A photo of my keyboard (Logitech MX Keys)

2020 Year in Review

Published: 16.02.2021

What a year to start the "Year in Review" column on my blog, huh?! Anyway, with this and subsequent Year in Review posts I will try to review the year that passed and set my professional and some of my personal goals for the year ahead. I have also created a new section of my blog to track my yearly goals set in this post. You can find it here.

Content


2020 Review

The past year has been tough for everyone. It is really hard to evaluate and review this year in any sense. I will just go with the flow and try to take the positives in a somewhat chronological order.

Started great, Mihajlo was born

This year had started in the best possible way. My son Mihajlo was born. It was supposed to be a relaxed and an enjoyable year with lots of reasons to celebrate and share special moments with friends and family. However, I will not complain on this year for various reasons. I just want to say that working from home has been a huge positive for me and my family as we got to spend a lot of time together.

I am very grateful that I can be such an involved father. Even with home office, you miss a special moment or two. But, if it was the other way around for the whole year, I would have missed a lot of first times with a newborn baby. It has been quite an experience to witness a new person developing and learning so quickly about the world around him. They are REALLY growing up so fast.

Even though being a parent is really stressful and draining I am thankful that I can experience it. I am drawing an enormous motivation from my wife and my son every day and I just can't wait to see what will be the next thing he will learn and understand. It is really so much fun.

First lockdown and a job change

I started my current job in the midst of the Covid-19 world panic mode, in the middle of April. Well, now when I think about it, it has been really stressful. Not because of the job change per se, but because of the uncertainty of the whole situation. The companies were already in a rebudgeting mode. A lot of positions that I have been interviewing for have been shut down. Finances were shifted to only the most essential parts of the business. New and not yet established business ideas had to largely be put off for another time. A lot of my colleagues lost their jobs. A lot of Junior developers I know and/or mentor had a hard time finding or keeping a job. So, I was also wondering what will happen to the new job I accepted. How will it work out? Will I be fired on my first day, or after a month? (Here in Austria it is usual that you can resign or a company can fire you for whatever reason within the first month. It is called Trial Month, "Probemonat"). Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about, my job was safe.

So, with all of that, it was kind of hard to focus fully on the onboarding process while working remotely. I just want to say that I was used to working from home. Since I have worked as a freelancer in the past, working from home was not an issue for me. However, with a small child crying in the other room it was not as it used to be back in the days. Having an experienced team helped smooth out this process quite a bit, so it was not bad at all. Still, the whole situation was weird and not really what you want to have. In the end, I believe my performance was quite good and I was able to do what was expected from me.

Consumed more than I produced

I know for a while now that I should produce more than I consume. What I mean by that? Well, I have been watching video courses, reading blog articles, reading books since before I was making money with programming. While that was all fine and dandy in the beginning, after a couple of years the good practice would be to go the other way around. To produce more than you consume.

And what does that mean? Well, you should be coding more than you are reading. Or, you should code while you are going through a specific material. And, not just that, but also experiment and go in a different direction than the learning material. Also, one good thing would be to start side projects where you have the chance to learn a new framework, library or technology while working on a real world problem. I have failed in this regard tremendously in last several years. I realized that last year and I wanted to reverse the trend. I kinda did, but I still have to make a proper commitment to it.

One thing that helped me last year was EggHead.io. This website is fabulous with its short and to the point video courses. I bought a yearly subscription in April and haven't regretted it one cent.

Started this blog

For a while now I wanted to start blogging. I do not have a goal to get rich or popular because of it. I just simply want to articulate my thoughts and just write. I think the notion of learning in public combined with putting something out there that the whole world can see was the main reason I was putting it off. But, now that I started it, I am happy when I write. I have a long list of things I want to write about, I just need to find the time for it.

For the details about why I decided to write the blog in the first place and what drives me, you can check my about page.

Started a side project

2020 was the year when I started my first real side project. It is about Scrum Poker Cards. Here is the link. It is basically a PWA (Progressive Web App) and it can work without the internet connection. The basic idea is not new. There are tons of similar apps out there. I just wanted to have an actual project to learn and implement all the features I would like. It is a nice opportunity to collaborate with my friend whom I am mentoring. It is still in the early stages and it needs a ton of work on the UX. However, the basic functionality is there. It needs a few more things. The next step is to make it pretty. I am looking forward to start at least one more side project this year.

Got better at German

Last year was perfect for getting serious about finally learning German. It is something I have been doing on and off for the past five years since I came to Vienna. In 2020 I got into the habit of learning German for around 30-45 minutes per day. It looks like it was worth it, and I can already see an improvement. Even though it is going a bit slow, it is going better than I expected before coming to Austria. Still, I wish I was younger, as it was easier to master a new language back then. 🙂 Anyway, I am almost ready for the B1 test. 🤞

Continued training despite the lack of time

The past year was really tough for training. Generally training had to take the back seat as other things had higher priority. While being seriously out of form and fitness I can say that I am happy with a quick and irregular session that I had here and there throughout the year. This whole pandemic meant that I had to train alone. In parkour this is both easy and difficult. However, I can say that I rediscovered my passion for solo training. Having said that, I still miss my Vienna training crew. But, also, my training crew from Niš.

It has been generally hard to stick to the schedule of training every other day. Some weeks I was able to do it, others, not so much. I discussed an alternative approach with Boki and it seemed to have worked. Now I have really small sessions, like 30-45 minutes. That is like half of my normal training duration. However, it is highly intensive with only a couple of exercises but with small brakes and lots of focus. I can say that it worked good. The challenge for me currently is to get that continuity going. I can safely say that not stopping training last year has been my biggest challenge in parkour to date.

Conclusion

I have so much more to say about the past year, but I will keep a lot of it for myself. Why? Well, this year has had a lot of different angles for a lot of different people. I stopped complaining for a bunch of things once I saw how other people are struggling. I just want to be grateful for what I have and grow as a human being. I think this year, most of the people figured out what are the most important things to them. What to focus on, and what to drop completely.

Goals for 2021

Publish more blog posts (20-25)

I really want to write more. The number from above is almost my full list of things I want to write about at this moment. Hopefully I can achieve this number. Since I am writing this in the middle of February already, I am already behind the schedule. But lets see. 💪

Get better at Webpack, React, Next.js, TypeScript, testing

I have been working with this or similar stack for a couple of years now. I have a pretty good foundation in all these technologies, however, I would like to explore them a bit more deeply. To really learn them. Since all of these need to come together in one project to be useful in unison, I won't set separate goals for each. Instead, my goal is to create a boiler plate with the above technologies that I can use as a base for my future side projects.

Solidify the Vanilla JavaScript knowledge

If you are like me, you want to know stuff that you work with every day as deeply as possible. Being an expert is a really strong statement in my opinion. That is why I want to focus on learning all parts of JavaScript and solidify the knowledge of the whole programming language.

This goal for me consists of two parts. The first one is to finish all the learning resources I have on my list. Those are:

The last one is pretty huge, however, I know most of those things. I just need to brush up my skills, fill in the gaps I have and solidify my knowledge.

The second one is to create a plan to write about all the ES6+ features. It will be a new category of posts for my blog. I am really looking forward to doing this one.

Improve Kode Skills website

Every time I write a new blog post I try to improve or add something on this website. The visuals and UX are obvious at first glance. Sometimes I just want to write and do stuff, so I forget about improving the design. At the end of the year I want to be at least somewhat satisfied with the overall look and feel.

Produce more than I consume

This one is really important to me. Not that much for what I will achieve this year, but more importantly to shift the balance of consuming vs producing more towards building stuff. At this stage of my career it is essential that I just open the editor and start typing and see where the code leads me.

To have a good goal means to be able to measure it at the end. So, for this one I want to have at least one NPM package published. I already have one idea. The other goal would be to finish the Scrum Poker Cards project and start at least one more side project.

Clear pocket list or at least keep it at the same level

I use Pocket for keeping all the articles and things I want to research organized and in one place. You can also install it on the phone for ultimate URL capture. 😆 I remember when I had like 200 items on there. I am happy to report that I am hovering around 10 items in there for quite some time. The goal for me would be to keep the number of items in the list below 10. If I achieve the big 4 from the Vanilla JavaScript section that would take me a bit closer to my goal. Those have been on my list for quite some time.

Pass the B1 OIF exam

This one is quite self explanatory. People who are building their life, family and career outside of their homeland will probably know how stressful it is to manage all the visas, exams, administrative stuff on a language which you are not really good at. Apart from all the daily duties you have at work and at home, you also have to find the time to learn the damn language. As with any language, it takes time, practice and patience. Those things are a rare privilege to have when you are a parent...

Get more active

The home office and being a parent do not always go hand in hand together. Especially for your fitness. We as developers are sitting a lot during the day and getting regular exercise is really important. It is twice as hard to find the time (and sometimes motivation) to go out and do the training session.

Nevertheless, my goal is to train regularly, without large breaks (not more than half a week). Apart from that I need to set my training goal and create a training schedule. Most of these years I was deciding what I want to work on during a particular training session when I arrive at the spot directly. I feel that this is not working for me anymore, especially with the limited time. So, I need to make it more structured.

Finish all german lessons in Duolingo

Duolingo is a great resource to use in addition to an actual language book and exercises. It is good for expanding vocabulary and drilling some expressions. One thing I do not like about it is that it is so repetitive with the exercises, so it does not really bring a lot of value, apart from the things I mentioned.

My goal is to finish all the lessons there, just for the sake of being able to say I completed it. 🥇

Start playing with photography

This one is like a side quest for me. I would really like to learn the tools for post processing RAW images. Apart from that, I would like to improve the scene selection when taking the shots. For this, I need more practice. So, lets see if I would be motivated to shoot more pictures this year, as well as, edit them in post production.

Conclusion

This is quite an optimistic list of goals. But, you know, challenge is not a challenge if you know you can make it.

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Dejan Kostevski

Dejan Kostevski is a self-taught Web Developer. His mission is to explain things in a simple but understandable way. During the years he has helped several Junior Developers kick start their careers, land an internship or a job or just in general get over the coding hurdle that they encountered.

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