Sean Groff

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2020 Year in Review

January 01, 2021

2020

I found myself more motivated than ever to begin the year. It was the start of a new decade. The previous decade was a rollercoaster that will define me for the rest of my life. At work, I was laser-focused on leading a project to deliver a new CRM that would need to be ready in time for the busiest period of the year. Our companies most profitable time of the year. No pressure. I was leading a team of developers halfway across the world.

I spent a lot of time reviewing PR’s, unblocking developers, identifying problems, implementing solutions all while trying to learn the business to plan out tickets and scopes of work for the development team. One thing quickly became clear, my time was finite. I had to figure out solutions that would scale. The hardest part was answering the infamous “Hey, you got a second for a quick question?“. As an individual contributor, I would hop on a call and spend all day if needed helping. As a lead, I had to be more diligent with my time. Instead of saying yes, I had to ask the developer to describe the problem and provide me the git branch of their current work so I could debug the problem on my time or arrange for another developer to assist if I knew they had experience with this type of problem.

This was difficult to accept. I love my co-workers and helping them is what drives me every day. It was important I figure out ways to help

A big challenge was the solutions to problems were forever lost in Slack DM’s. Or they were lost in the in-person conversations we had in the office. The culture of the business was not very remote-friendly. Who knew in a few months this would change so drastically…

Super Bowl Champs

Before I ever touched a computer I was an athlete who loved sports. I loved my hometown professional sports team, the Royals, and Chiefs. Both of which never won championships in my lifetime until the Royals won the world series in 2015. The Super Bowl was such a huge event every year. The thought of my team, the Chiefs ever playing in that game was a pipe dream. Getting to watch them win the Super Bowl was literally a dream come true for me. The Super Bowl parade brought millions of fans to downtown Kansas City. This feels like a lifetime ago. Millions of people packed together like sardines. Hard to imagine such a scene now.

The Global Pandemic

In early March it started to become real to me the Corona Virus could become a real threat to the United States. I was scheduled to go on a business trip to Tampa Bay, Florida. I decided to go. At the airports, on the airplanes, at the conference center, and at the beach, no one wore a mask. No one was socially distanced. Everything was “normal”. Upon returning to the office from the business trip everyone in the office was sent home shortly after lunchtime. The plan was to work remotely until it was safe to return to the office. At the time, I thought we’d return to the office after 3-4 weeks. That weekend I went to a diaper party for one of my best friends. It was a small gathering of about 12 people. A few people didn’t come because of the risk of the virus. This would be the final social gathering I attended in 2020. Nuts.

Working from home

No one could be prepared to work fully remotely so suddenly. I felt I was more prepared than most given I had already been working from home twice a week and was leading a fully remote team. I had a home office setup. Our velocity began increasing. I let management know I didn’t project we’d finish our project in time. I was then told the entire team of JavaScript developers would join my team to hit this deadline. I found myself flexing between a (large) team lead and an individual contributor for some of the challenging features. This involved many late nights coding.

Growing Family

We found out late in the spring my wife was pregnant. We elected to do the genetic testing and learned our baby was another girl. While I really wanted a boy, all I really cared about was the baby being healthy. Something I’ve never discussed was my wife and I’s experience with a miscarriage 6 months prior. This is insanely difficult and still something I hate talking about. Later in the summer, it was apparent our first home was not going to be big enough for our growing family. We began house shopping on Zillow.

Management life

During the summer I was promoted to Software Engineer IV. I’m still not really sure what the title means other than I was asked to become a manager. A new challenge and career path I really never considered. I hope to write more about management this year. Every IC should consider is problems are easy to identify, solutions are not. If you care enough about the problem being solved, be part of the solution. Something I wish I knew before becoming a lead and then Manager.

Summer was a challenge at home because summer in the midwest is always time for the kids to get outside, go to the park, the community pool, and vacations. With COVID-19 none of this was feasible. It was really challenging for these kids to be stuck in the house. Our eldest picked up video games. So much so we had to come up with limits.

A New home

In September we moved into a brand new home. Something I never really saw myself being able to do. Moving straight-up sucks. Now that we are mostly settled in I’m glad I let my wife talk me into moving. Fixing up the other house was the gateway to a new hobby for me. DIY. Building and fixing things with your bare hands gives me the same rewarding feeling I get from building websites. I’m still a novice but gaining a lot of experience and tools! I’m hoping to build myself an office in my unfinished basement later this year.

Record-Setting Success

We hit our deadline and delivered a reliable CRM. Our business smashed every record by large margins. The software certainly played a part in that. This led to a new opportunity.

Architect

I was asked to take on another new endeavor. I was asked to become the Frontend Architect. I was incredibly excited to begin solving problems that benefit everyone instead of writing code that benefits a single project. While building tooling in JavaScript can be frustrating it’s a new challenge I love. Being able to focus on solving problems across the entire engineering department is a fresh new challenge I’m really enjoying.

Focusing on creating tools and shared code we can use to begin unifying our codebases is highly motivating.

What’s next for me?

This year I’ve learned many things but most importantly, my time is finite. I’m a family man so it’s really important I get my work done during work hours so I can put my dad-hat on the second I close my laptop. I have a lot of coding-related personal projects I want to work on. To find time to work on these projects I’ve got to make some changes.

We are still fighting bedtime and staying asleep with our youngest. I notice a huge difference when I’m able to sleep for 8 hours. Seems obvious but it’s crazy how much more productive I am when I’m hydrated and operating on a full night’s sleep. To hold myself accountable I’ll tweet out my goals for 2021 but I’m excited to shift my personal time to be focused on…me.

I spend 40 hours a week focused on helping everyone but myself. I love it. I want to use my personal time to focus on myself. What I’m most excited about is I’m going to rewrite my personal website to be my own Digital Garden. All of the content will benefit me. I love helping others and I think the content will also help others. I’m going to design the site myself. I believe Next.js and Tailwind CSS can be core tools I can use for all future projects. I’m excited to dig in!

Hope

I’m really hopeful 2021 brings the change this world needs. The vaccine, presidential change, a new daughter, and a return to some form of normalcy gives me a lot of excitement and hope.

I wish you a happy new year.


Sean Groff

I am Sean, a Software Engineer in Kansas City passionate about React and JavaScript.

© Sean Groff

2021