2015 in Review


2015 was another incredible rollercoaster of highs and lows. I can’t believe this is the fifth year I’ve been writing an annual review! You can check out previous ones here: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.

In no particular order, here are the top ten things that I’ll remember from this year, both the good and the bad:


Hitting the gym regularly. Here’s the breakdown month over month:

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Visits 2 0 4 13 20 13
Month Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Visits 19 21 15 13 9 18

Since April, I’ve averaged about 16 visits/month to the gym. Overall, I’m glad that I’ve fallen into the routine of working out in the morning before work. Hoping it continues in the new year!


I had planned to run several half marathons this year, specifically the DC Rock and Roll and the Brooklyn Rock and Roll. Unfortunately, I ended up doing neither. In fact, since April, I’ve focused much less on running workouts in favor of more strength training. In the new year, I hope I’ll finally find that balance between strength training while picking back up on a regular running schedule.

Half Marathon Bibs


Bibs from half-marathons I’ve ran in the past. I hope to run more in 2016!


At the beginning of this year, I would’ve never expected that I’d have switched jobs twice in one year — but that’s exactly what happened. In April, I was recruited out of the education technology startup I had been working for the past year and a half and joined a healthcare startup. In November, I was again recruited out of that healthcare startup to join a university. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that something like this would’ve happened, in turn increasing my salary by 60% in just 12 months. I’m glad to say that I’ve found my niche within marketing, and am so thankful to be in a career that I find interesting, challenging and rewarding.


Swag from my new job at the University of Maryland, University College.


I’ve always wanted to start my own business, and when I turned 27 earlier this summer, I set out a goal that by Labor Day 2015, I’d earn my first dollar from consulting work outside of my day job. While I didn’t meet the end-of-summer goal, I did manage to find consulting work with a former employer, and finally got my first payment as a freelance consultant in December!

First freelance paycheck!

My first check as a freelance consultant!


My 2015 travel highlights post (see here) goes into detail on this topic, but suffice it to say, 2015 was another incredible year of travel. I would’ve never imagined that in the past 12 months, I’d be fortunate enough to visit six countries, 28 cities, flown over 100k miles on some of the most luxurious first class products (Singapore Suites Class, Etihad First Class Apartments, JAL Business Class), and do this all for leisure on vacation time. Not only did I travel way more than I could’ve imagined abroad over the past year, I also traveled a lot domestically, visiting Hawaii three times this year, exploring the beaches and lakes of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast throughout the summer, and traveling to California and Chicago. 

2015 Best Nine

My #2015bestnine according to Instagram. Most of which had to deal with travel.

Travel Burnout:

I always thought that there was no such thing as “too much traveling,” especially given how much I enjoy traveling, exploring and discovering new places. Well, without any notice, by mid-November, after a whirlwind three-day trip around the world, I was feeling major burnout from travel. In 2016, I’m hoping to find that balance between continuing to do the thing that I enjoy the most while being mindful of knowing when enough is enough.


I can’t believe I did this routing in just 80 hours.


2015 was a memorable year in driving, for two reasons. The first happened earlier this year down in Australia, where I rented a car in Tassie. It was my first time driving on the left, as well as the first time I’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket. The second reason why driving was so memorable happened just last month, in November, when I purchased my very own car! Again, I would’ve never imagined at the start of this year that I’d have a car, but I’m glad that I made the purchase. Otherwise, I’d have a 2-hour commute each way on my way to work, no thanks.

Driving on the left

My rental car in Tasmania. Looking forward to driving in foreign countries again in 2016.

Jason's Toyota Corolla

My very first car! Hoping to put on some serious mileage and do some road trips with this one in the coming year.

Breaking up:

I learned about relationships this past year, having broken up from my first serious relationship with a guy this past summer. It’s been a slow healing process, but by and large, I’m thankful for all the memories and experiences I had in that relationship. This was definitely the biggest life-learning experience I had from this past year.


A simple reminder that every beginning begins with an end.


I met some amazing people this year, a few of whom that I can already see as being solid friends for years to come. That being said, I do know that I could’ve been a better friend to others, and I’ve lost touch with others, but am hoping to rectify this in the new year.

2015 Friends & Family

A snapshot of some of the wonderful people that I’m grateful to call my friends and family.


Whether I was traveling abroad or somewhere around the States, I was fairly consistent at attending mass every Sunday at least once a month throughout the year. I’ve also continued to practice being more mindful, listening to more instrumental music to help calm and make my mind clear.

Sunday Mass at St. Patricks, NYC

Mass at St. Patricks Cathedral in New York City.


Overall 2015 was a positive year for me. It certainly was filled with challenges, many of which were completely unexpected. Despite the challenges, I can honestly say that this was another fantastic year where I truly lived my life to the fullest. No holding back, no regrets, nothing. Life is such an awesome and crazy adventure, and I can’t wait to see and experience what’s to come in the new year!

MozCon 2014 – Day 3 Recap


Lots to digest over the next couple of days. Here’s what I took away from yesterday’s set of amazing speakers:

  • On Reporting: Be mindful of output versus outcomes. Internal or external clients lose sight of their true goals. It’s your responsibility to challenge the client, and give the client what they want, even if they might not explicitly state it.
  • On Content (Interactive/Data Visualization/Persuasive): Content is important, but context actually is king. Even non-technical marketers can and should create interactive content that’s persuasive and paints a compelling story that relates to the target audience.
  • On Experimentation: Marketing is all about experimentation. Come up with your hypothesis, figure out the controls, launch the experiment and repeat several times to assess the validity and consistency of the experiment’s outcomes.
The conference was definitely worth the $999 I paid as a moz pro subscriber. Looking forward to attending next year’s conference!

MozCon 2014 – Day 1 Recap


I’m currently at my very first marketing conference: MozCon!! Here are my top three takeaways from yesterday’s speakers, from the perspective of a (fairly new) digital marketer:

– On delivering an unforgettable customer experience: keep your promises to your customer first, then make more.

– On building addictive and sustainable communities: create shared experiences that make members vulnerable to one another.

– On a/b testing: make sure to run an experiment multiple times to double check the result is valid and not statistically significant, and make sure your sample size is large enough to see a minimum detectable effect (MDE).

Michael King also had a phenomenal session at the end of the day on back-hacking your way to creating a lead profile for every visitor. Sign up for his new SaaS product, Quantum Lead. It’s free!

Understanding How Cities Grow


Having grown up in a small town on Maui, I vividly recall my first time visiting a city – Honolulu. I was amazed by so many things: the skyscrapers, the freeways, the people, the dynamism and the sense of opportunity that came with being in Hawaii’s largest city. My notions of what a “real” city changed on family trips throughout the U.S. West Coast and British Columbia, and were rocked again when, as a high schooler, I had the opportunity to live for three months in the world’s largest metropolis: Tokyo.

All of this is to say that, I find the structure and design of cities incredibly fascinating. How cities grow, how they function, even how they look, in my opinion, says a lot about the vitality of the region, government policies, and many more. Los Angeles epitomizes sprawl, New York (Manhattan in particular) and Hong Kong exemplify vertical growth, and cities like Vancouver seem to be a combination of both. After finishing up Edward Glaeser’s excellent book on urban development in “Triumph of the City”, I thought about which cities in the developing world could fall into these three categories.

I’ve only been to a handful of cities in China and Malaysia, so my awareness of the composition and structure of cities in the developing world is pretty limited. Shanghai seemed to be a combination of Los Angeles and New York: skyscrapers were everywhere, not just concentrated in one core area; sprawl as far as the eye could see; cars were common, but the busses and metro were always packed. Living in Shanghai was an eye opening experience for me, because I could literally see the rapidity with which cities in the developing world are growing. The pace, though arguably not as high as in years past, is still remarkable when compared to growth rates of cities in the developed world. Back to Glaeser. One of the central points Glaeser advocates is that cities in the developing world will have a huge effect on the world’s ability to manage climate change. In his book, he writes,

“Over the next forty years, India and China will continue to urbanize rapidly. Their decisions about land use will have a huge impact on energy consumption and carbon emissions. If they live at high densities and use public transit, then the whole world will benefit. If they sprawl, then we will all suffer from higher energy costs and higher carbon emissions.”

I couldn’t have agreed more. Urbanization trends in the developing world, particularly in China and India, will have a significant impact on the environment not just in those two countries, but also worldwide. Even if policies that clamp down on carbon emissions are passed in the EU (as they are) or on a case by case basis in North America (as is the case with California’s stringent auto standards), these arguably have only a small impact on carbon reduction than the potential negative effects mass urbanization in the developing world will have on the environment. Development is certainly good, but can it be done in a way that is environmentally friendly, yet still meets the aspirations of millions of rural migrants to cities in the developing world who want their very own home?

As a researcher, I’m curious to see if there has been any research done that looks at examining in depth the question of “building up” versus “building out” on a city-by-city basis in the developing world. I’d imagine that conducting such a comprehensive study would be a pretty extensive, time consuming endeavor; however, the insights gained from such research, in my opinion, would be incredibly useful and worthwhile to know.