ve gone back to using my phone during the day, but I feel like I do it less compulsively now. As for the social media accounts I closed, I don’t have any plans to return.
My 31st year is one I won’t easily forget. Routine ruled supreme and the days blended together. Paradoxically, time felt like it was fast and slow at the same time. Challenging and rewarding as well.