2020 Year in Review

2020 was a tough year. That makes it even more important to look for the silver linings and try to stay connected.

I write a private “year in review” every year, and last year I posted parts of it publicly. Now I’m doing the same for 2020. If nothing else, this was useful for myself. Reading this helped me realize that 2020 was not a “wasted” year. It was one of the first years in recent memory that I was not caught up with being busy all the time. I had time to think and focus on what was important, instead of simply moving from one obligation to the next.

Here are some of the highlights:

I got more involved in the Python community

With more free time during the pandemic, I started working on personal software projects. I turned a couple of those projects into blog posts and talks that I gave at PyBay, PyGotham, PyConAU, PyTexas, and a couple local meetups. Those talks helped me practice presenting my work and allowed me to meet some great people in the Python community. More broadly, the projects and talks helped me stay engaged during the first few months of the pandemic when I was barely leaving the house.

I got rejected from some of these conferences earlier in my career, so I was surprised when I got into all of them this year. If anyone wants to submit a talk and needs help, feel free to reach out - I’d be happy to read your proposal.

I also made some modest contributions to the Python Package Index, though I wish I had been more involved.

Python has great technology, but the community and ecosystem have made it easy and fun to keep using.

I started managing a team

In late 2019 I joined Alpha Health when we were a seed-stage stealth startup. It’s been one of the most exciting things I’ve been part of. We’re tackling a huge problem, and I’ve learned so much by simply being here as we raised money, came out of stealth, and grew the team. This year I started managing a team of five software engineers, and I enjoy supporting other people’s projects in this role. I’m still trying to figure out the right way to manage my time - specifically around handling management responsibilities as well as staying close to the code so I can continue to be an effective technical manager long term.

I also helped organize our first Hackathon at work and had a blast doing it. I built a prototype for scaling one of our internal services by deploying it on Lambda.

I did another triathlon and a metric century

I was hoping to continue off of last year’s momentum and do more triathlons this year, but then the pandemic happened.

Nevertheless, my friend and I created our own triathlon course in San Diego. We swam in Mission Bay and cycled and ran around parts of the bay.

I also did a metric century (100 kilometer) bike ride in the Bay Area.

68 mile ride through the East Bay

This year I hope to do a full century (100 miles) or another organized triathlon if it’s safe.

I read more books

Another consequence of having more time on my hands was that I read more books this year, instead of Twitter and blog posts. That was a nice switch because:

  • Twitter is an easy time sink. Only 5% or 10% of the content in my feed is useful, and it’s difficult to separate the signal from the noise.
  • I learned more by going deeper into a few topics instead of scrolling Twitter.

That said, many business books only have one point to make, and just repeat it with a new anecdote every chapter. Books are also not great if the content goes stale quickly, e.g. for a book about surveying the state of technology in a field.

Here’s what I read in 2020:

Compared to previous years, I read less about biology in 2020 and started reading some philosophy instead. I loved Algorithms to Live By and I struggled to get through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I started playing chess again

This was a last minute addition. Chess was one of my favorite hobbies growing up. I’d played some casual games here and there over the years, but haven’t played a tournament since 2009. Inspired by Queen’s Gambit, I started playing regularly over the past month. It sounds like I’m not the only one. Picking up chess again has been so frustrating because I’m making lots of mistakes and tend to be hard on myself. I’m hoping to tone back the competitiveness and treat it more as a lifelong hobby.

Thanks for reading! I’m wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2021.