Professional sum up of 2018

I have many thoughts running through my head as I sit in my sun-clad apartment and look at the empty suitcase in front of me. There’s only a week left of 2018 and my flight to Poland is leaving in a couple of hours. Outside, the Andalusian bees go about their flower business. Unbeknownst to them the rest of Europe is scrubbing snow off their cars and porches. The set up is perfect to reflect on this year’s happenings.

It’s been an intense year both personally and professionally for me. Quitting the corporate life allowed me to reconnect with my core beliefs about what’s important. My apartment has turned into a part-time office – a status shared with a local co-working space, The Living Room, and, occasionally, with the offices of my European customers. My home has graduated from a rental with a leaking shower and funny smells to a beautiful place up a hill that I share with a partner I’m crazy in love with.

How did I get here? When I graduated high school I had very little idea about what to do with my life. My options appeared aplenty and intimidated me as the branches in Sylvia Plath’s fig tree metaphor (I’d have read and sworn by The Bell Jar by then). Equipped with a great diploma and a romanticized view of where my skills can be utilized (a journalist! a psychologist! a PR lady!), I flew home. In an attempt to “adult-up” I signed up for international business studies. Fast forward 9 years and here I am with 3 diplomas, 1 unfinished studies, 3 internships (including one I quit after the first day and one that turned into a full-time position), 3 jobs, and 3 countries that I would call home. Years ago I dismissed my calling to computer science thinking it inapproachable for a person that didn’t know the first thing about computers. I am a computer scientist now. I even write about information technology. My career and education choices appear as if leading to this moment. It’s all a hindsight bias; I had no clue.

This year is special for my work life. The move to a small company has been refreshing: I have a full control of how I want to work, from where, and even what time I’m having my lunch break. I don’t arrive agitated at the office because of the crazy traffic and little sleep. My work has a direct impact on a project’s success and delivery. I feel relaxed and in control. A part of me still doesn’t believe this is happening.

The points below are a mix of lessons learnt this year and things I consider professional achievements. Some realizations off that list come from a very personal space, often a space of vulnerability: I believe that work and life are inseparably intertwined.

  • I grew as a teacher: for years I’ve been fascinated by how people see and understand information and this year marks further development of my interest in the subject and skill in communicating data. For the last couple of months I’ve been single-handedly running a series of webinars on data security that helped me formalize my knowledge and think up ways to explain often abstract concepts to a crowd. I also delivered two talks at meetups that have been superbly received – affirming I’m on the right path.
  • I developed my troubleshooting skills big time: an idealist as I am I took on a position of a solution consultant to be as hands-on the project as possible. The problems my customers are struggling with are rarely documented and follow no protocol. The role of support is equivalent to an open-heart surgery in the IT world. You have to be very careful of what you’re doing, do it reasonably fast, and don’t break down in the middle of the operation. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed with doubt if you’re doing things for the first time; even more so, if you developed an inferiority complex because of your patchwork CS degree as I had. I was swamped by insecurity in my first couple of projects. Hundreds of project work later I think I managed to befriend the unknown and grow more calm about things.
  • An interesting realization about myself surfaced when chatting with my friend Ewelina: it seems that I tend to sabotage myself at my work choices. I always go for the more challenging task as soon as I’m good at something. It’s almost as if I don’t believe my knowledge is sufficient to be expert – I immediately put myself in the position of a fresh starter. My big resolution that I’ve already put in place is to build on and monetize my skillset better.
  • I noticed my non-productive envy. My boyfriend’s profession exposes me to how startups operate – he tells me stories of luck, failure, success, and privilege. I get angry when I see that things are mismanaged, that money is misspent, and that people are corrupted – convinced if I got a chance I’d do them better. I envy people who have their businesses. Semi-consciously, I blame the world (my upbringing, my nationality, my gender) it didn’t present me with that opportunity. At the same time my attempts to create are scattered and non-committed. It’s something I’m currently reflecting on. I need to be honest about those feelings and re-purpose them in a productive way.

Now that this is done I can start packing my winter clothes. Going back to the family house is like coming back to the past. The Spanish sun will welcome me in the new year. It will be time for resolutions then.