Summary of 2023
This year was a blast! I'm really happy how it went under multiple angles of my life - family-wise, professionally and personally. Of course, there were some hard moments, but I'm glad that I was able to overcome them. Here is a short summary of the year.
I'll begin this summary by focusing on the major family events, as they had the most significant impact on all other areas of my life.
In January, our family experienced a significant transition. My wife resumed her full-time job as a rheumatologist after her second parental leave. Preparing for this shift, we hired a babysitter a month earlier. It was a wise move considering our youngest's need for acclimation. This decision, though financially hard as the babysitter's costs were mirroring my wife's salary, was crucial to complete her 5 years of work experience rquired to become a rhematology specialist.
February started a period of survival. My wife, readjusting to her professional role, found the balance challenging with our children awaiting her return each day. Understandably, they missed her deeply after her year-long presence at home. Our babysitter had a hard time as well. Our daughter was staying at home a lot as she got sick everytime she got back to the kindergarden for a couple of days.
March was a challenging month for us, with serious health concerns for both our mothers. My mother-in-law courageously fought and defeated ovarian cancer, showing great resilience during her surgery and chemotherapy. At the same time, my mother dealt with intense stomach issues, which caused her to lose a lot of weight. However, she gradually got better and stronger as the summer went on.
In April we moved forward with a planned improvements to our garden. We built a playhouse for the kids, and a pavilion for us. We had chosen companies to do the work last year so were excited for spring to start these projects.
May signaled the start of next new construction – the building of the new concrete fence at the front. After that, a much-needed off-city weekend retreat has come. Later this this month, Lukasz and I also materialized the plan to take our famililies for a trip to Turkey. We booked tickets for a holiday in late August.
June was a mix of celebration and concern. I experienced the unique joy of a traditional Polish Highlander wedding in Zakopane, only to be hospitalized with meningitis two weeks after. Working from the hospital proved challenging due to many factors, like just lack of a proper desk. My inability to assist my family was difficult, but my lovely wife visited me 3 times through the 10 days long hospitalization.
Spending long days there, I arranged a 3D printer for my father (Prusa MK4), who is an injection mold designer / engineer by profession. Knowing that he is going to retaire this year I wanted to encourage him to tinkering. The delivery was scheduled for mid-September.
July offered a sigh of relief as I was discharged from the hospital, just in time for our holiday at Polish seaside. However, I had to give up kitesurfing on doctor's orders. It also meant that I could spend more time with my family!
In August, we attended another friend's wedding in Wrocław. What a great party all nigh long it was! Then we celebrated the completion of our new front fence with an automatic gate. Just after that our family enjoyed a novel experience with so called all-inclusive holiday in Belek, Turkey, alongside Lukasz's family. There were so many new experiences for our kids!
September marked a return to normalcy after our dreamed holiday. The arrival of the 3D printer at my parents' home was a highlight, with my father enthusiastically embracing this new hobby, up to this day! It was a joy to gift him something so meaningful.
October was a pivotal month for my wife as she completed her required work for her rheumatology specialization, a journey prolonged by our family's growth. In the meantime she also organized a surprise birthday party for me, inviting my closest friends. Of course, they weren't able to keep the secret, haha, but it was still an outstanding party!
Then my wife began intensive preparation for her specialization exam. It was a daunting task with only six weeks to prepare, compared to the advised six months. This period was demanding for our entire family, requiring changes to our daily routine. I took on more responsibility with the children.
November was hard but it brought the little triumph as my wife passed her written exam. However she continued learning with unwavering dedication for the second part – the oral exam. This time allowed me to build a deeper relationship with our 2yo son, who rediscovered me as a good playmate!
In December, we found ourselves adjusting to a new routine. I returned to my usual work schedule, while my wife started a new job in a nearby town. This job, with its better conditions and more flexible hours, seems to be a great relief and source of happiness for us, especially when thinking about the difficulties we would have faced if she hadn't passed her exam.
Summarizing this year, it's clear that our family went through a path of growth, resilience, and transformation. I think that each challenge and change made stronger and more united.
As my family life went through significant changes, so too did my professional life. Adapting to them was not just a choice but a necessity.
With my wife returning to work, my own work schedule had to change. Mornings began later as I took on the responsibility of preparing and driving our daughter to kindergarten. To make up for this shift, I started working from home more, saving time on commuting. Despite this, I maintained a routine of visiting the office at least once a week, on Mondays or Thursdays.
Due to the time zone differences with our US-based clients, I often had to be available in the evenings, particularly for a client I work the most with and whose team members on the West Coast.
During this time, I continued overseeing the development of the Weekly app, and we finally launched a version tailored for our needs.
The future of Weekly, a project close to my heart, became uncertain. The high costs and time needed to onboard new users led to a pause in development. This period was tough for me, as I was emotionally attached to the team and the project (I shouldn't but that's how I'm wired 🤷). It's no surprise that as a result, team members began seeking new opportunities. Despite not achieving success yet, I am proud of what we accomplished, and I am grateful for Lukasz's fantastic case study on the Weekly app.
A highlight of my year was participating in the recruitment process for a lead data engineer for one of our premier clients at Sunscrapers, a firm in the financial sector. The role required the candidate to work from either San Francisco or New York City.
During this process, I had the pleasure of meeting many talented professionals from both the Bay Area and the East Coast. It was interesting to note a significant number of applicants were from the cryptocurrency field looking to transition to data-related roles. This didn't surprise me, considering the downturn in the crypto market and the rising interest in generative AI which has been boosting data positions.
My role in the interviews was hands-on, assessing candidates' technical abilities through programming challenges. This approach, used at Sunscrapers as well, effectively reveals a candidate's technical experience and skills. Some candidates, despite their extensive experience, struggled with these hands-on tasks, likely due to a lack of recent practice. Our focus was on finding someone who could directly engage with coding and contribute to our codebase. While managerial skills were also important, our primary goal was to hire someone capable of leading by example.
This position was crucial as the new hire would be responsible for the data engineering aspect of the products we (as Sunscrapers) were co-developing, as well as leading our (Sunscrapers') data engineers. The plan I agreed on with our client was to gradually reduce my operational involvement if the new lead data engineer was a good fit, allowing me to focus more on my role as CTO at Sunscrapers.
Overall, I was impressed by the thoroughness of the hiring process, which included six interviews and a final presentation to the entire team. The careful analysis of feedback after each interview by our hiring team was particularly noteworthy, reminding me of practices from Ben Horowitz's book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things," which I had read years ago.
Missing the Sunscrapers retreat due to hospitalization was a disappointment, as I was eager to connect with new and familiar faces. This period saw a dip in my productivity, but I managed to fulfill the essential needs of our team and our clients.
Fortunately, as detailed in the personal section, I managed to bounce back relatively quickly. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise played a crucial role in my recovery and return to normalcy.
At Sunscrapers, in the midst of these challenges, we also initiated ongoing R&D efforts to explore new technologies and approaches. Using spare time between projects, we aimed to produce blog posts and GitHub repositories showcasing our findings. We drew inspiration for these topics from discussions with our clients and the grassroots ideas from our team members. Additionally, we began inviting external contributors to participate in our R&D efforts, though this aspect of the program was still in its early stages. My role in this exciting venture was to oversee the entire process, from brainstorming ideas to reviewing code and finalizing articles for publication.
September was a period of rest, with 12 days of vacation allowing me to recharge. During this time, I rediscovered Sunsama, a tool I now use daily to plan my day and track my time. I had actually tried Sunsama about two years earlier but didn’t find it effective then, probably because I hadn’t fully grasped that it was more than just a to-do list app. Think of it more as task scheduler or planner than task manegement tool.
I revisited Sunsama, recalling its seamless integrations with tools I use regularly, like Asana, Github, Trello, and Google Calendar. My goal was to declutter my daily schedule while maintaining a balance between work and personal life. Sunsama turned out to be the perfect solution for this.
Now, I use Sunsama every day and it has become an integral part of my routine. What I appreciate most about it is not just its functionality, but the entire philosophy behind it. The founder, Ashutosh, has created a unique learning process where users receive daily emails teasing a new idea or feature. This approach deeply resonated with me and has greatly improved how I organize and manage my day.
The final months were busy, with a new project for a U.S. client in the health and insurance sector. This project, heavily reliant on data, demanded meticulous attention to compliance and architectural details.
In 2023 and 2022, Sunscrapers underwent several audits to meet our clients' compliance standards. Successfully passing these audits provided us with a valuable opportunity to refine our internal processes and documentation. We even began considering SoC2 certification to streamline future audits.
Balancing work with my wife's intense study period for her exam was challenging, but Sunsama helped me plan shorter and focused workdays. By December, I was back to full productivity, focusing on security and compliance improvements, including implementing a new anti-malware solution and planning security roadmap of enhancements for the upcoming year.
2023 was a year marked by significant personal development and health achievements, paralleling the professional and family transformations I experienced.
In February, I delved into organizing my home network and setting up a homelab, which turned into a fascinating hobby. This venture led me deeper into the world of Reddit where I got ton of inspiration. Moreover I began engaging there more actively to stay updated on various engineering technologies, including backend, frontend, data engineering, and AI. Simultaneously, I made a conscious decision to uninstall Facebook and Instagram from my phone, stepping back from these social media platforms.
My journey into a healthier lifestyle started in March with occasional swimming sessions. However, after a steroids treatment during the summer, I noticed a weight gain of about 6 kg by July, prompting me to start running occasionally. This activity gradually turned into a regular habit, and by August, I was running and swimming consistently every week.
Post-holiday in September, I came to appreciate the significance of good, uninterrupted sleep, aiming for at least 7 hours each night. This improved sleeping routine led to noticeable increases in my energy levels and productivity throughout the day. In October, my side projects, including my homelab and programming endeavors, took a back seat. I took care of my fam but I was still focused on running (usuay at night while kids were sleeping) and continuing my Saturday swimming sessions.
November marked a natural transition to a regular and healthy fitness schedule. I balanced my week with one strength workout, one running session, and a swimming day, not to mention the twice-daily walks with my dog. This consistent routine helped me achieve the best physical form I've had in years. By December, I had lost about 9 kg, reaching my lowest weight in a long time. Reflecting on the year's end, my overall fitness stats were the most satisfying since the birth of my second child. Prior to this year, I had ceased sports activities altogether, but 2023 proved to be a breakthrough year in reclaiming my fitness.
My dedication to fitness throughout the year culminated in quite satisfainig stats:
- Running: 63.5 km
- Swimming: 24.8 km
This journey of personal health and fitness was not just about the numbers. It was about redefining my lifestyle and finding a balance that allowed me to thrive in all aspects of life.
I am proud of what my family and I accomplished and I look forward to continuing this journey in 2024.