Alex Kondov

2019 Year in Review

December 30, 2019

When I sat down in January I had quite the ambitious goals of where I want to be personally, professionally and spiritually in December. Looking back at them I could’ve gone a little lighter on the to-do list. I’m not fully satisfied with how the past 12 months went but I try to look at every failure as an opportunity to learn. This year brought me a lot of knowledge the hard way.

What went well

Moved away from pure UI engineering

I’m a big fan of front-end development and I have a soft spot when it comes to working on UIs. However, my new job moved me away from a purely UI role and more into a generalist position. I was a bit worried whether that would be the kind of work that I enjoy but in the end the decision paid off.

I managed to expand my knowledge of software engineering by diving in topics like distributed systems (Microservices), infrastructure (Kubernetes, CI/CD) and cloud technologies (AWS). There were some days in which my brain was so smashed from taking in information that all I could do was go home and stare at the wall.

Reading

I managed to read some really good books that changed the way I see the world - Atlas Shrugged and Flowers for Algernon were the two most impactful. Principles by Ray Dalio provided valuable insights when it comes to creating a successful company culture and making decisions beyond your intuition. I read a whole bunch of technical books - High Performance Browser Networking and Game Programming Patterns stand out. I stopped reading The Wheel of Time 5 books in - I understand why everyone loves the series but it just wasn’t my story.

Self Development

I started training early in the morning on an empty stomach and felt a significant difference. When I go to the office I’ve already done something for myself and feel more energised and confident. The fact that I’ve done something beneficial in the early hours of the day gives me a small win that sets the mood for the rest of the day.

I’m spending more time with friends and close people establishing meaningful relationships. Last but not least - I started journaling and writing short essays. Most of what I’ve written probably won’t see the light of day but improving your writing pays off well in the long term.

What didn’t go well

Lack of Focus

As my little sister told me: “You’ve got good ideas but you don’t stick to them”. Throughout the year I started multiple side projects and materialised ideas but I didn’t stick to them. I started my personal blog at the beginning of the year with the hope of publishing an article every week but that didn’t come to fruition. I was working on a podcast that got abandoned. I made a couple of YouTube videos and didn’t continue with my vlogging career.

I was trying to work on many things at once and in the end I didn’t produce significant results in neither of them. I learned that I’m easily distracted by new opportunities and don’t take the time to fully explore what I’m doing at the moment. Nothing brings results without going into depth and putting in the time and work required. If I try to focus on everything I focus on nothing.

Lesson learned - Pick one focus area and leave everything else on the sidelines. Stick to it for at least an year to see results. For me this is writing.

Didn’t complete a side project

I had multiple ideas for side projects at the start of 2019. Sadly, those goals didn’t come to fruition. When I was writing an app I fell into the trap of working on tooling and infrastructure rather than the actual business logic. I spent a couple of months over-engineering the setup in which I wanted to write the project but in the end it was so convoluted that I had no desire to do anything in it.

I picked new technologies that I didn’t know well with the idea of learning them. This was a bad decision because I wasn’t productive and I spent valuable time on reading documentation and GitHub issues as well as resolving problems. When you are on the bleeding edge it’s you that is bleeding.

Lesson learned - If you plan on shipping pick the boring technology that you know well and are productive with.

Procrastination

I’m not a fan of the term procrastination because I believe it’s just a symptom of a different problem. When we are faced with a challenge we have no desire to tackle our mind finds ways to get us distracted. So instead of doing the unpleasant activity we watch a YouTube video, browse social media or clean our desk. I’ve taken up reading and watching self development content as a form of procrastination whenever I have to do something I’m not excited about.

It took me some time to realise it because I felt like I was doing something useful for myself. However, I was just postponing my actual work by tricking my brain that this is still something beneficial for me. The bad thing about binging self development material is that we can reap the rewards only if we apply the mentioned principles. We don’t gain much just by reading about insights and useful practices.

Lesson learned - Don’t use self development material as a procrastination mechanism and create more than I consume

My plans for 2020

My theme for the the next 12 months will be about going back to basics. I intend on writing more, sharing my work, meeting with new people and creating meaningful relationships. I usually take the first days of the new year to formulate my goals and intentions. This year I plan on sharing them somewhere on the blog so they can be public.

I plan on starting a podcast about the intersection of programming and philosophy. It’s going to be called Code Philosophy and I’m working on it right now. The plan is to create 10 episodes in 2020 that will dig deeper into software engineering topics. The more we ask the question “why” the better we understand. The better we understand the wiser we become.

Engineering is a logical and practical field but often there is no right answer or solution. Those are the most important yet difficult decisions that we have to make. In the podcast we will try to broaden our perspectives, get more context and understand the philosophy behind modern software engineering. I’ll keep you up to date in the newsletter.

Thank you for being a reader

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Alex Kondov

Alex Kondov

I write code during the day, stories at night and lift weights in between. I blog about programming and philosophy. You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.