Going into this year I had no explicit goals set for my tech career. I was trying to not put too much pressure on myself. If there’s one thing the previous year taught us all, it’s that plans can go to shit when life decides to happen. But I decided I was going to be intentional about the kind of work I did this year and that I would do only work that I enjoyed and that added value to me.
An article found its way to my Twitter timeline earlier this year which supported my idea of not focusing too much on just setting goals for the year. It was an excerpt from the Atomic Habits book by James Clear. Prioritising setting up a system over goals results in a consistent string of activities that help to form a habit that outlives just reaching a goal. Break your goals down into everyday actionable processes.
Whilst not demonising the setting of goals because they do help to plan your progress and provide direction, setting up actionable processes or a system of activities helps to not only reach those goals but also to maintain the momentum after reaching them. Complement the blanket goal with everyday activities that move you closer to achieving the goal.
"The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone."
— James Clear
Okay, enough of the motivational speaker stuff, let’s get into how my tech career fared this year.
I had quit my internship shortly before 2020 ended despite being offered a chance to stay on the team (still as an intern) till school resumed. I initially agreed to stay, but after two months extra I knew it was time to leave. While it seemed like an unpopular decision, I knew what was best for my growth. Besides the fact that I wasn't working on the kind of things I would've loved to, I knew I needed to take some time off for hyper-focused personal development which I didn't have the time for during the internship.
January to June afforded me the type of free time I haven't had since my first year of learning to code, a much-needed "me time". I set out to improve my skillset this year and to achieve that I drew a learning roadmap of things I wanted to get better at. That meant that I would dedicate more time to actively coding for personal development. I had saved up a little from the previous year and had some tangible investments in stocks, so I knew I'd worry less about my finances and not be forced to take up gigs against my will.
I gradually made it through my learning roadmap while going through tutorials and actively coding. I started relearning some concepts in ReactJS, sharpening my backend skills in NodeJS, trying out some animation libraries and React frameworks like NextJS, and building several projects along the way. There was even a time I took up an unpaid project that used NextJS with a friend just so I could work further and get my hands dirty.
By June I could feel my readiness to resume applying for jobs reach its peak. I had worked on several personal projects while going through my learning roadmap in the course of the first half of the year and was pretty confident in my skills at this point. I intensified my efforts in applying for jobs and at the peak of it, amidst several outright rejections, there were two notable applications. I got to the interview stage of one of them (or so I thought 🥲), it was for a Frontend Developer role. My Skype ID was requested so a virtual interview could be set up. But time went by and I got no update from them. I contacted them to know if the interview was still happening or not but got no response. It would’ve been nice at least if they notified me that they had moved on with another candidate before I got my fair chance to interview. 😒
For the second application, I think this still remains the best shot I have ever given a job application. Right from reading through the job post, I knew I would love to work with them, the clarity and detailing of the job role showed that. I had always hated writing cover letters because I never knew what to write, but this particular job post was the most natural I have ever been at writing one.
I saw the above tweet about hacking cover letters earlier in the year and I applied it while writing this cover letter. Someone else also shared their go-to format for writing cover letters later in the year.
Okay, back to my cover letter gist. Writing cover letters can be boring (at least for me) and too formal. I roll my eyes whenever a job application requires one. But this one was different, I wrote it with so much ease within a few minutes and my personality shined through. I followed the guideline given in the job post for writing the cover letter with three main questions to answer. It is up there among the best cover letters I have ever written. You can read it here.
My application caught the attention of the recruiting staff and despite no longer accepting applications, I was offered a fair chance to advance to the next stage which involved a code task. Boy was I elated! This was early August and I had already returned to school. I was given a somewhat simple code task to complete within a day while having some school work due for submission within the same timeframe.
I tried to finish up the task as fast as I could while juggling with schoolwork and even ended up finishing it on my smartphone while in transit. I submitted with some level of dissatisfaction within me, I lowkey knew I had flunked the code task.
Unsurprisingly, the "unfortunately, we’ve decided to move on with another candidate…" email came in. I was expecting that. I knew I didn’t do the code task as well as I would’ve loved to. But I didn’t feel bad at all. Making it past the first stages of these two applications was a huge validation for me, at international companies no less. It would’ve been awesome if one of the applications was successful though, it would’ve made for a great reward to cap off busting my ass off since January, but I was proud of myself still.
I resumed the final session of my Bachelor's degree program in July and it was the most I have ever struggled at school. I constantly felt lost, overwhelmed, and tired. I could feel my grades slipping with each test, assignment, project, presentation, and exam; and I had lost the energy to care or worry too much about it.
One of the things that helped me maintain my sanity was having supportive friends who don’t encourage toxic positivity. We all struggled and it felt good to be able to complain in peace without being told that one was being too negative. We didn’t have to dismiss those feelings or cling to false reassurance. It’s not a bad thing to be positive but sometimes it can be denial in disguise, it doesn’t hurt to admit that things suck at the moment. Having friends with who I shared similar pain points was really helpful, we understood one another’s struggles. Everyone else might think you’re having it easy, but within your circle, there’s mutual understanding and you are free to rant about how much you’re struggling without being hit with the "you’ve got this" line because no, I don’t "got this", I am tired.
Compromising between my tech career and school has always been challenging, I have found it hard to strike a balance. Anytime school is in session, coding takes a back seat in my priorities and this is usually for a great number of months in a year. This has affected how much I've progressed in my tech career. One always suffered for the other. Anytime I prioritised school over coding, my tech career suffered and whenever I prioritised coding over school, my grades slipped. I don't know about others but both activities demand a lot of time and attention and finding a middle ground has been tough, so I would always alternate between the two at different times. My justification was often that school is time-bound, it won't be in my way forever.
Sometime in October, a senior developer I used to work with reached out to me. He had just accepted an offer to join a startup as the CTO and was looking to fill a developer role that was open and wanted me to come join the team. This was great news, but it sadly didn’t work out. I was still in school and the management wasn’t open to remote work (in 2021 😕). Despite the CTO’s efforts and good intentions to bring me on board, it fell through. We hadn’t talked in over a year, so it was a pleasant surprise to have received such an offer from him out of the blues. I really appreciated it.
The thing is that I am quite terrible at keeping in touch with people. Although I am working on that, keeping in touch with people simply for the reason of one day needing a favour from them comes across as being ingenuine to me. But I do think I need to work on my networking skills because the bulk of opportunities I have gotten in my tech career have come from recommendations by people I know. Speaking of networking, this year, I attempted to interact more with some individuals on Twitter whose works I liked. I think I should do more of it to expand and enrich my network.
It was November and I hadn't taken up any paid project in twelve months. My savings had greatly dipped at this point, so I reluctantly accepted a contract development job towards the end of my exams. In hindsight, I think it wasn't a wise decision to have taken up a paid job right after a hiatus from coding and also while writing exams because I delivered really late on the project. I also think it's totally unfair how you take a break from coding and by the time you come back to it you're already forgetting how to do a lot of stuff. I mean, for something that took a lot of effort to know, I shouldn't be forgetting things that easily. I need to speak with the person that made it to be this way. 😑
I had plans of trying my hands on forex and crypto this year, but I didn’t have enough disposable income to try out such highly volatile markets. I made decent returns on my stocks portfolio and although I had to liquidate virtually everything to take care of different expenses (because na who dey alive dey invest 🤕), I am encouraged to sink my teeth even more in these markets in the future. Having an appropriate view of money is important and not being easily swayed, influenced, or pressured by the pervasive greed and stoking of the fear of missing out or "being late" has been a blessing, especially with crypto. Opportunities to make money will come and go, some you’ll miss, some you’ll take, but don’t subject yourself to undue pressure.
Going into this year, I decided I was going to be intentional about the kind of work I did and not worry about my finances. I am glad I was able to stick to that decision, I did work that I enjoyed and that added value to me. Despite how typically anxious I am about this kind of decision, I made it through the year without having to overly worry about my finances. Yay! 🥳
Also, this year, I made peace with the pace of my journey. I no longer felt like I was racing against time to upskill. I stopped worrying about how fast others who started learning to code after me have advanced in their careers in a short time. My journey, my pace.
2022, here we go! 🚀