Reflection On 2020

A reflection on my software career in 2020.

tl; dr

Not too bad actually. I moved into proper sotware development, achieved my fitness goals, properly managed a work/life balance, and even got myself a new job.

What went well

Even though my year went very well, I feel obligated to point out the dichotomy between how drastically my life was improved by COVID-19 and how it negatively impacted so many others.

Millions of people have died so far to this disease. Countless people have become ill and continue to deal with lingering symptoms far after fighting the sickness off.

I do not want to gloss over the impact that COVID-19 has had on the world. As a person in the Canadian tech industry, I am part of the vanishingly small proportion of people that truly benefitted from the pandemic.

As a result of work from home orders, I have more free time to enjoy my life, I save a significant amount of money due to not needing to commute, and I’m actually able to concentrate in silence on my work without having colleagues come up to my desk or needing to listen to my neighbour’s phone calls.

Not having to commute to work is an enormous boon to my life. My quality of life as a result has improved enormously, and I do have a tinge of guilt about it due to the far greater human suffering that COVID-19 has wrought upon humanity that outweighs my personal benefits.

On a positive note, it is an impressive feat that the turnaround time for a vaccine against this disease took less then a year. In a few months it is expected that herd immunity will be achieved in first world countries. At least there is light at the end of the tunnel now.

Career knowledge and skills

I studied pretty hard this year. My greatest period of learning was when a recruiter for a $FAMOUS_MEGACORP reached out to me to interview for their team. I decided to do the phone screens without any preparation at all, and then to my surprise I passed them. Then the recruiter gave me a rundown of what the onsite will be and I really got into studying mode to try to pass it. I ended up failing, but there was dignity in the endeavour.

Generally, my knowledge of operating systems, networks, programming, and modern tooling such as Kubernetes has increased dramatically. And should continue to reap rewards as I focus on fundamental understanding as opposed to following patterns set by others.

This is also the year where I finally got to prove my worth as a software developer, and not as a “devops engineer” (interchangeable with buzzword titles such as SRE, Production Engineer, or Infrastructure Engineer). I independently took on large feature projects for my company and wrote code to handle reliability and maintainability issues that applications were facing.

When I compare my knowledge and confidence level today to where I was last year, I can definitely see a huge improvement. Though it is important to not become arrogant as this could be a manifestation of the Dunning-Kruger effect. To alleviate the concerns that overestimation of myself is a possibility I will knock myself down a few pegs in the What went poorly section.

New job

I have spent 3 years at my current company. I did try earlier in the year to join a $FAMOUS_MEGACORP but failed in my endeavour. But luckily for me I have maintained good relationships with my former teammates at my current company and a couple of them have reached out for me to join them at their new workplaces. In this sense, the crazy amount of turnover on my previous team has worked in my favour as I can now leverage good connections with people I have directly worked with in many different companies.

So the new company is asking me to help manage their AWS infrastructure, and the deployment and management of their application within said infrastructure. It should be a good opportunity to continue to grow as an engineer. There will be new tools and languages, new people to learn from and bounce ideas off of, and a smaller team should translate into far greater personal responsibility. The future looks bright.

Fitness goals

This year I have hiked most of the mainstream 20km+ hikes in my region. Usually the elevation gain was about 1500-2000 meters. In order to prepare for doing as many hikes as I did this summer, I had spent many months on a running track to get my cardio to a minimum level. It was very satisfying to see the hard work pay off.

I also succeeded in the weight room. This year I was steadily improving all of my lifts to reach similar strength levels to when I was attempting to be a competitive weightlifter. Though I am nearly a full 10 kilos heavier now compared to those days, it does feel good that I am able to deadlift 220kg. I would also brag about my bench press and squat, but a shoulder injury has prevented me from focussing on those lifts.

This is also the year where I have accepted that weightlifting cannot be a core part of my training any longer. The sport is simply too demanding on my joints, mainly my wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Now I will do training more in the style of powerlifting to be kinder to my body but still get the satisfaction of becoming stronger.

Work/life balance and Starcraft 2

In my previous year reflection, I claimed that I must stop playing Starcraft 2 as it is impacting my other aspects of life.

I can happily say that due to now working from home, I have been able to reclaim a lot of time back in my life and am better able to maintain my personal relationships as well as have time for my own hobby.

I have grown closer to my own direct family members. Instead of always being at work or on a train, I spend all of my time at home which obviously increases the amount of interactions I have with my family. No-one on their deathbed regrets not spending more time at work. They do regret not spending more time with their family, though.

This year in Starcraft 2 I achieved the rank of Grandmaster for the first time, though I only managed to keep the rank for a few days. And contrary to my previous claim that I needed to spend 20 hours per week on the game, I was spending probably 10 hours or less per week.

This is entirely due to me playing the game less, and practicing more. Instead of simply playing the game, I instead reviewed my replays and practiced specific aspects of my play against very easy AIs. In the matchups that I practiced the most, I am able to consistently defeat Grandmaster players. Now it is just a game of patience as I round out the rest of my gameplay and maintain my own status as a Grandmaster.

What went poorly


I did a low level programming course in C this year at a local school. It has simply reminded me of how much I hate classroom environments. I did learn some, but I simply cannot tolerate lectures. I will never be able to listen to 3 hours of lecturing with a single 10 minute break. Self directed learning is the only way for me any longer. This course lasted for about 3 months, and it well and truly was a miserable time for me. 2 sessions per week, 3 hours each session, with homework on top, as well as attempting to keep my life in order was not fun. The amount of work required was achievable, but having to do it at strict times of the week as opposed to when it suits me best was very problematic.

I’ve come to believe that a person is only effective for a few hours per day. In some interview for some person on some topic, the CEO of Shopify said that a person is effective for about 5 hours of work per day. If we accept that number, then after 8 hours on the job and another hour or two at the gym, it is completely unreasonable to also expect good performance for another 3 hours of schooling.

I also should have gotten my AWS certs this year, but never got around to it. This should be a priority for the next year to improve my Linkedin keyword score for recruiters.

Fitness goals

I have a shoulder injury, which most likely came from lifting weights. But it has been bothering me for 4 months at this point, and has only improved slightly. Even with regular stretching and electroconvulsive therapy it is taking a long time to recover. It is often made worse after long periods sitting at a desk as I have a tendency to lean my weight onto my elbows which translates to pressure on my shoulders as well.

I have since bought a standing desk, and hopefully in the coming months the shoulder pain will subside.

My coming up goals will be to learn to rock climb and climb some of the local mountain peaks, but with a hurt shoulder this is dampening my optimism for achieving those goals in the coming year.


I’m satisfied with this year.

Could I have done better? Sure.

Did I do enough? Absolutely.

This year was much better than the last, and so long as I am better at achieving my goals each year then I am satisfied.