I have seen a few “2019 Year in Review” posts on Twitter and that it would be cool to write one too.
Where should I start? This is the question I’m thinking about right now. That’s a good sign. Without going in deep into my thoughts, I can see that there are at least a few things I can talk about.
I am now excited to write this post to remind myself that I have been doing good and can expect a lot more from 2020.
Table of Contents
- Early 2019
- Starting the hustle
- Learning Web Dev
- Career Switch
- Starting to Data Science
- Web Development / SaaS
- Open Source Community
- It was stressful.
- I learned a ton of web-related technologies.
- Wow… So much happened, it is crazy.
- This year was about discovering various communities and opening myself to them.
- There are a ton of cool and exciting things in the world. We have a whole life to discover them. In fact, there are too many, and making sure to only focus on the best and most important is crucial. Only do and learn things that make you say Hell yes.
The beginning of 2019 started off with my wife and me celebrating New Year’s in our little room in 5BR in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was scary because I graduated without any job offers. Our lease was running out in mid-January. We generally did not know what is next. At that time, I was hoping to receive an internship opportunity with my previous employer. So, it was a little scary and somewhat stressful.
Thankfully I received that offer. The office is located in NYC, so we started packing up for a move to NY. We spend a month going from one Airbnb to another in search of an apartment where it would be just the two of us. Long story short, we found a great apartment in Newark, NJ. It felt great to stop moving from place to place, moving a lot of our stuff. Sadly, due to the moving, my wife’s birthday was a little disappointing to her. Hopefully, this year we can make up for that.
The only disadvantage to all that is the fact that I didn’t receive my EAD card, which would allow me to start my employment. Because of that, we had to take a loan to make payments for our new apartment. Still paying out that loan, with hopes to end that nightmare mid-2020. Huge thanks to my father, who could support us during that time also.
While not being employed, I thought it would be cool to start something that could bring us an alternative income. My salary was not going to cover everything. Unfortunately, it still does not.
I remember clearly that the only reason I got an idea to do that was thanks to Tim Ferriss. I am forever grateful to this man. I have been reading his “4 Hour” series while in my last semester in college.
Without going into too much detail, this is what I have done during March of 2019. Bought two domains:
Bought “BlueHost” hosting plan. I started working on two of my ideas. A service that will allow students to show their work to the world (Open Source Analytics Journal) and a list of useful guides that you get for paying a subscription fee. Needless to say, both of these failed, but they did give me a valuable lesson. I didn’t like WordPress. More specifically, I did not like the fact that I can’t customize it very well, and all the useful packages I needed were paid.
Why in the world would I pay for simple forms?!?
Interestingly, I remember stumbling upon “Make paid subscriptions with Django” class on Lynda.com, which was perfect at the time. But after going through a few videos, I dropped it. It did not stick. It is interesting because right now, Django is the only framework that I understand well.
My next venture was Fermentline. I heard a lot of great things about Shopify and wanted to give it a try. For a person who does not earn any money, $79 bucks might seem like a bit much. Nonetheless, I decided to try it. I have recently picked up a passion for fermentation.
I have been making Kombucha at home. I was making fermented garlic, pickles, and other foods. I even tried to become a food YouTuber.
I can’t remember why, but I thought that it would be cool to sell fermentation related apparel. No one else was making it (it still seems like a relatively good idea). Long Story short, that failed, with me paying from three months of Shopify.
Still, this was a rewarding experience. I got to work with freelance designers. This was my first attempt to build a web page. It is effortless with Shopify.
One thing that makes me laugh now is the number of motivational videos I watched. Motivational is probably the wrong word there. A better description is “How to earn a shit load of many dropshipping on Shopify” kind of videos.
I stopped this project around the time I received my EAD card and started my internship, ones again.
Mid-March I started working for Guy Carpenter. At first, I was extremely excited. Finally, a real job. I was extremely excited about the commute even. I read on my beloved kindle while I was on NJ Transit, then listening to podcasts while walking to work. The same deal on the way back home.
The podcast I was listening to mostly was “The Tim Ferriss podcast.” I have only recently discovered it, and God, there was a lot of things I had to catch up. So many great interviews. Interviews with Jason Fried, Derek Sivers, and Naval Ravikant are one of my favorites. The one podcast that changed a lot for me was featuring Ramit Sethi. To be honest, I don’t remember what it was, but in general, the accessibleness of gathering wealth. One of the key things I remember was sin writing guest posts.
While I was doing Google research, I have stumbled upon a couple of personal websites. One that comes to mind is Tom Critchlow website. I thought, “Wow, that was cool, I need to make a personal Website and start doing consulting work to increase my revenue.” Tom’s website was done with Jekyll. I started googling and ended up choosing to make a website with Jekyll and host it on GitHub Pages… That was a slow process. I remember I was actually writing code in GitHub, committing changes, and waiting for the website to change. I remember trying to a “resume” format website. After thinking I was done, I tried opening on my phone, and… it was shit🤣. I remember using tachyons for my CSS, without actually not knowing how CSS works properly (again, thanks to Tim for inspiration).
I don’t want to go into too much detail. This is not an autobiography, although there are undoubtedly a lot of things I would love to put on paper. This is how my journey to web development started.
Actually, funny I should mention autobiography. Around the same time, I read The Bullet Journal book. I have been trying to journal, on and off, but this book helped me make it a more stable habit. I’m still working on doing regular entries, but it was a fantastic start, and I can’t recommend it more. The BuJo method actually inspired me to build a project I’m working on right now - Kushim.
Around the same time, I decided to make an effort to meet more people, a.k.a Networking. I do mean professional networking. I struggled to get a single interview while in my last semester at Northeastern. I started contacting people on LinkedIn, asking for advice. I focused on people who work in the Data Science sphere, as it is what I was very interested in. Surprisingly, people are nicer in real life. I got a lot of responses and a lot of meetings.
I am thankful for this act of courage from my side. I have wasted my college years watching TV shows and other things like that, not meeting people, not trying new things.
I have recently started to prefer stey at work and code my own projects rather than meet new people during lunch. I think this is something I need to return to my schedule. Connections are everything.
I started my employment as an Actuarial intern. I’ve tried to pass the Actuarial exams several times but failed each time miserably. This is why I decided to meet more people, to find a new job in 6 months, while I was there. I failed in that too. Can you fucking imagine? In six months of job applications and networking, I did not get a single fucking on-site interview. Not one!
Thankfully, my boss at the time offered to extend my internship. So I had another six months to network and applied for jobs. At the same time, my boss asked me whether I want to keep trying to pass exams. While it was scary to say no, as there was a chance I might get fired, not extended. I am grateful that he didn’t take it personally and offered to help find a new position within the company. I’m so thankful for that.
I found an exciting position within GC at a Data Strategy Department. I contacted the hiring manager, Alan Anders, and we talked a little on the phone, even though his calendar had not one single spot. I’m thankful he took the time to speak with me and tell me about the position. I got so excited. The journey of transition started.
I’m now helping him with various data-related tasks. Or rather trying to help. Even though I was interested in Data Analysis for a while now, there were so many new things that I got quickly overwhelmed. Receiving so many errors, and being able to advance during the day is very discouraging. I really like working with Alan. Even if I only work part-time.
Indiehackers is a fantastic community of people who want to start their own business without venture capital, bootstrapped. Mostly that would mean people who can code and want to build something like a web app.
I can’t remember how I found that community, I tried really hard but just can’t remember. To be honest, though, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I did find it. At the time I found Indiehackers, I just started to build my own website and did not know how to do “professional” coding.
I got extremely excited about building a web app, a SaaS business to support myself and my family. So I have added another goal to my list - learning to build web apps.
First, I decided to rebuild my website. That was a long process. William Vincent tutorials were a huge help. Huge! Thanks, William.
Again, I don’t want to go into too many details, but the rebuild was somewhat successful. I now had a blog, a “now” page, and “What I learned this week” page. Since my website was hosted on Digital Ocean Ubuntu droplet, I got to learn Nginx, Gunicorn, and to use the command line. Knowing that a lot of things are possible with Django, I started recording my ideas for potential future projects. The list is now very long. I am excited to try those in the future when I am very good at Django 😁.
Now, I am building Kushim . It is my attempt to create a life management system for myself. The main features are Journaling, Digital Garden, and Network database to help you manage your relationships. I am almost done building a robust V1. The only thing left to do is to set up a billing process for pro accounts. And to set up automated emails for network app. I really hope to finish those soon and move onto the next project.
Learning to code involved using GitHub a lot. On GitHub, people share their code. This encourages sharing and helping. The open-source community is all about sharing helping and doing things together.
Derek Sivers was the main reason discovered Open Source (OS) community. In one of his posts (about database building), he suggested people use MonicaHQ. Monica is an OS project. Although you can pay for it, I decided to attempt to install it on my own server. That was challenging. Very challenging. This is the first time I’ve run into that many errors.
This is actually happening to me at work right now. Errors. Errors everywhere.
The only reason I pushed through that is pure excitement and enthusiasm. I really wanted it to work. A website only I can access, which hosts all my contacts and reminds me to contact them. This project was built with PHP, which wasn’t my favorite thing to deal with. Thankfully, I had a lot of time in the evenings at that point and finally made it work.
At that point, I was obsessed with OS projects. Not very proud, but I started to get a little greedy. I was thinking, “what else can I use for free.” Then the novelty wore off, I got better at removing things I didn’t need, I changed. Now, I thought, “what projects can I help.” Since I knew a little Python and Django, I couldn’t contribute to many projects.
I started contributing to some instructions and other less important things. I even took part in Hacktoberfest winning a t-shirt for contributing to 5 projects. Very proud of that.
In the summer, my wife went back home to Russia for a month. I remember that saying goodbye was very, very hard! We promised never to do that again. So when we get in a fight or argue, I try to remember that moment. It helps me remind myself how much I care about her and love her.
Sometimes it is indeed hard, very hard. But going through all the hard things together is essential. Knowing that there is always someone by your side is very comforting and helpful.
Generally, we have had a lot of ups and downs. We are a young couple, a young family. We have a whole life ahead of us to learn about each other and make a great family. I am thankful for all the good and bad moments. Each one second I spend with her is a great second.
Discovering Stoicism was a big help. I feel that attempting to practice Stoicism makes me a better human being. It makes me better at appreciating what I have, makes me better I controlling my emotions. Sometimes they get out of control. I get too angry very quickly, offloading it onto my wife, which is unacceptable.
Please note, I said, “attempting to practice.” Becoming a stoic is hard, and I will spend the rest of my life, improving myself. But I think the hardest think of discovering and choosing a philosophy of life is done. Now to applications.
Along with Stoicism, I try to exercise and meditate every morning. I try to do this also to keep my brain under control for many things. Keeping emotions under control, being disciplined in my professional life, not allowing myself to distract easily.
I am very happy I decided and took the time to write this post. I realized that a lot was accomplished in the last year, or even last half a year. This makes me very excited about 2020. A lot of things to do, a lot to learn.
I’m forever grateful for everything life throws at me. Especially because most of what it throws is good. Thankful for all the people I get to interact with every day. Grateful for all the new people I met.
Looking back on this year, I know that our future is bright. It is crucial never to forget that.
I know that not many people will read this, and that is fine. But if you somehow read the whole thing or at least scrolled all the way here, know this:
You can make anything happen. You just need to start doing things one step at a time. Don’t try to make everything happen at once. That won’t happen. But if you do a little every day, it is inane what you can achieve in a year.
Thanks to 2019 for everything that happened in 2019. Good luck to everyone in 2020.