2017: A Year in Review

Traveled to Asia. Became (becoming) a PM. Volunteered for causes I love.

I really enjoy sitting down at the end of December to write this “year in review” post— this will be my fourth year in a row! It feels great documenting my highs and lows, setting my intentions and goals for the year ahead, and taking a brief walk down memory lane. However, I realize I should really do these check-ins much more frequently than once a year. Similar to how I set OKRs and KPIs for my job, I should start taking a similar approach to checking back in with the goals I set for myself!

This year in particular seemed to pass by very quickly. It was my first full year working at my job as a PM at Microsoft, getting used to the routine of a full-time employee, and improving my quality of healthy living (which I had largely put on the back burner during university). I’ve spent many days introspectively revisiting the idea I touched on in last years post on how to define success for myself. I feel both liberated and anxious by having my future completely unwritten with no clearly defined path for how to be successful and thriving. 2017 in particular for me was a year of adjustment and observation of these differences between being in university to working full-time.

For example, here are a couple differences I’ve noticed:

  1. Prioritization is everything. Being able to accurately assess impact and cost to constantly sort everything (in your job and in your life) is a skill you have to refine over time.
  2. Short-term vs. Long-term projects. It’s a mindset shift to not see planting seeds as a waste of time because there isn’t an immediate return. Fostering these seeds of future potential and nurturing those ideas or relationships over time ends up being a much larger part of my day than it has ever been before.
  3. Personally, I’ve had quite a shift from maker to manager. I’m still adjusting to how success looks different as a manager and the type of schedule that comes along with that.

I may not quite know exactly where I’m going, but I hope that by observing and reflecting on these changes, pursuing the things I’m interested in, and meeting a lot of interesting people, I’m sort of driving in the right direction and will see where that takes me!

Some of the places I lived and visited this year.

Here are a few highlights from 2017:

  • I’ve found our political climate this year to be incredibly disturbing and disheartening. However, I do believe it’s made me more engaged with the community and brought to light come of my personal values. Along with attending a few of the marches in Seattle, I’ve been donating to the organizations that matter to me: ACLU / EFF / Mozilla / IRC Seattle / Planned Parenthood / ProPublica etc.
  • Went to Cancun on a family vacation! My family is always so spread out, it was great to spend time together through the combination of sun, meals, concerts, and exploring ruins.
  • Josiah and I watched this WIRED documentary on “The Silicon Valley of Hardware” and were so inspired that we traveled to Shenzhen, China, and Hong Kong to see everything for ourselves! It was the first time that either of us had visited Asia and it was absolutely amazing to see the pace of innovation in these massive cities. I can’t wait for the opportunity to go back again!
  • I’m still very interested in tech policy, but have felt quite lost with how to act on this this year. I’m no longer working at the Tech Policy Lab as I’m full-time at Microsoft and the White House OSTP office that I once knew is non-existent. To keep engaged with this interest, I traveled to Yale to attend the WeRobot conference that I’ve attended in the past. I definitely plan to keep going as I always get so excited with the topics of research and discussion (which makes me believe even more that this is truly a passion of mine).
  • Traveled to Denver, Colorado, for a week to attend my first CHI conference where our Toys that Listen paper was presented. While there, I realized how I’m incredibly interested in human-computer interaction research. Could potentially be something I’d enjoy going to grad school for in the future.
  • Visited Josiah and Justin in Thailand during the summer. Traveled around the country to a few cities, rode on the back of a moped through the streets, hung out on the beach, ate the best Thai food, and got to play with elephants! I really loved Chiang Mai and would like to go back someday.
  • Road tripped down to watch the Solar Eclipse at the Oregon Capitol with Josiah’s family.
  • Spent more time in Washington’s outdoors going hiking and camping.
  • Moved into my dream modern apartment in downtown Seattle with Josiah! Have loved cooking, working out, walking in the city, hosting people at our place, and living with Josiah — who is such a light of joy and adventure in my life.
  • I’d always wanted to be a part of the Grace Hopper Conference and this year I had the opportunity to. I reviewed papers for the conference speaker selection and had the chance to attend the full thing in Florida. I also spent a good chunk of the year volunteering as the Logistics Manager with ABI Seattle to host the first-ever one day GHC right here in Seattle!
  • Probably one of the most exciting events of the year was getting to be a part of the partnership between Skype and Glamour and attending the Glamour Women of the Year Summit + Awards in NYC. I’ll be working with Glamour’s organization called The Girl Project in the upcoming year mentoring a handful of young girls!
  • At the very beginning of the year, I had my first little promotion. Nothing major, but still felt like a win nonetheless! I feel like I am getting the hang of being of PM at Microsoft, but still feel like I can do a much better job. I’m excited to work on that in 2018.
  • I followed through on some of my goals to have a better quality lifestyle and have been reading, cooking, and exercising more. There were a few books, especially within this last month, that I’ve read which have really fired me up on reading again!
  • Was filled with joy that I had the chance to visit home to see my sister graduate, spend time with family, and catch up with forever friends. I’ve also been so excited that many of my loved ones have come to visit Seattle this year as well. I’ve both fallen out of touch with friends, but also have met so many new wonderful people this year that I’m excited to get to know even better in the new year.

Keeping this same sentiment from the previous year, that besides these highlights, there were many times throughout the year I felt very lost — after losing ones I love, being confused about how to be successful or what that means, stressing about becoming an adult, worrying about the effects of the current political climate, and fearing family health issues. I suppose these worries will always continue, but I wish for myself and others to have the strength to weather through the storms and know that sometimes it’s okay to not have everything figured out.

Looking at my 2017 goals, I’m both happy to check a few off the list, but also know that there is room for improvement on many! As I mentioned above, I’m going to start checking in on these goals that I write every couple of months. I think I’ve started to learn how to be a good PM, traveled outside of my comfort zone (China and Thailand!), hiked more around the PNW, cooked and slept normally much more, and started to read a bunch of books again. I want to double down on some of these in 2018 so am keeping them on the list!

Things I want to do in 2018:

  • Exercise! I’ve noticed that I’ve really lost the strength and flexibility I had during high school when I danced competitively. I’m going to get back into better shape — have already signed up for ClassPass so hopefully that’s a solid start for the year.
  • Sign up for a more structured class or course outside of work. Develop a hobby and learn new skills.
  • Maximize my experience and time at Microsoft. I want to meet more people across the different teams at Microsoft, have mentors at a variety of stages in their career, and take advantage of my time at Microsoft by diversifying my experiences. As well as to keep learning how to be a great PM and successful in my role!
  • Keep in touch with my interests in tech policy and human-computer interaction — read books, attend conferences, meet people who work in these fields etc.
  • Take the GRE. I’m not sure if I want to go to grad school, but I’d like to have the option when I’m ready.
  • Travel to more National Parks, around the PNW (hiking + camping), and abroad to at least one place on the bucket list.
  • Foster personal creativity more through reading, writing, music, and photography. Devote time to reflecting and creating.

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” — JG

As always, it’s quite shocking to read the previous years post and remember sitting down in 2016 writing out my joys and struggles and goals, having only a vague idea of the year ahead.

Now that I’m working I think the years to come may be a bit more predictable, but I’d like to break that notion. I’m not here for complacency, I’m here to live and experience and do everything I can to make the world a better place.

Here’s to filling 2018 with life and love. Happy New Year!