2021 in Review

It feels like only a few weeks ago I was writing my 2020 in review post. 2021 has really been a ‘blink and you will miss’ it year, but as I think back to what has gone on, a lot has actually happened. Funnily enough, I am starting to write this on December 8th, the exact date I released the 2020 version.

Last year I structured my article into three sections: ‘Wins’, ‘Challenges’, and ‘Lessons Learned’. I am going to follow a similar structure again this year, although I will swap out ‘lessons learned’ for ‘2022 focus areas’. I became very off track throughout 2021, and giving myself some public accountability is something I am keen to try this year.

It was actually really nice for myself to be able to come back and look at some of these things throughout the year. If you haven’t done one of these before definitely give it a go!

Lets jump in! <3

Wins

Mrs Bedford

Some of you will likely know that I was supposed to get married in 2020, however the pandemic put a stop to all weddings and we sadly had to postpone ours. However, this was the year that we tied the knot and myself and Becky got married on May 31st.

I have been with Becky for thirteen years, we got together when we were both seventeen years old. We have been through lots together, and each day I am grateful that I was able to find my soul mate so early on in life. She has believed in me from the very beginning, and was the reason I changed career and started again. Being able to give both of us a better and more comfortable life gave me the hunger and drive to study software engineering alongside a full time job. I don’t think I could have done that without her cheering for the sidelines, and I am eternally grateful for everything she does for me.

We got married in Exeter in Devon at a little Vineyard called Brickhouse. Exeter is a special place for us, we spent a weekend away there a long time ago and fell in love with the city and we have been back pretty much every year without fail. It was a small wedding, with ten of us on the day, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. It was perfect. We spent our honeymoon in Exeter as well, doing a bit of fishing, exploring the coastline and countryside - again, it was perfect.

Goodbye Attest, Hello MoonPay

The first win from last year was me talking about making a move away from Monzo, and finding a new role at Attest. I start this on a similar note in that regard, because 2021 also saw me move jobs.

Attest seemed fantastic for me - it was a really great job, and handing my notice in was surprisingly difficult (possibly the hardest decision I have made so far in my career). I was comfortable there. I liked the people I worked with and was content, but I didn’t feel as though I was growing enough and part of me longed to move back to a company where I was a user of the product. This was why the choice was difficult, because really there was nothing wrong with the role at all.

I was thrown in at the deep end when I joined Monzo, and ramping up quickly helped me to level myself up. I like to be challenged, I like to feel out of my depth because otherwise I will quickly stagnate - but Attest just didn’t give me that environment. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a fantastic place to be an engineer - they are working on some interesting engineering problems and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone a job there, but for a engineering manager this was not the environment that I required at this point in my journey.

At this point, I had started to keep my ears open to other roles out there and was 99% certain that I was going to move into the crypto/web3 industry. It was a space I was very interested in at the time and something that I was learning about as a hobby so it seemed very natural to want to move my career there. I can’t exactly remember how I found out about MoonPay now, from memory I believe someone reached out to me about an Engineering Manager role there in March - and I ended up looking the company up. I had a few mutual connections there from my time at Monzo, people that I trust and respect, and I reached out and had a couple of conversations with a few of the team before I decided to interview.

The company seemed exciting - it was rapidly growing, the product was great and the mission statement “making crypto accessible for the next billion people” was suitably lofty and ambitious. I interviewed in late March and was offered a place at the company - for various personal reasons I couldn’t hand my notice in until about three months later and then worked a three month period and joined in September. The team looked significantly different from when I interviewed, it had grown significantly!

At time of writing, I have just finished my first three months at MoonPay and couldn’t be happier. I have been working with the Crypto, R&D and the marketing team and am humbled each day by the intelligence and talent of each person within those teams. This was exactly what I wanted from a role, something to challenge me and a product and mission to be excited about. I look forward to the rest of my time there.

Number Nine

We bought a house! Being a homeowner was always something that I thought was out of reach for us, but the last three years have been spent saving hard for enough money for a deposit and thankfully this year was the year we got on the property ladder.

We bought a house in the Wiltshire countryside, not far from where we were living before. As a process it was mentally draining, and certainly the last couple of years it has been hard for first time buyers with the pandemic making the banks less likely to lend money to anyone.

Throughout 2021 the UK government introduced a ‘stamp duty holiday’ for everyone purchasing properties, meaning that you didn’t have to pay the usual tax that comes with a house. For the price of properties we were looking at, this meant a saving of about £12,000. Luck was not on our side however, as this made the market insanely competitive - houses were popping up and then being bought within a couple of days and for a first time buyer this was incredibly stressful.

We made an offer on a different house, and that ended up falling through about three months into the process - and then when we were licking our wounds, the house that we ended up buying came up on the market after also falling through. We arranged to go see it the same day, and then put an offer in the day we viewed it and fortunately it was accepted. We both fell in love as soon as we saw it, and actually it was a much much better fit for us than the original house that we were going to buy.

Our intention was always to do some work to whatever house we moved into as we were very keen to put our own spin on wherever we ended up, and this work is starting. Becky is documenting the process over on a dedicated Instagram page.

Challenges

COVID (again!)

It feels surreal to be a year on from talking about what effects the pandemic had on our lives, and in many ways it feels like nothing is different. Because several people in our immediate family are very vulnerable, we have continued to be cautious and we have continued to shield and avoid travel and overly busy areas.

It was fairly strange watching people go back to normal like nothing had ever happened, whilst we were still hiding behind masks in shops and dousing ourselves in hand sanitiser. As someone who was already anxious about social situations & travel etc, I worry about how long it is going to take me to get back to feeling normal about travelling around and feeling safe when I am out and about.

Finding Focus

Since starting to learn more about the world of Web3, I have at times fallen back into bad habits with regards to balancing my work life with my personal life and keeping the two separate, and definitely moving into the new year I am going to be much more mindful of this.

I could think absolutely nothing of waking up at 6am, working through until 6pm and then picking my laptop up and plopping myself on the sofa next to Becky to essentially keep working by looking at NFT projects, or just reading about the space. The buzz around web3 is exciting and it is all too easy to swept up in that and start procrastinating and doing things that are meaningless. More often than I care to admit have I sat down to get on with some work, to find myself an hour later rifling through Discord or scrolling through Twitter.

Going into 2022, I am going to be more focused on doing the ‘essential’ work, and getting shit done - rather than tricking myself into thinking I am being productive because I am ‘researching’… Researching ultimately in this case means looking through socials.

Being more Technical

One of my favourite articles is The Managers Pendulum by Charity Majors. She talks about the ‘pendulum’ of moving from managerial roles, back to technical roles, back to managerial roles and why this is important.

Whilst I have no intention of moving back into an IC role, being more technical is definitely something I want to be focusing on this year. I have worked through a couple of my own little projects this year, building little apps and rebuilding my website - but there is a wealth of new technology that I would like to learn (especially around the Blockchain), and whilst I have made a fairly feeble attempt to start picking these up this year, I am going to be more focused on really drilling down my learning next year.

The goal is to be able to contribute to some open source projects or some of the projects that are being worked on in a few of the web3 communities I am part of.

Shiny Object Syndrome

One of the biggest challenges this year has been finding a workflow I enjoy and want to stick with. I am a fan of productivity apps, and knowledge management tools which doesn’t help the situation, because I like to try new tools out whenever updates are released and the next ‘shiny’ new tool comes along.

I made a decision to move away from Roam Research towards the start of the year, because the community was appearing toxic and not something I wanted to be a part of anymore. But since then I have been struggling to find something that suits me well. I have tried Obsidian, Logseq, Notion and Craft - and have moved around Things 3, Todoist, Bullet Journalling. The amount of time I have wasted by moving from one to the other, and learning how best to use these tools doesn’t bare thinking about.

Rather drastically, before breaking up for the Christmas holiday, I completely wiped all of my Zettelkasten notes that I had kept and curated over the years. In a way it was a relief - hundreds of hours of work had gone into curating these notes, but the value they were bringing me was not outweighing the burden of trying to find how best to organise these notes. I felt constantly like they were rock that I had to drag around behind me, serving very little purpose but instead making me feel cluttered and this was a feeling I didn’t want to bring into the new year.

2022 Focus Areas

I am not going to go into too much detail here, as there is some context behind these goals that are fairly personal and are likely just not that interesting. I typically give myself three “focus areas” and then break these areas down into actionable habits, and define some ‘key results’ (an example of a key result would be lose two stone, if my main focus was to become healthier).

Become a healthier person

I feel as though my health has taken a bit of a decline over the last few years. Moving from a fairly manual job, to a job sitting behind a desk has not made me gain weight (in fact the opposite), but I am finding that my limbs and joints are not what they once where. It is becoming an all too frequent occurrence that I wake up with a neck that I cannot move, or that I casually pop my back out when trying to get up from the sofa.

I have also found myself getting frustrated quickly throughout the year, and smaller things that once where no big deal have been eating away at me and causing me to lose my temper. I do not want this at all, and I pride myself on being thoughtful and articulate rather than hot headed.

Working on my physical and mental health is the biggest focus area this year. I am going to exercise frequently, a mixture of calisthenics and yoga, as well as being more strict on following a regular meditation practice (as I used to) and journalling. I have vowed to take more breaks, and visit more places that we have not been before (made more difficult by Covid unfortunately).

I also want to focus much more on hobbies outside of the tech space. I have made some investments into coffee equipment, as this is something I really enjoy and would love to get better at. Reading more widely about different subject areas is something I am going to take more seriously this year. I would love to get back into fishing at some point, but this is much more time consuming than the other two activities, so we will see!

Make more than my salary in crypto

Perhaps controversially, I have made money a big focus this year - that is because with the purchase of our house we have used up a big portion of our life savings. We are so fortunate to financially be very comfortable, and a big part of that is because our outgoings are very close to being as much as they were when I earned less than £20,000 a year, as now opposed to earning over £100,000 a year.

Whilst I am not particularly money-minded, it is important to me, as it allows freedom. I am not one to splash the cash on expensive items for myself, my main luxury I allow myself is my car and also my book collection - however one of my life time ambitions is to own a farm which will then become self-sustaining and a source of income for my family, and having the funds to be able to purchase a farm is what I am aiming for.

But the money is not necessarily the end goal here, it is a key to learning more about savvy investing and about the industry I am in.

Grow my Personal Brand

This is a recurring theme for me, as growing my personal brand is ongoing work. I had a fantastic year this year, considering that I wasn’t consistent with my writing. I took my blog from <100 visits PM, to consistently getting 1000-2000 views, the main contributor to this is my article on Next.js vs Gatsby, which pulls in a lot of traffic from Google.

Being more intentional with my content creation - on Instagram and Twitter, as well as my blog and newsletter is going to be a big challenge for me this year, but one I am looking forward to. Perhaps shifting my focus from attracting more numbers, writing about topics I know will do well, but I am less passionate about is something to think about - but for now I am just focusing on building a habit that is sustainable.