Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reflection and Resolution

Happy New Year! Another year has come and gone. I always start the year thinking about what I am going to do different, bigger, better...yet never about what I've done or learned during the past year. I thought this year I would do that, reflect, and get an idea of what if anything I need to change. Because how can you know where you're going if you don't know where you've been?

Picture of me with our new class 3 product
I work as a designer for a start up fuel cell company. We design and manufacture fuel cell systems to replace lead acid batteries in all different kinds of fork lift trucks. Most of what I do is packaging, placing all the components and arranging them in a way that they will all work properly but also fit into a predetermined space. To put it more simply, fit 10 pounds of shit into a five pound bag. And it has to meet certain weight requirements, it can't be too light. There are many other requirements but you get the's not easy. This year was a big year for our company. We made a lot of public promises to investors and share holders. We were also launching two new platforms that will eventually take over or complement existing ones, make changes to current platforms, as well as design and build several low volume or engineering special units. Insanely busy does not begin to describe what this past year has been like for me. I don't believe I have ever worked this hard on a product in my entire engineering life...lots of long hours and late nights in front of the tube for me. As difficult as it all was I am amazed as I sit here and type of what we were able to accomplish. Sure the system isn't perfect and it could be cheaper but we did what we set out to do. In less than a year we designed and built a fuel cell system, based on an entirely new type of fuel cell stack, that is a drop in replacement for a lead acid battery...and it works. Had you asked me if this were possible in January of last year I would have said no way...impossible, and we actually didn't start the real design work until late February. Now certainly I didn't do this on my own and this victory belongs to everyone that worked on this project. This past year at work has taught me what a small, dedicated group of individuals is capable of doing regardless of the issues and problems that arise. We shipped more systems this year than we have ever before and we are on our way to becoming a profitable company this year. So I look back and say "well done."

On the boardwalk in Wildwood Crest, NJ
Life at our home last year was difficult, strenuous, joyous, hilarious, etc. just like most other families. But with my wife in school full time to be a Nurse Practitioner and two kids, a 3 year old and a 8 year old, it was extra hectic. Trying to balance work with my wife's busy school schedule and the kids school and extra curricular activities was difficult and left little time for anything else. Looking back now I am like "how did we do it?" My wife had one of her best semesters yet and made the dean's list with a 3.41 GPA, what we needed to get done at work got done,  the kids made it through all of their commitments okay, we were able to vacation beach side for a week, and I was able to get away to go riding for a long weekend with some of my best friends.  How did we do it? We just got it done. I think the big reason it worked is that my wife and I were in agreement with what had to be done, we discussed it, planned it out and executed as close to the plan as possible. Yeah it was crazy but as a family we had a great year. Another "well done" from me.

Mountain Biking
At the trail head for Cunningham Park Mountain Bike Trails
Obviously with everything else going on, biking had to take a bit of a back seat to other more important things. But looking back, I am not sure it did...well maybe a little. Local riding was definitely less because when I was around, I was busy at home. But I did get to do quite a bit of out of town riding, more than I realized. I traveled quite a bit to Long Island this year to visit family, usually it was a quick overnight trip and didn't involve me bringing the fam so I brought my bike. On the way down I would ride Cunningham Park in Queens, NY it's just off the Clearview Expressway and Glacier Ridge in Farmingville, NY which is maybe 10 minutes from my sister's place where I usually stay. I was also able to get up to Highland Mountain Bike Park in Northfield, New Hampshire for an overnight and was able to stay over two nights in East Burke, Vermont to ride at the Kingdom Trails which was actually a surprise birthday present for me from my wife. Best present ever! Also was able to meet up with friends and ride Pine Hill Park in Rutland, Vermont which was a perfect spot for a day trip. The local riding I did do was basically Schenectady Central Park and Colonie Town Park, mostly at lunchtime, sometimes meeting friends but mostly solo rides. So yeah, I didn't get up to ride SMBA as much as I wanted, or out to Schodack or even the Capital MTB Wed. night rides, but I still did okay and can't complain.

Everyone should have at least a few because let's face it, no one's perfect. And what better time to make a change than the new year. We can all use a fresh start. So here are mine...

  • Continue to be a positive contributor at work because ultimately their success is my success.
  • Be a better husband because a happy wife means a happy life.
  • Be a better father because my kids deserve the best.
  • Exercise for a least 30 min everyday. This is not only good for me health-wise but exercise really helps my mood. Good mood = fun dude.
  • Ride more. This also helps my mood but it is probably the exercise portion that accounts for most of it. Yet I know I would not feel the same had I walked or ran on treadmill. Maybe just being outdoors is good for you.
  • Ride someplace new. Last year I rode two new places, Highland Mountain Bike Park in New Hampshire and Pine Hill Park in Vermont. Both amazing places and both very different. there is so many places I have not ridden in the NorthEast so we'll call this kind of a bucket list.
I guess I am not going to change as many things as I thought, just do more of the same. I think I am on the right track. Unfortunately this year didn't start as well as last year. While visiting my family on Long Island, I did pick up a cold and I am still sick. But I did open up relations with my brother who I haven't spoken to in about 8 years, that's a long story, and also got in touch with an old friend where we just happened to fall out of touch and thankfully no bad blood there. Maybe I'll add one more to my list...
  • Keep in touch with friends and family.
Here's to another year of awesome family fun and riding!