New York, Paris, London – A Software Development Dilemma

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New York is a well thought out, grid based, highly planned city from the ground up from the beginning.

Paris is a complex city with many organic roads that were built long ago but during the Napoleon era, a few large boulevards were built in order to increase the efficiency and connectedness of the city. A hybrid of planning and organic growth.

London is an organically developed city with curving roads, complex subway systems, and tons of legacy but is still a highly functional city.

In all three scenarios, each city is massive, efficient, has high production, and gets the job done. They were all planned in different ways but achieved the same outcome. New York wanted to be very structured, Paris wanted a hybrid, London opted for an organic route. No one city has it right and each have their own charms, cultures, efficiencies, and issues.

In enterprise software development, we have very similar issues. Enterprise software is uniquely hard to make sweeping changes due to scale, complexity, impact, and cost. In certain cases, adding just a single dimensions to a database can mean hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of extra dollars accrued in storage costs due to operation scale – not to mention performance impact of query times. When a new product or feature needs to be introduced that has sweeping impact and ramifications for the rest of the organization, it’s often a good idea to take a step back to think about New York, Paris, and London.

Strategically, do you think it makes sense to rewrite 1/4 of the platform? Is there a work around? Should we just build something entirely new from scratch then migrate? Is there a middle ground where we can build a connection? Is that a long term solution or just a bandaid that will hurt us later? These are all questions that go back to the same macro level issues of city planning.

I think most companies start out with a basic plan but rapidly move into an organic model – much like London. The development goes in different directions, workarounds are instituted, compromises are made, it becomes more costly to engineer, but it still works. At some point, this scale can break down in which organizations move to the Paris model.

Moving to the Paris model means creating large boulevards that allow for certain efficiencies while allowing autonomy for organic growth to fit into those boulevards. Sometimes we even dig tunnels to find ways around the boulevards and organic streets, but at the end of the day we still provide connections to the main boulevards.

Then, at some point, the intersection of feature needs and tech debt forces organizations to consider building New York – a new paradigm that offers a foreseeable scalable solution and is well planned from the ground up. We build a basic version of New York and then start to port over all of the features. New York works for a while until we start to see flaws, in which we move back towards feature developments that model London and Paris: organic development.

Repeat a few times and you’ve got software development for the enterprises.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. Much of the worlds greatest software follows each of these patterns and have proven that no single model is “the best”. What has become very apparent to me is that it’s important to know which model you’re building after. It’s critically important because it highlights specific choices and sacrifices you’re willing to make.

Put simply: be aware of which what you’re doing.

Where I’ve seen these models fail the most is when organizations are not aware of the type of city they’re trying to build, making compromises or features that back them into incredibly costly situations. Now, this isn’t to say that you need to consider this for every feature. I personally think it pertains largely to more macro/strategic development (ie. user permissions, data portability, etc.).

Obviously we will make mistakes and sometimes choose to bulldoze the wrong areas in way of building our boulevards, but the hope is that by being more conscious about these decisions it will help shed light on the long term impacts and make decision making easier.

New Areas of Focus in 2017

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I’ve done a poor job at many things this past year however I didn’t necessarily prioritize them. For example, I didn’t blog nearly as much as I wanted to, read as many books as I wanted to, and probably spent too much time on things that don’t matter. Hindsight 20/20.

The things that I’m glad I spent time on:

  • Me – I spent a lot of time doing what I call “getting to know myself”. I don’t think people do this enough and it’s been a valuable exercise. There are things I like about myself that I want to amplify and things I very much dislike that I want to make a conscious effort to change. Being reflective on myself was a tremendous help in growing.
  • Writing – I completely blew off this blog (not that many people read it anyways!) in favor of laying down some ground work for a story that’s been floating around in my head. I spent a few weeks investing a ton of time into getting the idea onto paper and ended up writing 88 full pages of the story. I’ll be making an effort to invest more time into this.
  • Co-workers, friends, family – I didn’t do this nearly enough in 2015 so I made an effort to get out more, call home more often, etc. I’ve developed some great relationships from it so I’m putting it in the win category.
  • Genetics – In the second half of the year I probably spent the same amount of time learning and working on genetics related stuff as I did my full time job. It felt great to cultivate knowledge in this area and ultimately enable me to help my dad start to build out his company. This field is unbelievably fascinating and is an area I plan on continuing to invest significant more time in this year.

Now, there were plenty of things I did poorly that I’m planning on doing better in the new year:

  • Reading – I did not read nearly enough and slacked heavily here. More to come here soon enough.
  • Networking – This was somewhat a good and bad thing. I did some networking but not as much as I’d like to.
  • Patience – My biggest weakness is patience. Need to practice the art of just being ok moving slower at times.
  • International Travel – I went to Costa Rica and London this year which is the most I’ve done, however I think I could do much better here.
  • Workout Consistency – Can’t accomplish anything if you’re not healthy. I slacked here a bit unfortunately. I’ve now set up more parameters around making sure I do this consistently.
  • Writing – A good way to free the mind up is by writing down thoughts (which is why I built this blog). I’ve done a poor job of getting all of my thoughts, ideas, and rants out of my mind so I’ll be making a bigger effort to do this.

I’m sure there is more but these seemed to be the items that stood out most to me. The end of the year is always a nice time to reflect and give a gut check on how I feel I’m doing. I think I’ll be trying to do more of a “self review” each quarter to get a higher frequency of checking. Going 1 year at a time to make sure things are going well seems too long. Hopefully by switching to quarterly I can counteract poorly performing areas more frequently and “manage” myself better.

Anyway, cheers to the new year! Lots of fun to come.

My 2016 Year Review

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What a turbulent year! This year has had a lot of trials and tribulations on many fronts. Where to start?

For me, the year started out very rough. In the beginning of February, it started out with a large round of layoffs at the company I worked for – Localytics. This wasn’t necessarily unexpected as I had already started to interview at other companies knowing that the revenue and burn rate of the company couldn’t sustain. I didn’t have a job though so it was still pretty rough. I started interviewing at a ton of different companies around the country and ended up getting the list down to two companies in Boston. Meanwhile, my girlfriend and I did an amazing 7 day trip down to Costa Rica for a much needed vacation. In fact, this was my first true vacation in over 3 years.

Once we got back, I received offers from two companies on the same day making it a fairly tough decision. I chose to go with Crimson Hexagon for various reasons that I stated in another blog and couldn’t be happier with my decision. Just 4 hours after I sent in the paper work to accept the position, my girlfriend was offered and accepted a residency position to study Emergency and Critical Care for her veterinarian specialty. This was quite a shock given that she didn’t apply to the match which is how you get offered a position. The unfortunate news was that this position was back in Colorado, forcing us to do distance yet again.

We celebrated our 3 year relationship March 31st.

I started my new job in April, moved apartments in July 1st, and my girlfriend moved to Colorado July 4th. The residency was an unbelievably toxic environment with ivory tower faculty spearheading the hazing. In the first 4 weeks, she worked an average of 110 hours a week with a peak at around 120 while other critical care residents were capped at 80. We’re still not sure why there was special treatment. I spent countless nights on the phone with her helping build out her first paper to be published on a topic that, in total, had a sample set of 4 patients for data points. 4 data points total on a specific weight and breed of dog to argue for a new “golden standard” on how to handle arterial blood pressure in critical patients. Unfortunately, the faculty mentor needed to retain her grant money so she had pawned off the paper to my girlfriend to write. While I had heard of similar experiences, it was a whole different experience seeing it fairly first hand. The emails, texts, conversations, etc. were beyond unprofessional and the hazing dangerous. It unearthed a new found fear of our doctors, healthcare, and general medical field with the lack of adequate data backing “golden standard” claims and treatment plans.

After 5 weeks of being in the academic bullshit, she quit. There are some things in life that are worth fighting for and dedicating yourself to. Being known by a group of 400 ivory tower medical faculty is not one of those things. She proceeded to take 3 months off and moved into a full time critical care position.

Meanwhile, I spent my time working on helping my Dad create his new company – The Sequencing Center. It’s a vertically integrated center that provides Next Generation Sequencing, Bioinformatics, and Data Management all under one roof with a boost of modern software automation. We spend the next 4 months working on building a prototype data platform, incredibly extensive reporting template, and pitch deck in which he is pitching his first client in January. I hope to help him grow the company into something huge that is widely beneficial for the medical community to be more biology-based and data driven about drug development (when applicable).

I fly once a month to Colorado to visit my girlfriend for a week at a time and am working with my company to split my time between the two locations. My girlfriend and I will be moving to Denver come April to May so hit me up if you’d like to network!

In 2016, I increased my savings by 75% (yay!) but missed my target goal by ~$1,000. I only read 10 books compared to my previous year of 21 (boo!). Here is a list of the books I read:

  • Life at the Speed of Light
  • The Martian
  • As a Man Thinketh
  • Red Rising
  • Golden Son
  • Morning Star
  • Blue Ocean Strategy
  • Hillbilly Elegy
  • Dark Matter
  • When Breath Becomes Air

I accomplished my goal of not drinking beer for a year and plan on drinking a shitty, cold Coors Banquet Beer as a celebration. Additionally, I ended being a vegetarian of 2 years for various reasons. The TL;DR is that I was probably anemic, iron deficient, and needed more protein. I won’t be eating meat nearly as much but probably once a week. Next years goals are adding things instead of removing. My goals are to meditate 10 minutes each day (morning or night) and to stretch for 10 minutes. There may be others that I add in but those are TBD. I’d also like to get back into reading more and help making a significant impact for my Dads company.

Overall, I’d rate 2016 a solid 8/10. New job that is way better, healthy relationship, hit my yearly goal, barely missed some financial goals, and still in good health. The last 2 months has already shown me that 2017 will be likely a turbulent but exciting year. I’m expecting lots of dramatic changes, some loft trials, but incredible tribulations.

Cheers to the New Year!