Why I’m Moving to Boston After Nearly 5 Years in Washington, DC

tl;dr — education, business growth, missing the snow.

Coming to DC in 2012, as a fresh-faced college graduate with pockets full of hope and little else (seriously, I moved here with $700 in my pocket and a handful of internships and starter jobs on my resume… that’s it), I was unsure of what I would find. I came to DC to start a new life, following a wave of optimism and political advocacy, and to fight for those changes for which I truly and deeply cared about. Many victories came in the coming years — marriage equality, an increasing focus and investment from the US Government into the tech sector, an investment in renewable energy resources, and many more progressive victories.

Yup, I have always loved those purple shirts. Also, I wonder if I will ever not have a baby face. Pushing 30 soon, still have it.

Over time, when the victories slowed and the red tape consumed my day-to-day, I felt the calling away from the political rat race, and into the tech sector. From there, I’ve had a whirlwind past three+ years in DC Tech. After a brief period of freelancing and small client work, I joined a small team of developers and designers at Brllnt. They’re an incredible, nimble, small team of dreamers and creatives. It was the perfect place to learn the ins and outs of client management at an early-stage agency, and from there (and through attending the monthly DC Tech Meetups) I was introduced to many local tech figures, many of whom I now call friends and mentors — folks like Shana Glenzer, Peter Corbett, DJ Saul, Zvi Band, Paul Singh, Jess Bell, Elizabeth Lindsey, Johnny Ray Austin, and Evan Burfield. The incredible titans of our local tech industry.

It has been an honor to work with these fine folks.

After leaving Brllnt, I was blessed to be hired by one of the best companies I’ve ever known, iStrategyLabs, and honored to work with DJ and Peter on some of the craziest, most exciting, and most challenging campaigns I’ve ever been a part of. To this day, I’ve never been a part of a more talented team, and will continue to strive to reproduce that culture everywhere I go.

Oh god, beer…. The days “BCD” —Before Celiac Disease.

Over my year and a half at ISL, I worked on some of the biggest accounts the company managed — Volkswagen, Kroger, William Grant & Sons, Sam Adams, etc — and learned the tools of the agency trade. Fortunately, through connections at ISL, I was also added to the Organizing Board of DC Tech Meetup in the summer of 2015, and I’ve been a part of organizing and planning over 20 meetups since, as part of a community of 20,000 local technologists. Each meetup has between 400–600 attendees and showcases 6–8 emerging and established tech companies! Hosting the multiple meetups I’ve hosted over the past 2 years has been one of my favorite experiences. The bonds I’ve made in DC tech are eternal. I’ve even met the love of my life here, without whom, I don’t believe I would have survived the past few years.

This is the face of the luckiest man on the planet. The past 3+ years with you have been the greatest of my life, Yuqi.

Unfortunately, my time at ISL was cut short. As many know in my previous piece, I spent the six months of 2016 in and out of the hospital and that experience completely changed my life.

Those 6 months at NIH, GW Hospital, MedStar hospital, and in almost a dozen Emergency Room trips taught me 2 things: The value of self care, and resilience in the face of any obstacle.

This new reality is one that can’t afford a 70 hour work week — one that has self care prioritized above “winning” and “hustle”. Hustle just seems silly when you’re lying in a hospital bed, with your heart pounding, and no idea what will come to you tomorrow. Fortunately, there are no photos from this time. I lost 40 pounds, I was in and out of hospital beds, and we weren’t sure how or if I would pull through.

DC Tech Meetup — the best crowd in the world.

Fall of 2016, I embarked on a new adventure and began taking on small client contracts with no goal in sight other than paying the bills and continuing to share my abilities with the world. From the brink of my darkest days, GFTB Digital was a shimmering light on the horizon.

Through the course of the past year, I’ve been blessed to work with clients like Oratorio, LexisNexis, and Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler museums. This work has made me stronger and more determined every day. Most importantly, I’ve gone into each contract telling clients my story and how deeply I value self care. Along with an exercise and medication regimen, I’ve regained about 90% of my past strength and redefined my value proposition. While there are still bad days, they are far outweighed and outnumbered by the good days. I now have a business model that works, and works for me.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Celiac Disease are NO MATCH for me. Yes, I’m hitting the gym again and swimming! Even played baseball and went back to the batting cages.
Yup, this body is no longer too frail to pick up my 80 pound Collie Joy! Now I just need to not include a MILLION pictures of her next.

So, I’ve felt confident in taking more exciting, demanding, and challenging work with GFTB Digital and I am particularly proud of the work I’m doing as the Social Media Agency of Record for the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler museums reopening on the weekend of October 14th and 15th; IlluminAsia: A Festival of Asian Art, Food, and Cultures.

Seriously, they’re doing amazing work. Give them a follow in Instagram, and join me at #IlluminAsiaFS on the weekend of October 14th and 15th— A Festival of Asian Art, Food, and Cultures— @freersackler #client

DC has so many things going for it — It’s diverse, it’s growing, and it has a strong and passionate ecosystem ready to support entrepreneurs and fresh faces.

Heck, I even survived these 4 terrible months every year in DC with 90% humidity and temperatures touching the high 90s that you Washingtonians call “summer.” Seriously, how does one survive in a 3 piece suit in that? How many weather reports being downgraded from 6 inches of snow to a “slushy dusting” can one take? The New Englander in me just can’t take it anymore!

And, although I could write a whole piece on the political climate making DC a different place than I first moved to (pre-existing condition y’all… woo hoo), I’ll save that for a later piece.

For now, it’s time to tackle this big decision. After a very long, careful, and difficult process, I have decided to leave DC and move to Boston at the end of my lease.

OK, one more dog pic.

Why?

The Boston weather. See above. Bring on the snow!

This is my happy place.

The Boston Red Sox. See the AL East standings. If I have to hear one more person pretend to enjoy watching ball games in Nats Park, I may cry. Go to Fenway, go to Camden Yards. There’s something special about season tickets there. And don’t get me started on the Washington Football Club.

Access to design resources and design partners. As mentioned in this piece, I have a design/development partner I work with quite a bit. More will be coming on this partnership in 2018.

Closer to family as they age. I’m originally from Rhode Island and my family is aging, it only feels right to be a bit closer for the next few years at least.

An older, more established tech scene with a larger client pool. This one is only a half reason, because I love DC tech — but startups are unfortunately not my prototypical client, nor is government contracting. There are simply more clients who match GFTB’s business model and service mix in Boston than there are in DC, despite the early success in the past year here.

More educational opportunities for myself and my partner to continue our pursuit for higher education. Harvard, Brandeis, MIT, Northeastern. Throw a stone and you get an incredible educational institution. That MBA is calling my name.

It’s not the National Mall, but this view will do just fine.

What does this mean:

GFTB Digital will continue to work with our excellent clients in DC. Nothing will change here. We continue to work with some of the best in the business in DC — both on the client side and in our talent cloud of 40+ designers, developers, photographers, and freelance creatives.

GFTB Digital will now begin creating a lot of the collateral, previously outsourced, in-house through an incredibly talented design and development partner firm in Boston. More coming on this announcement towards the beginning of next year. Stay tuned.

But seriously, check out this new amazing logo. Interested in our design/dev capabilities? Drop me a line.

Killer logo from our new design/dev team in Boston. Welcome to GFTB!

I will be moving to Boston by the end of 2017, but will still visit the DC area for client meetings quarterly.

November of this year, #61, will be my last DC Tech Meetup. I hope you’ll come join me for one last hurrah and one last Happy Hour. RSVP here!

500 people, 7 companies, every month. The best meetup on the East Coast.

I will be on the lookout for a great replacement for DC Tech Meetup. Have any great suggestions of someone that you think would be a great addition to the DCTM team? Send them my way!

I will continue to be a 1776 mentor remotely. I have been a mentor at 1776 for the past year and it has been a privilege to mentor dozens of startups on marketing, branding, and business strategy. I will happily continue to mentor young companies and always be there to pick up the phone when you have a question.

I will continue to be an advocate and champion for DC Tech. This is one of the most diverse, inclusive, hard-working tech corridors in the country. I will be sure to talk off people’s ears in Boston about that very fact.

I would love to get coffee with/have a chat with/and get to know new folks in the Boston area, especially in the tech and branding/advertising space. Know someone in Boston tech or the Boston advertising field that would love to chat? Drop me a line.

Sit down, be humble.

Thanks for listening, and as always — sit down, be humble.