The One Where I Look to the Future (Week 2)

Captain’s Log

Week 2

Stardate 94590.25

This is the second edition of the Captain’s Log, but more interestingly, the last edition that will come out in 2016. I thought I would take a moment to walk through some of the significant events that happened this year, the lessons learned, and my plans for the future.

I’ll stick to the three point format that I used in my last newsletter for these — but let me be clear that this list barely covers all the awesome things that happened in 2016. If you’re curious to hear more, I’m always happy to blabber on about all the cool projects I had!

Hot Take #1: The Woman Who Runs

I started running and became what I would call a “serious runner.” I clock in around 15 to 25 miles a week and have adopted a lifestyle of strength training and healthy eating around my running. It’s been a wonderful change to my rather sedentary keyboard-based lifestyle.

One of the most wonderful things about running is recognizing the power of your own body. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I try to find a route on Google Maps and realize Seven miles? I can totally run that instead of taking the train! In our fast-paced and technology-driven world, we often forget the capabilities of our own minds and bodies. It’s been invigorating to realize that absent fossil fuels  and elevated train systems, my body is capable of taking me to great places.

In addition to recognizing my physical abilities, I’ve also become more aware of my mental perseverance. There is a moment that you can experience when you run, an elusive moment,  but possible nonetheless. When your entire being becomes pounding feet and buzzing brain and passing wind and it is beautiful. To get to the moment though, you have to defeat your inner destructive monologue, beat that Little voice in your head that tells you to stop and succumb to the pain or brings negative thoughts into your mind as your running. The reward for defeating the Little Voice is this mental zen. If you’re a programmer, you can probably relate to this if you’ve ever worked through a tough debugging session.

You might think I’m a little too obsessed with running (and I probably am), but it’s been refreshing to find something I can obsess about as much as programming. It’s been a good change of pace for my life — and I hope that continues.

Hot Take #2: From the Twitterverse to the Conference Stage
This year has been an exciting one for me in tech. I’ve given several conference talks, finished off a tutorial series on data analytics with Python, wrote a couple of decent blog posts, contributed extensively to four different open source projects, and wrote several Twitter storms. As a result of this work, I’ve gained a bit of recognition in the tech community. Here’s a quick rundown of ten things I’ve learned about the world of tech through my experiences this year.

  1. Everybody has a different way of saying the same thing. That doesn’t make the content less valuable, quite the opposite, the diversity in style makes the content more engaging.
  2. The people doing the most important work in technology and computer science don’t have Twitter or GitHub accounts.
  3. Everyone has an opinion or an aspiration, few people meaningfully act on them.
  4. Even though we have Google, it’s easier to make an assumption than it is to research.
  5. Just because your skill set/personality are not valued within a particular group of people does not mean they are completely useless.
  6. It’s easy to over-engineer and over-talk. We should talk less and build less. Instead, we should think and feel more.
  7. Money makes you happy up to a certain point, then, time (and a really good pizza) makes you happy.
  8. Advice and mentorship are easy to come by. Good advice and good mentorship are harder to come by.
  9. Time is a sunk cost. Just because you committed a lot of time to something, doesn’t mean you need to commit more time to it if you don’t want to.
  10. Most people can listen. Few people can listen listen. Find them and keep them in your life.

Hot Take #3: Hacking Kindness
I started A Kind Thing A Day. Currently, it’s a Twitter account that posts daily self-care/kindness tasks for followers to do. Earlier in the year, I blogged about why I started the project. I was specifically thinking of ways to “standardize” kindness in people — especially in the age of Trump, global white nationalism, and other social crises. I won’t be a complete pessimist and reject that hundreds of years of progress that have been made, but I also don’t want to settle for “good enough” when it comes to social good. It’s been a little over a month since the Twitter account has been running and I’m at the end of my creativity strings, so if you have any good ideas, let me know!

Looking To the Future
I’m looking forward to continuing to speak at conferences into 2017, so if you know a good conference that focuses on front-end engineering, JavaScript, Python, or data science — let me know! I’ll also be continuing to be writing this newsletter so make sure that your inbox is ready!

I also plan on working on projects outside the tech world. I’d like to have something to engage my mind outside the humdrum of the software engineering world. And to be honest, I want to have insurance for the inevitable day in which I will leave tech because our robot overlords took over or because I, being wiser, decided I would not be OK with being physically assaulted on the job for the second time in my career. One of the two, I prefer the former.

That aside, these projects will most likely center around health and fitness or more interesting work around A Kind Thing A Day. If I make anything interesting, I’ll be sure to share it here!

2016 was a wonderful year for me personally, but a though year for us as a species. Our planet’s climate continues to be compromised by our own actions. We’ve lost several influential feminist and queer icons. We’ve struggled through new diseases and new medical challenges. Yes, some wonderful things have happened, but it really does seem like the bad has outweighed the good. In moments like these, I like to remind myself that just as we are born to run, we are born to persevere. Just as our legs, backs, and feet are designed to take us one step beyond anywhere we can imagine going, our hearts, minds, and resolve are designed to take us through moments of strife like these. In 2017, let’s keep running.

What Am I Reading Now?
My relationship with my Kindle has elevated from friend to best friend. It’s absolutely insane that a small computer in my pursue can hold more literature than someone like me would’ve have even imagined have access to 50 years ago. With that in my mind, here’s a few more recommendations for your bookshelf or Kindle!

  • Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich: Why We Run is a wonderful book written by long-time runner Bernd Heinrich that explores his personal experiences with running and analyzes humanity’s relationship with running. 
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande: This books was recommended to me by the CEO of a startup, a seasoned entrepreneur who had successfully exited severally companies, I had worked at. Information is a plentiful resource in our world, but organizing it is difficult. The book highlights how checklists are used throughout a variety of industries to organize information and reduce chances of failure. If you’re a neat freak like me, you’ll definitely love this book!

I hope your holidays were wonderful (and continue to be) and I hope that you have a wonderful New Year! Here’s to 2017! Even though it’s an odd number and it makes me uncomfortable.

Have a happy day, friends!

Your captain,
Safia

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