This is the first time I do. To reflect on some calendar year of my life by showing what has gone wrong, and what went well. Most probably no or a very few people will read or care about this. But if I read this end of 2024, and compare two consecutive years and see what has changed. Then it will be win for me.
To give more context about 2023, I will need to go back to end of 2020 when I decided to quit the company where I worked the longest in my life, Freeletics. A fitness app company in Munich. Up until now, Freeletics is still the most impactful job on my professional career, and on my personal life (by far ahead of 2nd place). Beginning of 2021, I left the company, started a new job remotely, temporarily. Working from my small apartment in Munich, until it's decided that we need to move to Berlin. The job was at Amazon Web Services.
I never made it to the office. I liked and hated some parts of the job. I classify two main class of people who would join Amazon. People who enjoy it so much, and decide to spend many many years. Enjoying all the impact and the high compensation. People who cannot stay more than 2 years. I was in the 2nd category obviously. I left and requested only 1 month of notice. So end of 2021, I was jobless and not having a single idea where I will be next. I was interviewing with a few companies. I got an offer from Shopify that I turned down. 2021 was crazy for me. I left two companies :)
But 2022 started relaxed. I was visiting my brother's family in Abu Dhabi. Returned to Germany for some good news. I got an offer from GitLab, which I always believed it's a dream job for any Software Engineer. And I couldn't be more right. Fast forward to end of 2023, and I am still gratefull for this chance of working for this great company, and I am so close to celebrating my 2nd anniversary. I still live and work remotely for GitLab from Munich.
What made GitLab great is that I like Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, and working with Open Source technologies. Not to mention is that GitLab itself is open source. And boy, that set the bar high for any other job that I might consider in my future career. Not to mention how great GitLab is at Remote Work.
I imagine you would say: "but aren't you reflecting on your 2023?". And I am glad you asked!
Yes, of course. Let's get back to that. In 2022, I embraced the fact that I am new employee at GitLab, and that it takes some time to hit the ground running in such a big company. And yet, I took part in some great projects, and made a great progress.
I expected that in 2023, I would be more of an "expert", and I will be less learning. But I couldn't be more wrong. I was feeling frustrated and down every time I hit some wall, where I feel I don't know how to proceed, or who to ask for help. Which made my 2023, from my own perspective, professionally worse than 2022. That's a lesson for myself. I might be getting better at anything, but I should always embrace the chance to learn some new, leaving the comfort zone, asking questions and for help and the fact that there is always an opportunity for improvement. That's true for career as much any other personal matter.
My lesson for 2024 career wise: Get comfortable leaving the comfort zone more often. Measure my progress more, and try to do more of the stuff that keep me progressing. Make those Atomic Habits. No, I haven't read the book, but it's on my TODO. I watched many videos about it though.
Two great things happened on that side in 2023:
I wrote some small scripts TensorFlow that do some sort of text classification. I also wrote some Python scripts that call OpenAI API to see what it's capable of.
My AI progress in 2022 was ZERO. So I am satisfied where I took this in 2023. I am still far from where I want myself in this field. But considering that it's not my main job to work with AI, I am quite happy.
Rust because one of the language that I also experiment with. But I haven't built anything serious yet with Rust. Let's see what 2024 is holding for me.
But that habit of reading every morning is something that I want to keep for sure. And once I am done with the Rust Book, I will need to get to something else. Most probably AI, Mathematics or maybe Finance
When I worked for Amazon Web Services remotely from my small apartment in Munich, in 2021, I didn't invest in my home office equipment. I was moving my laptop back and forth between boxes if I wanted to work standing. Or back to my shitty and uncomfortable desk. The main reason was: I didn't want to buy stuff that I would need to carry them later when I move to Berlin for the job.
Looking back at this, it still made sense not to buy new furniture and equipment, considering that I was moving a few months later. But that made my job more uncomfortable that it really was. Having a comfortable setup makes life much better.
But when I started GitLab in 2022, I wanted to correct this mistake. So the first I bought was 120x80 CM standing desk from Fully. Looking back at this, it was one of the best money I spent on anything. I work many times while standing. But I can also sit whenever I want. Even on the weekends, it is nice to have high computer while I am doing any household work.
But I forgot to mention something. I like electronics and buying stuff. Having a new Standing Desk is like having a green field that I need to fill. So I started watching videos about what I need to buy, and how to make my desk filled with stuff that make me happy. I went for another 27 Inch screen that made the total 2. Two screens connected to both my work and my personal computer. That's how I started, until I started to make it a habit to always look for offers and stuff to buy. Even if I didn't need to.
So instead of reading in the morning, imagine myself spending 30 minutes on Amazon look for offers on Gadgets or a 34 Inch screen to replace my 27 Inch screens. Or a new NAS server, that I haven't bought yet.
That was in Feburary 2022. Fast forward to July 2023. I came back from 1 month spent at my home country Jordan. 1 month without buying anything. So I decided to upgrade my personal old Intel Nuc computer by buying a used M1 Mac Mini on Ebay. It was meant for my personal use of course. It was a great deal indeed. The thing is, even though I was obsessed with Electronics and Gadgets, I feel that I can tell which is worth the money or not. I have been 28 years in this business :)
My new Mac Mini was (the straw that broke the camel's back). I suddenly realized that I have so many stuff in my small apartment. They made me distracted, and addicted to buy more stuff. It gave me headache and made me feel down. I had stuff that I wanted to sell, like an old Intel MacBook Pro. But I never dedicated time for that.
Then it started. 2 months of only selling stuff. I sold my old Sony Camera, old screen, old Intel Nuc, old Macbook Pro. Many kitchen equipment and books that I didn't like or never thought about reading. I bought them because I basically can. EBay started to think that I am a shop and asked for my ID. Even though I was still selling on an other platform as well.
In August, my perspective on buying stuff started to change. Yes, I visit Electronics shops, and watch reviews online. But I always ask: Is this needed? is this REALLY needed? I can buy all the stuff. I even made a public list of the stuff that I want to buy someday. By the way, having a list like this, makes it better to control myself, and how messy and addicted I am or was to buying stuff. Just an advice for those who have this problem of hitting the Buy button Amazon to get that dopamine hit.
I am not planning to be minimalist. But having a space (new standing desk) or more money, doesn't necessary mean that you need to fill that space. Make it empty. It will be less clutter and give you more comfort. Seek happiness in activities rather than buying stuff. I am happy that in summer of 2023 I opened my eyes on that and on dangers of consumerism, and on this minimalism movement. Just to seek ideas and advice on not buying stuff.
By not buying stuff, I started to open eyes on the topic of Finance and Invement. In April 2023 I was traveling back from Japan, where I spent 8 days. On Netflix, I downloaded the first few episodes of How to be rich. Quick advice: If you like reality shows, watch it. But otherwise, I am sure you can get financial advice quickly from somewhere else.
But it got my thinking and interested in this topic. This where I started to look for ways to invest and grow money. I started with ETFs and Stocks later in 2023. Which obviously also made me less distracted about buying new stuff.
I still feel lost when I watch or read about some topics in Finance. But hopefully in 2024 I will keep reading more and taking this to the next level.
2023 was also the first year I do taxes in Germany. After 12 years living in Germany, I finally decided to take this step! I always thought it's complicated for me, but having done it on my own makes me feel proud :) In 2022, I was not familiar many of the topics related to doing taxes. It was great getting back some small amount of money that I can invest on my own. Or to buy my new next gadget :P Just kidding. Well, I am not against buying thing you need ...
Well, I bought my first ever iPad in December 2022 when I was on the Electronics Shopping Spree that I talked about before, so it doesn't really count as 2023 thing. But most of my time using it was in 2023. So I want to say this: It's Amazing. I had no idea that I needed this device. I truly needed it.
I use it to read some E-Books. Especially programming books that I had as PDF/EPUB. Most of my Rust reading was on the iPad. In addition to the Amazon Kindle. both the iPad and the Kindle help me to avoid buying books that make my apartment crowded. I love phyiscal books, but I am not in a stage of my life where I want to buy many. Maybe more on that in a different article.
I enjoy watching stuff on the iPad, especially when I am in my bed at night. It's good to invest in my entertainment as well. It doesn't always have to be about learning.
The iPad is a great computer when I travel. I don't have a personal laptop anymore. And when I am on a short trip, I don't want to carry my work laptop if I am not working. So the iPad does the job perfectly. Reading / Watching / Buying tickets or even listening to Music if my phone was running out of battery.
Overall, the iPad was a good money spent.
Speaking of traveling. I went to Japan in 2023. I planned the trip spontanously in January, and traveled in April. A great month to visit this amazing country. On the way I visited my brother's family in Abu Dhabi.
In the summer, I visited Jordan for 1 month, where I worked for 1 month, and spent time with my family and friends. Time well spent.
In November, I went for 4 days to Madrid, and watched a match in Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in LaLiga. It was a dream that came true to be in this Stadium. Madrid was nice, but it was colder than I expected.
My camera was sold already as I mentioned before, and I am still taking a break from non-mobile photography until now. I am not sure when or which camera I will buy. Most probably Sony A III or Sony A IV.
In 2023, in a moment of hurry, I booked a 3 weeks trip to the US also for November, that I canceled later. Because it was getting hard for me to plan it, and I was so distracted by my work. Japan was already so much work to plan for.
In 2023, I started to get back on track with fitness. I went consistenly to the gym since February. I ran more than I did in 2022. I finished the year strongy with a 10K race that I finished in 48:15 in Munich Olympia Park. Almost 1:45 minutes faster than last year. But in 2019 I finished the same race in less than 45:00 minutes !!! Yes I was much better, but getting there ;)
In 2023, I kept myself distant from people. I was saying no to some social gatherings or any chance to meet new people. Working from home and being expat doesn't help. I hopefully need to fix this in 2024, and say Yes more and make new ways to meet more people. I need to take an action.
I feel relieved that I got these learnings out of my head, and decided to write this in the last hours of 2023 (in Germany's timezone). I need to write more obviously.
Writing will help me to reach out to more people, getting advice and practice writing and communication. Two things that I am still bad at.
In case you are reading this in early 2024. Happy new year every one.
My name is Omar Qunsul. I write these articles mainly as a future reference for me. So I dedicate some time to make them look shiny, and share them with the public.