2017 a Year in Review

2017 was a year of change, personal and professional.  I started the year in San Francisco, working at Twitter as an Individual Contributor, and in a long term relationship.  I ended the year in Seattle, working at Microsoft Research as a Lead, sans that long term relationship, and a brand new home owner.  

Change can be terrifying, especially when you are comfortable, when you are content.  Nothing was terribly wrong, but I got the nagging feeling that perhaps nothing was going terribly right either.  I was no longer content with being content.  So in 2017 I began to change some things up to make space for new opportunities.  

I made a conscious effort in 2017 to be less busy, to travel and speak a bit less.  2016 was a year of constant travel visiting 19 cities, 7 countries, and 3 continents.  I visited Twitter offices, spoke 15 times at conferences and meetups, and managed to squeeze in trips to see family and friends.  It was an amazing experience, but not a sustainable one for me.

So I made a conscious effort to slow down and was incredibly selective about the talks and travel I took on.  I declined several opportunities to speak and travel to great conferences and locations this year.   I wanted to take a moment to thank all the conference organizers who reached out, I greatly appreciate all of the invitations and fantastic opportunities and unfortunately did not have the bandwidth to do more this past year.  


I gave versions of my The Verification of Distributed Systems talk to larger audiences at Devoxx San Jose in March, and Velocity San Jose in June.  While I’ve given this talk numerous times, I think it’s perennially important, and people consistently tell me how much they learn from it.  

I wrote a brand new talk Distributed Sagas: A Protocol for Coordinating Microservices which I gave at J on the Beach in May and at Dot Net Fringe in June.  This was a passion project for me, as I’d been exploring the ideas for multiple years, and wanted to share the progress I had made.  

I also wrote another new talk for the inaugural Deconstruct Conf in Seattle, The Path Towards Simplifying Consistency in Distributed Systems.  This conference was my favorite of the year.  A single track filled with excellent speakers that focused not only on technology, but the culture and community in tech.  The cherry on top was its location The Egyptian theater in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, my old stomping grounds.  

I also spoke at two chapters of Papers We Love, San Francisco and Seattle.  I presented Barbra Liskov’s paper Distributed Programming in Argus.  This brings my total times speaking at Papers We Love chapters to 7, which I think once again makes me the record holder :).  All joking aside Papers We Love is one of my favorite organizations and I love attending and speaking at the meetups because of the community it fosters bringing together academia and industry and the culture of curiosity it inspires.  


I wrote a single blog post in 2017.  Resources for Getting Started with Distributed Systems which is a collection of materials that have greatly influenced me, and attempts to answer the perennial question I get asked “How do I get started with Distributed Systems.”


Earlier this year an old colleague recommended I take a phone call with a group at Microsoft Research.  After a couple phone calls, and an onsite interview, I was convinced that this was a rare opportunity with an amazing team and an industry defining project.  So in June, after 2.5 years of working at Twitter, I decided to leave the flock.  

Working at Twitter was a truly great experience.  It was an incredible ride where I got to learn and work on so many amazing projects including being the Tech Lead of the Observability team, speaking at Twitter Flight, digging into Distributed Build, shipping Abuse Report Notifications, and facilitating TWIG (Twitter’s Engineering Leadership Program).  I also feel very fortunate to have worked with and met so many incredible people.

In July I started as a Principal Software Engineer in Microsoft Research, and have loved every minute of it.  I’m getting to stretch, learn, and grow every day on a project that I truly believe will change the world.  I also adore my teammates, this is by far the smartest and nicest team I have ever worked on.  We consistently talk and live our cultural values of trust, kindness, and fearlessness.  I couldn’t ask for a better team.  And just incase that wasn’t enough change for one year in November I stepped into the Lead role, a hybrid Tech Lead and People Manager, for the Service’s Team, which is another new exciting challenge and opportunity that I’m loving.  


Leaving San Francisco felt inevitable.  I moved to San Francisco to experience the tech scene, to live the cultural phenomenon.  But after 2.5 years I was ready to move on.  San Francisco was not my forever home, our words just did not match.  

Moving back to Seattle was an easy decision.  I first fell in love with Seattle when I moved here after college, and still love it.  Even after all my nomadic wanderings and travel when I visited Seattle in April for Deconstruct Conf I instantly felt like I was home.  I also realized I was quite nostalgic for Seattle earlier in the year when I began marathoning episodes of Grey’s Anatomy again.  

And if all the warm and fuzzy feelings about Seattle weren’t enough, the stars magically aligned and within a week of moving back I made an offer on a house, and it was accepted!  New job, new/old city, and a new homeowner too!

I jokingly tell friends that I blew up my whole life earlier this year, which isn’t entirely untrue.  The top three stressors in life are commonly reported as job change, relationship change, and moving.  I did all three within the span of about two months.  I’d like to take quick moment to thank my community of family, friends, and colleagues who helped and supported me through this whirlwind transition.  I could not have done it without your support.  

Even with all the stressors I honestly could not be happier (with my personal and professional life, the political nightmare of 2017 still fills me with dread, despair, and anger).  I no longer feel comfortable or content.  In fact I often feel decidedly uncomfortable, but in the way that signals learning and growth.  And instead of contentment I often feel a wild unbridled joy and excitement.  I’m energized to go to work every day.  I’ve sang and danced and laughed until my stomach hurts more times than I can count since blowing up my life.  So I guess the lesson once again is, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  Oh and always take the phone call :).