This time of year, I try to look back and reflect on my goals from the last year and set new goals for the following year. I've have got to say though... this year is a pretty hard one to reflect on. I've hit pandemic burnout.
In 2020 I spent basically every weekend above 40 degrees out hiking and powering through my job. I saw my immediately family all the time and a small handful of friends, and things actually felt a little more manageable.
Marked by highs like getting vaccinated and landing a major promotion and lows such as suddenly losing a friend and enduring random lockdowns, this year was a lot. Thankfully this year I also got to spend a lot more time with friends and meeting new people (including a therapist).
Thoughtful & intentional leadership /
Move into engineering leadership
When I wrote this, I was thinking about all of the conversations and meetings I'd been in where it was clear people weren't having a good time. I'd been told on multiple occasions that I was simultaneously over- and under-communicating. I would go into too much detail when it wasn't necessary, and I'd failed to put my gratitude and appreciation for people in words.
I'd say that 50% of my output at work this year was leadership-based outcomes. I did write a lot of code and architect a few different projects, but the truth is that my most impactful work was providing leadership to our organization. After getting promoted to Senior Software Engineer, I took inventory of my responsibilities and found more opportunities to hand those off to other engineers who could deliver them successfully. Allowing me to practice different coaching methods while still achieving similar outcomes.
The product that I'm working on now has emerged organically from about 4 engineering teams. We had 1 big meeting with a few folks from each of these teams, and while we'd spend every meeting talking... nothing ever felt like it got done. I proposed changing up how we organized ourselves, and what our check-ins would look like. The main theme being that intra-team communication should be low-latency and verbose, and cross-team collaboration should be limited and monitored.
Dependencies between teams and customer deliverables became the main focus of our larger group check-ins. Teams were left to their own devices to build the services they were responsible for, and designs were reviewed (when necessary) by an architectural forum.
One of the biggest pain points that led to this was engineers feeling a lack of focus because everyone was always in planning meetings; and those who weren't never really felt like they understood the "big picture" of what we were trying to deliver. Giving the teams more focus and autonomy helped them spend more time delivering and working on internal messaging than when we were trying to figure it all out as a big group.
There were a lot of stressful moments throughout this process, and I'm really pleased things have been working out well. Overall, my takeaway from this is still focusing on over/under communicating. Being intentional about finding opportunities to be more concise and understanding when I might be omitting important details.
Personal note taking & public storytelling
I started really strong with this one, but eventually as pandemic burnout set in I stopped really focusing on note taking. I've been looking at houses recently and one of the main drivers of that is that I'm starting to feel claustrophobic in my apartment. Part of this is due to my ADHD which allows clutter to pile-up without setting off any "CLEAN ME!" alarms until it's way too late. I've noticed that when my desk is near spotless, save for my journal I'll actually pick it up and write a few lines here and there. When clutter does start to pile up my journal is one of the first things to get piled onto and when I don't have much room to write, it becomes an issue.
The space I live in right now isn't tiny by any means, but I do have a lot of large furniture that would make a lot more sense in a house. Something I've definitely thought about though is that more square footage is just more space to make a bigger mess. We'll see.
I do have some interesting notes from this year though, I spent some time writing about the death of one of my friends and the immediate after math of January 6th. I mostly started this because I wanted to write down my feelings on the pandemic for posterity.
Be someone people want to spend time with
I can say that I'm pleasantly surprised with the amount of people I've gotten to hang out with over the last year. There was a brief moment where I actually felt safe going around without a mask on and meeting up with someone didn't feel illegal.
I went on several dates, invited friends over for dinner, went to corn mazes, and even got to go to a fancy dinner hosted by some Top Chef contestants. I am really bad about initiating hangouts, but I'm really good at saying yes to them. I don't really know what is so intimidating about it, but randomly asking someone to hang out has always triggered that "pit of my stomach" feeling.
As the pandemic starts to move towards an endemic, I am hoping to open my doors to new friends (and old) and do my little adventures around the state.