October 1st just passed yesterday. Another year in the pandemic, though I tried to make the best of it! Here’s the 27th edition of of my yearly reflections on what I’ve been up to, what I’ve achieved, and where I’ve grown. You can find previous years reflections since I’ve been Twenty, Twenty-one!, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three!, Twenty-four!, Twenty Five, and Twenty Six.
I made the biggest purchase in my life to buy a duplex here in Ottawa’s Centretown neighbourhood. I’ve also become a lead of leads in my engineering organization. I’ve even had a few big accomplishments with my road cycling hobby thanks to a few friends.
One of my friends asked me about the high and lows of the year. After a bit of thinking, buying the house was definitely the height of the year. The low likely was not spending as much time as I usually would with family and friends either up at the cottage or travelling around. Let’s get in to a few of the highlights!
I bought a house, and moved in on the 5th of July! The landlord of the place I was renting previously was a seasoned real-estate agent. He shared some of his marketing materials with me sometime last year. With lots of people buying places in the country instead of the city to gain more space, the tradeoff wasn’t particularly worth it to me. Over a year into the pandemic and I approached my landlord to ask him if he’ll be my agent. He agreed and a month or two later of not many listings going up due to the lockdown, one place in Centretown meeting my criteria eventually showed up. I viewed it, ended up falling in love with it, and put in an offer for the place. As luck had it, my offer was accepted!
Over the past few months, most of my free time has been going towards making cosmetic improvements to the place, running ethernet cables through the walls, deep cleaning everything, buying new furniture, and starting the never-ending decorating journey. I’m quite glad that all of the DIY skills and confidence I’ve gained helping my family with their projects when growing up is helping me greatly now. Having extra time on my hands certainly helps as well!
I’m quite thankful for having an interior designer friend who’s been very handy when suggesting furniture pieces and paint colours. I definitely wouldn’t have as cool looking of a place without it! Another great friend has also lent me a number of tools to help with the handful of jobs I’ve been doing around the place.
I’m most excited about entertaining and enjoying the house when I’m not in DIY mode all the time. This Christmas should be a blast hosting my family, and there’s likely a few house parties I want to throw as things open up more. As long as I’m enjoying the space with others, I’ll be fulfilled.
Earlier this year I received a promotion to become a manager of managers! Yes, I’m in full Office Space-esque “What do you do here?” territory. Jokes aside, this has been incredibly exciting as I am now accountable for the people and product across a handful of teams. Very recently many of my previous responsibilities have been handed over to two fantastic people leads on my team. The conversations I’m having with them, some senior developers, and high growth individuals are very focused on helping them grow their careers and impact that they bring to the team, which has been quite fulfilling.
On the product side of things, a recent trend has evolved from “build extendable features for the long term” to “build self-service, or low-code features for the long term”. This is a neat observation and paradigm shift, which reflects on the development teams being more mature, and the need to build the right knobs and switches into the system to more easily enable the business to change how they work.
For a number of months, I was short a people lead for one of the teams and took on the extra load of performing all of the people management work until we hired on a permanent replacement. I had something like 17 half-hour weekly one on ones with everyone who normally reports to me, and every developer from the team that didn’t have a people lead. This took a crazy amount of time out of my schedule, but I loved the chaos and leaned into it. This was a great test of my time management, prioritization, and delegation skills. Since I wasn’t able to be involved in each team’s day to day, I heavily leaned on the seniors of each team to take ownership over the technical and product decisions. This worked out miraculously well, and was an amazing growth opportunity for these individuals to take on more ownership and make more decisions. Each team being in a mature enough state to not require my day to day involvement was key for me to focus on the more important people management side of things.
Growing of these teams also took precedence, as it periodically does every year. We grew the teams by several developers, hiring folks from Ireland, around Canada, and even the US. I still have to remind myself that we truly hire great people to work with, both professionally and socially.
Where to begin. One of the biggest forces that has helped push myself out of my comfort zone and see just how much cycling I can endure was thanks to a great amount of healthy competition with some friends. When the weather got cold, indoor cycling started, and a number of cyclists from work came together to do some virtual group rides. Three of us wanted to go further and ended up cycling multiple times a week. Over a number of months of seeing our cycling strength and endurance increase, we signed up for some very tough challenges in our virtual cycling app of choice, Zwift. Those challenges were:
- The PRL Full route, consisting of 175 km, 2281 m of climbing. It took 7 hours!!!
I have to pause here, since going into this, we knew that this would be pushing our limits, and then some. Our times continuously riding were about 4 hours max. My cycling buddies and I were expecting this to be a 6-7 hour ride for us. Cycling for this long becomes quite the mind game along with the expected fatigue. As I shared above, my cycling buddies and I were able to finish it! I was seriously questioning why I enjoyed this whole cycling thing for a few days after that. To get over the pain and suffering of riding the same hilly route 11 times during the challenge, I forced myself a few days later to go ride it once more to get over my newfound loathing of it. It worked. I got over it. The best part about this challenge was that every other challenge paled in comparison since none were as challenging as this!
Otherwise here’s a few other notable achievements from doing all of the indoor cycling on Zwift:
- 1000 m climb of Alpe du Zwift in less than an hour
- Four Horsemen route – 100 km, 2200 m in 4:15
- Mega Pretzel route – 112 km, 1600 m, in 4:13
- The PRL Half route – a cakewalk after doing the PRL Full
- And that time my FTP jumped from 180 to 221 as I chased a friend up Alpe du Zwift
From all of the cycling, the amount of power I could exert increased from 2020 to 2021 significantly! Some quick number crunching shows a 40-60% improvement, which is mind blowing!
When the weather warmed up, there was a number of great adventures and achievements that were had:
- Going to Gatineau Park a few dozen times and feeling like I’m among the fast cyclists
- Cycling with my Zwift buddies in Gatineau Park!
- Taking a trip to the Forks of the Credit area near my hometown to crush those hills
- Making my way from Ottawa to Stittsville, and then turning it into a 100k ride
- Biking from the cottage to the nearby town of Bala on beautiful cottage country backroads
- Lastly, a fun ride and talk on the Caledon Trailway with my aunts
I can’t wait to see what I’ll get up to next year cycling-wise!
Well, there’s probably a decent amount of travel I’m looking forward to over the next year. Some already figured out such as a handful of business trips to hang with the teams, and an unknown amount of personal ones with friends and family that I’m most excited about.
Once the renovations and DIY around the house have settled down, figuring out what I’ll do with the other unit is on the list. Having a second source of income can only help set myself up more for the future.
Hopefully I’ll do some even bigger cycling trips, and get around to that bike camping I wanted to get around to this past summer. Buying a bike computer and power meter would help on these adventures and regular training too.
2022 is looking bright!