Hello from my parent’s kitchen table! It has been a chaotic couple of weeks. This is not how I expected to spend my time off, but here we are.
It’s funny. Later on in this post, you’ll hear me discuss how much I love working on our house and in the yard. It has become my zen thing. However, a bout of cold weather in Atlanta cracked the water pipes behind our washing machine. Our house is 98-years-old. And in old houses, you get a bunch of oddities like water lines running against exterior walls. We still love it, but that’s the other side of the homeownership coin. Hopefully, we’ll have water back on soon enough.
Professionally, 2022 has been an exceptional year. I received a promotion. The projects I’m working on are the biggest and most difficult of my career. I recognize that the work I’m doing now affects the livelihoods of millions of salespeople. That’s not something I take lightly.
And as good as my professional life has been this year—it doesn’t compare to how good things have been for me personally. I’ll discuss it in more detail later in this post, but Holly and I got engaged and we adopted a rambunctious puppy—a sheepadoodle named Otto.
I’ve been writing these posts long enough for most of you to know what they are about. If you’re new, I typically spend the last (and sometimes the first) couple weeks of the year reflecting. How has the year gone for me? What good or interesting things have happened? If you go back almost a decade to the early years of these reviews, you’ll find a relentless focus on productivity and my projects. These reviews kept me accountable for my work and helped me plan for the upcoming year. I am at a point in my career—heck, in my life—where I don’t feel the need to rigorously focus on projects like I used to. Well, maybe, but the projects are different. I’m no longer getting up at 4 a.m. to finish editing podcasts before going to the gym, showering, and heading to work.
As I said, I’ve been writing these reviews for a while. Next year I will have been writing them for a decade. This is the ninth that I’ve done. If you’re curious about previous years, you’ll find reviews from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014 in the archive.
So, what happened this year?
Holly and I got engaged
The big news this year was that I asked Holly to marry me. Fortunately, she said “yes!” However, my initial plan to pop the question did not go as planned.
We were going to take a beach trip with her sister’s family—I had intended to ask her then. Unfortunately, a week before the trip Holly and I both came down with COVID. We had extremely high fevers and felt terrible. Obviously, a family beach trip was not an option for either of us.
Holly still wanted to go on a beach trip. So once we recovered, I booked a last-minute trip to Port St. Joe. It’s a small town with cute restaurants and coffee shops. Most of the houses are within walking distance of the beach. And the beaches themselves are beautiful and secluded.
When we’ve gone in the past, often there isn’t anyone for miles in each direction. The dogs can run and play off leash without bothering anyone.
So on our first full-day, we took a short hike to the beach. It was a beautiful day. Nobody was in sight. So I popped the question. And she said “yes!”
I’ve been asked where the engagement photos are. While there aren’t any photos of me asking the question—we were the only ones at the beach that day—I published a photo essay from that trip. It has some fantastic photos from that day, our cute cottage, and some of the hikes we went on.
We don’t have a date for the wedding quite yet. Tentatively, we’re thinking sometime this fall.
We adopted a puppy, Otto
This year brought many changes, but one of the biggest was welcoming a little sheepadoodle puppy, Otto, into our home.
He’s got quite a personality. In many ways Otto is fearless. Even as an 8-week-old puppy, he’d climb to the top of the couch and belly flop off. He’d splat and then slide a foot or two across the floor. When our friends’ bigger dogs came over Otto wasn’t scared. We wanted to play non-stop—no matter how many times we were thrown on the ground.
It has been a lot of fun to watch him grow. We celebrated Otto’s first birthday on December 23, so he’s big now. I still remember his adorable slow puppy zoomies around the yard though.
There’s a game we play—I throw the ball, Otto goes to get it, and then Remi waits and tries to tackle him before he brings it back to me. I don’t know how many of you played football, but it mirrors the Oklahoma drills we used to do back in high school. Everyone is worn out afterward—well, other than Otto.
Managing Otto has been a difficult task for both of us this past year. He is impossible to tire out. And when he is tired that’s when we become most destructive. We’ve eaten rugs, bath mats, baseboards, hair ties and dozens of socks.
We love digging both in the yard and in the house—both have been an issue. Holly got Otto a sandbox, which I think has helped some when he’s outside. I’m told that now that he’s turned one, I’ve been told that he’ll mellow out. We’ll see if that happens. Until then, we’ll keep doing Oklahoma drills.
Was promoted to Staff Designer
I joined Salesloft almost 6 years ago as one of the first product designers. That spring, I remember, we had our $10M ARR party, which was a huge deal at the time.
We had customers that loved the product. I remember talking with friends who were salespeople—they were so hyped I was working at Salesloft. One of them told me the tool had “changed his life.” It’s not too common for people to feel that way about software. It’s part of the reason I decided to join Salesloft. Fanatical appreciation like that made me think there was a chance that the company could be extremely successful.
This year I was promoted to Staff Designer. That’s the rank above senior. And while I’m still an individual contributor, I also have some pseudo-management responsibilities. I was the design lead for both our workflow and platform pods. That means I’m ultimately responsible for the work that the designers on those pods ship.
My capacity was probably pushed as far as it could go this year. Earlier I mentioned that I am working on the largest and most challenging project of my career. Unfortunately, I’m not at a point where I can discuss much now. I know that seems lame, but once it’s released I’ll add a case study here. Several of the teams on that project split in the Fall. That had me going from being the designer for three teams to the designer for five teams, which was way too many for any designer.
Now my role will be changing a bit. I have spent the entirety of my Salesloft career directly involved with features. This year I am taking a step back from feature work to focus on our design system. I will still be involved—and working with all our designers—but in more of an advisory role. I did both of those to some degree last year, but the importance of other work prevented me from giving it the focus needed to do it well.
To be successful this year, I’ll need to scale myself. That means getting better at documenting, delegating and advising. Doing less of the work and enabling others to to more.
What else? As I said, I’m approaching 6 years at Salesloft. That means that I’m eligible for my sabbatical. Part of that will probably be used for our honeymoon. Holly can’t take that entire time off of work—so I’ll need to figure out what else to do. I’m thinking of traveling around the country and visiting friends. If you have any, send me your ideas!
Found the zen of yard and house work
I get the irony in writing a post about how much I love working on the house when it has given me such a fit lately. Hopefully, our pipes will be repaired soon and things return to normal.
But for much of the year, I discovered a particular interest in doing things around the house. I don’t think of myself as a naturally handy person. However, I enjoy figuring out how things work and doing physical things. A year of watching people repair stuff on YouTube and spending time on forums has taught me an enormous amount.
For example, we have these hundred-year-old doors with old mortise locks. Many of them are stiff and have mechanisms that don’t close well. I spent several hours watching people restore old locks on YouTube. I didn’t go quite as far as many of them, but after several hours I felt confident enough to take them out, clean them, reset the springs and oil them.
Also, Holly found an old workbench that she wanted to turn into a dining room table. So we sanded and painted it together.
Or dealing with a yard. I knew we wanted grass in the back but we have a ton of shade. So my dad helped me clear a bunch of the yard and plant fescue, which does well in shady areas.
Speaking of grass, I’ve come to enjoy even the more mundane chores. Many think mowing the lawn is a tiresome chore, but not me. I look forward to it. It’s become my zen thing. There’s something therapeutic about the active, but the repetitive motion of mowing. I put in my earbuds listen to a podcast and mow. Oh, and in the end, the yard looks great!
Left Product Notes alone
Product Notes is a consumer product forum that I built and have managed over the last several years. It is probably my most successful side project. It continues to gain traffic and make money each month.
The site was initially a blog where I’d publish notes on products I was researching and reviews of things I bought. In 2019, I was trying to figure out what to do with it and decided to turn it into a forum. It’s done incredibly well since then.
This past year, I’ve largely just let the project be. Maybe I’ll get the itch to dive back into it at some point in the future. For now, I’m fine letting it coast.
Shut down Civiton
This year I shut down Civiton. I laid out my aspirations for the project in my 2019 review.
In the past I’ve joked about replacing this site with Discourse (I won’t). But there is a lot of flexibility in how Discourse can be structured and allows room to experiment. Instead of Building a million different projects, I’m going to build one to test them. I’m calling the project CIVITON.
This will probably look something like reddit. With a collection of broad categories and interests that users can follow. If you’re interested, add your email to this form and I’ll send an invite when the site is ready.
Right now there are a handful categories I’m considering—mostly related to my interests. Product Design, Cooking, Fashion, Personal Finance, Photography, Travel/Flight Deals (Aerodero).
Honestly, I was excited about Discourse and wanted to build something with it. I had built a consumer product forum and a cheap flight aggregator with it. Why not build one forum that has all the things? I had a hammer, and everything looked like a nail. It is completely the wrong way to build products.
It had very little traffic and had become a dumping ground for my notes, which tend to be pretty incoherent. Some times I even have difficult deciphering them. I wouldn’t expect them to be useful to anyone else.
Plans for Solomon.io
It’s funny how time changes perspective. In my 2020 review, this is how I felt about this site:
Other than a few security updates. I haven’t touched this site in the last year. It feels like the personal website and blog are dying. It’s sad, but most people have moved away from blogs and onto social media. I work in tech and feel like few people have their own websites anymore.
I don’t really know what this means. As long as things are working without too much effort, I’ll keep it up. What next though? If something catastrophic were to happen, would I rebuild it? I’m not sure.
Today I feel different. Social networks are becoming increasingly fragmented while trying to command more and more attention. The value of being part of Instagram or Twitter isn’t what it once was. Since I published that review, I’ve slowly stopped using most social media. I’ve only logged into Twitter a handful of times—and only to post things that I’ve written here. I don’t think I logged into Instagram at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy sharing my writing and photos. But instead of throwing out 140 characters, I’m spending time writing here—and putting more effort into it. I’m reflecting on my experience 10 years after graduating from one of the first code boot camps. Or instead of recording a bunch of Instagram Stories—or Reels or whatever they are called now—that disappear in a day, I put together a photo essay from Holly’s 30th birthday. In some ways, it feels like my attention span or capacity to work on bigger projects have improved since reducing my time on social networks.
With that said, social networks have a natural distribution system that isn’t true for blogs and personal sites like this. I’m planning to make some tweaks to my newsletter format. I’d like to start making them a little more personal. Instead of just updates when I post, I’m going to start sharing short thoughts, interesting links and the occasional photo. It may not be ready by the time I publish this review but expect one soon. If that sounds interesting, I’d encourage you to subscribe.
Thinking about AI
I cannot talk about 2023 without mentioning AI. I think that we are on the brink of something huge. I’m not sure that we’ll see it fully in 2023—after all, they say people overestimate these types of changes in the short term and underestimate them in the long term. I do think in the next 5 or so years, we’ll have an idea of what the next 20 years will look like. I am certain that it is the next frontier, but I don’t know what that looks like.
In November I began experimenting with Stable Diffusion and AI artwork. Then during the first weekend of December, I tried to see if I could have AI generate a children’s book. I published it and wrote about my process here. The answer was that it’s absolutely possible today. Not only that, it can be done in a weekend—Illustrations and all.
I think AI is going to make creative people significantly more productive. It is probably a good time to be a generalist. I say that because it’s likely AI will become very good at specialized creative tasks. The more mediums people can work across, the more likely they’ll be able to coordinate AIs.
AI tools that can piece together videos from prompts, in the same way, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion can create images from prompts now aren’t that far off. It won’t be long before individuals will be able to create Pixar-quality films. I don’t know how we’ll handle this explosion of content, but I’m sure that it’s coming.
Thoughts on 2023
Last year I mentioned that routines were top of mind for me. Getting back in the habit of lifting and reaching out to old friends and colleagues were two things I wanted to do more of. I think I did a pretty good job of both—but there’s always room for improvement.
One thing I think needs some improvement in my wardrobe. I don’t think I’ve purchased clothes that weren’t sweatpants or some sort of athletic gear in the last two years. I know I’m mostly working from home, but it’s time for a little refresh.
Mostly, I’m looking forward to marrying Holly. She gets me and I get her. I love her dearly and am fortunate to have a hilarious, smart, and beautiful partner.
Here’s to 2023! Cheers!