It is that time of the year again. I love this annual tradition of writing a year-in-review post primarily for two reasons:
- Taking a closer retrospective look at how things went over the year
- Establishing/ Re-establishing themes and focus areas for the coming year that I know I will find myself referring to often as a guide post.
If I had to sum up my 2023 in a few words, it is this- Big energy and Intense execution.
2023 Focus Area Recap
Put health and wellness first
I’ve come to hard realize that this focus area is a life-long one. In fact, this is the centerpiece or the main pillar of everything.
That being said, all the big energy and intense execution comes at a cost. The cost of trying to figure out how to balance everything in life, how to be more proactive than reactive when it comes to handling stressors, and how to optimally take care of your fundamental health items (sleep, nutrition and movement).
Throughout the year, I stayed fairly active. I’ve relied on a tracking board to jot down the smallest inch of deposits I make to my wellness and health. The cumulative zoomed out monthly view has helped me not freak out on the days when I feel I am not doing enough or when I feel I am over-doing something.
Improve my communication skills- writing, speaking, listening, and reading
Earlier this year, I decided I wanted to explore more public speaking at conferences and write more for publications. My exploration led me to understanding how to write a good CFP to a conference, seek feedback/ inputs from mentors on the idea for the CFP, etc. I spoke at these conferences in 2023-
- Open Security Summit: A solo virtual presentation
- Datadog DASH: A panel session
- DEFCON 31 AppSec Village: A co-speaking experience with an industry peer, a smart product security engineer- Larkins
- OWASP Appsec Global USA: A solo in-person talk
As for writing, I did write a lot. From writing a good submittable CFP, writing weekly snippets at work communicating what I worked on the week, working on some upcoming writing project ideas, etc. I’d say writing was the mainstay activity I practiced all year long.
I focused on improving my listening skills in an attempt to be a good speaker too and learn to understand what someone has to say at a deeper level (interpreting the spoken words, the intended message, the conveyed body language, etc.)
A large part of our thinking is influenced by what we read. A lot of reading this year was geared on improving on my thinking patterns and getting good at the thinking types.
Alongside that, I grew a lot in my security knowledge at work. I thoroughly enjoyed working at Datadog the entire year on Software/Application Security with a focus on Security Design Reviews. It helped me learn and develop my system design skills as well. I took the lead in scaling our Security Champions program too. The work got me promoted another level at the start of the year. It took a huge deal of communication skills as an engineer to convey the impact as well as channel the educational aspect of working on Software/Application Security.
The year also fostered extensive organic networking, predominantly at conferences, and deliberate one-on-one connections to learn from industry peers and leaders. Emphasizing quality over quantity in networking experiences was a pivotal lesson.
Celebrate every win, no matter how small
Celebrating victories, regardless of their size, emerged as a reframed perspective, understanding that every dedicated effort counts as a win, reinforcing the belief that one’s best effort at any given time is invaluable.
Learn and Teach
A large part of the teaching came from speaking at conferences. The goal of exploring the idea of formally teaching, maybe in a self-serve manner, did not make much progress. It is going to be a carry over for the coming year.
2024 Focus Areas
Do a few things better
I’d like to refine expertise and experience in a few areas of life (primarily the craft of writing) and career (deepening my security knowledge as a security engineer) in 2024. This would mean spending more dedicated time for learning and practicing in those areas instead of diluting efforts on multiple things.
Learn and Teach
My commitment to learning and teaching persists, with plans to explore different teaching modalities. This has been toggling back and forth in my mind so I am inclined on trying some options on this front.
Balanced Work-Life Integration
It would be good to explore on achieving a harmonious balance between personal and professional life, ensuring adequate time for relaxation, hobbies, family, and social activities while pursuing career aspirations.
2023 was one that I lived with the mantra of ‘- ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’
In summary and channeling Snoop Dogg’s words- I want to thank me, for all the hard work I did this year.