2019 – A Recap

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I’ve been mostly radio silent ever since coming to the US, but it’s beyond time I posted something on my own website so here we go.

2019 has been a really wild ride and so much has happened that it’s hard to even keep track. I don’t even remember the start of the year honestly.

  • I do remember that GDC was the most intense experience it’s ever been this year – and this is not a conference that is known for being relaxing at the best of times. This year I gave four sessions, two each on Monday and Tuesday, and it was candidly too many. I had a pretty intense allergic reaction to something on the last day of GDC and I think I probably don’t want to push myself this hard again… In 2020, I’ve intentionally not submitted any talks for GDC or committed to many obligations (tho watch this space for me making a couple of GDC-related announcements potentially). I’m going to take this year as a tourist and enjoy my friends and family being in town for the conference and stress a lot less.
  • In April we formalized a transition with Zynga’s Central Data Organization, and I transitioned from leading the Central Analytics group to founding a Skunkworks-style unit focused on the intersection of AI and computational creativity, which we’ve called the Applied AI group. I got to handpick a couple of absolute rockstars to join me on this journey and if you’ve not heard the names Yang Wen and Johnathan Pagnutti before, expect to be hearing them a lot soon, especially if you’re anywhere near me in 2020.
  • In May I went down to San Diego for vacation to present at the Chief Analytics Officers and Influencers Summit (another four-sessions-in-one-conference appearance). The event itself was great and my sessions seemed well received, but I fell fairly in love with San Diego. It’s a place I definitely want to revisit, and staying at the beach for the best part of ten days was a much needed break. It gave me chance to decompress and think hard about a few things and I made a bunch of lifestyle decisions on this trip that have turned out to have had a major impact on my life
    • Reading – I’d fallen out of the habit of reading, but on this trip I recommitted to taking time to read, at first short form articles from sites like Reddit and Medium but then I decided to get back to books. In 2019, I read 38 books total (separate post on this coming up), which feels like a decent pace given I started about halfway through the year. In general it’s been a mix of business books (mostly management-oriented things and biographies), as well as a bunch of dog training books (more on this below) and a decent amount of Star Wars fiction – which is actually pretty good even in the new canon.
    • Morning – After a lot of introspection, I decided to become a morning person. I’ll probably put together a whole separate post on this as well, because nothing has I think changed my life or made me more productive than making this flip. Setting my alarm for 6am every morning, regardless of my schedule has been freeing in some ways – though I regularly let Alexa play music at me for an hour while I collect myself. But having a reasonably consistent ritual in a morning has been really helpful for centering me and making me more productive, and that process of discovery started on the same vacation. I’m grateful to Brie Code for helping me to navigate a lot of this stuff.
    • Dieting – On this trip I also decided it was time to get serious about dieting. I’ve been vaguely doing a low carb diet for a few years, but I decided to get serious about capital-K Keto and see what happened. The results have been frankly astonishing. I’ve dropped over 30lbs since this decision, and I’m a “Healthy” weight BMI-wise for the first time I’ve ever been aware of. It’s been a challenge, but I’ve had a great support network with my team letting me pick lunch venues that made my diet easy, and folks like Aleissia Laidacker and Bernard Kim helping me keep going and giving me pointers.
    • Moving – Finally, this trip I decided that I needed to find a new apartment. With the new workload at Zynga, I realized that a core part of my self-care was going to be not having little things annoy me. My old apartment was in a not great location, was not exactly what I wanted in a few ways and generally a little sub-optimal. It also didn’t allow pets, and for a while now I’ve been thinking that I’d like to have a dog – and what better time to do that than while working at one of the best dog-friendly companies in the industry. So it was time to find a new place to live!
  • I also went to speak at the Game AI Summer School in May which was a terrific experience. I delivered a whole-morning workshop on building a simple analytics tech stack inside of Unity for collecting telemetry events and going on to visualize and analyze them. It was great to get to participate in this event, as well as reconnect with former colleagues and peers, and start to meet the next generation of Game AI professionals who are coming up.
  • It took a month or two, but July saw me move into a new apartment – an incredible sky palace. It’s right by the Moscone Center, so mega convenient for GDC, the landlord was happy to allow a small dog. It has sweeping glass walls overlooking the entire city from the 22nd floor of a tower block, a rooftop with a grill, and a big balcony that I’ve been taking
  • Stuff happened in between – I went to the Foundations of Digital Games conference as a sponsor, got to take a fantastic vacation with people I love deeply – and see two of them get married during it, as well as take a trip up to Toronto to visit baby Eli, but the big thing that happened at the end of the year was the arrival of Jaina. My little furball has proven to be a constant source of joy and frustration. We’ve been together for less than three weeks as the year ends, but it feels like a lifetime already. I’m looking forward to facing 2020 with my little sidekick under my feet, making everything quite a bit more complicated :D