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2018 Retrospective

In Life by MatthiasLeave a Comment

At the beginning of 2018, I took a look back at 2017 to reflect on what I had accomplished and where I still had room for improvement. As it turned out, 2017 was a pretty good year.

In an attempt to improve on the successes of 2017, I took an even more structured approach to goal setting in 2018. Now that yet another year has come and gone, it’s time to look back once again.

My 2018 goals – stuck to my wardrobe so I would see them every day

Career

Goals

  • Participate in a hackathon ✔️
  • Create a fictional product ❌
  • Complete a data analysis & visualisation course ❌
  • Work with at least one more venture ✔️

What went well

I kicked-off crossing goals off my list by taking part in my first hackathon in May – the Techstars Startup Weekend. We came up with an app called Hey Coach! the point of which was to help parents get their children more involved in sports activities. The highlight of this experience was getting to conduct my first guerilla user interviews (my first user interviews at all actually!) by stopping people on the street outside of a DIY-store to ask them some questions.

The biggest career change of the year happened in November. After 14 months, my time at Kfzteile24, the first venture I worked on with Project A, had come to an end. As of November, I have been working on a new venture in a totally different industry. I’m now at Homeday, a startup in the real-estate / propTech space. I’ll be here for the next few months supporting as the PM for their SaaS product which seeks to help realtors manage their work.

I had initially planned to move to another venture sooner, but I wasn’t in too much of a rush since my last few months at Kfzteile24 were especially fruitful. I was no longer directly involved in operations and instead had time to focus on understanding, defining and refining our product management processes. I gave a talk about how to grow a culture of learning at one of Project A’s brown bag lunches to share what I learned.

Speaking of sharing, I also gave my first public talk in 2018! I was invited by a colleague to speak at Berlin’s Accessibility Meetup where I gave a talk about the technical, logistical and cultural constraints of taking an online shop international. Earlier in the year, I took part in a two-day communications training workshop and it felt great to be able to practice what I learned.

Improving my personal brand wasn’t really on the agenda last year but I still took some time to redesign my (this) website. It’s now much closer to the minimalist look I’ve been after for a while.

The final big win for my career goals in 2018 was being able to attend the Mind The Product conference in London. Last year I attended MTP Engage in Hamburg, but this was on a totally different scale. I took away so much from this conference and decided to document my learnings to really get thhem to sink in.

What could have gone better

I did not find the time to take a course on data analysis and visualization, nor did I learn much more about statistics. I did get pretty acquainted with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager by crunching some numbers at Kfzteile24. Whilst I still want to learn more about this topic, I managed to learn enough through doing that it just wasn’t that much of a priority anymore.

I also didn’t take the time to create a fictional product. Figuring out how I wanted to learn took longer than expected. Once I found something that worked for me I also needed to consume first before creating anything.

Travel & Adventure

  • Complete a bouldering course❌
  • Complete a Tough Mudder ❌
  • Travel somewhere exotic ✔️

What went well

I went abroad at least once in ten out of twelve months in 2018. I flew in twenty different planes (including one with a propeller), rode the bus, the train, and on boats. I visited a new continent, crossed two more European capitals off my list, saw mountains, sea and a lot in between. Whilst I didn’t do much local exploring, I certainly didn’t cut down on my adventures abroad.

My first big trip of the year came in March when my mother and I road tripped around Scotland. Starting in Edinburgh, we drove to Loch Lomond, Oban, Glen Coe, the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness & Inverness, through the Cairngorms and back to Edinburgh. We were blessed with almost perfect weather for most our trip which allowed us to really take in the natural beauty of the Highlands. The daily whiskey tastings also helped us to get along and keep in good spirits. Slàinte mhath!

Whilst that trip was amazing in its own right, it wasn’t the exotic escape that I had hoped for. But seeing the Scottish mountains reminded me of the Tour Du Mont Blanc I had done in 2016 and inspired me to take on another mountaineering challenge. So in July, my friend Lukas and I flew to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa and one of the Seven Summits.

After four days we finally made it to the top.

Lukas and I at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro - Uhuru Peak, 5895M above sea level
Lukas and I at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro – Uhuru Peak, 5895M above sea level

We were engulfed by dust and snow, had our faces burned to a literal crisp by the sun, and had our hygienic standards put to the test – but the emotions we felt when the sun hit our faces as we crossed over the final ridge to the peak are simply indescribable. To summit up ⛰️ (hehe): it wasn’t always fun, but it was definitely worth it.

After conquering Africa’s tallest peak I managed to fulfill another dream of mine as we went on safari in Tarangire and Ngorongoro. As a quiet end to the trip, we spent a few days relaxing on the white sand beaches of Zanzibar. It was an amazing trip all around and definitely scratched the exotic itch that had irked me for so long.

London is worth mentioning again in this category. As I mentioned earlier, I went to London for a conference. This was actually my first time in London and I liked it much more than I had expected. The food, the theatre, the architecture, parks and free museums – it felt like a real cosmopolitan city. I hate to use this cliché, but there was a certain energy to London which I haven’t experienced since being in New York.

What really made this trip memorable was the mix of people I spent my time with and the variety of things we did. Some of the highlights include:

  • Sleeping in my friend’s living room with a total of 9 people in the house
  • Eating salt beef bagels, fancy doughnuts, classic pie and excellent Indian in one day
  • Feeding parrots and squirrels in Hyde Park with my University buddy
  • Free beer at a bar opening in Canary Wharf
  • Joining the anti-Brexit protest just because we were there
  • Getting a sweet deal on last-minute theatre tickets and enjoying the show
  • Playing prosecco pong at my Estonian friend’s house warming party
  • Ubering around London with strangers who, as it turned out, work around the corner from where I live

All of this in just four days. I moved abroad to step out of my comfort zone – I wanted to meet interesting people and experience new things. This short trip to London really showcased how far I’ve come and validated my decision.

What could have gone better

Unfortunately, I was neither able to complete a bouldering course, nor did I participate in a Tough Mudder obstacle course. It wasn’t due to laziness or a lack of grit, but as you can probably tell from above, it was because I just wasn’t around for long enough to get either of them done.

I must also admit that I have neglected exploring Berlin. Whilst there have been some highlights, such as – attending the Lollapalooza festival, making pina coladas near the Spree, and finally getting into Wilde Renate – overall I didn’t try enough new things. I didn’t go swimming in any lakes (even though we had the perfect weather for it), I barely visited any museums, exhibitions or shows, and I definitely tried out fewer bars and clubs. I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut and need to make an effort in 2019 to get out of it again.

Learning

  • Template for reading ✔️
  • Template for a commonplace book ✔️
  • Read and summarise 10 books ✔️

What went well

Coming up with a template for reading, storing and recollecting knowledge took longer than expected. But once I had something acceptable in place I set out to practice my new habits.

My goal was to read and summarise 10 books (double what I read last year), but I managed to beat my target and ended the year with 13:

  • Rework – by Jason Fried
  • The $100 Startup – by Chris Guillebeau
  • The Master Algorithm – by Pedros Domingos
  • The Design of Everyday Things – by Don Norman
  • Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done – by Intercom
  • Educated – by Tara Westover 
  • Steal like an Artist – by Austin Kleon 
  • Don’t Make Me Think – by Steve Krug 
  • Inspired – by Marty Cagan
  • Sapiens – by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Measure what Matters – by John Doerr
  • The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design – by IDEO
  • Lean UX – Jeff Gothelf 

I mainly focused on reading about things which I could put to use immediately at work (Just-in-Time vs Just-in-Case) interspersed with some books that just interested me. Being more selective of the books I read worked really well – some of these books had a huge impact on the way I do my job and see the world.

Thanks to the way I now record and organise what I learn, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my ability to retain the information I consume. I often catch myself quoting a line from a book and applying techniques which I learned about. Compared to a year ago, I definitely feel more knowledgeable.

What could have gone better

My knowledge management templates and systems are far from perfect. But I’ve learned that that’s OK because “getting started is more important than being right” – AJ & Smart value.

Wrap Up

I only managed to complete 60% of my goals in 2018. That’s fine. If I had managed all of them, it would mean that they weren’t ambitious enough.

Before writing this article, I had the feeling that 2018 wasn’t so great. I didn’t think it was a bad year per se, I just thought it was OK. 2016 and 2017 were just so filled with new and exciting experiences that I somehow felt like I took my foot off the gas in 2018 and slowed down.

But after taking this time to reflect on the year, I realised that it wasn’t that I had experienced less, it was just that I had grown more comfortable trying out new things. My comfort zone had expanded.

If that isn’t proof of personal growth, then I don’t know what is!

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