I don’t usually write end-of-year articles, but 2020 was an eventful year.
2020 Look back
Early January 2020 I began preparing for job interviews. Having spent 5 years at Amazon/AWS, it was time to embrace new adventures. After two months of preparation, and one month of sporadic interviews, I accepted an offer from Facebook, and by the end of April I joined WhatsApp. It was definitely a weird, but exciting, time to join a new company during a pandemic lockdown, with all the nuances of onboarding in a new team over video calls 😅 Fun fact, one of my competing offers was from Cloudflare, which I loved as a company and as a team, and I am still debating if I made the right choice… Especially watching their stock price quadrupling in just one year 😱
Around summer, the pandemic really kicked in and I spent most of the time going for walks, when the London weather allowed, but mostly watching Netflix and Amazon Video. Goodbye social life, hello big fat ass. I have to say that there is a lot of great content in the sidelines of these straming services, but there is a lot of garbage as well… I sort of regret spending so many months binge watching some things 😫
During summer, the idea of starting my own business/startup was really getting prevalent in my mind. I started reading lots of material and books on small companies, and got really intrigued by the concept of Company of One. This would be my ideal situation in the future, so I still have hope. Some of the best books I read during this period:
- Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business
- Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters
- REWORK: Worths its number of pages in gold. Amazing book.
- Getting Real: This is similar to REWORK, but explicitly adapted and extended for building web applications. A trully marvelous book!
- Refactoring UI: Another gem for anyone making web applications. Insightful tips on great UI design that even developers can follow to build amazing products.
- The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses
- Startup School by Y Combinator: These are the open lectures by the famous startup school in California. I went through all the lectures and the content is magnificent. Really down to earth, with invaluable tips, and many times surprising truths exposed about some of the megastartups we all use today.
Entering the last quarter of the year, I finally pulled the plug and decided to launch a side-project I have been thinking for a while. Minibri Score is a sports prediction game that is actually fun; the 10-word pitch line. I was sidetracked a bit on this, but I am planning to release the first version over the next few weeks.
By the end of the year, I started getting into and learning applied Machine Learning. I am not overly fond of the underlying theory, and I am mostly interested in the applications and use-cases of Machine Learning. Same way that I am very interested learning new programming languages and using them, but I am not excited by programming language theory or compiler internals. I am mostly answering the questions, what are the most popular algorithms and approaches used, how can I use them, and how can I use them at scale. I look forward to getting more into this next year.
2021 Look forward
Programming language wise for 2021 I want to focus on less languages and go a bit deeper. These will be Rust for server backends and WebAssembly, and Python for Machine Learning. If I have time I want to start working with Kotlin again since it’s one of the languages I enjoyed working with a lot in the past.
As mentioned in the previous section, I just started reading more about Machine Learning. I already watched some lectures, and read tens of articles, but I want to focus on some specifics over the next few months. I shortlisted my studying to the following, which is subject to change as I learn more:
- Hands-on Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn, Keras, and TensorFlow: Concepts, Tools, and Techniques to Build Intelligent Systems: Seems to be exactly what I want. Applied ML using the most popular tools, and all the reviews I read are very positive.
- Practical Statistics for Data Scientists: 50+ Essential Concepts Using R and Python: Some of the most used techniques in ML/AI are purely based on statistics, and this book seems to cover them nicely.
- After learning the basics above, next comes using Deep Learning (DL) approaches. I bought some nice books last year but never went through them, so the following are specific to deep learning:
- Deep Learning for Coders with fastai and PyTorch: AI Applications Without a PhD: There is also the Practical Deep Learning for Coders course which complements the book.
- Deep Learning with Python: I read the first few chapters months ago, so I know it’s good enough to pick up again.
- Deep Learning and the Game of Go
Launch the first version of https://score.minibri.com. Simple. Friendly. Fun.
I want to finally convince myself to jump in the exciting world of starting my own business. I have a few ideas in mind, and a few others being discussed with some friends, so it’s just a matter of overcoming my fears mostly. Especially now, since due to the COVID-19 situation, there is not much to lose. The majority of days will be spent locked up inside the house anyway, so why not take advantage of that free time.
I read some amazing books in 2020, and I want to do it more in 2021. I plan to reduce the amount of time I spent on streaming, and increase reading time. My kindle library is getting bigger already 📚
2020 was good for my career, but horrible for my fitness. Staying at home the whole day, especially during winter or rainy months was a disaster. Hopefully, in 2021 I will manage to get my ass out of my chair and get active again. I am starting to have built-in swim rings, and it doesn’t look good 🐷
2020 was quite the year for me, mostly in a good way. I am very thankful, and I acknowledge that this was a luxury not many people had this year.
Hoping for an even better 2021, and wishing that health and hope will become the trend of the new year, contrary to the current one.
Be safe, Be healthy 😉