2015 Retrospective

2015 has been a hell of a year for me.

It was around three years ago that I realized I was trapped in a dead end job in a dead end career. I decided to switch into software development, and spent 2014 working full time and going to classes part time. January of 2014 marked the first time that I did any real programming with CSCI 1301. That summer, I managed to get an internship where I worked about 10 hours per week, on top of everything else.

In January of 2015, I quit my job to focus on going to school full time. I didn’t intend to work. Really, I had every intention of focusing on school and enjoying hobbies and interests that I didn’t have time for in 2014. I didn’t lift, and I didn’t touch my music.

I made it about 20 days until I got an offer to work for another local startup. They were an awesome group doing Ruby on Rails, which I was enjoying at the time, so I accepted. Initially, I was only going to work for 10-15 hours per week. As time went on, there was so much work to do that I had the opportunity to work more. I liked the work, and I ended up working closer to 20-30 hours per week. Over the summer, I worked full time while taking the data structures and algorithms course.

My experience there was intense! I was one of three developers, and as such, had a lot of responsibility in design, testing, implementation, and all that other stuff. I learned a ton extremely quickly, and my proficiency with Ruby went through the roof. Juggling the work with school was really difficult and stressful, and by the end, I could feel that I was pretty close to burnout.

In between spring and summer semesters, I went to Lambdaconf in Boulder as a vacation of sorts. I had a ton of fun and plan on returning in 2016! The conference gave me a ton of confidence in the future of functional programming, and Haskell specifically. I spent the summer juggling Ruby and JavaScript at work, C++ for my data structures/algorithms course, and Haskell for my own amusement. I was incredibly fortunate to be contacted for an opportunity on reddit to work for a company in Atlanta doing Haskell as a fall internship.

This fall, my schedule was entirely composed of senior level intensive classes. Software Engineering, Computer Architecture, Statistics, and Artificial Intelligence. I spent so much time working and studying. The little time I didn’t spend on school, I spent on work. Most of my leisure activity was spent on personal programming projects.

In the beginning of September, I was contacted by Google to undergo the recruiting process. I hadn’t intended on doing the “interview prep/job search” thing until December or so! All of my leisure time was now spent on learning Python well enough to interview and studying for the interviews. They flew me out to Mountain View for an on site interview in October, and they’re still not quite sure if they want to hire me yet.

To achieve this level of productivity, I dominated my circadian rhythm. A ton of caffeine in the morning and early afternoon kept me alert. Flux, melatonin, Valerian root extract, and (more frequently than I’d like) alcohol got me to sleep despite the caffeine. Soylent became my breakfast (if I didn’t skip it), and sometimes dinner. Cycling saved me some time over bussing, and removed the need for explicit exercise.

All-nighters became more frequent as the semester went on. The two weeks before finals, I think I pulled four. Finally, exams and projects were all complete, and the semester was over. I won.

I was hoping to dial back the intensity over the summer, as I’d gotten close to burnout, and didn’t have much of a break. Instead, I’d only increased it. Next semester, I’ll be taking 17 hours in order to graduate on time, in addition to working part time at my Haskell internship. I only anticipate my stress levels to increase.

Fortunately, I have a bunch of job opportunities lined up, many of which seem very promising, interesting, and fun. It’s a little too early to tell precisely, but it certainly seems like I’ve won the “change careers into software development” game.

You might have noticed that my 2015 retrospective only really spoke of programming. This blog is mostly for programming, but that’s certainly not the only thing I do… or, rather, it wasn’t the only thing I did.

Many of my relationships faltered this year, and some failed entirely. I didn’t spend much time with friends. I didn’t touch music until just a few days ago. I didn’t lift. I didn’t read any non-technical thing for pleasure.

Honestly, it sucked.

But it worked?

Here’s hoping that the latter half of 2016 is better. I know the first half won’t be.