2020 Is a Dumpster Fire Year


I know I’m probably stating the obvious in this post’s title, but this is probably my last blog post for this year, and I feel it’s appropriate. This post isn’t to dump on how crappy a year it has been, but rather one to reflect on what I had achieved this year. Historically I’ve struggled to set realistic goals for myself, and most of the time they end up being very vague and unattainable. I do feel that I did have a few wins this year and unfortunately, I didn’t go through the effort of documenting them at the start of the year.

That said, I’m going to jump into the crappy side of this year first.

The Dumpster Fire

There was a lot that happened:

  • My grandmother passed away
  • Our country went into a strict lockdown early on during the pandemic
  • My father had a near-fatal health scare in the last few weeks
  • Spending way too much time in a tiny apartment

These are just things that had some effect on me personally. People all around me have also had some terrible things happen to them, and Rami Ismail created a website aptly titled Is 2020 Over? with loads of proof that this year was a dumpster fire on a global scale.

The Space Outside the Dumpster

All of the above is enough to leave one thinking we might be better off just calling it a day. I want to do that, but I’m here to celebrate some of my achievements as well.

Writing Regularly

I remember driving to work one day listening to Scott Hanselman’s podcast titled “Hanselminutes”, but unfortunately, I have no recollection which episode it was and who his guest was. If you’re at all interested in technology, I’d highly recommend his content. I don’t read and listen to everything he publishes, but his content is very insightful. What stood out for me was his approach to writing on the regular and having regular podcast episodes.

His approach is quite basic: “just do it”. He has a backlog of ideas that he’ll write about and make time to create as part of his routine. Often we find ourselves “lacking motivation”, but I’ve tried applying this, and I feel it’s helped my writing quite a bit. The “downside” is that my content has become a little incoherent, but I’ve changed my attitude about this. Attitude is vital: Scott doesn’t create content for a specific audience, but rather something for himself. If someone has a question about something, he’ll take the time to write about it once he’s figured it out. He can then easily refer back to his article in the future whenever he or someone he knows has the same question.

My biggest hurdle this year was to get the motivation to sit down and write. The first post I wrote for 2020 was in February, and I tried writing one post at least once a month. I didn’t quite succeed in that, and by my count, this will be post #9 for the year, but I’m still pleased with that. I do think my biggest hurdle has been refusing to write about iOS development on this blog, but I’m starting to think it’s something I’ll have to embrace instead.

It is possibly one thing to think about for next year: remove more friction from the writing process.

Professional Work

This year has been a little bit of a baptism-by-fire professionally. In 2019 I was promoted to Senior Software Engineer, which was a rather large achievement for me. It has come as a huge relief, but little did I realise what it would entail. My whole opinion around what constitutes a “senior” was challenged, and I’ve found myself being much less of a “keyboard cowboy” these days having to put a lot of focused effort into the people on my team. It’s been frustrating at times, and there have been moments that left me fuming over the perceived “incompetence” of those around me, but I’ve had to spend time with my thoughts to challenge my knee-jerk reactions.

I was also thrust into an “interim Team Lead” position when my team lead had to take leave at short notice for a few weeks. The following image summarises the first week perfectly:

I do feel I walked out of the experience having learned a lot, the key being that I don’t think I’m ready to take “lead” responsibilities for such a large group of people yet, but I did see that I can cope and I won’t just crash and burn completely.

We also managed to release a rather large update of the mobile application that ups the “useful” factor by quite a bit. There’s a long road ahead with planned work, but it was a big win for the team.

Lastly, I was part of the first group at Entelect to go through a new training programme called “H4x0r” to get future Technical Leads within the company ready for the role. The counterpart to this is what’s known as “L33t” which is focused more on the Team Lead side. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot. Part of my plans for next year is to actively use the tools we’d been given in these training sessions to help guide the team from a technical point of view.

Sim Racing

I picked up a great new hobby in the form of sim racing. I’ve been very demotivated sitting at my desk to play games, which is purely down to the fact that I was spending my working day in the same space. Sim racing allowed me to change the area and make it feel much less like a “work environment” purely because I had to switch to peripherals that aren’t a mouse and keyboard. This hobby quickly expanded to incorporating a dedicated sim rig, and I’m planning on adding a last handful of upgrades this year to make the pursuit more immersive.

The proudest moment was completing my first endurance race which was a 4-hour race I did with a teammate. We totalled about 2 hours of driving time each and we didn’t finish dead last, which was a big plus. The closest moment to that was completing the marathon commentating session that was the 4 hours of Imola race that Sim Race South Africa hosted. All in this has been a lot of fun, and it’s something I look forward to continuing next year.

We Bought A House

I wasn’t 100% sure I’m comfortable with sharing, but I’m just going to keep it simple. After almost six years of staying in a 44 square metre apartment, my wife and I had finally bought a house. I mentioned that I had spent my days in that apartment ever since the country went into a hard lockdown since late March. It was wreaking havoc on my mood closer to the end of the year, but we have now moved and have spent the last two weeks in our new home. It’s bringing with it a whole heap of projects, but I can finally close a door and switch off mentally from work at the end of the day without having my workspace haunt my thoughts while doing anything else in the house.

Blog Facelift

I had given my entire blog a rather substantial facelift this year. I had long since been unhappy with the Casper theme, which was the default theme for websites hosted using the Ghost content management system. I merely chose the theme to keep things compatible, but it played a big part of what got in my way when writing was all of the extra bits and bobs I had to add just so that the post would look nice. I stripped it all away into the minimalist theme that I’m currently using. There’s still a bit of tweaking I’d like to do, and part of the change was to enable simpler tracking of some of my side-projects, but I’m calling that a failure for now and I’ll have to put some thought into what can improve that.

What Is Next?

I’m not going to spill the beans just yet on what my plans for 2021 will be, mostly because it’s a whole free post I can write for January. I feel it essential for me to write this to look back and be grateful for what had gone well instead of getting caught up in just seeing the dumpster fire. Here’s to trying to end the year on a high note!