What Now & What's Next
3 min read

What Now & What's Next

I quit my job at the tail end of February, 2022.

Like many people riding the wave of the great resignation, it was bittersweet and both the hardest and the easiest thing I’ve ever done. But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb likes to say, “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”

I took on my first job when I was fourteen or fifteen. I spent years in the restaurant and hospitality world, then moved over to the corporate world.

I had some false starts in journalism and then hit a stride working in the overlapping spaces between product, marketing, engineering, design, and sales. I grew by taking on the jobs no one else wanted because they had low probability of success or didn’t have the fancy name/title. But eventually I figured out how to turn lemons into lemonade.

That's when I got to the fun stuff. Repositioning company product lines. Leading corporate digital transformations. Building out new departments, and rebuilding existing ones after they imploded. Running multi-million dollar, high-ROAS campaigns.

But all of that was in pursuit of someone’s else’s dream, vision, and goals. It felt like a dead end. I was ready to pursuit those things for myself, and to learn more along the way. So I quit.

Here’s what’s next:

Dragon Blood Balm

In 2018, my best friend and I started Dragon Blood Balm as a small product dream chased during nights and weekends. We produced it at home, sold it both locally and online, and hand-labeled every product unit, every order. But it grew. The second year in business, we grew 65% YOY. The year after that, 198%. The next year, another 100% on top of that. We were completely self funded so the actual revenue weren't huge, but the trajectory was there.

We’re in our fifth year now and I knew that to keep growing (and supporting our operations), it would take more than what “nights and weekends” afforded me. That’s why I’ve stepped up to manage our product growth and expansion full time as Co-CEO. I'm excited about this journey, especially as we push deeper into wholesale distribution and scaling up production.

Making and selling physical products is nothing like building software and comes with its own learning curve and rewards cycle. I intend to share those learnings here.

Throughout my career, I’ve kept pushing myself to learn new skills and take on new challenges. In that process I’ve built tools, automations, guides, and templates that have helped me scale my work.

Coming into each job and into each project, I’ve found myself relying on battle-tested processes and templates, and found myself sharing out scripts and automations that I’ve been writing for myself — to colleagues, friends, and open sourcing some of them.

Today, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be working on generalizing and scaling these tools and best practices for anyone to use at https://www.recommended.systems. We’re launching in June 2022, so stay tuned!

Error States

In late 2019, I launched a small blog for a particularly niche interest: taking pictures of public broken digital things, what I called "Error States". Whereas most public infrastructure was resilient, this new “digital infrastructure” was fragile and temperamental. It constantly broke in very interesting and insightful ways. This led to documenting the examples I came across, and eventually into writing about public digital infrastructure resilience, fail-back planning, and of how to design for where the physical world and the digital world overlap.

As "digitalness" invades more and more of our physical world (everything has a computer embedded in it nowadays – from roads and signs to your appliances and toys), we need to think critically about how to design those computers, algorithms, and interfaces for durability and maintenence over time. It's something I haven't seen too much written about by practicing experts or in academia and I'm excited to keep organising some of the knowledge and examples of this.

I’ve got more than a few longer blog posts in the works and a large archive of posts that I’m excited to work through over the next few months, as well as a vision for how these come together into a much bigger picture — maybe a book on digital public infrastructure?

Of course, there’s more in the grab bag of projects, bets, and experiments I’ll be running. This includes writing more, reading more, and constantly working on being a better human being to my family, friends, and anyone I interact with. I'll continue to publish close reads here, as well as case studies on learning and 'businessing'. But I’ll get to those when the time comes.

When Corto Maltese was a young boy, his mother’s friend read his hands and was horrified to find no fate line across his palms.

Like any proper comic book character, he took a razor blade and made his own fate line across his palm.

I likewise quit my “job” to focus on writing my own story. Some of these things may work out and others might not. But that’s the exciting part. The future isn’t pre-written. It’s actively being made every single day.

Stay tuned,

Roman K.
April 19, 2022

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