29 December 2015

Reflections on 2015

The year 2015 has been a pretty good year nonetheless and I think it is always good for one to reflect on their past year and see where they grew, where they fell short, and to start thinking about changes for the next year.

So what happened?

Here are my highlights of 2015.

Facebook Page Unliker reached #1 on ProductHunt.

The first major milestone I had was having one of my weekend side projects, Facebook Page Unliker, reach #1 on ProductHunt. I wrote a Medium post on the lessons learned from this achievement, and the main thing I learned is that even if an application itself is not polished, people will still use it and enjoy it if it solves a real problem.

Moved to Austin, Texas and started my first job.

In February, I relocated to Austin and started working at IBM Watson. The most challenging part of moving to a new city for me is the social aspect. In the Watson Life team in Austin, I’m the youngest person on the team. The huge age difference between my coworkers and I made hanging with coworkers outside of worker kind of difficult. Luckily, I was able to meet people at local meetups, so if you move to a new city, do not hesitate to use Meetup!

Helped launch Chef Watson.

In the workplace, I was part of the team that helped take Chef Watson out of beta and into GA as a full-stack developer. Working on Chef Watson taught me how to work better on a team and also helped improve my communication skills since the majority of the team is distributed remotely. I have since moved onto a new project, but I have to say that working on Chef Watson was a blast.

Spoke at two conferences, FrontPorch and ThunderPlains.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at both FrontPorch and ThunderPlains about Ember.js and Ember-CLI. While I was extremely nervous speaking at FrontPorch, I still think that both talks went extremely well. It definitely gets easier to speak after your first time.

Launched Two Black Nerds.

I think my biggest accomplishment was launching Two Black Nerds with my buddy Romeo. What started off as just as a collaborative project for us to keep in touch and have good conversation evolved into something actively listened to and appreciated by others. It’s been awesome hearing from our listeners about how much they enjoy our podcast and getting interviewed by ModelViewCulture, and I look forward to recording more episodes with Romeo in 2016.

Volunteered at ROOTs Technology.

ROOTs Technology is an initiative started by my friend TJ that aims to create a space for people of color in technology. TJ asked me if I was interested in volunteering to help teach PoC within Austin how to code. It’s been an amazing experience to see the young and brilliant lives within Austin and how their worlds have changed from being exposed to the world of coding.

Some other secret things ;D

I will say that some awesome things are coming in 2016 and I cannot wait to share the news once the time comes!

Lessons Learned

Upon reflecting on my experiences in the past year, here are my key takeaways.

Your voice matters.

Two Black Nerds has taught me the importance of visibility from people from underrepresented groups in the tech industry. We’ve received emails from people of all ages, some even in high school, stating how they are fans of the show and asking for general advice. Having somebody to relate to is important and why I am a huge advocate for increasing racial diversity in tech.

Work/Life balance is really important.

Seriously, you may want to be the all-star employee that works 60 hours a week and zooms through deadlines, but while that is cool and all, it is really difficult to keep that up without burning yourself out. If you find yourself constantly taking work home with you or staying late in the office, it may be good to talk to your project manager about it and see if you can refine the scope of your tasks better so you aren’t as overwhelmed and/or overworked.

Make friends outside of work.

In addition to work/life balance, there’s nothing wrong with making friends outside of work. In fact, I found this important to do since I am the youngest member of my team in Austin. Go to meetups and meet other developers there, it’s good to have a diverse network of contacts. Being a homebody and not hanging out with anybody outside of work took a toll on my emotional health, so socializing was definitely a good way of keeping myself in good spirits!

Put yourself out there. It leads to new opportunities.

Speaking at conferences took me way out of my comfort zone, but I had a lot of opportunity for growth through that experience. After giving my first talk, I was invited to speak again at another conference, so putting myself out there led to more opportunities. More doors have been opened through speaking at meetups and conferences than I ever expected.

Never stop growing and learning.

Just because I graduated from college, it doesn’t mean that I’ve learned everything that there is to know about computer science, software development, or design. There was still much to learn, both inside and outside of the workplace. Be hungry for knowledge and if you ever feel yourself growing too comfortable, challenge yourself to learn something new. Be a lifelong student.

Get active in some way.

Moving to a job that has you sitting in front of a computer for at least 7 hours a day definitely takes a toll on your body. Since I’m not constantly walking between buildings for classes anymore, my step count reduced to around 3500 steps/day. Whether it’s taking walks around lunchtime or maybe running in the morning/evening, it’s important to get active in some way and take care of your body.

Simple Goals for 2016

I want to use this section to talk more about simple goals of mine in 2016.

Travel more.

Traveling is good for creative inspiration. While I flew to a fair amount of different cities in the United States this year, my goal is to make at least two international trips in 2016.

Relax more.

I was a workaholic in 2015, constantly grinding and not really taking time to truly relax. Given that I’m only 23, I’m still young and I don’t always have to be giving 150%. Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses. 2016 will be the year of relaxing more in my free time.

Invest more.

And finally, I want to invest more. Whether it is time in myself or money into stocks or mutual funds, I want to make more investments in 2016.

Here’s to a pretty good year in 2015. I’m excited for what 2016 has to offer. Happy New Year everybody!