02 Jan 2022

2021 Year in Review


2021, the second year of pandemic.

I joined a Fintech company at the recommendation of a friend who works there and during the interview process learned that I was VERY excited about leading a team dealing with their scaling problems. In hindsight, I should remember that all large and challenging tasks come with commensurate amount of stress :P.

I started with them in the spring, leading a team in their Platform division and ended the year by taking over leadership of the Platform division. I’ll spend 2022 guiding the managers in our division on projects that are the backbone of most other development in our engineering organization. By end of year, our division will be ~40 engineers. That’ll keep me busy with hiring, mentoring managers, and guiding engineers on key projects.

2021 was a good year personally in many ways but a hard one with isolation. I’ve been working remotely for a decade, in a combination of fully remote companies and hybrid companies. I’ve loved my remote work experience, except once the pandemic hit and cut my social life off outside work. This is the first role I’ve taken that’s leading a colocated group. Honestly, it was one of the few hesitations I had when taking this role. But because my group was colocated and happily so, I started leaving my house 3x/wk to commute to our office. It’s been wonderful! I’m happy to be out of my house, making social connections, and having new stimuli.

The commute itself is long and much earlier than I would normally think a good idea. But I’ve gotten accustomed to an earlier bedtime an 5:45am alarm clock… and having an hour or more in office before the day starts for my individual responsibilities adds to my happiness, accomplishments and satisfaction.

All in all, the year closed out well, went through rocky spots and I’m grateful that it was gentle to myself, friends and loved ones. I even learned that someone I had mentored not only was able to transition into working in tech from non-traditional background, but they recently started a role as a Lead Software Engineer. We met because they interviewed at my company in 2017 or 2018 for a junior role. They weren’t yet far enough along to hire, but I was impressed at their story and grit. So I turned them down for role and offered to mentor them as they pursued leading software development. I’m proud of them and their accomplishments and it was a wonderful surprise to hear about their next role during the Christmas holiday.


  • Wrote 2 plugins for Joplin Note system (auto tagger and auto alarm see link)
  • Prototyped many MongoDB related systems/configurations/approaches to solve foundational issues
    • Terraform for Mongo configurations (unpublished)
    • Mongo cluster automation via terraform, auto-scale groups, consul link
    • A chunk splitter for MongoDB cluster on older version that lacks correct chunk size behavior when using many mongos (unpublished but open source potential)
    • MongoDB and I are currently on the “I know how to search source code for our version of it rapidly and have bookmarks for it in sourcegraph”.
  • Solved challenging longstanding large db cluster scaling issues and improved cluster resilience and team operational knowledge. Proud of my team and of myself here, it’s a worthy and difficult feat.
  • Joined our hiring committee at work and automated part of our process with a python script + google sheets + google docs as templates.
  • Dabbled in learning/writing Rust link
  • Started using earthly to unify my CI and local experience: eg. It’s the best docker experience I’ve had. Debugging and building up a commandlist is wonderful.
  • Automated deployments of my blog using Github Actions + Earthly.
  • Automated release builds of my Joplin plugins
  • Setup shortcuts for blogging to reduce friction. Credit to @brandur for inspiration
  • Started using “iA Writer” app on Mac for drafting blog posts in distraction free markdown. I use a ruby script to prefill the frontmatter, add file to git and then open file for writing in “iA Writer”.
  • I tried three flavors of note taking systems at home and work, starting with neuron, followed by a vscode plugin driven neuron like experience with my own custom hashtagging, and finishing the year with Joplin.
    • Joplin strikes a nice balance of extensible and batteries included. As noted earlier, I’ve created two plugins of my own to add small quality of life improvements.
    • I appreciate Joplin’s proper due date tracking and that I can use plugins or my own code to determine best method for displaying those.
    • I appreciate that I can pop open my own editor, if I want more in-depth note taking. I have this set to vimr as my gui option.
    • I appreciate the export functionality to dump my notebook into markdown files with front-matter.
    • Joplin’s a simple version of what I want out of Evernote but with open source extensibility and a solid plugin architecture.
  • Learned to make a solid milk foam for lattes and cappuccinos on our work espresso machine, while using the manual setting for the steam wand. I’ve been hawking my wares at work and rustling up takers of my latte efforts so I can more quickly grind barista xp.
  • Lost ~8% body weight through portion control and eating nutrient rich but not calorie rich foods. It’s stayed steady at that level with negligible amounts of exercise and I plan to push it further in 2022.
  • I became a more skilled motorcyclist and mechanic.


I had an inconsistent year of blogging in 2021 that included 12 posts.

My posts were focused around work topics and unsurprisingly I posted more when I had less demanding responsibilities (March while on holiday before starting new role, Nov around holidays and December around holidays).

I was able to post more easily this year because of automating my post-drafting mechanism and my deployment of the site. Those little reductions in friction were worthwhile optimizations and I posted more than I otherwise would have, especially my shorter micro posts.

Plans for 2022

  • Do everything I can to delegate and empower others at work
  • Utilize better specialization of labor to foster improved morale, velocity and satisfaction in work.
  • Keep time in my work and personal schedule for heads down focused efforts
  • Publish at least one substantial open source project, either at work or personally. Top of mind options:
    • the mongo chunk splitter
    • mongo deployment orchestration
    • mongo configuration via terraform style declarations
    • something entirely non-mongo, like a mongo wire-protocol compatible distributed database architecture built on sqlite
    • something genuinely unrelated to mongo and also not related to automating google docs as templates.
  • Blog more times than there are months in the year
  • Learn to ride a dirtbike
  • Find ways to integrate incidental exercise into my life. Walking 1-1s at work are a good example of this but I want more vigorous pursuits that I enjoy outdoors.
  • Be proactive in taking vacation
  • Don’t let perfection be the enemy of done