Ryan Token

One Year at Storyboard

April 29, 2022

Reflections on my first year and a look at what's to come.

Storyboard logo

This week marks one year since I joined Storyboard.

From a high level, it looked like a bit of a leap of faith. I left a larger, more "stable" company for an early-stage startup in the middle of a pandemic. From my perspective, though, it was more a necessity than it was a risk. Yes, I was happy at my previous company, but it wasn't enough. I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to be involved in areas outside of just software, and, most importantly, I wanted out of my comfort zone.

Storyboard has provided all of this and so much more.

I'm learning technologies I hadn't heard of previously; I'm working with the design team, the product team, and even the sales team on features both internal and external; I'm working with developers who know so much more than I do about various aspects of software. It's a feeling that I lost for a while after several years in my previous role, and I love it.

Writing this now, I can't believe it's already been a full year since I joined the team.

The company has grown substantially, both in terms of revenue and team size, but we're careful and sustainable with that growth. See Fast's recent collapse for some insight into why that's important.

My own skillset has seen significant growth over this year as well. With the possible exception of my first year out of college, this is the most I've learned in a single year in my career. From creating our serverless architecture, to going deep on WebRTC and Hypercore, to helping with difficult authentication problems, to learning a new front-end framework, it has been a massive year for me.

These are all areas I'm deeply interested in, but some of them are also areas I did not have much (or any) experience with when I joined the company. I'm convinced that there's something about joining a scrappy, tenacious startup that rubs off on you. Part of me has always been that way, but it was taken to eleven when I joined Storyboard.

Remote At Its Core

Storyboard is fully remote. We have no office, we have no central location. I don't even think we have more than three people living in any given city. We're remote at our core.

I knew that coming in, and I had done plenty of remote work the year prior due to Covid-19, but it was still an open question in my mind as to whether I'd enjoy the fully remote life after a full year of it - knowing that there was no office I would eventually be going back to.

I absolutely love it.

Also at its core, Storyboard is a communication company. We provide asynchronous communication channels. We facilitate idea sharing even, and especially, when the environment makes that difficult. It's clear to everyone who works here that this is Storyboard's heart. We host podcasts with employees, we have regular lunch & learns that we also distribute as podcast episodes, we actively engage in cross-function discourse instead of hoping it happens passively. And the fact that everyone is remote instead of just some of us sets a level playing field.

It's a wonderful environment. And while I do occasionally miss seeing my coworkers in person, the benefits gained from being remote-first are clear and obvious to me. I understand not everyone works the same way, but this role and company atmosphere feels like it was made for me.

What's Next

An important question I'm asking myself now is how will I keep the momentum going for year two?

I have a few ideas that are outside the traditional "keep learning" norms:

1. Produce more internal content

Storyboard is all about podcasting. I run my own podcast outside of work. While I've done my share of episodes internally for Storyboard, there's plenty of room for me to do more. And I have more to say! I've yet to decide whether that be a quick audio journal on what I worked on/learned that day or week, or something else. But more internal content is certainly a priority for me this year.

2. Engage in more open-source software development

I made my first couple of open-source contributions this past year, but none that I would consider significant. I've identified several projects that I love, that impact the work we're doing at Storyboard, and that have maintainers I've either gotten to know or simply respect. The opportunity is there for me to make a meaningful impact in these projects.

3. Reach the "final form" of a full-stack engineer

I'll close with this one, as I have some more to say here.

I've long struggled with keeping up with all of the different "stacks" that a full-stack developer works with simultaneously.

The three stacks I'm discussing here are front-end web development, back-end web development, and, for me, mobile development.

I have no problem staying fresh on two of these areas at a time. I'll always be fresh with whichever piece is my primary responsibility at work, and I'll always be fresh with whichever piece I choose to work on in my spare time. But fitting that third piece in somewhere is where I've struggled in the past.

For the last couple of years I've been most confident in my back-end and mobile skills, but I've lost some of the front-end skills I used to have. Before that, front-end and mobile were my stronger suits, but back-end dropped off. And the pattern continues.

I have all three going right now. I hope to keep that up and take them all to new heights this year. I'm taking on some smaller front-end projects at work while spending most of my time on back-end development. I'm keeping up with mobile in my spare time. I released a native iOS app in October of 2021 (Outrank) and am coming down to the wire on another as I write this.

I think this is the combination that works best for me. Doing mobile development primarily outside of work keeps it fresh and offers a break from the web technologies I typically work with during the day. This change of pace in the tech I work with, I hope, will keep the momentum going as I become a significant contributor in all facets of application development.

So now I'm off to year two at Storyboard. A year that will be full of personal changes and (hopefully) professional fulfillment. I couldn't be more excited to continue working with this team, at this company, at this time. Full speed ahead ⚡️

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