Ramblings on Being a Senior Newbie

My 60th birthday was a couple months ago. Feels odd to write that, but also feels “right”. What I mean is, I don't think of myself as "a senior”. But when I consider that Bev and I have been married for 33 years, that our kids are in their thirties, and we have a grandson - the label doesn't exactly not fit. And there's a face in the mirror each morning - somehow familiar but at the same time, a little strange. Year counting and physical changes aside, I feel like, and am, a newbie on so many fronts. The feeling is so constant, I sometimes forget to feel shame or embarrassment.

A bit over a year ago, in preparation to launch Sisyphus into people's homes, I had to translate the computer code that runs it, from C code I wrote 20 years ago, to JavaScript. "JS" is the most popular tool these days for web development, and rapidly gaining for creating mobile apps. I work with a lot of "kids" (in their 20's and 30's) at our makerspace, and they all were adamant that people would expect Sisyphus to have an app (including our son, a Stanford Computer Science grad and now CTO of a start-up in San Francisco). Javascript was the clear choice. It was a painful experience - much has changed since the era of DOS, when your computer only did one task (more or less) at a time. And one night, in the depths of frustration, I was at the point of giving up - "Maybe I'm just too old for this shit!" (something I'd never before considered when it comes to anything tech).

But the next morning I picked it back up, and finally got how "callbacks" work. It was worth the effort. So add another layer of humbling newb-ness to my collection - now all the programming I do is JavaScript. While my skills are significantly “junior” to those of the developers we hire, they can now use my code far more easily to build our wireless control apps. And I can understand, to certain degrees, what the hell they are doing.

Shortly before our Kickstarter campaign ended, Bev and I formed Sisyphus Industries LLC - mostly, to prepare for 1.7 million dollars to be wired to a bank account in our names - a month and a half before the end of the year. Though I'd read that the IRS considers KS revenue as income, we hadn't considered receiving quite so much and the potential tax ramifications. New to the world of business, we rapidly became intimately acquainted with all sorts of new and important terminology: 'fiscal tax year', 'accrual method', 'employee vs. contractor', 'workers comp insurance', and on and on. Many an evening I've returned home from the SI shop to find our CFO (Bev) exasperated after spending an entire day online and on-phone with the many software companies whose products we use to keep track of, and comply with, all the details and rules. I help her battle through, and though maybe not an "expert" yet, she's starting to feel relatively on top of things. It's a great joy to see her embracing newb-hood into her 60's as well.

“IoT” – Internet of Things – is now the next “big” thing. Accept this or not, the number of things that are “connected” is growing exponentially. While the buzz over IoT is not new (think Nest, Alexa, ...), things in the home that are connected to the Web and actually move, are still rare. That will not be for long. Sisyphus is not the first, but it is definitely something new. What exactly that is, is an open question at this point. But Bev, Micah and I do not view it as just a successful Kickstarter. Once thousands of people experience living with Sisyphus in their homes, the real feedback begins and we learn whether we are right in our thinking about its (and our) future. We can't be sure until this feedback comes, but one thing I know – if I were 30, my goals would likely be different. Being 60 puts a different spin on it - a clarity, for which I am grateful.

Bruce ShapiroComment