We are closing the year soon, and I'm off from work this week. I felt now is a good chance to reflect on my past year and write down how things went in 2021 and what I'm looking forward to in 2022. This year passed fast with a blink of an eye. I wish I could slow down the time. Apparently, we need to break our routine with new memorable experiences to slow down time perception.
2021 was relatively mundane in good and bad ways. I couldn't do many things that I find fun and exciting, like traveling and spending time with my family and friends in person. On the other hand, it was also a good year because I could dedicate more uninterrupted time to my work.
I'm hoping 2022 will be a lot different and COVID will become endemic, and we can finally imagine our lives without masks and have in-person gatherings with more travel plans.
This year, the most significant event in my personal life was a new puppy named Toby. He is a Maltipoo who is very social and playful. Having a puppy is a lot of work but very rewarding. After some sleepless nights, we are now at the point where he can sleep overnight. He brings so much joy to our lives.
Apart from the puppy, I can't think of any other shift in my life. My parents visited us during the summer, and we spent three weeks together, from which one week was in Cancun, Mexico. Unfortunately, due to the seaweed, we couldn't swim in the sea but had fun conversions by the pool. I like spending time with my parents and creating new memories with them. It makes me smile and warms my heart when I look back now.
We made a couple of road trips to upstate throughout the year exploring small towns and cities in the beautiful state of New York. This year, one of the discoveries for me was Hudson, NY, which has become the center of contemporary artists and writers. In fact, during Thanksgiving, when my wife and I were staying in Tivoli, NY, we drove to The Maker Lounge in Hudson, where we saw Malcolm Gladwell with his friends chilling at the lounge. Of course, my wife, more of a fiction reader, didn't know who he was, so she facepalmed when I told her about him. Hudson has a small downtown full of fantastic coffee shops, speakeasies, and restaurants. We started to think maybe we could buy a house in Hudson and spend our weekends there in the future.
I've been working at Netflix for more than a year now. I get to work on exciting projects with stunning colleagues. I love working at Netflix, and the most prominent aspect is Netflix culture. I have never seen a company embracing its culture so much. Netflix is a highly innovative company with very few processes that give employees autonomy and freedom to make decisions and be responsible for them.
I work on developer tools and productivity. For the past couple of years, this has been my professional focus, and I'm still deeply passionate about the developer tooling space. I'm currently leading a high-impact cross-functional project for test automation. Working on a cross-functional project is incredibly fun because you need to solve a breadth of technical problems and do a lot of writing, communication, and selling. Admittedly, it's more challenging because the project's scope involves multiple teams and partners, which requires keeping the stakeholders in sync with the decisions you make in the working group. However, I find that at Netflix, I can exercise my strengths with the help of my manager and feedback from co-workers.
I work in a great team. We are a small team that builds solutions for product engineers to build, test and deploy TV app that hundreds of millions of households watch every day. Our goal is to make developers more productive and effective at their job. As a team, we are a force multiplier. Even a slight percentage improvement in developer velocity can significantly impact when you multiply it across dozens of engineers.
When I joined Netflix in late 2020, I was supposed to relocate to Los Gatos, California. My wife and I had already settled with the idea of moving. However, this year I transitioned into a fully remote employee, and we hired the second remote person in my team. I still go to our NYC office once or twice a week for a change of scenery and occasionally meet my co-workers in town. I like being at the office because it's a distraction-free space where I can work uninterruptedly. Having this flexibility is really great and improves the quality of my life.
In October, I traveled to Los Gatos to meet my team in person. It felt surreal. After working with them for a year, I finally got to see them in person. We did team lunches and dinner together and set up in-person whiteboard sessions in the office. It made me think again about how much I appreciate getting to know my teammates. It makes my work more fun and engaging and builds trust within the team.
Next year, I plan to stay focused on my work projects and find partners and mentors in other engineering teams. In addition, I'd like to do more internal writing and talks to bring more visibility to my team's projects.
I entered 2021 with the pounds I gained in 2020. I'm sure I'm not the only person who gained extra weight during the pandemic. Considering how much of a geek I'm in health and fitness, it didn't feel right. However, I knew I could quickly lose weight if I got back to my regular workout routine and watched out for my diet. I have a group of friends who I've been working out for years, and we have been very consistent with our routine keeping us motivated and accountable. I'm happy to report that I'm in good shape. I lost most of the weight I gained and physically feel stronger and healthier. I recently ran a half-marathon in Central Park, beating my best timing and planning to run a half-ironman next year with my gym buddies.
I follow a specific program: cardio, lifting weights, and swimming. Last week I purchased a new road bike primarily to compete in the race next year. This means I'm also going to add bike training to my weekly program. This is the first triathlon that I'm going to do, which makes me nervous and excited at the same time. It will not be easy, but having a social group with support is significant motivation.
Checking my Strava and workout app, it seems that cumulatively I have been active for 250 days last year, which is pretty good, I think. I'm particularly proud that I improved my cardio and can run longer distances at a faster pace. I used to be a slow runner, but gradually, I improved my speed with sprint training, pushing myself, and consistently playing soccer.
I also got into swimming, which I think is one of the best workouts out there. It's a meditation and workout packaged into a solo sport. However, I find swimming quite hard, at least freestyle swimming. I get tired quickly, which I'm sure is due to not knowing the correct swimming technique. Watching Youtube videos was not that helpful, so I plan to hire a personal trainer next year to swim well.
Learning new things
Every year I set a goal to learn new things. It makes life more exciting and fun, but it also helps me become a multidisciplinary thinker. Knowledge as money can compound, and it's a magical feeling when you can harvest it down the road.
I use various educational outlets for personal development. I never save money on education because I know it almost always pays off. I read books and watch Youtube videos to learn about topics that I find interesting. This year, I got deep into space exploration after taking Chris Gadfield's Masterclass. It was fascinating to learn about the history of space travel, rockets, and how we can finally get to Mars. My interest in Space comes from Elon Musk, who I admire for his bold and visionary ideas like building a multi-planetary civilization. For some reason, thinking about Space and exploring beyond our planet makes me excited like a kid. I'm also psyched about space travel becoming more affordable and mainstream, opening up a new market in-space manufacturing. Exploring Space can give us a new medium for inventing new unprecedented ideas. Isn't this incredibly exciting?
I like to read books, but I couldn't read many books this year. I read many of them at the beginning of the year, but then my motivation fell off, and social media usage inadvertently replaced my quality reading time. It's unfortunate and is a thing I struggle with. I tried everything from removing the apps from my phone to having a screen time for Instagram and Twitter but futile.
Last year, the best book I read was "The Road to Home" by Vartan Gregorian. I'm working on a separate blog post about Vartan Gregorian. Still, to keep it short here, I can tell that every Armenian should know Vartan's story and learn about his legacy in education and philanthropy. He immigrated from Iran to the United States and became a profound figure in American education. He was well known and respected by many, including the US president, who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, the highest civilian medal in the United States.
This year I mostly read non-fiction and some technical books for work. A couple of months ago, I upgraded my Kindle to the newer edition of Kindle Paperwhite and was amazed by the quality. With this new purchase, I hope I can read more on my Kindle and reduce my reading time on the phone, which is full of all sorts of distractions.
Apart from learning about things that I find interesting, I also continuously improve my English vocabulary. Being a non-native speaker, sometimes I find it challenging to find the right words that precisely articulate what I have in mind. This is especially true in my writings. Finding the right words can give your writings a different flavor, and I would like to get there. I've been using Anki cards for learning new words for the past years. I've been consistent with adding new cards and reviewing the existing ones on Anki. It uses a spaced repetition technique to optimize learnings for long-term memory. You can use it for pretty much anything you want to learn about. Sadly, most of our existing educational tools like books or online courses are designed for short-term memory. That's why it's hard to remember what you read after finishing a book. Your knowledge is in your short memory, and you forget it after a day or two. We need more innovative educational tools for learning that optimize for long-term memory. Anki is one of these tools, and I can't recommend it enough.
Next year, I would like to learn Rust, a programming language that helps you write simple, reliable, and performant software. I've heard great things about Rust and would like to give it a shot. My goal is to learn the language and build simple tools with it. Learning a new programming language can give you new perspectives on software tools and design which can become extremely useful for software engineers.
Finally, we get to my favorite part, where I need to complain about not writing more. I love to write, and it's been the best self-expressing tool for me yet.
I wrote only five articles from which "How to approach tech interviews" was the most popular this year. I don't like to measure the quality of my writing by the number of views, but I've not found a better metric yet. I'm usually my first critic of writing and believe I have so much work to do to become a better writer. This year, I experienced long-lasting writer block and didn't know what to write about. I started multiple drafts but stopped after hitting hundreds of words. It always ended with "It's not good enough."
I don't know where it's coming from, but I have never been shy to publicly share my half-baked notes. I find reading personal journals and early drafts more alluring than reading overly ornate blog posts. I wish more people would share their half-baked ideas with the rest of us. Think of "The making of Prince of Persia" book, a collection of journal notes from Jordan Mechner while building one of the best video games in history — Prince of Persia, which I played and was a big fan of. If you haven't read this book and are interested in the creative process, you should absolutely read it. It's an astonishingly good book.
Anyway, back to my writing.
I wrote a couple of technical memos at work this year. I like writing and reading memos which is one of the best ways to disseminate knowledge in any organization.
My wife describes my writing style as succinct. I don't know if I have a particular style but what I know is that I'd like to keep writing. I would like to use writing as an outlet for self-discovery and awareness.
One good progress in writing is that I've updated my personal website with a more modern look. I like it because it's simple, fast, and supports dark mode for reading which I think every blog should have nowadays. I still don't like using the "Inter" typeface for my blog, though, but I can't find a better alternative. If you have suggestions for better typography, please let me know. I care too much about typography which sometimes makes me spend hours and hours finding the right font for projects.
I read a couple of books on writing this year. I'm currently enjoying Ray Bradbury's "Zen in the Art of Writing" book. However, I think most writing advice can be summarized in a single sentence – write more, and you'll get better. It makes total sense to me, but I still keep picking new books on writing. Maybe I care less about becoming a better writer but more about writers' creative process. How is it different than mine? How do they come up with new ideas to write about?
Next year, I'm thinking of hiring a professional editor who can guide me to become a better writer. I hope this can also motivate me to write more which is one of my goals for next year.
Cronhub has grown into a sustainable side-project with a ~$1100 monthly recurring revenue (MRR). Only a fraction of the revenue is spent on expenses with very low maintenance costs. I spend maybe 1-2 hours every month on customer support, so it doesn't require a lot of time commitment.
This year I didn't spend too much on Cronhub because I was mainly busy with work. My work takes most of my creative energy these days, and finding extra time for Cronhub has been difficult. However, I shipped a new pricing version with a new billing page. Looking back, I could have probably integrated it with Stripe Checkout instead of rebuilding the page from scratch, but overall it turned out to be pretty good.
Cronhub can grow if I can spend more time on it. There are two paths I can take. Either I find a new home for it or gradually improve the product with more marketing effort. My goal is to make it the best scheduling infrastructure for developers. I believe current scheduling solutions for developers are overly complex, and creating a new product focused on exceptional developer experience can make a huge difference. We will see which route I will take next year. I should probably do more thinking before I make a final decision.
Having a side income is something I'm always going to prioritize. Having multiple sources of income is very important and gives you more financial security. I'm currently experimenting with SaaS businesses and a property rental that I purchased in Armenia. I plan to learn more about real estate investing next year and expand my portfolio further if I can afford it.
I also plan to explore new ways of making money online. I'm interested in creating educational info products considering my interest and passion for content creation. I have some ideas around technical topics that I'd like to write about. There is definitely a good demand for new innovative learning experiences. Making content requires initial time investment but can be a good source of income with low-cost maintenance in the future. For someone with a full-time job, this can be the right fit.
I'm an active Twitter user and occasional Instagram visitor. I find Twitter very valuable but with a certain caveat. It can mess with your mind if you overuse it. The urge of dopamine to read short-form content is dangerous for the brain because it shortens your attention span and makes it harder to digest long-form content due to regressed attention.
I'm currently experimenting with different ways of staying more offline. Of course, the best way to reduce social media usage is to replace it with something else. When I'm having fun, I rarely check my phone, so it suffices to say that boredom is the leading cause. I should probably try to be less bored and occupy my mind with more fun stuff.
I used to use Instagram to stay in touch with my acquaintances but not anymore. I hardly communicate with anyone on Instagram. What I find is true about Instagram is how far it is from reality. It's basically a metaverse with utopian touch, and comparing it with your own reality can stress you out. So I've deleted the app from my phone and plan to gradually phase it out of my life.
A new year is a new beginning. I'm hoping next year will be a better year for all of us. Happy New Year.