2017 Retrospective

I want to write down my memories of this year because I might forget them otherwise. I debated whether to publish this because, for the world, 2017 has been an awful year, worse than any other in my short memory. Yet it was a year of huge personal growth and professional success for me, and I still want to celebrate that, in a way that acknowledges my own privilege. I’m not sure what else I should say on this note other than that I recognize that I am fortunate, and I am grateful for what I have.

Without further ado, here’s my year in numbers and lists:

Degrees obtained: 1

  1. B.S. Computer Science, Systems Track (Stanford)

“Classes” completed: 5

  1. Essentials of Electronics – Measurements and Passive Circuits (City College of San Francisco)
  2. Engineering Mechanics – Statics (City College of San Francisco)
  3. Introduction to Mixology (SF Mixology)
  4. Essential Mixology (SF Mixology)
  5. Understanding Diabetes Mellitus (Stripe Classes)

Places visited: 8

  1. Thailand (Bangkok, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai)
  2. Singapore
  3. Berlin
  4. Zurich
  5. Portland, Oregon
  6. Amsterdam
  7. Vietnam (Saigon, Da Nang, Hue)
  8. Honolulu, Hawaii

Talks given: 6

  1. TechSummit Berlin
  2. Monitorama
  3. TechSummit Amsterdam
  4. #MonitorSF Meetup
  5. SF Metrics Meetup
  6. LISA17

Books read: 16

  1. Whistling Vivaldi, Claude M. Steele
  2. The Circle, Dave Eggers
  3. The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane
  4. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
  5. Grit, Angela Duckworth
  6. The Secret Lives of Dresses, Erin McKean
  7. The Manager’s Path, Camille Fournier
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  9. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  10. Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
  11. A Guide to the Good Life, William B. Irvine
  12. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
  13. No Game No Life Volume 1, Yuu Kamiya
  14. Gossip Girl #1, Cecily von Ziegesar
  15. The Partner Track, Helen Wan
  16. Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg

Blog posts written up until today: 5

  1. Whistling Vivaldi: A Stereotype Threat I Didn’t Know Of
  2. Giving the Same Talk Twice
  3. Not Your Exotic Fantasy
  4. Look What You Made Me Do, Chrome
  5. My Coding Interview Style

Jobs held: 2

  1. Pinterest: Visibility Team
  2. Stripe: Observability Team

Now that I’ve been looking at this list of things that I thought were worth highlighting, I noticed some broad themes in what I care about tracking.

Education

Education became this whole warped thing for me over the past few years and I’m slowly undoing that. I was supposed to graduate from college in 2015, but ended up having some complications that prevented me from finishing on time. A lot of financial and bureaucratic complications came up over the past 2 years as I tried to finish the last 2 classes I needed. It had been hanging over me like a cloud for so long that I couldn’t believe that I had really graduated until I got my diploma in the mail. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. Finishing my degree is one of my proudest highlights of this year.

I’m working myself back up to learning things for fun again. I enjoyed the classes I took on cocktail making and I’m hoping to sign up for more food-related classes (cooking? chocolate? wine?) next year. I’m also enrolled in Japanese 1 for the winter term! Japanese is a language I’ve always wanted to learn properly and I’m hoping to finally learn how to read and write the basics.

I’ll write a separate post eventually about the books that I read this year! The short version of it is that I was hoping to read at least 12 books this year, so that’s cool. The most useful one that I keep referencing to other people is “Nonviolent Communication”. The most fun one would have to be “Gone Girl” – I loved the way Amy’s point of view was written and I could totally relate to her throughout the entire book, as concerning as that might sound!

Travel

I have mixed feelings about travel. I’m pretty susceptible to travel loneliness – if I’m alone, I end up with too much anxiety to go outside and enjoy my surroundings, and then I feel guilty about that, and I sometimes end up having entire days of hiding in my hotel feeling awful about myself. I wish this weren’t true about me. There were some times this year where I pretended that I didn’t know this about myself, and went to other countries convinced that I would finally be the type of person who could spend an entire day alone traveling without feeling a great deal of anxiety. Those trips ended up going less-than-great. I want to be more honest with myself in 2018 and recognize that when I travel alone, I won’t always be as adventurous as I see other people being.

The places I visited with other people were magical experiences. I learned phrases from other languages, tried great food, and saw beautiful things. If I had to pick one favorite city, I would pick Chiang Mai. I got to play with an elephant and take a Thai cooking class where I made pad thai, green curry, and a bunch of other dishes!

I also realized that I was really naive about work travel this year. I got started with public speaking because I wanted a way to travel to other countries more often. This sounds so obvious in retrospect, but a work trip where I’m expected to be responding to my teammates, working on slides, and attending a conference is not the same as a vacation where I can turn off my phone. I shouldn’t have conflated the two, and that’s another aspect where I need to set clearer expectations for myself.

On a positive note, I already have three international conference trips planned for next year, which I’ll put on my speaking page when they’re announced publicly! I’m hoping to tack on legitimate vacation time to one of them, and then I think I’ll be done with my travel plans for 2018.

Public Speaking

This year was my first year of public speaking. In 2016, I met some really cool women at a conference and they were all talking about conferences that they spoke at and I wanted to be like them! I was so inspired! I’m really glad that I got to talk to them, because I realized that I didn’t have to have years of experience to start doing public speaking, and I could just jump into it.

I was pretty methodical with my talk proposals and saved them all so I could track my progress over time. I wrote a couple of proposals I felt good about and cast a pretty wide net in submitting them. I ended up with a lot of rejections, but I also ended up with a lot of acceptances!

I added all of my proposals to my GitHub profile here. I am fascinated by other people’s processes and progress over time, so I hope other people can also benefit from seeing how my proposals evolved.

Writing

I only wrote five posts this year! That’s okay! It would have been nice if I wrote 6, because then I could say I averaged one every other month, but it wasn’t an explicit goal of mine.

I believe that there are times when someone writes because they want to introduce an idea to a new audience, and times when someone writes to connect to their own people, and that both are valuable. When I wrote “Not Your Exotic Fantasy”, it was coming from a place of pain. I wasn’t trying to provide a thesis or give a call to action. I needed to rip all of the feelings that I had out of my chest and put them into words and say to my fellow Asian women that I was hurting, and that we could understand each other’s pain. So many Asian women reached out to say that what I wrote resonated with them, but so many people from other demographics said that I was generalizing too much, they didn’t get my point, or that Asians are racist too. When I look back at that essay now, I know that it was a narrative mess because I was a mess at the time and I needed to convey that. I can stand by what I said because I know I was writing to connect with my people, and not for a broad audience. In 2018, I’m reflecting on what that means and how I can make that more clear.

On a much more light-hearted note, my 2017 retrospective would not be complete without me mentioning that TicketMaster offered me an internship on their Verified Fan team because of my post about how to exploit Verified Fan’s system using Chrome Developer Tools. Of course a woman writing about Taylor Swift should be offered an internship rather than a full-time software engineering position.

Overall, I’m satisfied with my pace of writing. I don’t want to write for the sake of meeting a quota. I want to write when I feel that I have something important to say. So I’m not setting any goals for myself in 2018 besides to say what I really want to say. This post I wrote back in 2013 is still one of my favorites on what my goals are with writing.

Work

I made it this far without acknowledging that I switched jobs this year!!!

I think it would be difficult for me to explain all of the thoughts and reasons I had about changing jobs without saying something that could be taken the wrong way – that’s just what happens when you make a comparison. What I can say is that I am happy where I am. I’m on a team where I’m supported, learning, and encouraged everyday. I’m so thankful for that and so excited when I think about all the projects I’ll work on in 2018.

2018 Hopes

I don’t bother creating resolutions because I don’t ever stick to them. Every year, I have hopes, though! (Like, in high school, I told myself I would stop swearing… that hasn’t worked out.)

In 2018, I hope I take care of my health. I hope I can travel, speak, and write more. I hope I stay close to my family, friends, and partner. I hope I make more time for hobbies outside of tech. I hope I can get a cat.

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