Last year, I spent a couple of months living and working abroad in Canada. And as if that wasn't enough of a challenge already, right before I left for Canada, my company announced insolvency, and I soon lost my job. But I decided to still go anyway; I proposed to my girlfriend in New York and made it through the tough times.
Let's start off slowly, here is a quick rundown of my year 2022 using numbers.
16 newsletter issues
delivered to my loyal 19 newsletter subscribers.
923 days streak
combined in learning French on Duolingo (and elsewhere).
14 314 km flown
to Canada, across it, to USA, back to Canada & then back to Europe.
on my side project Twitter, and +356 new on my personal Twitter
with a reasonably good form (only 2 reps tho)
published on Android & 3 of them on iOS.
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Additionally to these numbers, this year, I'm also adding my Github commit history for last year. These green squares show the days when I worked even a little bit. There are seldom days when I didn't work at all.
As with every year, I thought of 2022 as finally the year when things would start going my way. And for some time, they seemed to be aiming in that direction. I was seeking a promotion to a leadership role for a while, and I decided to work for it at the beginning of 2022. I spent a few weekends deciding which position I'd like to be in. I wrote up my values and what precisely I would want. My manager helped me with this every step of the way.
Soon enough, there was the company performance review. I gathered up all my successes at the company that proved my leadership experience (things like leading the technical side & hiring for the project of Bitwala to Nuri redesign) and went towards my promotion. The following Monday came, and with it, the company-wide weekly meeting, which announced the new promotions. As I waited for my name to come up, it didn't. Sadly, no prior feedback or heads-up was given to me. My manager scheduled a meeting later that day, and we talked it over.
Over the course of the week, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I scheduled meetings with a couple of my team members & also the head of engineering. I thought I needed to be proactive about these things if I'm ever to take on a leadership role. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. So it was a bit of a struggle for me to understand what went wrong.
But patience goes a long way. It wasn't right after the performance review, but soon enough, I was promoted to the engineering manager role I desired. At that point, I knew it was going to be a challenge. But my expectations were way off. It was way harder than I thought.
With my girlfriend, we planned an extended fall trip to Canada 🇨🇦, the country of beavers and maple syrup. She went to Montreal to study at McGill University for half a year, and I joined her for over two months. My employer agreed to let me work remotely from a different timezone, and things seemed well.
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Life can be funny, though. And two weeks before my plane was supposed to take off, my company announced insolvency.
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It was after a wave of layoffs months prior, but that didn't make the news any less shocking to me. Extreme anxiety took over me. Nobody from my colleagues knew what was going to happen next. But over the course of the week, it was becoming clear that the company would continue to exist at least until the end of October. Which was, completely coincidentally, the date of my flight back from Canada. So, I decided to go anyway. There was nothing to lose at this point.
So, I'll keep this part only positive. My time in Canada was simply incredible. Montreal is a beautiful city, with some terrific coffee shops and bars. Every day, I'd walk out of our AirBnB to be greeted by a couple of squirrels. That will always brighten up my mood! Sometimes I'd walk my girlfriend to her school & then just hang out on the McGill campus (a place completely infested by adorable squirrels).
I also got to visit my friend Vladimír in Vancouver (that friend with which we're building Thamira!). Every day I'd walk the city until my legs were completely sore, and of course after a week of walking, Vladimír would take me on a grind up the Grouse Mountain, which would basically finish me off. I was returning to Montreal with aching legs, but a satisfying feeling.
And finally, New York City. As Frank Sinatra claims, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. I hit up a couple of my friends who live in NYC. We got into a small but really cool concert in Brooklyn where my friend Katie Glasgow performed. But my visit there wasn't just enjoying the views and hanging out at bars. Before I left Montreal, I scouted it for a ring. And in New York, at Central Park I proposed.
Now to the difficult part of my stay in Canada. The time difference was 6 hours, so instead of starting my work day at 9am, I'd wake up before 3am. I was quite newly an engineering manager to the team, and I was put directly in the middle of a disaster.
There were basically two possible outcomes for the company. Either it'll get acquired, or it'll go bankrupt, and we all lose our jobs. The mood at the company was abysmal. We were assured over and over by the C-levels that the situation was going to get resolved by an acquisition. And we had a couple of offers on the table, so everyone thought we might actually have a shot.
For me, this meant that I needed to figure out what to do with my team. If I encourage them to find a new job & leave, I might be the one who's putting the aquisition at risk (after all, the biggest asset to the company was the team). If I encourage them to stay, I might be putting them at risk of having no job. Along with the added risk that some of them had families, and visas to worry about. From the outside, this might seem like a no-brainer. Just tell people to find a new stable job, and leave the company behind. But if the company is at risk, the people who would be staying would have even lower chances of keeping their jobs. Not everyone can find a new job easily.
It was a tricky situation. Managing expectations of the management, who wanted to motivate people to stay. My team. And my own. A couple of walks around the Montreal parks helped me to think things through. And after a while, I came up with a course of action. It was actually rather simple. I'm in the middle of the same situation as my team. So, as in a plane, where you put on your own oxygen mask first, I decided it might be best if I made my own strategy for dealing with this situation. And only then I'll be in a position to advise my team.
My strategy ended up being quite simple. Dust off my interviewing & leetcoding skills early on, but wait with applying for new jobs until a bit later in the insolvency process. To me, this seemed like a good enough trade-off. I would be prepared for the worst, but I wouldn't anticipate it. So this is what I also advised my team.
At the time, that sounded sensible. But sadly, things didn't work out as I thought they would, and the company ended up going bankrupt. I know some people would be in a better position if they had started interviewing early. And it's hard not to beat myself over this.
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Lessons are learned through trials. And this was definitely one of mine.
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As for me, I made a list of companies I'd be happy to work for. That included some early startups but also startups that seemed big & already stable. I filtered them down to 3, and sent my CV their way. I got rejections straight away, and a week later, these same companies announced layoffs (very strange times we live in). I sent out more applications, and got onto a couple of interviews. Got a couple of offers that I rejected (I didn't feel the fit). And after a surprisingly quick search, I landed at Accointing!
Move Fast & Break Things—Lensta
It wouldn't be a successful year without taking on at least one new side project. In October, my friend & former colleague from Nuri contacted me with an idea. Build a image sharing social network over the Lens protocol.
The concept of a decentralised social network is relatively simple. Instead of one app (like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) holding your content on their servers, it's being distributed across many different servers. These servers are maintained by volunteers that get paid through the network. This means that you can have one social media account, and post & consume content using many different apps.
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And in October, while I was still in Canada, we started building this app together. Very quickly we had a working prototype, and the traction & attention kept on growing. I was really impressed by how much work we were able to put out in such a short time. We were able to build a working app in just a few weeks & have it distributed to the first users. Since then the app keeps growing in features & users. Bright things are ahead for Lensta.
As the year started winding down, I joined my new job, and my next challenge. I'm now working at Accoinging by Glassnode as an engineering manager of the mobile team. The team is rather small, but that also means that there isn't a lot of organisational overhead, and I can get my hands dirty myself. My impression of the team & the company at large is very positive. I'm excited to see what the future holds for us.
A lot more…
I'm not going to go into detail about all the other things I've done this year. But I'll leave you with a couple of highlights.
1 - Still working on Thamira. This year I built multiplayer, and my friend Vladimír drew some incredible art for the game. It's available to download, and you can easily play with your friends already!
2 - Built my first VR game. Although it wasn't anywhere near ready for publishing anywhere.
3 - Updated my website. The new design you're looking at right now is the result of me going through several interview proceses. I guess it worked!
∞ - Plenty of things that weren't actually fully released. I continued to experiment with ThreeJS, Blender, etc. I was learning shaders & generally concepts around 3D (I watched all the learning videos about quaternions again).
What I learned
When you walk into ice cold water, it feels dreadful. It's after you get out, and a minute passes that you start appreciating the whole experience. This whole year felt like that. Right now, I'm already out of the cold water. But now I know I can jump back in, and handle it just fine.
A lot happened last year. I bet it was eventful for you as well. It's interesting putting everything down in a body of text, I sincerely recommend doing the same. Whether it's a retrospective for a year, or just a diary. It puts everything into perspective, and you can actually sit down, and think about how the the time changed you. With that, have a wonderful 2023!
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