Personal look back to 2015

I set 2015 as my learning year. I put much time in learning. From reading books, watching tutorials, practicing programming languages to baby care. I also tried several startup ideas and working styles.

I’m now going to conclude the year.

My name is Alton. I am 100-day old.


I mentioned about what I read in another article.

I didn’t count the exact number, but it is a significant increase from the previous years.

I learned the idea from Brandon Hakim in his Udemy course that books are your mentors. (Let me if you want a coupon code) It is a compression of one’s whole life of study.

Online Video Course

Besides filling with knowledge, one of my major focuses was efficiency. It started with the video course Productivity Hacks. The major insight is to measure what I do daily. I have been using RescueTime for some years. It is a passive software that records the number of hours I spent on each software. It will then categorize them into working and distraction. I somehow find this is not that accurate enough. Say I open up my Chrome all the time, but not showing it. The app will still record as using and count it as distraction.

Thus I learned to use another tool Toggl to measure the time spent in a manual way. I setup tasks for each project, and record per task time spent. Toggl has data collection plugins in browser. It starts the timer in many websites including Google Calendar, Github and other platfomrs. I also found that travelling and having meals took me a lot of time. Thus, I use toggl to track them as well. Now I am clear what kind of activities I spent every day, and use this as a reference to improve my daily routine.

Software Development

As a software developer, I expect to learn a lot of trending technologies. This year is an amazing one for programming. There are many exciting projects. For work reason, I have jumped into React.js, dived deep in Swift, went through MEAN stack, etc. I played with many frameworks and libraries too. In the video project I created for my son. I spent much time in learning the fat framework AVFoundation. These learnings open my mind. There are many young talents out there.

I could learn the materials myself by trial and error, but is is a lot faster if I am taking a lesson from a popular teacher. (Personal Note: I do buy many online courses at seasonal discount)

Baby Care

Another major thing to learn this year is baby care. Our son was born in July 2015. We were anxious at the beginning. The book Flow explains this as having challenges without corresponding skills. We attended a few talks which had many parents. Those were lack of individual guidance. What I decided, was just to say at home more and helped whatever I could do.

Time came and practice started. Day by day, it is getting better. Although something new happens every day, we got the foundations to handle unseen events. The reward I am given are the smiling faces and those memories. I have put together in here and here.


I tried several startup ideas. In January, I left the teaching position at General Assembly. By then, I was trying to push the product Remember made for months. I tried talking to customers for validation. The more I talked, the more I realized that people could have so many habits. The product didn’t work out, but I learned that I could have validated the idea before working on it. The human cost upfront was too high.

Since then, I had to take outsource projects to keep the team. At the same time, I tried to figure out a model to connect entrepreneurs and developers. I took some trainings, attended Founder Institute and participated in Startup Weekend. None of these worked out. Taking jobs is easier than running a platform.

Many people offered opinions, but those did not come into harmony. As pressure arose, I decided to opt out for a while and joined the team at Mind Fund Studio. With a bigger team, I could focus on programming skills, talked less and did more.

Meanwhile, I came out with the idea of making an app for my son, which turned out to be Moments. I finished my alpha build while I was waiting the delivery in the hospital. In fact, I built this within the first few hours there. I waited another 40 hours until Alton was born (more than double of my own record).

Remote Work

As Alton was born, I started working at home. Remote work was my desire for a long time. Now, I have a clear reason to stay at home, to help taking care of the baby. Remote work needs consent from the team. Thanks to the guys at Mind Fund Studio, we could discuss most of the works on Slack. As a development team, we manage our tasks and source code all at one place, Github. I will go to the office twice a week for a quick meeting.

There are several benefits in remote work.

  • I saved two hours of travel time to the office
  • I could work anytime, usually after my morning rituals
  • I could use my rest time to play with my kid
  • I helped my wife in different situations during the day

Family is my #1 priority and the most important to me. I am glad that I make a good choice in staying close to my wife and son, as well as learning so much this year.

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I am building some awesome products myself and with my team. Stay tuned.