Journal

Table of Contents

The Recap

It’s unreal to think that a quarter of a year has passed already since we found out we had to move! The past three months have been an absolutely wild and unexpected ride, but one that I’m extremely grateful for. This journal entry is going to cover what has happened, what is still in progress, and how I want to continue pushing my development experience forward in the days ahead.

Feel free to skip ahead to the new stuff, but as a quick recap for anyone new, our rental was bought out towards the end of last year and we got the word New Year’s day that we had to be out by the end of the month. We ran all over town looking at apartments and houses and, in a stroke of luck, found a great little house, and the savings we had built up over the past decade won us the bid and got us in. We were able to successfully negotiate a 1-month extension on our rental, close in early February, and start on some basic renovations to make the space safe and livable.

That being said, renovations started off rough. Just about every safety issue that was flagged on the inspection had some kind of additional complexity with it, and we discovered a multitude of critical safety issues that weren’t even considered as part of the home inspection. This is our first house, so we were learning everything as we encountered it, and there was something new literally every day.

We effectively had to tear up 2/3rds of the house before we could move anything in just for health reasons, with only a few weeks to do it. Every single work night and every full weekend day, we would drive over, suit up into safety gear, and work on the house until 11 PM or later at night. It was down to the wire, but we hit our first target with exactly enough time and were able to move in towards the end of February, forming a smaller-than-studio sized combination bedroom / kitchen / living room space in a corner of one of the rooms.

The next phase was prepping the rest of the house while we waited for contractors to help resolve the remaining dangerous things, where we again had a few weeks and were working every single night. We had gotten the hang of things for the most part and there were less frequent huge surprises, but the physical exhaustion had really set in, and the work was feeling endless. Ultimately, we again finished almost exactly on time, with less than 10 hours before the contractors arrived.

In a few days with the most dangerous and immediate risks resolved, we moved everything into the rest of house for some breathing room. We have since been working every night on all of the remaining safety risks, like fire hazards, wiring issues, tons of yard debris, and issues causing progressive damage to the house. There’s a hefty to-do list left on our plates, but things are starting to feel less like a vortex and more like organized and managed chaos. We incrementally developed a process to capture and track progress towards tasks, so having a tested workflow is a nice reduction in passive mental load.

Career Progress

Over the past few months, I have been extremely fortunate to still be progressing in my career goals, even though my bandwidth for intentional study and projects dropped off drastically. I’ve spoken with various companies, interviewed with a few, and have been working with a wonderful recruiting team that has become an increasingly strong supporter of my goals.

The conversations have been helpful when it comes to trying to find my voice and gaining a deeper understanding of the industry. Even if the discussions haven’t resulted in an offer yet, the perspective and exposure to real-life development teams has been particularly enlightening. One employer walked me through their project development process, and explained why they moved from an agile shop to one that was predominantly kanban while still utilizing agile ceremonies.

Seeing what people engage with, trying to interpret and respond to their questions, and seeing where I stumble have also provided a wealth of information. For example, I totally tanked one of those introspective questions about 5 words your friends and your enemies would use to describe you. Hopefully my personality is showing through in these discussions, but I definitely need to prep for those kinds of interview questions as well.

The feedback I’ve received so far is that I’m lacking certain experience - either they want a senior level dev, or more exposure with a key technology in the tech stack. I’ve been told that my HTML/JS/React knowledge is good-to-sufficient, and I’m signed up for Josh Comeau’s excellent CSS course to help me improve my styling. Node.JS, SQL, Angular, and gaining more experience with APIs and CRMs in general have come up as key areas to focus.

One token of advice about my experience with this process so far would be to build up your network and, if possible, find a referral on the “inside” to give you honest, straight-forward feedback. It has been difficult to gain much (if any) constructive criticism and direction from many of my rejections. This makes it challenging to determine if I just did not interview well, or perhaps I’m not meeting certain expectations for my skill level, or even that I just wasn’t a good fit for the company culture. This kind of feedback would help me to grow and do better next time and help direct my efforts. I plan to set up mock interviews with mentors to try and solicit constructive feedback.

New Project

Back in early February, I was approached about an opportunity to help create a job board website for experienced or senior volunteers. The objective would be to help match companies with highly knowledgeable individuals, and ideally generate revenue from posted roles.

It sounded like an opportunity that would be far too aligned with my goals to pass up, so even though I really had no idea when I’d have the bandwidth for it, I said “yes” and hoped I’d be able to figure something out. Just about every component of this process besides registering a domain and using HTML/CSS/JS sounds like something totally new to me, so it’d be a great chance to broaden my experience.

After accepting, I set up a call to meet the client, talk through the project, and start establishing things like mission, requirements, users, branding, and timeline. We had a great chat, and it really got me excited to try and tackle things. At the same time, I grew very intimidated, most likely because money will eventually be involved and they’d like to have a national reach. Expressing my hesitation about my skill level to the client, we tried to pull in a second developer who had a lot of experience with this kind of project, but unfortunately were unable to link up with them to collaborate.

My time was wrapped up in trying to meet external deadlines for the house around this point. While I didn’t have bandwidth for programming, I still wanted to move things along in some fashion, and that way was research.

I reached out to a mentor to get impressions and suggestions for how to build to scale long-term. They talked me through a similar project they had taken on and encouraged me to dive in and try putting different pieces together to see how they work, and to not be afraid to bootstrap things. There’s a chance that things will change drastically, or that the model won’t take off and become viable, or that I’ll need to switch out components until I find something that works right for what the requirements become. Being nimble to make something that works is a different set of skills from building something traditionally, and something that I’ve gotten away from in the course of my studies so far.

I also reached out to a few contacts in recruiting and in HR to see what tools they use and how they use them. Indeed was the platform that many people referenced, and I was given a great walkthrough of the role posting process. They showed me how the postings are monetized, the pros and cons from the user side, and the depth of keyword generation that goes into their postings. Being able to create and save templates for postings and for intake conversations with applicants was particularly neat, and has given me many ideas for how to go about building things up.

I reached back out to the client yesterday and got a quick response with more details on the outline, desired features, and milestone dates! Responding to them soon with my organized thoughts is a high priority, but I started writing this post yesterday and need to get it out (and out of my head), so following up will be the very next thing on my list.

To hit the milestone dates for the project, I need to be making a little bit of progress every few days and build back up that consistency. This, plus how much I’ve missed making progress towards my development growth and projects and being more engaged with the community, prompts a revisit to my schedule from November to design something to help me better meet ALL of my goals and not just my career ones.

New Blog Expectations

In one of my interviews, it was mentioned that 20+ hours a week of studying and daily blogging seemed like “a lot.” After overextending myself a bit too much by December, I totally agree - it was at or above the maximum amount of effort I could give for the conditions of my life at the time, but that level is currently unsustainable with all my newly added responsibilities. I am in this for the long haul, so I want to make sure that I can be consistent and healthy about the process! I can’t magically create more time (or at least not much more time), and I don’t want to make things reach the point where it overwhelms me, as the need to constantly produce progress plus something worth writing about became fairly stressful in itself.

Renovations associated with safety and legal liability are, right now, my top priority. I don’t want anyone getting hurt or sick, or the house burning down, or anything else bad happening. There’s about five more major items left, and they are admittedly progressing much slower than most of what we’ve worked on up to this point. They absolutely need to get resolved before I can really feel relaxed within the space or fully present in other endeavors. As such, they will occupy the largest percentage of my focus for the time being (since they already do regardless). Once issues are resolved, I’m planning to increase the time devoted to study, as I will be more mentally present in general and the house won’t occupy such an urgent space in my mind.

This also means that the time component of my studies and the posting components will change accordingly! My plan is that I will probably work on another large post like this summarizing my work on the job board project (which will be my primary focus) and seek to post that after the major concerns are resolved, or on a weekend if I have the bandwidth and feel spunky. This post will have a rolled-up total time and a condensed list of targeted skills, which should be easier to do since I’m focusing on one project. I will continue this “summary” style post for the next phase with rolled-up time, too. When I’m back to following my self-guided studies, I’ll switch back to more frequent posts to try and capture my time and reflections for each new task or project.

I’ll probably need to update some of the branding around my site, but at least for the time being, that’s a lower priority. My mental load at work has ramped back up sharply as multiple new projects have started, so specifically getting this post out is my goal for tonight!

New Study Schedule

Short-Term

  • Monday - Project / Study
  • Tuesday - Renovations / Yardwork / Socializing
  • Wednesday - Project / Study
  • Thursday - Renovations / Finances
  • Friday - Rest
  • Saturday - Intensive Renovations / Yardwork
  • Sunday - Intensive Renovations / Blog (maybe but not likely)

After All Immediate Concerns Resolved

  • Monday - Project / Study
  • Tuesday - Renovations / Yardwork / Socializing
  • Wednesday - Project / Study
  • Thursday - Renovations / Finances
  • Friday - Rest
  • Weekend (Interchangeable)
    • Project / Study / Blog (week summary)
    • Renovations / Yardwork / Life

Depending on how the renovation list whittles down, I would like to eventually ramp my studying back up further, and/or throw in some reading nights, or something. It will be easier to evaluate and revisit this schedule as we continue to get settled in and get everything under a bit more control.

Gratitude

Through everything, my spouse has been incredibly amazing, driven, supportive, and inspiring. I don’t know where we’d be now if not for all of their efforts, and I am so grateful. When I’m feeling exhausted but things need to get done, it’s so much more fun to tackle it together.

I’m also very grateful for our parents for all of the support, wisdom, and reassurance they have given us whenever we run into a new surprise. Their support helps us see that we are making progress and headed in a good direction!