I started the year by cleaning up my calendar and following the advise of Fidji Simo on how to find intentional focus. Having an structured week is really important for me, as so is having long periods of time for focus, and squeezing all the meetings into one or two days seem to work well for me; this year I experimented quite a lot about that.
Health is always a focus for my yearly plan, and looking back, this has been the year where I have invested the most on it, with very positive outcomes, finishing the year feeling quite healthy overall. I went back to swimming during the winter, but quickly realized that running was way easier, even when it’s close to freezing outside. I started running intermittently in January and February, and started to get more serious during the Spring until the fall, running more than 350 km this year, and finishing my first half-marathon.
I learned that running before work feels great, specially when running with other people, and that yoga after a long day of work helps me reset my mind and be fresh when I get home. I also rediscovered the concept of summer after living 6 years in Ireland and I managed to get a beautiful tan in Berlin, going often to the swimming pool for outdoor swimming and reading alone. But then I also (re)learned I don’t like waking up at 7am to go for a run when it’s cold.
This year I also focused on reading to learn, something that works much better for me than taking a full-day trainings. I learned that is the best way for me to learn, because it allows me to dive deep into topics I am interested, while adapt learning to my schedule. I read 15 books, most of them work-related books and biographies. One of my favourites was Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard. However, the most important book I read on 2019 had nothing to do with work. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg, and Adam M. Grant is a book that explains how to deal with death. Reading it has helped me support colleagues and family members who have experienced the loss of a loved one. A process we all have to go through during our lives.
Mentorship became a very important part of my year; I was really lucky to have an amazing official mentor with whom I was able to talk about many topics, specially about managing relationships at work (relationships with projects, stakeholders, teams) and becoming more creative in my approach to product management. I also have other unofficial mentors, and I think it is crucial to find people whom you trust and can talk to regularly; having a mix of people who are more senior than you and people who are going through the same stages of their life is important to build a good outside perspective of the challenges you face. Moreover, becoming a mentor has been very helpful to reflect on my own behaviours and have positive contribution to someone’s career and development.
Within this topic, managing online professional relationships is important as well, I found myself this year investing too much time in people I was not invested on their success , and not enough time on people that are close to me and who’s success is far more important to me; the thing it is always easier to help out when people specifically ask for it, but the people who need it the most might not ask for it, even when they are around us.
This year I also let go of a few things that were important for me, but where I felt I either did not have the time to contribute, or where I saw the contribution that I was putting was not valued, needed or was not helping me grow. The main thing I let go is working internally in issues of Diversity & Inclusion, and I exchange that for organizing a workshop in the RecSys conference and building a product management community in our company. While I was originally afraid of it, focusing on less things that I cared about (and that others value) paid off both from a personal and professional point of view.
Moving away from writing on my personal blog towards publishing in other blogs such as Product X or Towards Data Science was also overall a great idea. I saw my articles reaching many more people than before and put my money were my mouth was; instead of creating something new, it is way better to join an already existing publication. I also got a few rejections and learned that there is a lot of appetite for data science product management posts.
At work, I really enjoyed working with my team for almost one full year on a new product in the space of personalized search. Being able to focus in such a big and complext project was very interesting , and some of the learnings that I shared this year (on A/B testing) come from that. There is a bit more learnings that I have been trying to write for a good while already but haven’t published yet.
At work I also learned that a lot of the work is not about the products we build, but the people we work with, and as we grow, the “soft skills” become more important, almost crucial — these are not soft skills, there are core skills that one should start building at the start of your career.