2019 in Review

Things I learned this year

This year was tough going, especially in the middle, but I think I exited stronger and with more tools in my life toolchest than when I entered.

I learned a lot about maintaining relationships, both at home and at work. I’ve fumbled through my first 30+ years, and it’s really only in the last couple that I started learning how to build and manage relationships more intentionally.

I learned how to better manage my mental and emotional energy at work, so that I don’t come home drained with nothing for my family. I spread out my 1:1s at work across the whole week, and I gave myself a consistent 30 minute afternoon mental break that I defended it obstinately. I still have much to improve here, but I’ve been able to make these changes stick.

At work, I grew a lot as a manager, too. I helped my team ship some Big Deadline projects, pivoted them to more iterative development, tried my hand at small-scale organizational design, gained experience in performance management, drove changes to our business strategy, and started to learn how to hire other line managers. There was a lot of stress that came with all of that, however, and it was harder than usual to switch off my work brain at home.

Favorite media from the year

There were so many good things I read, saw, and listened to this year! Below are some of my favorites. (Note: many of the below didn’t come out in 2019. This is just what I myself consumed this year.)

  • Second half of The Vorkosigan Saga: This is one of my favorite book series of all time, and the way Lois McMaster Bujold pivoted the ensemble cast into new genres and directions in the second half of her series was poignant and bittersweet. I finally finished the series this year, and I’m sad that there isn’t any more.
  • Designing Data-Intensive Applications: I’m not doing any more coding, but I’m managing people who are, and this book was great to recommend to the engineers looking to grow.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: Probably the best superhero movie of the last two years, and definitely the best Spider-Man film of all time.
  • Memories of Murder: My favorite Bong Joon-Ho film. It’s like Zodiac, but 10x better.
  • Fleabag (both seasons): Wow, this show is so hilarious and raw. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a genius.
  • The Americans season 6: One of the best endings I’ve ever seen. There’s such a stark contrast to Game of Thrones’s, because The Americans focused on resolving character threads, not plot threads.
  • Steven Universe: On the surface, it’s a heartwarming children’s TV show, but with so much emotional depth about identity, expectations, and acceptance. Everyone will become a better person if they see it. The main series ended in January, a sequel film followed, and now there’s a final stretch of TV episodes to finish out that story. I’m not as much of a fan of the latter two, but the main series is terrific.
  • Return of the Obra Dinn: A creepy video game puzzler with a throwback visual style and one of the most interesting story-telling mechanics I’ve ever seen. A friend described it as “you play an insurance adjuster”, which is both true and hilariously reductive.
  • Pandemic Legacy: Season 1: This was one of the best board games I’ve ever played. Riveting, challenging, fun, and fascinating in how they took the normal game and turned it into a storytelling engine. I can’t wait to try Season 2.