2017 Year in Review

2017 was a very eventful year, full of ups and downs. Thankfully, it was wonderful overall, with many challenges and growth along the way. For reference, other years: 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012.


January and February were a whirlwind of fun. It began with surprising my wife with a trip to LA during the first weekend in January. Following that, we attended two weddings for close college friends.

Major Loss

And then, in late February, an email out of the blue:

“Just heard that Brandon passed – don’t know any details. Wasn’t sure if you had heard.”

I’m incredibly fortunate that I almost made it to 30 without experiencing any major loss. As you might expect, my whole world came crashing down that day. In a sense, I’ll never be the same. Brandon’s death has changed me, though mostly for the better. RIP, my dear friend.

2 weeks now. Still don't believe it. The melancholy comes in waves…. netkow.com/brandon Here we are in May 2015 at the new Lagunitas Chicago taproom. #RIP

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I’ve gained a new appreciation for life. It really is precious. Every day is a gift. It sounds cliché, but quite honestly, embracing the fact that life could end suddenly and without warning has been transformational. It would be easy to become depressed about this, but instead I choose to frame it as a reminder that life is short and therefore we should act accordingly. Among other benefits, it’s getting easier to put “Don’t sweat the small stuff” into daily practice.

I’d already been leaning into this notion since moving to Seattle, but now it’s at the forefront: I must continue to embrace discomfort in order to grow. Pushing through resistance (see The War of Art) can sometimes seem impossible, but as Ryan Holiday says, “The obstacle is the way.”

5 Year Wedding Anniversary

After a difficult couple of months, life slowly returned to normal. Lisa and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary with a 2 week trip to Hawaii. I admit I was skeptical, but it absolutely lives up to the hype!

86 and sunny beats 60 and rainy! Enjoying the good life on #kailuabeach in Oahu! #nofilter #hawaii #vacation #livinthegoodlife

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Right before the trip, we tried to get scuba certified. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out well, but I’m incredibly proud that I gave it a shot. The old Me never would have! On the first day of open water dives, in the murky, incredibly cold waters of the Puget Sound, I made several failed attempts to go underwater. Finally, I made it down to 40 feet, realized all the tests I still had to do, and immediately thought “NOPE”. I resurfaced too quickly, causing some nasty pressure issues in my ears. That was the end of my diving career! I was really concerned that it would ruin the trip, but fortunately the ear pressure pain went away quickly, with only minor discomfort on the flight over to Hawaii.

It turns out snorkeling is good enough for me. This amuses me to no end: after everything we went through trying to get certified, we saw all sorts of beautiful fish (and sea turtles!) just inches from our faces in one of the many beautiful bays. Lisa even saw a nurse shark! Who needs scuba diving anyway?!


After publishing my first Pluralsight course in July (a momentous occasion that needs its own post), I took the rest of the Summer “off” - stepping away from extra projects/work on nights and weekends. Summers in Seattle are incredibly beautiful but winters are dark and rainy (November through May), so I’m glad I did. In fact, I took multiple small breaks throughout the year to rest and recharge. My overall focus improved and I definitely avoided any sort of burnout.

Summer also brought another change for us: a temporary third roommate, my sister-in-law Christina. It was a blast hosting her, especially since it was the best time of year to visit. We covered all of Puget Sound: day-long hiking, whale watching, exploring neighboring islands, 4th of July fireworks, beers and grilling outside on the balcony… the list is endless. The absolute best Summer we’ve had here in Seattle!

Last night with Christina! Sad to see the end of Summer and her heading back to the Midwest. For a proper send off, We're cracking open our Shallon Winery bottle from 92 year old owner Paul!

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If you look at my previous “year in review” posts, you’ll notice a common theme that never quite came to fruition: “I’m making great strides towards better health! This is the year for change!”. In 2016, I realized that I needed professional assistance. I actually began to make progress after joining Anytime Fitness and seeing a trainer once a week. In 2017, my goal was to “put health first”, prioritizing it over work, and for the most part I was successful. In the past, it was easier for me to head into work instead of the gym - work was the comfortable choice.

In 2018, my main focus will be weight loss. Until now, I’ve focused on weight training, which has made an incredible impact on my mobility, energy levels, focus, and sleep. I can tell that I’m converting fat into muscle, but my weight has remained the same. To truly get to the next level of my fitness journey, I have to focus on better eating. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

I’m feeling amazing these days largely due to my wonderful trainer (also named Lisa!). We don’t just focus on lifting the heaviest weights possible, but rather an approach that spans cardio, stretching, and flexibility. As a result, knee pain that has plagued me for years has all but disappeared. I can go on long hikes with friends without worry; I used to be so embarrassed to be the only one in a group that struggled miserably through it. I successfully attempted cross-country skiing again over the holidays; no knee pain or balance issues to be found. As you might imagine, I’m incredibly excited to keep moving forward! In some ways, it’s getting easier but in others, it’s getting harder. I struggle every day, but that’s OK. This summarizes my mentality well:

“I don’t accept that I am what I am and that “that” is what I am doomed to be. NO. I do not accept that. I’m fighting. I’m always fighting. I’m struggling and I’m scraping and kicking and clawing at those weaknesses—to change them. To stop them. Some days I win. But some days I don’t. But each and every day: I get back up and I move forward. With my fists clenched. Toward the battle. Toward the struggle.” - Jocko Willink, Discipline Equals Freedom


My professional life along with my leadership skills continue to grow steadily. I can’t believe it, but I’m almost 10 years into my career. I’m only getting started!

I revamped my blog in the beginning of the year, bringing its quality up several notches, including a much needed professional look/feel and lightening fast load times. It was a neat technical project which you can read more about here.

In July, I (finally) completed my first Pluralsight course - “PhoneGap Build Fundamentals”. There’s a lot to say about this, but suffice to say it was a challenging yet rewarding journey. It may have taken me forever, but I’m happy that I finished it. I was completely wiped out after completing it, so I took the rest of the Summer “off” to have fun. Great decision! I plan to promote it more in the coming months.

Around the time I was wrapping up my course, I was asked to join a team led by a Slalom Public Sector leader participating in the 2017 Slalom Artificial Intelligence (AI) Hackathon. This wasn’t just any team: she wanted to tackle child sex trafficking. Woah. Coincidentally, I’d been yearning to find ways to use my technology skills to make a positive impact on society - this fit the bill perfectly.

Over a handful of nights and weekends, we built the beginnings of a platform that scrapes classified ad sites for sex trafficking trends in order to help law enforcement find traffickers and rescue victims. The embedded video at the top of this Slalom news article about the final presentations event is pretty neat - skip to the end to see me throw my hands up in the air as both my team and another are announced as co-winners!

I’m incredibly proud of the work that we did. Moving forward, a handful of us are going to continue to partner with local Seattle law enforcement so that we can use Slalom’s technological strengths for societal good.

Project Blue Cat wins!!! Co-champions with Team Polly (using drones to rescue lost hikers). Thanks to the always amazing @slalomconsulting for the support! #SlalomHackathon

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In addition to the above, I focused on my client’s greenfield project which spanned from April through December. It was my first opportunity at Slalom to work as a “full stack” developer, implementing the entire technology platform from top to bottom (Angular, MongoDB, and Azure). After publishing my Pluralsight course, I decided to make this project my main focus for the back half of the year because it was engaging and quite simply, fun! I improved my CSS skills immensely (my weakest link in the full stack equation), mentored several junior developers, and got started on cloud development, a long time goal of mine.

In November, I delivered a two hour presentation on PhoneGap to Slalom coworkers. Using material from my Pluralsight course, I presented for 45 minutes then provided a hands on lab that was well received. After having attended many similar training classes at Slalom in the past, it felt great to deliver one of my own!


We are blessed to have wonderful friends and family that love having us visit! More wonderful trips this past year, including:

  1. Los Angeles (surprising my wife with a visit to Marquette friend #1)
  2. San Francisco (Wedding for Marquette friend #2)
  3. Las Vegas (Bachelor party for Marquette friend #3)
  4. Colorado (Wedding for Marquette friend #3 - did I mention I love my Marquette friends?!)
  5. New York City (Tagging along with my wife whom attended a conference)
  6. Port Townsend/Olympic National Park for my 30th birthday (a Lisa planned surprise!)
  7. Hawaii (5 year wedding anniversary, visiting two friends including one from Lisa’s childhood)
  8. Vancouver, BC (Spontaneous 19 hour day trip to a great Canadian city. Including the best Indian food we’ve ever had!)
  9. Whistler, BC (Slalom Vamoose retreat weekend)
  10. Chicago (4th of July weekend cousin wedding)
  11. Portland (Lisa conference #2)
  12. Chicago/Madison (Fall family trip)
  13. Loads of miscellaneous weekend trips to Puget Sound region sights (Whale watching for Lisa’s birthday)

May your 2018 be filled with many delicious pineapple drinks!

"I'd like to inquire about the pineapple drink option". 🍍😎🍍

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