Here are a few things I did this year and some goals for the coming year.
With continued tough times at Bolt, morale was understandably low, and I was feeling burnt out. The tech job market has continued its slump this year, and I was nervous about the risk involved in finding a new job especially since I'm on a work visa. Fortunately, everything worked out for the best! In September, I began working as a full-stack software engineer at Tremendous. Tremendous enables organizations to send one-off payments to people around the world. It's only been a few months, but I feel deeply invested in the product and I am eager to give my best in building and improving it. The team is fully remote and that by default means a lot of focus on clear written communication because people are also spread across the globe. Since there are no offices, the entire company meets for a weeklong offsite a couple of times a year. I honestly feel like I've found the perfect place for me.
The imposter syndrome hits hard sometimes, as everyone on the team seems to have more experience than me, both with the tech stack and in the tech industry. However, it's an incredible opportunity to learn from some really talented engineers. I'm very thankful and I'll keep doing my best.
Besides the job change, this year Artificial Intelligence has changed the way work gets done (at least in my bubble). I've been heavily using Github co-pilot and ChatGPT for many tasks. Like any tool, AI in its current state has its trade-offs. It's an invaluable resource for navigating unfamiliar codebases, providing boiler plate code, or summarizing context. It's still ways away from understanding the context an engineer does but I'm excited see how things shape up in the future.
The first half of the year flew by, and I didn't run as much as I would have liked, except for the occasional 5k. Towards the end of the year, I registered for a half-marathon but struggled to train consistently due to a variety of circumstances, like interviewing for a new role and travel. While these might sound like excuses, they felt justified at the time.
I've been running for years now without much improvement, usually just running until I hit whatever random distance target I had in my mind before I started or till I'm completely out of breath. Training for the half-marathon was different. I tried following an automated Nike Running Club plan with interval, recovery, long runs, etc. Despite its flaws, I noticed a clear improvement in my endurance, pace, and overall fitness. I truly enjoy running and maybe it is time I stopped doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different outcome.
For next year, my goal is to either run a 5k in under 25 minutes or finish a marathon. I haven't decided which one to focus on yet, but I'm hoping it will be one of these.
I was fortunate to travel quite a bit this year and learnt a bit about the places I visited:
and some places in the US and India.
I started many books this year but finished only a small subset of them. I'm happy about it though because trudging through a boring book just because you need to "finish" it, in my opinion, is not the best use of time. Most of the books I read this year were ones I randomly stumbled across in bookstores. Here are a few I really enjoyed reading:
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyefsky
- The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
- You are what you watch by Walter Hickey
- Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Issacson
While this year's hyped movies like Oppenheimer and Barbie weren't my favorites, I discovered plenty of amazing films that I loved:
I also discovered some gems from the past that I would highly recommend:
Pi and Oldboy were celebrating their 25th and 20th anniversaries, respectively, so I got to see remastered versions with live Q&As. That was quite an experience. Clint Mansell, who scored Pi (also Lux Aeterna from 'Requiem for a Dream') said he had no formal training. Since they couldn't afford consultations from industry professionals, there was no one to stop them from making unconventional creative choices. This experimental approach clearly paid off.
Whenever I come across a song I like, I obsessively listen to it on repeat till I get sick of it. This year, Milky Chance and Inhaler were a huge source of that obsession. I actually attended a Milky Chance concert and loved their songs so much that I'm apparently a top 0.5% fan on Spotify. That is insane! Here are some of my most played tracks this year:
This year was also signifant personally. My partner and I got engaged and we made rings for each other over a few sessions. It was an amazing experience to share that with her and whenever I look at my ring, it reminds me of the time spent making it together. Celebrating our 5-year anniversary at Alinea in Chicago was another highlight.
Years ago, I read "Exhalation" -- a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang, and the very first story, "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," left a lasting impression. It's a tale of a magical gate that lets you see twenty years in the future, but you can't alter anything. If you don't see yourself, that means you are no longer around. The narrator questions the Alchemist: if you see yourself alive in the future, does that mean you're safe until then? The alchemist agrees. The narrator then wonders, "Could I then face any danger without fear, knowing I'll survive?" The alchemist's response really stuck with me:
All this to say that I'm not really adventurous but this year I tried a few new things like Surfing and Scuba Diving and that is pretty much the limit of "adventure" for me. It was fun though.
Other than that, I managed to write in my journal every day and I'm quite proud of that. Last year, I started to feel that I've been writing way too much and each day I'm producing more. There is a good chance that I'll never read most of what I've written in there. Now I think differently about it. First off, the main purpose of the journal is not to be read but for me to get it out in writing so I can see things rationally and logically. Secondly, with the advent of large language models, once there is a powerful enough setup that can run locally on my machine, I have plenty of ideas to get positive use out of everything I have so far and everything I'd write in the future.
I've been doing this since 2017 and while things are vastly different now, one thing is clear from this pattern -- I have a hard time following any "resolutions" I make, but I am hoping this next one will be it.