A 7 Min Diary: Thinking About 2021
Reflecting on what I want to do this year
In my 2020 resolutions blog, I mentioned two things I wanted to do-
- Creating memes (Yup, that was one of my resolutions! Check out that article for “why?”)
- Contributing to the education sector
Looking back at those 12 months, I kind of fulfilled the simple targets I had. I have created and curated quite a lot of memes. Then, I created the Self-learning Technology Program. I wouldn’t consider it as a success but it laid a strong foundation to what I will be doing next. One thing I missed was to collaborate with a professor in implementing some new ways of learning.
Even so, I am pretty happy with the progress made. I also mentioned about taking up one social topic every year and focusing on creating awareness/finding new solutions for it. In 2020, it was education. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the existential threat that traditional educational institutes have faced, online learning has accelerated at a tremendous pace. While the future of education seems uncertain, I see a serious lack of awareness in society. For example, we had the entire “coding for kids” gold rush this year. I decided to continue with the education sector for 2021 and try to address the new scenarios and challenges of a post-pandemic world. I will also be focusing on the job market along the line of thoughts shared in the “Getting a job in the times of corona” article.
With this context set, in this diary entry, let me explore the decisions taken in 2020 and what I plan to do in 2021. While this is a personal journey, I hope you can gain some insight from these thoughts, as with all other diary entries I write.
Tough Career Choices
2020 was a year of self-exploration. As a 22-year-old young adult in tech, there was a dilemma of what I should do next for my career growth. Whatever that was, I thought I had to decide now to keep things on the right track.
A masters’ abroad (in tech or business) was ruled out because I wanted to stay in India. I wasn't looking to get into academia as well. The difficult decision was with the MBA. Opting for it with 2 years of work experience in 2021 would have been a go-to choice. After pondering on it for a while, I decided to not go for it either. (If you follow me on LinkedIn, you know why!)
With no plans for masters, I thought about what else can be done. In terms of making money, it was almost given that shifting jobs would lead to better growth. I was also sure that I was not ready for start-up. If anything, realized that I was more inclined to being a solopreneur and not an entrepreneur.
So, the only option left was shifting jobs. I was into ML/DL stuff, applied research, and product management- the domains I could try beyond traditional software engineering. I observed the industry and hiring trends and networked accordingly. Yet, I haven’t applied anywhere or sought any referral. While I am always open to change, I realised that it was not exactly what I wanted. It was not a priority.
My current job simply put a high benchmark for something I look for in a corporate job- a good work-life balance. The experience so far has been amazing, had a super supportive team and extremely flexible work culture. Almost for half the year, Fridays were a half-day and I rarely ever had to work for more than 6–8 hours on any given day (in fact, less than that in most cases). The way the pandemic was handled by the firm and the transition to WFH mode was pretty smooth too.
When I reflect on this journey so far, one concern was if I am getting into a comfort zone where there is less room for growth. Of course, it depends from person to person. For me, this flexibility meant enough time to explore my hobbies, personal interests and options in being a solopreneur/content creator in the long run. This was exactly the kind of balance I wanted. So, should I change that? Sometimes, too much comfort isn’t good either but I wanted to slow things down before taking any decision.
A lot of my peers might be facing similar dilemmas. Should you go for that Masters’? or start your job hunt to look for better offers? There is no single answer for that, but one parameter to consider the most would be to think about your everyday life.
Do you feel that you have the time and scope for your own personal growth and other holistic pursuits with the way things are right now? If not, that’s when you may want to figure out the changes to bring in your everyday life.
Things to do in 2021
For me, 2021 will be the “Year of Self-Learning”. I will also be starting a newsletter around this theme. #StayTuned.
In any pursuit for better opportunities or the race to stay ahead of our peers, one thing we risk missing is in gaining in-depth domain knowledge. At least, that’s what I felt. Difficult things need a lot of time and effort to grasp. It’s not like your typical “grind those 200 Leetcode problems and get into FAANG”.
I wanted to learn difficult stuff and tackle hard problems. I felt that would be a really useful long term investment of time compared to getting lost in a gold rush with immediate returns (not to imply that it is bad. I guess it all boils down to one’s preferences in life).
Personally, there were a lot of knowledge gaps in the domains I explore, and self-learning seemed to be the better option. Universities were ineffective in terms of the time spent, irrelevant/not up to date content, and of course, they are costly. I won’t just be doing some online courses and calling it “self-learning” either. The plan is to constantly experiment with unique learning pedagogies like the ultra learning project or create something new in my own style.
I will be documenting the complete experience and update the self-learning program with new strategies and inputs. I hope all that content will inspire others with similar interests to start their own in-depth self-learning journey on topics they like to explore.
What will I be learning?
I want to have hard targets this time, that should be almost impossible. There are three different tracks I planned for, all within 12 months:
- A masters-level computer science curriculum with industry-relevant topics.
- A masters-level business, consulting. marketing, and finance curriculum, the knowledge from which I will actually use to manage my own finances and businesses/side-hustles.
- And finally, the main goal of SLTP2020, learning by creating stuff based on job descriptions. I will be continuing with whatever progress I made so far.
Looking at the world in terms of “problem statements”, I notice that a deep technical understanding helps one to find seemingly impossible or science fiction solutions. At the same time, a strong consulting/business mindset helps one to create the right problem statement in the first place and then implement and promote the solution in the most effective way. Knowing both would give a greater holistic ability in problem-solving.
Of course, these targets are way beyond my current potential. Let’s see how things progress in the next 12 months.
Giving more tangibility to my poetry
This is something I look forward to beyond the self-learning initiatives.
If you know me well, you would also know about my passion for poetry. I generally post them under the poetry section of my personal publication or on Instagram.
I will continue to write more poetry as and when I find the inspiration, but this time in a more structured way to create a poetry novel- in fact, a trilogy where a slice of life story is portrayed through the poems.
I hope to complete the first book sometime this year and that sums up my two major goals for 2021.
Pausing yourself in a fast-paced world
Early in 2020, I had a few thoughts on what I wanted for 2021.
“Make X amount of money, be at that particular job level, or do this, and that to get something to be on par with my peers, socially and financially.”
I guess a lot of people will have similar thoughts. However, the way 2020 turned out to be helped me reshape my priorities.
By April, I began to acknowledge the sheer importance of work-life balance. The richness of life for me came in the little things of everyday life and to have enough time to spend on the diverse stuff I like to do. This led me to simply drop all those peer-pressure goals and focus more on my personal self-growth and interests, take such things leisurely and cherish the more satisfactory pursuits.
I just wanted to put it out if it helps anyone facing similar social stress. Being self-centric somewhat helps, but being mindful on to what extent we do that is important. At the end of the day, I think it is completely okay to take the little steps at your own pace to reach where you want to be.
Let me end this entry with the similar lines I said last year-
All the best to you too, for a successful year ahead. May you find the inspiration for some strong resolutions, and together let’s define humanity’s and our own future!