new beginnings: a look back at my 2012 ‘code year’ and to what lies ahead in 2013

2012 was a fairly turbulent and momentous year for me, with more big-life events packed into a single year than I’ve probably experienced in at least half a decade (my last “big year” was 2007 when I started a new job, moved across the country, and got married all within a two-month time span). For those that know me, you already know that the biggest event of 2012 was the birth of my son, Reuben, who is utterly amazing and continues to rock my world on a daily basis. My wife and I couldn’t be luckier to have such a perfect, healthy child in our lives.

While Reuben’s entry into our world was definitely the most momentous event of 2012, I also had plenty of career stuff going on that made 2012 a bit more turbulent. After nearly two years as eMusic’s Marketing Ops Manager, I headed into a new role as Director of Sales and Biz Dev at a small outfit called Hear & There (part of the Relix Media Group and owned by well-known NYC concert promoter/entrepreneur, Pete Shapiro). The gig had its moments and certainly brought with it some great connections throughout the concert and music worlds. But after about three to four months, I started realizing that it wasn’t quite the right fit for me, and I didn’t feel like I was really learning anything new. My interest in the technology side of the business kept creeping back into my head, but I didn’t feel like I was able to scratch that itch in any meaningful way within the day-to-day constraints of the gig (since it was basically just me running the show).


Earlier in the year, I had written up a quick post about making 2012 the year I finally learned how to code. For a time, I was able to do some coding tutorials to start getting my feet wet. But once I had started the new job and Reuben entered our lives, finding time for coding lessons was extremely difficult, not to mention the fact that getting a full night’s sleep was no longer in the cards. Naturally, I stopped the coding tutorials to focus on other things. But I never totally forgot about my initial 2012 goal.

At some point in the beginning of fall, I started seeing emails and announcements about some longer-term dev bootcamp programs, including the newly-launched Flatiron School and a new long-form program that General Assembly was putting together called the Web Development Immersive.

Well, you can probably guess where this is going….Fast-forward to mid-October and I found myself quitting my job and officially signing up for GA’s long-form web development course to learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, jQuery, AJAX, and Ruby on Rails. Although it had taken me a good portion of the year to come around, I finally decided to make it happen. 2012 would officially become my own personal “Code Year.”

As you might imagine, the reaction from family and friends provided a wide swath of mixed reactions. While I was actually surprised by the overall positivity, many people were a bit taken aback that I’d make such a drastic move and wondered why. Why now? Why a full-time program? Why take the risk?

Well, here’s why….

• I wanted to be able to build things.
• I wanted the ability to build a prototype potential products and ideas by myself.
• I felt the need to significantly expand my skill set for my long-term career path, not just add incremental bits and pieces to my resume.
• I also wanted to do it for my son….no, seriously. I want to make sure he grows up truly understanding the technology behind technology. While I’m sure plenty of schools will begin to integrate programming into their curriculum, I believe it’s going to have to start with me (side note: while there are lots of videos related to this idea of teaching kids to code much earlier in their education, this recent TED talk inspired me).

Regarding the risk and timing of this move…I actually think it may be riskier over the long-term NOT to get with the times and learn more about web development, at least for someone that’s definitely staying in the industry in some capacity (web, ecommerce, etc..). Ultimately, I knew that I wanted to go in a more technical direction for the longer-term. Plus, I’d definitely have moved on from my last gig pretty quickly either way. I just felt strongly that I needed to take more drastic steps to get there faster and in a more professional way. In my gut, I knew that it was time to invest in myself and challenge myself to learn something new…so I went for it.

What now?

Well, now I can build things. I can make prototypes and build web apps. And while I still have a ton to learn, I’ve built a foundation of technical knowledge that will help me launch the next part of my career. Whether I end up as a full-time developer or in some kind of hybrid role as a Product Manager (or even something like a Growth Hacker), I know that this was a worthwhile effort, and I’m confident it will continue to pay dividends down the road for me, for the companies that employ me, and perhaps even for my son.


Song of the Day: “All Four” by Greensky Bluegrass

I was digging this one a bunch last night, and since then, I’ve listened to again probably about four or five more times.

The verse-chorus song portion is solid, but it’s really the improv section that gets me.

Around the six-minute mark, they end the core song structure and head into the more improvisational part of the tune. It just ebbs and flows perfectly from there on out. The mandolin leads us off, then that flows into the six-string acoustic guitar, followed by the dobro, and all capped off by one of the more beautiful, note-perfect banjo solos I’ve ever heard. Although it’s definitely a bluegrass tune, it almost works more like a jazz song with the band hitting on key themes, trading licks, crossing over on specific solo passages, and each band member trading and taking turns with beauty and precision.

Good stuff.