2018 was a year of firsts for me. This was not happenstance. From January 1, I made a concerted effort push myself to try new things. It was not exactly a resolution, but it was something that I was able to hold myself to all year.
I grew a beard for the first time
I had a beard for the first time, for all of 2018. I had never grown a beard before and I really wanted to see what it was like before I go gray. So I stopped shaving when I broke for Christmas 2017.
I spoke at a conference for the first time
In March I was on a panel for the first time. I’ve wanted to do this for some time. I get a lot of requests to talk but usually turn them down. I finally took broke out of my comfort zone and said yes.
I am a Michigan alum and sports fan. I’ve had football season tickets since 1999 and had basketball season tickets while in college. Those were some dark days. I regretted not going to the Final Four in 2013 when a group of my friends went. When Michigan made it to the semis for only the fifth time in my life I really wanted to go. I had a wonderful time even though they lost in the championship game.
Finally found clothes that fit me
I’m a pretty small person, so finding clothes is a huge pain in the ass for me. This year I stumbled upon a local Detroit-based clothing brand called Ash & Erie focused on making clothes for short guys. I’ve gotten to know the guys behind the brand pretty well and I’m loyal customer now.
I have some database experience. My mobile app uses a SQLite database that I’ve updated over time through clients, imports and querying. I’ve adminned sites before, including the old version of this site, that ran on top of MySQL databases. In the case of WordPress there isn’t much direct manipulation of the DB. But for some other sites with custom CMSs, I had to directly interact with the databases themselves, usually through a GUI. In 2018 I started to do more ecommerce data analysis. At first this required a lot of data exporting from marketing platforms, stitched with custom reports requested from our development team. Eventually they got tired of me asking all time so they set me up with read-only access to our tables and I slowly learned the data structure and MySQL syntax required to get the data I need. Whenever I wanted to look at omnichannel data however, I had to export data out of our ERP for the retail channel and mung it to line up with the ecomm data that I was more familiar with.
My company implemented SalesForce and Marketing Cloud in 2018. We are syncing SalesForce account information over to Marketing Cloud data extensions. This has some advantages, the biggest of which was that I now have access to cross-channel data in a single format and location, and can marry it with marketing data the same platform ecosystem. To do so, I’ve had to learn SQL proper. I’m really quite proud of what I learned last year and impressed with what I was able to create with that knowledge.
I took up rock climbing
I needed a headshot for the conference. It turned out nice, but forced me to recognize that I was the heaviest I had ever been. So I made a conscious effort to lose some weight. I’m fairly certain that I ate more salads in 2018 I had the rest of my life combined. I also wanted to get more active and tried to hit the treadmill 5 days a week. After a few months this got a little boring so I tried to distract myself by listening to podcasts or catching up on TV shows. During the summer I binged the Mission: Impossible films, running harder during the action scenes for some interval training. Ethan Hunt’s various climbing scenes are pretty bad ass, and I have a friend who’s been asking if I wanted to join him at his climbing gym for a while. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to break out of the monotony of the treadmill and push myself further out of my comfort zone. I went about a dozen times in Q4 and even went climbing outdoors.
Focused on learning
In September, my alma mater announced that alumni could take their online courses for free through Coursera and EdX. After college I worked for at Michigan for a few years on online learning tools. I do a lot of self-directed learning but wanted to try out online learning. The first course I took was Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python). I’ve been using Python for a decade, so I knew the course was too rudimentary but I had a few reasons for choosing it:
- Low Risk Since it was free for me, I wasn’t worried about the course being a waste of money
- Low Barrier Having an existing grasp of the material meant I could focus more on how the Coursera platform works and what it’s like to learn through it.
- Nostalgia I created the first online version of this very course in 2008 and the instructor is a former colleague of mine.
Since completing this course I’ve started on Michigan’s five course specialization Applied Data Science with Python, a three course specialization Statistics with Python Specialization, and just enrolled in the Data Science Ethics course.
I had never been to Las Vegas before, and my wife and I got to go for a long weekend.