Overall 2016 was a good year for me. Here’s some thoughts on stuff that happened and what I’ve learned from all of it.
This was by far the most demanding year I’ve had at work. I started the year off with accepting more responsibility (I was made the Team Lead for one our internal products) and that has turned out to be one of the most interesting learning experiences this year. This gave me an interesting glimpse into the organizational side of things and kind of forced me to start looking at the bigger picture of where our team was going. It also helped me improve some of my non-technical, organizational, skills like estimates, scope, and time management. More than anything it forced me to prioritize what I wanted to/had to devote my time towards, especially when it came to communication. Email still sucks.
The negative effects of context-switching are something that are often talked about in the developer world. What is it? It’s when you’re working on one thing and are required to immediately put it aside and work on something else entirely, thereby interrupting the flow you were in. It might be a meeting that’s scheduled or it might be your boss asking you to deliver something else first. It happens, and until we get to a point where no manager ever requests you to immediately switch contexts and you never get scheduled for a random middle-of-the-day meeting ever, we’re just going to have to get better at it. Taking on more work has put me in a situation where more people need stuff from me. So I’ve found myself having to switch focus a lot this year. I’m still not great at it but something I’ve learned that helps is to make a short list of ‘pending/next items’ on the task that you’re working on before you put it aside. This has helped me get into it faster when I do return to it later.
Most of the code I wrote this year has been for work but I did start getting into Android near the end of the year so more to follow on that in the coming months. I’m hoping to have more time this year.
Something I’m really happy about is that I’ve been playing a lot of football (soccer) again. I found a group that plays pickup on weekend mornings and I try to go most games. I found this group pretty late in the year (around August) and ended up playing in one of the leagues they had going from September to November. I also played my first sub-zero temperature game so that was fun.
I’ve volunteered a lot more this year, especially teaching kids coding once a week. What I’ve learned is this: being a good teacher, with the right balance of strictness & fun, is really hard. It’s amazing how quickly you realize this when you start teaching kids. I have a newfound respect for teachers. I’m a little unnerved by the amount of access really young kids have to screens but also amazed at how fast they learn how to use tech.
This year, I’ve had some interesting interactions with people on really hard and touchy subjects – politics, race, privacy, the role of media vs. citizens etc. Most of these interactions happened in person and the general sentiment has been that the digital platforms we’ve built are no longer the grounds for intellectual discussion that we’d hoped they’d become. I still believe that they can be, but it is up to us to put forth the kind of discussions we want to have. Whether we simply propagate our beliefs or we actually seek to understand is something in our control and no amount of blaming an ecosystem is going to really change that. This is something I get more skeptical about everyday but there is still hope.
I put traveling on a hiatus near the end of the year. I got a little disillusioned and tired of it and I want to take some time to understand what I want out of it before I start again. I’ve talked to a lot of people about why they travel and the general answer is to experience new cultures but new cultures are also available within a block’s distance. And with the current political climate it may actually help to connect with the cultures in our communities. Despite all this I did manage to go to 15 cities, mostly to see friends and families.
Some Fun Numbers
I mostly calculated all these off of memory – save for the books which Goodreads tracked here. This has got me wondering if there’s an app to easily keep track of this…
|13||Books I read this year|
|5||Poems I added to a poetry collaboration Chris and I started last year|
|12||Poems we added in total this year|
|33||People I learned something from or had a good time with (caveat: only people I met in person this year and spent at least a few hours with)|
|15||Cities/places I visited|
|1||Podcast finished (How I Built This, NPR)|
|18||football matches played|