2019 - Unexpected Surprises

2019 - Unexpected Surprises

The year started off as it does for many: committing to goals that haven’t been realized without a means to be held accountable. I planned to start exercising consistently every week and planning out meals every day. I had home improvement projects in mind that never came to light because I was lazy, disorganized, and distracted. I had such high hopes for Unibear Studio that have yet to see the light of day. In many ways, 2019 was a failure. However, sometimes random events turn out to lead you down paths you didn’t realize you could take.

I started 2019 as a Quality Assurance Engineer mostly writing automated tests for our platform at work and designing some of the new services with the software engineers. For the most part, things ran smoothly and there wasn’t a lot of heartburn or anxiety associated with work. I submitted to several conferences with some new talks that I was super excited about as well. Outside of work I was able to get a lot of the outside projects I had planned done. Mowing my own yard was a badge of honor for me, though it’s funny that at Codestock (software conference in Knoxville, TN) in a circle with Corey House and some local developers (many of them close friends) he recommended that I hire someone to mow my lawn for me. The argument as to why is because my time is worth money and I could get that two hours back every couple of weeks. He’s right. But for me, that’s two hours where I can reflect on my week while also being productive and at the end looking at my yard and having something to be proud of.

Something to look back on that I can be proud of… that’s what I have been missing in my career up to this point. Most of the software I’ve worked on was written by some vendor who’s software almost but didn’t quite fit the business needs. I’m glad to say that circumstances have changed.

In the beginning of June, our Product Manager at the time asked me if there was anyone I knew that would be interested and good at being a product owner. As I was going through my list of connections in my head thinking of the perfect candidates she said something that will stick with me for a long time. She said, “You’d do a really amazing job in the Product Owner role, but I know you don’t have any interest in that at all.” I told her that she was dead wrong. Being a Product Owner was something I’ve wanted to do since before I graduated college, but all the people I’ve worked with in those roles lacked a deep technical understand on what it takes to build strong software. After a short transition period I became a Product Owner and I absolutely love the role. I don’t miss writing code as much as I thought I would, though I do miss it from time to time. Very quickly I felt that I had made an impact our on product delivery teams and things were looking up. Then our Product Manager announce that she wa going to pursue another opportunity. To top it off we were going live with our new product that same week.

I couldn’t sleep that night, maybe two hours. A swarm of responsibilities and knowledge I had to absorb in a short time while keeping the production deployment on the rails. Tuesday showed up and services crashed and burned. The logs weren’t helping. Services were slow and running out of database connections. A perfect storm before our 8 am deadline of things have to be running. It was a long night and the engineers were there pulling heroics and ultimately at 5:30 AM we were ready for our 8 AM deadline. So I went home, showered, and back at work by 7 AM. A few people from outside the technology groups started trickling in asking if things were ready. 8 AM came and everything went without issue, everyone celebrated and was buzzing with energy except for me because I knew we had work to do still to make things better. Unable to focus and keep my eyes open I tasked my Product Manager with a few items that I wanted the engineers to work on to fix. I was asleep by 1:00 PM and awoke to an alarm at 2:00 PM to find 20-30 notifications on my phone asking for help or how something should work. By 2:45 PM I was in the office coordinating efforts and setting people’s minds at ease. I left the office that night around 7:30 PM with a sense of pride I’ve never felt before.

The team needed me and I was there for them. I needed them and they were there for me. I knew that after the departure of our Product Manager things were going to need me running at 100% which was very difficult to manage while also speaking at 4 different conferences within a couple of months. I haven’t had time to stop or slow down for months now and recently I’ve been helping onboard 3 teammates that will be helping me out and that I can let go of some of the responsibilities I’ve acquired and inherited. So, what am I going to do with all this time on my hands?

This holiday break is a chance for me to catch up on some sleep, reflect, get organized, and get some projects done. I want to focus on a few things this year: exercise, physical health, mental health, organization, discipline, and getting things done.

I had been organizing my calendars to help me establish a consistent routine in all that I do. One issue I’ve been running into while doing that is that the inputs and information needed are from various different sources or simply unknown. Part of getting organized is staying organized, so I know that in order to be successful I have to bake organization into my routine and stay disciplined about it. I’m going to try to use a personal Scrum to do this. Where I plan out my two weeks from items on a backlog and reflect and make adjustments throughout the year.

I’m planning on being more active with this blog and keep my progress updated regularly through the year.

Dennis Eugene Stepp, Jr. avatar
About Dennis Eugene Stepp, Jr.
I passionately deliver innovative software solutions that enhance the customer experience and maximize business value. Building upon over eight years of software engineering experience I assist technologists in architecture, automation, design, implementation, testing, and workflow. I continuously broaden my skills through game development, conference speaking, and networking within the software development community.