Tuesday, January 2, 2024

My Personal Challenge for 2024 - Scary New Grounds

In the last few years, I've taken on several personal challenges. These are things that initially scared me yet clearly helped my personal growth. You could also call each of them my "theme" of the year to focus on deliberately, as my learning partner Toyer Mamoojee framed it. For 2024, I am taking on my sixth one! 

Open Thinking

While working on my current challenge of the year, I am already taking note of topics that cross my path that would make yet another great theme for the following year. Here's my rough and raw list of thoughts that came to mind in the sequence I noted them down.

  • open source contribution
  • security
  • accessibility
  • app development
  • call for a weekly 90min ensemble creating an open source app together
  • a project a month
  • build an intentionally insecure movie app for practicing
  • "everyday security" series
  • "accessible security"
  • asking for help; see Ady's idea
  • initiate pairing/ensembling with others
  • deep dive focus weeks: learn foundations for a topic and share to deepen my generalist me
  • series of how I test things, especially on the backend side
  • anything that contributes to my vision of systemic inclusion and growth?
  • feeling I'm doing the same over the past years, over and over again, also re-using a lot of what I've built before; yet there's so much more to learn and grow into, like Maaret continually does, expanding
  • do something I haven't done before, truly grow again; I've used lots of approaches in the last years that had worked before, just built on them and refined them; yet didn't really reinvent myself anymore
  • really do need my own topics again, not being driven from conference to conference alone, neglecting my goals and blog
  • “Courageous Community Contributions” - finding new ways to contribute to the community (like I found new ways to contribute to a team and company over the years)
    • These are still scary!
      • List of a bunch of points - not revealing them here yet, you'll need to read on ;)
      • … leaving space for serendipity
    • What else I might do, yet not as scary anymore:
      • Paired blog posts
      • Paired conference sessions
    • Other things I’m already doing, that are not scary anymore:
      • Blogging
      • Public speaking
      • Security testing sessions with Peter Kofler
      • Code reading club
      • Learning partnership with Toyer Mamoojee
      • Daily habits and practice

As usual, the last idea grew and took shape in my head, and I kept adding to it. That's usually the candidate for the very next year, so here it is!

My Challenge for 2024

Here's the challenge of my choice for this year: "Contributing in new ways." Let's dive into this.

The challenge: I owe a lot to the various communities out there. I'm doing a lot to give back and especially pay forward through sharing on social media, blogging, and conference speaking. There are a lot more ways to contribute, though! I'd love to explore new options and pathways. This runs parallel to what I do at work: constantly re-inventing myself, my role, and how I contribute to teams and organizations. Going out of my comfort zone is how I've grown myself as a generalist. Therefore, I think I can contribute also in different ways outside of work. So here's my challenge to find new ways to contribute to communities and dare to try them - they only can't be the old things I'm already doing (while no one stops me from continuing what I want to continue).

The hypothesis: I believe that contributing to communities in new, courageous ways will add value to the communities I'm part of and grow my own knowledge and skills. I've proven the hypothesis when...

  • I have contributed in three new ways,
  • other people engaged with these contributions, and
  • I have learned three new things from each.

The experiment: In order to prove or disprove the hypothesis, let's get more concrete.

  • Contributions need to be courageous, something I haven't done yet that I find scary enough while being ready to give it a try.
  • Communities to contribute to are not limited, whether I'm already part of it or it's a new one I'm discovering on the way. Topics are not constrained either, as this is all about re-inventing myself by daring to contribute in new ways.
  • My initial options are not carved in stone. Instead, they are even prone to change, and that's welcome. I deliberately leave space for serendipitous new collaboration options.
  • There's no constraint on how much time these contributions require, whether they only take one hour or continue over many months.
  • If a contribution turns out to be not scary at all, then it's still a valid contribution to the community I can decide to pursue.
  • I choose to share anything about these contributions in any form I find appropriate. I am not limiting myself to blog posts for this challenge, nor do I require myself to write any.

Timeline criteria: It always proved valuable for me to think about when to start, when to pause, and when to stop.

  • Start: The fact that I've taken initial steps for a few courageous endeavors already in 2023 doesn't hinder me from including them in this challenge. The main focus will still start from now on.
  • Pause: Whenever I neglect the self-care I committed to, I stop to re-assess the situation and make a judgment call for how long to pause the challenge and get back on track to maintain the required energy. Pressing on without having the energy for it is a no-go.
  • Stop: It's time to stop my challenge and evaluate my experiment overall when I've either proven the hypothesis or it's the end of October 2024.

The hashtag: Initially, I opted for the following name and related hashtag to refer to this challenge: #CourageousCommunityContributions. Yes, I do like alliterations. This one's quite a mouthful, though, and I realized I'm not thinking about this challenge in this way. So I decided to take the words I use when I think about it, and that's #ContributingInNewWays. So be it.

Reviewing all this, I acknowledge the substantial risk that I open up too many topics and, hence, once again feel overwhelmed like in 2023. To mitigate this, I'm trying to build in as much freedom as possible to reduce unhelpful pressure. I don't want to lock myself in and instead still be able to respond to life. The constraints should be liberating. After all, I'll have to try it out and see how it goes.

Also, framing my challenges as measurable experiments allows me to document a starting point and afterward compare where I ended up with that initial state. So, hypothesis measurements are a tool to help me look back and spot differences. The most important metric will always be how much value I got from these personal challenges for my own growth. So far, it's always been worth it to dare take this journey.

It's on!

You might wonder, what kinds of contributions do I already have in mind? Here's a non-comprehensive list of currently prominent topics. As stated above, these options are prone to change. I'm sharing them here to make all this more tangible, help me reflect once I finish this challenge, and see if any of you would like to join me in any of these endeavors.

My journey already started with a few tiny steps on some of the listed topics last year. With old tasks closed and the new year starting, I now have a lot more focus to spend. I'm grateful for my wonderful conspirators, looking forward to our collaboration over the year, and I can't wait for what I'll learn on this challenge!