What a crazy year 2019 was. I don’t think I ever had a year as crazy as this before. Lots of good things happened, but a lot of bad things happened as well.

As usual, let’s start with the Personal Life recap.

Personal Life

Excited by the achievement of reading 14 books last year, I decided to increase the goal for 2019 and set a challenge of 30 books for myself. I failed. I didn’t read a thing most of the year and only managed to actually read some comics during the last weeks of December, which helped me to still be able to mark 17 items as read. You can see the list of books I’ve read in my profile on Good reads.

On the other hand, I still managed to keep some free time for playing video games. At first, I decided I would focus on finishing some of the games I bought years ago. I’ve finished Gears of Wars 1 and 2 and I’m also half-way through the 3. In August, I traveled to London and during my time there I bought a Nintendo Switch Lite and the Link’s Awakening remake, which I also finished. Next, I played a lot of Asphalt 9 and then I purchased The Breath of the Wild, which I’m still playing at the moment.

On the PC, I’ve finished Destiny 2, played a lot of Overwatch and a bit of Anno 1880.

Another thing I didn’t do as well as the previous year was learning/studying languages. I managed to maintain the 1000 days streak for a few more months on Duolingo, but then it started to become more and more difficult to find time to practice every day, so I decided I would just stop. I had a streak of 1365 days (almost 4 years!), which made the decision something really difficult, but in the end this was better than having to deal with the frustration of not having time to practice.

Still on the “things I’ve stopped doing” topic, I also stopped going to Pilates. After doing it for 1 year, it simply started to get boring and it was more and more difficult to find the will to go. The exercises were always almost the same and the place where I was doing it was a little bit disorganized, which contributed to me getting a bit disappointed with it. To avoid stop doing exercises completely, I’ve been trying to go for some very long walks (10km or more). I know it’s not the same, but it’s definitely better than not doing anything and it helps me clear my head.

Speaking about health, I’m glad to say I lost some weight! This actually started happening at the end of 2018, but I kept losing weight during the beginning of 2019 as well. I lost 15kg in total, going from 110kg to 95kg, mostly by reducing portions. Right now, I’ve gained around 3kg, but I’m still under 100kg, so that’s not so bad.

As I mentioned before, I traveled to London this year and stayed there for a couple of months. The travel involved Holidays and Work stuff, so let’s focus on the Holidays here and I’ll talk about Work in the Professional Life section. My wife and I took some well-deserved holidays and decided to spend one week in London. Since we didn’t have a lot of time, we decided to just stay in the city and enjoy everything it has to offer. We’ve visited the British Museum, the Shard, the Borough Market, the National Gallery, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the Abbey Road, the Queen’s House, the Greenwich Observatory and the Buckingham Palace. Besides that, while going from one place to the other we also walked a lot through the city and its small and old streets and, of course, we had a lot of beers!

Being adorable in front of the Buckingham Palace, right after the changing of the guard

While I was in London, I also had the opportunity to go see Hamilton, the musical, and it was one of the most incredible experience I ever had. I don’t have words to describe how good it was. I have been a fan of the musical for a couple of years (it has been my most listened album on Spotify for the last 2 years!) and my admiration for it has just increased after seeing what a masterpiece the live musical is. The colors, the choreography, the scenario, there are so many details and they add a whole new level to the experience. I was lucky to get a very good seat, with a great view of the stage which really helped to make this a great experience:

The room where it happens!

We both loved the experience and, surprisingly, our feeling is that London is very similar to São Paulo in many ways. Since we didn’t have the chance to visit other places than London, we’ll certainly visit the UK again to visit some more distant/traditional cities.

Once I was back home, I decided to start learning something new: making bread! I’ve been watching the videos from this Youtube channel for quite a while and I decided it was time for me to start getting my hands dirty and try some of the recipes. First I started by making my own Sourdough starter and then using it for a couple of different types of bread. So far, none of them turned out looking as good as the ones in the video, but they were not bad either. I can see some small progress in every new loaf of bread I make, so perhaps it’s just a matter of time for me to get there.

Finally, I wanted to mention an experiment I tried in 2019: Creating a dev Instagram account. You probably didn’t know this, but there’s a relatively active dev/tech community on Instagram. It’s basically a bunch of people (mostly people who’re just getting started) sharing about their challenges, progress, and goals. Ah, there’s also a bunch of people posting pictures of their setup.

I’m not going to lie. The main reason I tried to do this was so I could become relevant enough so that brands would send me free stuff. It turns out it takes A LOT of work to gain followers and become relevant there, especially when there’s already a lot of people with thousands of followers. I was spending hours and hours every day trying to figure out which nice photos to post, writing posts, selecting the right tags, commenting and liking other people’s posts (so that they could interact with me, increasing my reach). I kept trying this for a little more than one month, but then realized I was just wasting time there and then I stopped. It would take me months of hard work and, in the end, the type of content I wanted to shared (something more deep/technical) was not the kind of content the people there was interested in seeing.

Professional Life

The year started quite calm at work. As I mentioned in the 2018 recap, we started planning some new features for one of our products, so 2019 was the time to start working on them. A new team was formed, a new technology stack was chosen and so we started. For a few weeks, it was really great to work on this project. I was finally having time to code again and didn’t have to focus on many different projects/features anymore. It was great, and I was making a lot of progress on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, this didn’t last long. As I said, a new team was formed for the project, and, in order to do that, many other changes to the team structure of the entire company have been made. People moved to different teams and projects, roles and responsibilities became a bit unclear and things got confused. The feedback from most people was that the company was lacking some sort of company-wide technical lead. Someone they could resort to in case the team doesn’t have a tech lead or when tech leads themselves need help. To help with that, the company decided to create a new role, Head of Engineering, and asked if I was willing to take on this new position. I accepted it.

If being a tech lead for one single team/product was a big challenge, being a tech lead of multiple teams and products sometimes seems like a challenge way bigger than I can handle. Since I took the new position, I’ve been spending pretty much 100% of my time talking to people, understanding the way they work and how their projects are developed, listening to their struggles, offering support and suggestions, reviewing specifications, defining and documenting processes, and a lot more. Basically, meetings and meetings and meetings. This, again, is clearly visible on my contribution graph on Github:

Contributions in 2018

Contributions in 2019

The new position is much more about management and dealing with people than technical (as my previous position was) and this has certainly been the biggest challenge to me. I have a lot to learn here and to help me with that I’ve been listening to some podcasts like Simple Leadership and Manager Tools and reading a lot of interesting articles on the internet. I’ve also added a bunch of books on Management to my Amazon Wishlist and I really hope to get to read some of them this year.

As I said before, my wife and I traveled to London in August this year. We took a 1 week holiday and after that, she came back to Brazil while I stayed there a bit longer. During this time, I finally had the opportunity to meet some of the people that I’ve been working with for years (I work remotely, as a contractor, for a London-based company). It was amazing to finally be able to talk to all of them in person and I have to admit that, even though Remote Work has a vast number of advantages, face-to-face conversion is an indispensable tool for people working with software development.

Of course, we didn’t talk only about work. We had the opportunity to have many rounds of beer together and there was even a “Brazilian Night”, where another Brazilian guy that works in the company, his wife and I prepared a few Brazilian dishes for the rest of the team.

The team playing Rock Band after some Caipirinhas during the Brazilian Night

This experience showed me that I’m lucky to be part of an amazing team, where everybody is always ready to help each other. I’m really thankful for that.

Finally, if all this hadn’t been enough, the biggest challenge of the year was yet to come. The company was invited to pitch for a BIG client and one of the stages of the process was a technical presentation (which is something that doesn’t usually happen in these pitches). Because of that, the company decided it would make more sense for me to participate and present most of the things. There was a list with dozens of points the client wanted us to cover and I only had two days to prepare, but, in the end, I think everything went very well. It was a nerve-racking experience though.

What’s next?

As you can see, it was a unique year, full of new experiences. This is taking a toll now. All the pressure of learning a lot at the same time, traveling to a different country, dealing with a lot of complicated challenges has sent my anxiety through the roof. It became so bad in the last days of the year that it even started affecting my work and I was even starting to get scared of joining meetings and, when I joined, I would just be there, silent. I would also sometimes react aggressively to very simple problems. So, my main goal for 2020 is to slow down and focus on taking care of my mental health. I already started doing that by taking two weeks off between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 and I’ll be careful to take more if necessary.

I think that reading is really important, so I’ve created another reading challenge on Good Reads for this year. I’m trying to be a bit more realistic now and the goal is 20 books. Let’s see how this will go. Hopefully, I’ll be able to read some of the books on management that are on my wishlist :D

I also want to continue finding time to play video games. It’s a really relaxing activity for me, as it’s one of the only ways I can completely forget all the problems while I concentrate on the game. I want to finish the ones I’ve started already and play some more of old ones I have purchased and never played before (possibly the Uncharted games or the God of War ones). I’m also really looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 and Last of Us 2.

The trip to London made me realize that I haven’t been exploring my own city, São Paulo, as much as I can. São Paulo is an amazing city just like London, but I have visited way more places in London than I have in São Paulo. For 2020, I want to get to know my city a little bit better and visit places I haven’t visited yet.

Finally, I want to make the work of writing those recaps a little bit easier, so I’m planning on maybe switching to some sort of monthly recap instead.

That’s it! If you’ve read all that, thank you and I hope to see you again next year (or maybe next month?!).