2019 Year in Review

Another ride around the sun comes to a close and a new adventure begins in just a few days. I like to take a few minutes at the end of each year and think about how this year went compared to what I thought would happen when I wrote this review 12 months ago.

I was pretty sure last year around this time that my time with Cisco would be coming to an end. Sure enough, at the end of February I took the gamble and I now work for a small company called Zenabi. There has been a lot of conversation around the internet that the odds of making more money in a startup vs. Big Tech company are highly stacked against you. I went into this knowing that would probably be the case. Even thought I pulled down less money this year than I would have had I stayed at Cisco, it’s been worth it for me.

For one thing, I have a desire to create a product and focus my daily energies on building it. At Cisco I did more work educating customers about industry trends and how to use them with Cisco products. This was fun, but after 7 years of it, I wanted to see how I could put some of those skills into use.

Leaving Cisco was hard. I worked with some of the greatest people I’ve worked with in my career and had a wonderful network of friends I enjoyed working with every day. My work life balance was great, and my compensation was nothing to complain about. With Zenabi, the company is very small, but I work with some great people… (Hmmm, great people are everywhere!). I manage to keep work life balance managable as well. There have been a few weekends and late nights that I wasn’t too happy about, but every now and then I can deal with it.

So, that was the biggest change. But what did I do?

The first thing was a Matomo service. Matomo is an open source project that basically is an on-prem Google Analytics competitor. The nice thing is that Matomo let’s you get access to all the data and own that data. With Google Analytics, you have access to an API but you don’t get it right away, you don’t get all the data, and you are relying upon Google’s ideas of how and what you should see. The service runs on Kubernetes. A user enters a few details into our web browser and then we spin up a Matomo system with a database backup that can be used. This uses all kinds of AWS constructs: Serverless, lambda, S3, EKS, Certificates, etc. as well as Kubernetes constructs: Ingress, Services, Deployments coupled with Let’s Encrypt and other things to automatically make things work seamlessly.

The service is pretty alpha status as we haven’t refined it. The reason is we need to focus on what makes the company money, and what business we are actually involved in. For us, it’s data science. In particular, helping customers make money by doing the right things with Ad Spending.

To that end, we focused in the summer on Google and Facebook. The idea here was to optimize our client’s Ad spending: Which campaigns are working well? Which ones are wasting money? I learned a lot about Google and Facebook Ad APIs. I learned how to get the data I need and make reports that help a client see the whole picture in their online ad spending: Whether it be SEM or Social. We dabbled a bit in some Instagram bots, etc.

In addition I created a course for Pearson that you can watch called Kubernetes in the Data Center. This class took a lot of work and I spent a long time building it. I’m not sure how popular this will be as most people run Kubernetes in the cloud, but I was pretty sure there would be an audience for it. Guess we’ll see how that plays out.

What’s up for 2020?

Basically more of the same. If 2019 was about understanding what to build, 2020 is about refining the idea. So here’s what I’m planning on doing:

  1. I’ll create another class for Pearson about Kubernetes on AWS, EKS specifically. This class will introduce people to running Kubernetes on EKS and talk about some of the cool ways we integrated EKS in with our other AWS services. My first class will be delivered February 25th, 2020.
  2. Google and Facebook Ad Spending suggestions. Now that we’ve captured Google and Facebook spending for accounts we will be adding suggestions using AI technology to help people save money and do better online advertising. This I’m hoping will become our main focused product. We will work on tightening up the integration, giving great recommendations and constantly monitoring the spending to make sure it continues to optimize.
  3. Shopify Integration. In 2020 I’d like to make it easier for people to sign up for our service. Right now it’s mostly manual with customers having to work with our team. We want to add automated sign up to Shopify as well as Facebook and Google. I’m very excited to see how big Shopify is getting and I like that they present a great alternative to Amazon.

So it’s been a great year and I’m excited for 2020.