written on 12/31/2020
2020 was a weird year. Some awful disease is making its rounds. Humanity, my personal life and career have changed dramatically. From defeats to victory, everything included. A summary and an outlook.
At the start of the year, I was happy. The new year’s party was amazing and I was looking forward to a nice year with an even nicer summer. I was in a long-distance relationship that broke up around that time. Lots of thoughts but my friends were there. Always. Many bar nights and other events. Lots of birthdays, mine included, were around this time. Looking at the pictures is making me sad when we can have these things back. I hope it is gonna be soon.
Something that also happened around this time, is that the company I work for, Klarna, moved their office. After many delays, we finally got into the new building. It was not perfect in the beginning but it was nice. We were one of the lucky first teams. What also happened is that my team changed. I got a new boss since the old one was switching teams and positions and we also got a new colleague. It was an interesting time for all.
I have a Chinese friend here in Berlin. He was probably the first who told us how scary that disease can go. So we were aware of the impact it will quite certainly have on us. Then it started to impact Berlin. I remember at some point in march, one of the last days before the lockdown, we were sitting at a Sushi restaurant with some colleagues. We called it the last supper. And yeah, it kind of was. The lockdown started in Germany, and it was quite drastic. Supermarkets were restricted to have a certain amount of people in. Everything else was closed. I could not even get a haircut. But it was for the better. Germany saw results and flattened the curve. It even went down.
One thing was the Home office. Klarna always had some mindset that working together in the office is more efficient for everyone. Hence, the home office was looked down on. But that changed of course during the first lockdown. It worked well for our team. We still got together virtually, played sketchful, or just hang around during the day. It worked for us. On the other hand, it was a weird time. We just got a new office and now it is home office time again. But everything went alright. I was more productive than ever. I worked on side projects the whole time while chilling with friends in Discord or Facetime. It was really fun.
Approaching the summer was great. The cases of COVID-19 decreased and decreased. Restrictions got lifted and the home office ruling stayed, mostly. Klarna had the initiative to bring back people to the office but figured out quite quickly that it would not work in the current environment. So we got back to the full home office again.
During that time I also got the opportunity to work temporarily in another team. These temporary initiatives at Klarna are called LEAPs. I worked with people in this group that I admire. Everyone was fully committed to what we wanted to achieve, and we did great. The results were extraordinary and quite well received by the company.
People in Berlin were meeting a lot more. For beers outside in Parks, as it is usual. Of course, some broke the rules and partied in bigger groups. The techno clubs transformed into open-air bars, but most people were hanging around in parks with their friends. I even did a trip with my friends to Greece. Restrictions were there of course, but in Greece, it was not that problematic. We did a sailing trip for 6-7 days and yeah, it was an amazing time. Lots of sunshine and no work for a week + a lot of beers and ouzo.
It was a feeling to get back to normal...
And then it got colder, fall was coming. The summer was taking quite long to end, but from October to November it got worse again. Case numbers were increasing and we had a light lockdown which means that bars and restaurants got closed. That light lockdown is not working till now and we recently got into a strict lockdown again, but I am quite pessimistic that this will not end till 2021 March/April.
Work-wise I was motivated to work on my main team again. I could take the experience from the LEAP and bring it back to my team. Everyone is profiting from this. What also got more and more praise from the team was the introduction of a document-based workflow. We documented a lot this year. From normal support questions on how to get stuff x and y working for merchants at Klarna to actual Technical Design Documents. It helped everyone to work more asynchronously. The impact could finally be felt.
- A business problem to solve
- A working user flow
Performance of backends, how APIs are designed are coming second. These things indirectly impact user satisfaction. So, there were a lot of challenges. I met many nice people and learned from them. But at some point, I felt my growth came to a halt. I looked around, applied to the biggest companies in Berlin with the hope some gave me a chance. I knew I was capable to get into one by seeing many other people at Meetups and sharing experiences. I applied and got rejection after rejection. Two companies gave me a shot: N26 and Klarna. N26 rejected me after the homework task, it was quite weird not getting feedback for a long time and then instantly getting rejected. I guess they found someone else, but Klarna gave me a chance. It was a challenging interview process, but the interviewers were great. Challenging, interviewers with big names on their resume and finally technically capable. The time at Klarna is great. I am still on the same team where I started at Klarna and two people are still there from when I started. It honestly feels great. Everyone who was and is in my team is technically capable of solving almost any problem thrown at them. Sometimes hacky, most often not. We could always communicate and talk together, and find a common solution. We iterated on our work style and perfected it. Everyone wants to grow and supports each other. Honestly the best team I could end up in. I learned a lot at Klarna, especially in the beginning. Scaling a service, making sure everything works (psssss its mostly queues and memory cache). These problems were what I missed in my professional career. Now I got exposed to them and could solve these issues. It was feeling amazing. Also, I was always a person that supports growth for other people. From developer experience to creating growth opportunities. Klarna is a big company in comparison to the startup I worked at. The impact was bigger than ever before and people loved what I create, mentoring multiple blog article writers, and being active in the open-source initiative at the company made sure I could have an impact. I grew a lot. And finally, it got rewarded.
One of my biggest pain points these days. I code a lot. Even outside of work. At the end of 2019, I created my first "real" side project. It is getworkrecognized. A platform to track your work achievements and create performance reviews/Self-Reviews based on the data. I loved to write that tool, and I love using it. It helped me immensely with the promotion I was writing about earlier. One thing I learned at Klarna about promotions: You have to have the data at your fingertips on why you should get promoted. Focus on the career ladders at your job and see what is expected. Actively seek challenges. Measure your output and track it. You will forget otherwise. So the application is working in itself. But it is hard to get users for your project. And that’s a question I am always asking myself. I worked a lot on the landing page without success. I wrote cold emails. I created free resources and created blog articles. But still, people signed up for the Beta but never really used the product. Disappointed. But can I turn it around? To be honest, I think so. I will work on some changes in the next year to make it easier to start and see immediate results. I love that platform. It is made for employees and not for companies and that's a unique selling point. Let us see how I can grow it into at least a self-sustainable business. Operation costs are quite low these days, so the goal should be achievable.
Another side project that was started the year before actually was caseconverter.pro, an online case converter. I do not have huge aspirations for that project but some users and investments into SEO would not be too bad. Making it profitable will be hard but throughout the development, I learned a lot. That was fun. Also, I made the main frontend component open-source. Think of the UI element you see in Google Translator. An editor on the left with an output box on the right side.
Another side project I am looking forward to growing and developing is linkedium. I recently started development. Summary: It is a growth tool for your LinkedIn Account and company pages. From generating the content, scheduling content to reposting old posts, it should be the ultimate growth tool for your LinkedIn account. Primarily targeted to whoever is using LinkedIn to grow their audience. I stream the development process on Twitch. So please have a look if you want. The main reason I am building this tool is because of Marketing. B2B marketing is huge on LinkedIn and I was not happy with the existing APIs and solutions to schedule posts, so I built this. Let us see where it goes.
So for the next year. Personally, 2020 was not too bad. Of course, the pandemic influenced my life as well. But I was more on the lucky side, to be honest. I did not deal with a job loss or any other financial struggle. Nevertheless, I hope 2021 will turn out better. The first goal is to get a vaccine but also promote getting vaccinated. In recent surveys in Germany, we have a rate of people wanting the vaccine below 50%. That is incredibly low and we somehow need to gain trust for the vaccines in this society. Otherwise, 2021 will be another year full of lockdowns.
On the professional side, I am super happy. I wanna keep my job and keep growing there. But what I also realized this year is to take breaks. I collected a lot of vacation days in the year 2020 because travel restrictions were put in place. Next year, I hope the EU countries will open up and traveling will be possible. I Gotta use the days I can take over to the next year. Let us see where I will go. But one thing is for sure. I want to do at least one bigger trip to a country where I have not been to.
On side projects, I have multiple goals. With the three current projects caseconverter.pro, getworkrecognized, and Linkedium, I want to at least have three Product Hunt launches and grow them all to be self-sustainable. I have at least one other idea that I want to realize and grow but I will see where I go from there. My overall goal is to reach 100 US Dollar of monthly recurring revenue at the end of 2021. Small goal but I guess that’s something achievable. Related to the side-projects is also audience building on social networks. Twitter and LinkedIn are the most useful platforms for my target audience. For LinkedIn, it is really hard to set goals and the social feed is kind of weird to me. But I love Twitter. There are so many cool interactions with many cool indie hackers and other developers. I love it. So my goal is to reach 1000 followers there as well. This year I grew by around 100 followers, but I guess by posting more regularly and more useful content, I could grow my followers easily. This would also help with attracting customers for the side projects and also one more thing: Twitch. I kind of commit to live-stream the journey of creating applications. It is quite fun to do and I hope to reach at least the initial Twitch Affiliate status next year and get one subscriber. Would be nice.
Another goal is to migrate the current website I am writing this blog on to Next.js. Currently, it is running on Gatsby and I do not like the experience. I think Gatsby is trying to do a lot of things in lots of ways. Next.js is far more opinionated out of my view and also I am far more comfortable with using Next.js than gatsby. Gatsby is still great and feels free to use it, it just does not work for me. With this migration, I also want to make sure I post some more content. Series like “Writing the perfect resume” is still not finished and I finally need to commit to finishing this series, so my goal for 2021 is to write at least 12 blog articles on this personal page.
To keep my goals in mind, I will write monthly summaries of all achievements. I got inspired by Cory Zue, definitely check out his blog. I love the format and transparency. Let me see if I can keep up the quality. And for now: Enjoy the rest of 2020 and make 2021 great. Cheers, Kevin.
So with all the goals for 2021 overall, I will focus on some things in January:
- Status: Done ✅ (Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: I have used Gatsby for a long time for this blog but it was a hassle to update. I am used to Next.js and wanted to try
.mdxas a content type. Migration is actually done if you read this and will write in detail about MDX rendering in a blog article.
Create 2 blog articles on this blog
- Status: ✅ (Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: This blog was left a bit behind. To fulfill the yearly goal of 12 blog articles, I will start with 2 this month. This should also help with growing my audience.
Write one blog article on Klarna's Engineering Blog
- Status: 0/1 (In progress, should be released in February, Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: The company blog was something I always wanted to focus on. This year I will start it of well. I have an article in mind about how we use Technical Design Documents to decide on technical solutions fitting the problem.
- Status: ✅ Launched - see here (Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: I finally need to launch something on Product Hunt. caseconverter.pro is a project is in hibernation mode for a long time and I have to fix some things before going live. But I am optimistic I can do this. For the Product Hunt launch, I will also need to prepare many things. But I am sure it will teach me a lot.
- Status: Almost Done (Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: Since I do not really get traction on my other side projects which I will work on this nevertheless, I am launching another SaaS. It is about automatic posting and growing your LinkedIn audience. For that I need a landing page.
- Status: ✅ (Did not get much traction though, Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: I still love the product. I did not get any users for this year, but I want to change that. I have some content already, but the marketing lacks right now. I think the audience that I want to speak to, consisting of office employees that need a way to track their work and get promoted, mostly is on LinkedIn.
- Status ✅ 506/500 (Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: I still need to grow my audience on Twitter. I will try to be a bit more active on Twitter. Sharing a bit more on my experiences to grow my audience.
- Status: Not done yet (Updated: 2/4/2021)
- Why: I accumulated many, hundreds of open tabs on my mobile phone. I think I want to at least have them bookmarked on this personal site, similar to Brian Lovin's bookmark page.
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