Goal Reviews: Q2 ’13


A lot has happened since I’ve last updated. Let’s see how I’m progressing on my 2013 goals:

  • HSK: no progress.
  • GMAT: no progress.
  • Half-marathon: Finally signed up for one later this year, but have only loosely stuck to my running schedule.
  • Blog monthly: I have a bunch of unfinished drafts, but haven’t posted any.
  • Attend mass monthly: the only goal that I’ve been able to maintain all year!
So clearly I haven’t maintained focus on most of my goals. After keeping a log of my goals for the past two years, I’ve realized that goals, like everything else, are often subject to change. During the past couple of months, I’ve spent a lot of my time: 
  • Day job. It’s been a hectic couple of months, but I’m glad that I’m at a place where I’m still being challenged on an almost daily basis.
  • Freelancing. I finished my engagement with the Philippine-based foundation several months ago. Haven’t worked on anything else since then, but hoping to gradually build up a client base.
  • YPFP. It’s been a series of transitions and growing pains since I’ve began volunteering with YPFP. At times, I’ve questioned my involvement. Overall though, I truly believe in the organization, and I know I (as well as everyone on staff) can accomplish great things. Now it’s just finding the time, resources, accountability and motivation to ensure things get executed!
That covers it from a professional perspective. Now, for the fun stuff! 
  • Paid off a student loan! Still quite a ways to go, but progress is progress!
  • Traveling. Went on several road trips (Southern California, New York), visited a couple new cities (Toronto, New Orleans), and have gone to the beach several times this summer (Jersey Shore, Long Island).
  • Concerts. Have a slew of concerts lined up over the next couple of weeks through October, including my favorites: Justin Timberlake and Electric Zoo.
Overall, it’s been an exhausting past couple of months. There are some things that I wish I could be doing more of, like catching up on my reading list, bringing my business idea to life and sleeping, but I can honestly say that these past few months have been incredibly rewarding and fulfilling in a way that I haven’t felt in years. That, I think, is a good thing! 

Goal Reviews: Q1 ’13


Time certainly goes by fast when there’s so much going on! Let’s see how I’ve stacked up against my 2013 goals:

  • HSK: I haven’t cracked open any Chinese textbook so far this year.
  • GMAT: I bought some Manhattan GMAT prep books in January. Only completed the first of 10 prep books.
  • Half-marathon: I maintained a loosely defined schedule for the first two months, running at least twice a week, but stopped training. I’ve yet to sign up for a half-marathon this year.
  • Blog monthly: I failed to keep this one up too! Completely missed posting anything last month!
  • Attend mass monthly: So far so good!
So clearly I haven’t gotten around following through on my goals for the year so far. This, I believe, is in large part due to a couple new commitments that I never would’ve even though could happen just four months ago. Here’s what has been going on:
  • Freelancing for a social impact organization: Since February, I’ve been freelancing for a Philippine-based foundation, an opportunity I discovered through a contact via StartingBloc! As a Filipino, working with this organization is particularly meaningful for me. So far the experience has been one of growth, most specifically on figuring out how to manage client expectations.
  • Volunteering for YPFP: Since late January, I’ve been volunteering with YPFP, a DC-based non-profit that seeks to build the foreign policy leaders of the future through knowledge, skills, exposure and relationships. I’m a volunteer on their marketing team, where I’ve been able to use the skills I’ve learned at CEB and APCO to execute on a variety of recommendations. As this position is much more formal and professional in nature than the freelancing opportunity, so far this experience has been one that’s tested my time management skills, as well as figuring out how to coordinate and execute on cross-silo projects within a primarily virtual, volunteer-based organization.
Both these commitments, as well as increasingly more work and responsibilities at APCO, have tested and pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways, which I am truly grateful for. Here’s to another productive and rewarding next three months!

2013 – The Year Ahead


Time to start thinking about my goals for next year. After my mixed success with goal-setting for this past year, I’m going to try and make these ones as specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) as possible. Lets go!

Need to happen:

  • Pass the HSK Level 5. I really want to have an official document that demonstrates my proficiency. I found this great website called Skritter to help me practice my Chinese and it’s going well so far. I’d like to sit for the Level 5 by December. Before that though, I hope to test the waters and sit for the Level 4 exam by June.
  • Get at least a 720 or higher on the GMAT. I’m not sure when I’ll head back to grad school, but I eventually want to earn a joint MBA/MA. Hope I can get this out of the way by June.
  • Run a half-marathon. This has been a goal for three years, and it still hasn’t happened. I’d like to run the Philly Half-Marathon next November. Before running the Half, I plan on doing a couple 5/10/15k races just to get comfortable running in a race. Relatedly, I hope to hit the gym at least once a week for strength training.
  • Blog at least once a month. In addition to this blog, which will continue be mostly a log of my ongoing projects, I’m thinking about starting another blog focused on the challenges of urbanization. Hope I can get that off the ground!
  • Go to mass at least once a month. I don’t think I’ll really have any problems getting this one done.

Want to happen:

  • Learn Python and R. Related to my coding goals from last year, but with more focus. I’d like to be competent enough to make at least one submission on Kaggle by October.
  • Dive deeper in HTML/CSS/JS. I launched a landing page earlier this fall, but quickly realized I really have no idea what I was doing. For now, that project is shelved. Hope to continue practicing by completing more modules like those on CodeAcademy or on Udemy.

The Year I Began to Code


One of the most challenging goals I set for myself this year was to learn to code. As a business and policy wonk, I’d never had any experience whatsoever with coding. Like math (something that I’m completely terrible at), coding seemed like this huge mass of knowledge too confusing to understand. Why bother learning something as difficult as coding?

A couple reasons compelled me to actually start coding. First, CodeYear did a great job with marketing their efforts. It seemed like everyone and there mother was making 2012 the year they’d learn to code, and Code Year was going to make everyone coders. Second, I’ve always had an interest in innovation and technology. Learning to code, in my perspective, seemed like a natural progression. Third, and most importantly, is that I viewed coding as a way to make products – in the form of applications – for public consumption.

It’s been a year, and I’ve certainly learned a lot. I’ve yet to launch a fully operational web application, but I can honestly say that 2012 definitely was the year that I began to code. After a year of starts-and-stops, here are my three takeaways from a year trying to learn to code:

1. Know why you’re doing it. I began coding because I wanted to have the ability to create great products for users. It was hard to keep this in perspective though, when I was struggling with just the basics. I think what kept me going throughout all those long hours spent in front of the screen was the fact that I genuinely actually did like the process. Specifically, I liked the fact that coding was about problem solving, it allowed for a lot of creativity, and it was just plain cool being able to create something!

2. Persistence. If you’ve got a good reason (the more reasons the better), stick to it. It helps when you have clear goals so as to have clear indicators of progress. For me, this was relatively easy since I was working through courses.

3. Know when to quit. If you haven’t already, check out this great speech by HBS Professor Deepak Malhotra on quitting early and often. It’s a little lengthy, but essentially Prof. Malhotra argues that if things aren’t working out, quit. Obviously, quitting is pretty much the opposite of being persistent, but I think it’s all about context. When in doubt, re-evaluate and act. For me, even though my coding goals were vague beyond completing a course or module, I never gave up because I found coding fun. If it isn’t fun though, or there aren’t any pressing reasons to continue, quit.

So, those were the three takeaways that come to mind as I look back on this year when I began to code. I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to develop my coding skills in the new year, but I’ll definitely need to solidify my coding goals going forward. Here’s to hoping that 2013 will be the year that I take coding from just a side hobby to something more!