Monday, December 27, 2021

2021 - A Year in Review

There's a global pandemic going on for quite a while now and the whole emotional rollercoaster coming along with it. Lots of things were different the past year and nonetheless it's time to reflect and look back at what else happened.

Here's my raw list of things that came to mind. Events, achievements, struggles, and joyful moments. Everything I'm grateful for.

  • I've helped build and shape a fresh new team this year - completely remote - that grew into the best team I've ever been on so far. I'm very proud of the people I had the honor to work with and am sure they are well on their way. It was amazing to see them grow and hard to leave them. They have all my confidence on their further journey and their future colleagues will be fortunate to have them.
  • The first half of the year was a constant struggle that got me very close to burnout - and I came out on the sustainable end again. I do catch myself from time to time falling back into old behaviors, yet the good thing is I do notice this earlier each time so I have a chance to adapt course earlier as well. Also: I have amazing people around me checking in frequently and reminding me to take breaks even before I might remind myself. Ever grateful for these amazing humans.
  • A really remarkable thing this year was a series of six leadership workshops that I've co-created and facilitated together with Shiva Krishnan. It's been the first time I had a try on this territory, attempting to build quality in on a foundational level - and I learned so much from this experience. I've deepened my own knowledge of what it means to know yourself, build relationships, and shape the environment around you. I've learned a lot about pairing again - this time when creating such a deep and long-going workshop series together with Shiva (whom I'm ever grateful for to agree on pairing with me and go on this journey together). I've learned even better ways of how to do remote workshops in a manner that's beneficial for participants and facilitators. And I've learned yet again so many things about diversity, equity and inclusion - which is part of my personal vision.
  • After six years at the last company, I've found a new place for me to grow further. I've just been working there for about three weeks, yet I already see the potential in so many ways. Yes, there's work to do, and yes, I feel I'm able to contribute. People are great and we can move things forward to the better, together. It's amazing to work with so many wonderful quality people there as well, many of whom I know from our shared communities! Still can't quite fathom that I can call all of these my colleagues now. Also, I'm ever grateful to have found an amazing new manager! From day one, I've felt listened to and very well supported based on my needs, and I heavily appreciate that - so here's a shout-out to David Williams. Oh and I've dipped my toes into a new tech stack - exploring the space of mobile apps. Lots of learning ahead!
  • I've received a lot of feedback this year. Really, a lot. Probably the most in my career so far. And I am so, so grateful for that. Feedback is a true gift! Especially for someone like me, feeling the urgent need to know where I stand with people, how certain actions land with people, worrying whether I should course-correct or not, and more. I'm rather the anxious type and receiving feedback in time helps me massively to calm down and relax and just do me - knowing that if anything is off, I'll hear about it right away, and if anything is going great, I can enjoy myself just as well in time. So please everybody, if you have feedback for someone please offer it to them as soon as it's feasible, so that if they're ready to hear it, they can learn from it. It makes a whole difference.
  • I gave a lot more direct feedback this year than I've ever did so far. Especially on behavior, and  in specific on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. It's still a long learning journey ahead for me to stay on the candid and clear and hence the kind side of things, and not fall back to just being nice; and still: giving this kind of feedback from teammate to C-level and in between is something I am glad about and want to build on further.
  • I said "no" a lot more this year. I know it might not look like it as I've also said "yes" to a few things, and yet the majority was indeed on the "no", "not now", "not yet" side of things. Fun fact: I had the opportunity to attend a workshop to practice saying no more often - and managed to decline when it was scheduled just before starting the new job. So yes, I'm making progress! Still probably will say yes to that specific workshop if I get another chance.
  • My confidence grew a lot with this last year. First, with the new team at my last company where I could use all my past experience and pass it along, with people being deeply appreciative of that. Second, with them not questioning me for once whether I'm "technical" or not (whatever that means anyway). Third, with my first workshop that everyone (why ever they'd like to judge) can call "technical" that's all around growing your own technical confidence. And lastly, with my new current team where I now benefit from all the built up "technical" experience for a quick kickstart and where I can already share back as well on that end. Confidence really, really, really goes a long way. And makes not knowing so much less of a worry. Or at least makes me get over my anxiousness a lot faster towards a calm space again.
  • I've been nominated "Tester of the Day" two times this year and ever grateful for the recognition - thank you so much Thomas Rinke and Patrick Prill! And many thanks to Ben Dowen for this amazing initiative. If another quality minded person did something great you want to give kudos for, go ahead and nominate them. I can assure you it'll make their day.
  • Not many scheduled pairing sessions with community people this year - besides the regular sessions together with Peter Kofler on security testing. It's quite amazing that we're doing these since my Testing Tour back in 2018! Still learning a lot together.
  • Participating in one on-site conference this year was magical. It was a risk to be with all these people. Despite being super cautious the whole year, this was the one thing I couldn't resist to do. Agile Testing Days was my first conference ever back in 2015 and I've came back every year ever since. We were fortunate that it took place at all, that organizers made sure that people followed safety rules, and that attendees were seriously considerate and took care of each other. This one event will feed my soul for the whole next year if need be.
  • My dear power learning group people were there all along. Not too many group calls this year and still I cherished each and every one of them. Many one to one calls as well. Thank you all for being you and being there.
  • Really grateful for another group that evolved this year, formed by amazing people from the crafter community. Having regular calls, checking in, exchanging experiences, thoughts and ideas - knowing they have my back. Just feels really good.
  • I did not publish an official pact challenge this year. I had a sort of unofficial theme in my head, and there was opportunity to make it happen, yet unfortunately it turned out that the situation did not allow it. I never gave a full-day tutorial yet which came to be my secret goal this year. At first it seemed I could make it happen already in July, with the all day pairing workshop planned together with Simon Berner for Ministry of Testing. Not enough people registered to make it happen, though. Then there was another chance in November to give a full-day tutorial together with my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee at Agile Testing Days, on leading quality - well, that one too did not take place due to the limited travel situation during a pandemic. Well, next year, hopefully. Also, a new actual personal challenge hopefully - yet I won't decide on this before July. My focus during the first half year will be fully on my new job as I don't want to spread myself thin again.
  • I did not write a lot of blog posts this year. I did have lots of topics and ideas I could write about yet hardly found the energy and capacity to do so. I ended up with "only" seven including the present one, which is my all time low so far. No regrets on that part, though, given the situation.
  • For what it's worth, as of writing this blog post I'm three people away from reaching 5,000 Twitter followers. Not the widest and not the smallest reach - yet it does mean a lot to me. Special thanks to everyone who chose to stick around for longer!
  • I gave three keynotes this year which makes me arrive at a total of six keynotes so far. I'm still quite surprised it's that many already, yet now at least I can confidently tell myself as well that I'm indeed a keynote speaker. I don't have to be the best keynote speaker ever, that's fine with me. Yet I know now that I did stand my ground already and that I'm capable of doing so.
  • My best friend and sister at heart wrote four novels this year, published three of them already, and just started with the fifth. I am ever so grateful that she overcame the hurdle of writing something without instantly destroying her work, that she read these books out loud to me while creating, published them before she could change her mind, listened well to feedback, took the good parts from it and incorporated them in her next creation. You can really see her grow as an author with every book written, and I just love her very unique stories. She has a lot more to tell! After so many years of hardship she finally found her voice and along with it, also the courage to share it with the world. Couldn't be prouder.
  • I've created a website for the first time - for my freshly baked author friend, based on her wishes and needs. Never done this before and still learning, yet happy I can contribute and support her in some way.
  • I've "tested" a novel for the first time - as a copy editor. A job I have much respect for! My experience as a tester served me well in this regard, too - and still, domain knowledge and expertise cannot be underestimated. It was a fascinating experience and I hope I didn't do too bad a job. Well, there will always be errors, and after reading the published version again I've came across more, obviously. It's not as simple to published a revision though when it comes to printed books. Still, I really enjoyed the experience and am thankful for the trust put in me.
With everything that happened, I'm so grateful for the people who accompanied me through this year. A huge shout-out goes to my former and new colleagues, my sister, the wonderful communities I'm fortunate to be part of. Thank you all for being there, in hard times as well as in joyous ones. Let's continue taking care of each other also in the year to come.