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2016 Year In Review


This review came a bit late for a few reasons, but the biggest reason was that I took more time to think about my year than writing about it.

The other reason I almost didn’t do a review is there’s an extent to where talking about the past year feels a bit like humble-bragging. When I caught up with friends, I’d get asked how things have been. I naturally ended up talking about the thing that has taken up most of my time: work. I got a few sarcastic comments when I shared what I’ve worked on and the recognition I received. It also felt strange to know that while I was doing work I enjoy at a great company, other friends may be looking for jobs.

Anyway, in the end, reflection helps us see how far we’ve come, celebrate what we’ve achieved, see where we could’ve improved, and continue moving forward. So I’m doing one.

(Plus, my friend Roderic and I agreed that we should write out our thoughts to polish our thinking and better communicate our ideas.)

I’m fortunate to say that 2016 did not suck for me. Here’s my 2016 review.

What Went Well

Career trajectory took a big, healthy leap.
I pitched Inbound Sales Day in January 2016 and a few months later I was put in charge of making it happen. This was the biggest learning experience I’ve had working across multiple teams, booking and coordinating speakers, and keeping key stakeholders in the loop.

I received a Remarkable Award in July for exceeding goal then named Marketing Champion in November for successfully launching Inbound Sales Day. I also received two salary and title promotions. While I don’t measure myself based solely on these two things, they’re decent proxies for progress.

Now I’m doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, growth marketing for user acquisition.

Completed Emerging Leaders Program at HubSpot.
The marketing team has an Emerging Leaders program which puts individual contributors through management training, preparing us for future leadership roles. I was part of the second cohort.

Engaged in diversity efforts.
I got involved with People of Color at HubSpot (POCaH), a new employee resource group that works on diversity initiatives. A group of us from Emerging Leaders launched the POCaH Leadership Mentoring Program to (1) create a stronger sense of community and belonging for POC at work and (2) develop a diverse group of future leaders at HubSpot.

Gave back to the community.
I joined the advisory board for United Way Youth Ventures which empowers young people to envision, create, and see the impact of their own youth-led social enterprises.

Gave my first marketing presentation.
I was extra nervous to speak at HubSpot’s Agency Partner Day because (1) I presented results of what my team did and (2) it’s scary presenting to other people in marketing. I was scared of looking stupid but it went well.

Got better at saying no.
But it’s still difficult. I turned away freelancing and job opportunities to focus on my current work.

Education continued.
Besides learning on the job, I finished two courses: General Assembly’s Front-End Web Development course and the Reforge Growth Series.

Strengthened relationships and built new ones.
Boston feels more like home after a year and eight months and I’ve managed to keep my closest friends despite not seeing them often. I’ve also made new friends in Boston and around the globe.

Learned more about my family.
It’s more important for me to better understand my roots and my family’s history. I’ve taken the time to listen to my mom’s stories, ask more questions, read books, and attempt to tie the pieces together.

Traveled more than past years.
Alaska. Dublin. Montreal. New York City. Los Angeles. San Francisco. While some of these places weren’t new, it was a new record for me.

Read 29 books.
I read a lot of books that had a significant impact on my life. See the 8 books I recommend.

Took care of my mental, emotional, and physical health.
I lifted weights, ran, climbed, practiced Muay Thai, cooked healthy meals, and began taking supplements (multi-vitamin, fish oil, and liver health). I continued practicing meditation and stoicism. These two practices have helped me take on a few tough situations in 2016. I’ve continued to inconsistently journal, but enough to get my thoughts out.

Two moments that let me know I’ve been taking care of myself:

  1. On my visit home to California, the first thing my mom said to me was, “You look happy.” My mom has seen me through heartbreaks, depression, and overall self-imposed stress. She couldn’t explain when I asked what she meant. After 25 years, I’ll trust mother’s intuition.
  2. After 3 years, I picked up my badminton racquet and played with 15-17 year-old students and I got a comment that struck me, “Dude, you’re quick.” I don’t consider myself old, but it felt good to know that despite being almost a decade older, I held my own in a game.

How Did I Do?

At the beginning of 2016, I gave the year three themes:

  • Hustle (every year): Always. Be. Hustling.
  • Relationships: As I become more settled into Boston, I’ll meet new people and build new relationships. I want to be intentional about these. Likewise, strengthening my current relationships is a top priority. I don’t want to lose any more friends.
  • Opportunity: As with last year, stretching out of my comfort zone resulted in big opportunities. I have to continue putting myself out there.

Looking back, I can proudly say I was intentional with how I spent my time and stayed focused on those three things.

Onward to 2017

These are not goals, but rather an overview what I’m going to focus on in 2017. Specific goals and metrics will be laid out in a separate document.

Give back.
I will continue giving back locally to students through Youth Ventures and globally through donations based on research about Effective Altruism. I’ll continue getting more involved in diversity in tech initiatives to help more people receive the opportunities I’ve been fortunate to receive.

Build and develop relationships.
Relationships – family and friends, old and new – will always be a priority for me. I’ve understood that relationships are key to community and happiness. It doesn’t matter how successful I am at work if I don’t have people to share my life with.

Exceed goals at work.
The people I respect the most have spent a decent amount of time at one company and had a significant impact that elevated the company. That success translated into more opportunities and more success. I current have that opportunity for impact HubSpot.

Write an essay per quarter.
This will help me develop my thinking and polish my thoughts about marketing, entrepreneurship, science, and effective altruism.

Pick up a side project.
I haven’t decided what this project will be yet – I have a few ideas in mind. It might end up being the essays mentioned above.

Take care of my finances.
I will pay off all my debt by July and continue contributing to my 401k, Roth IRA, and savings.

Maintain my health.
Health is always going to be priority #1. That means blocking out time for myself to read, exercise, meditate, cook, and write and spending time with people who add value to my life and make me happy.

The themes for 2017:

  • Solve the tough problems. I’ve learned that no one has answers to the challenges I’m working on. As I continue to develop my marketing knowledge, I’m going to face more situations where answers aren’t as simple as a Google search. That’s exciting.
  • Have a think. I’ll have to slow down more. Less doing and more thinking before jumping straight in.
  • Give back. It’s important that I do my part to improve the lives of others in my community and around the world. While I’m always thinking about how to do more, this year I’ll free myself up financially to give more time and money.
  • Relax. When I started my career in marketing, I worked full-time in LA, then went to a coffee shop where I would continue to study and work on side projects until 9pm. Every night. I maintained that grind until I got to HubSpot. Sometimes I still catch myself doing it. While I’m getting better at it, it doesn’t hurt to make more time to keep in touch with family, go out with friends, and have more time to myself.

Hello 2017. It’s me.

Previous yearly reviews:


  • Anne says:

    Hi David,

    you may not remember me. we met at the Havard Social Enterprise Conference in May 2016. it was very pleasure to meet you even though we didn’t talk too much at that time. recently, I have read your blog and it is truly inspired me. I feel very happy for you. hope you will keep being this healthy and happy.

  • Peter K. says:

    Two weeks ago I sat down with my parents with a microphone to try and capture their stories before it was too late. I thought I knew their story, but it wasn’t until I started asking questions that I realized that my knowledge of their life was pretty superficial. It was a great experience.

    Love your posts man, keep it up!

    • I know what you mean. I sat down with my mom when I was home and started asking more questions. I learned about my great grandparents (who I had never heard a thing about until now), learned about my mom’s siblings who she doesn’t talk about often, and her experience coming to American. It’s unfortunate we won’t be able to learn everything about their experience. Thanks Peter!

  • Minji Kim says:

    I read your extrovert article and ended up here.
    I love your personal web page, especially the writings! :)
    Keep it up!