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2018 reflections!

2018 is over. Already? I’ve never written a year end post, but writing this post has given me a way to reflect on the year and evaluate what I’d like to achieve in the new year. Hence, I thought I’d start this tradition and see how it goes. Here’s my highlights, challenges and learnings from 2018:

My first keynote ever! Pycon Balkan in Serbia was the first Pycon conference of its kind in the Balkan area, and it was one of the most well-organised and fun conferences that I’ve attended thus far.

I’m grateful to Pycon Balkan for giving me the opportunity to share my learnings through my keynote. The preparation for the keynote was really intense, especially because I was giving three other talks around this time. However, I feel like I've improved beyond my expectations because of this experience. My public speaking skills have come a long way, some of the more noticeable improvements have beeen that I no longer feel extremely anxious before a talk, which means that there’s no longer a slight tremor in my voice. I am able to control my pace and pitch, and I’m learning to control my posture as well. However, the way that I've impressed myself most was my ability to sip water whilst talking :P. All in all, I really enjoy the entire process. The talk link isn’t up as yet, but as soon as it’s released I’ll update and link to it.

Not only was the speaking aspect great, but I also had the opportunity to meet wonderful and interesting people on this journey. During this time, I also experienced my coldest winter in Europe (some truly hibernating worthy temperatures for a South African) with just a touch of snow which was magical.

Being recognised as one of the fifty inspiring women in South Africa has been my greatest honor this year.

InspiringFifty is a non-profit that aims to increase diversity in tech by making female role models in tech more visible. The Inspiring Fifty women are role models for encouraging more girls and women in technology, as well as inspiring future leaders and entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps. You can read more about it here .

I was truly humbled by this award. Looking at the profiles of all fifty women made me realise that there are so many other women out there that are championing through their industries, leading, inspiring and making a difference. The energy, motivation and ambition of these women is contagious and extremely motivating!

I hope to continue making a difference in this industry in every way that I possibly can.

The Kasi Maths program’s one year anniversary. Kasi Maths aims to help students from previously disadvantaged schools to develop mathematical skills, gain confidence in their mathematical abilities, and increase their enjoyment of mathematics. In the long term Kasi Maths wants to help students to pass mathematics at a Grade 12 level and take up STEM courses at a tertiary level.

Kasi Maths has been particularly rewarding because I feel like I am making a direct impact to the students that attend the program. Just like Inspiring fifty, the program has made me realise that there are people out there that simply want to help to make a difference. This program would not be possible without the help from our dedicated volunteers who give up their Mondays and Wednesdays to assist the learners. The learners that attend are motivated, intelligent and ambitious boys and girls that have made it their mission to improve and do better at school, and do something with their lives irrespective of their circumstances.

As for me, Kasi Maths has been one of the more difficult endeavours that I’ve undertaken and its been a rocky year for the team. We’re still finding our feet and figuring out what’s the best way to do things, we’re learning slowly and surely we’ll get there with the help of volunteers, partners and schools.

Co-organising meetups like Women In Tech, Ladies that UX and Railsbridge - These three meet-ups have allowed me to explore different domains of the technology area, meet interesting people, and learn and share with others. Being a co-organiser has given me a sense of appreciation of how much effort and work goes into preparing for a meet up, and I have a newfound sense of gratitude to other organisers who put events together.

Through Women In Tech, I’ve been able to interact with women and men in the industry who are passionate about technology as well as diversity within the industry. LTUX has been the meet up that has given me the most perspective this year. Through this initiative, I’ve learnt so much about user experience and how our decisions as developers can lead to seamless journeys for users which ultimately plays a huge role in the success of an application. It has also allowed me to interact with designers and user experience experts on a new level. Being one of the few software developers at these meet-ups, I’ve come to realise that there are many gaps and challenges in the interaction between designers and developers that we need to bridge. Finally, the last workshop that I co-organised was a RailsBridge workshop. These workshops are free and fun ways to get started or level up with Rails, Ruby, and other web technologies. Railsbridge workshops remind me of the struggles that I encountered when I was still learning to code and for me, it emphasises the importance of mentorship, especially since so many aspects of software development can be overwhelming and frustrating.

Finally, one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made this year was resigning as a director and employee of Zero One. I had co-founded Zero One in 2015 and helped build this software company through hard-work and dedication. I resigned because I had realized that my happiness lies in a different direction, and for the longest time it has been challenging to put my happiness above my attachment to a company that I’ve seen grow from strength to strength over the years. Through my journey with Zero One I’ve embraced my entrepreneurial spirit, nurtured my confidence, and expanded my relationships. I no longer am just a software developer but I am someone who cares deeply about building products in a manner that allows for sustainability, scalability, and adaptability. I’ve learnt to care about clients and end users, and instead of distancing myself from them, I collaborate with them to build products that are useful. I’ve worked with multiple clients over years through Zero One and I’ll forever be grateful for the learnings that I took away from working with each client. Some of these learning were more technical like architecture and design practices, whilst others were about project design, management, and scope. I’ve also learnt about good team dynamics, team motivation, and effective communication. I’ll use these learnings throughout my life in all that I do.

This year has been rewarding and fulfilling in many ways, its also been exhausting with very little balance and time to myself. I’m most grateful that I feel like with each year through all the different things that I try, I’m closer to understanding and learning more about myself. In its simplest form this year I learnt:

  • The value of being able to communicate effectively
  • Software development is not only about the technology but there are so many other aspects to creating a good product.
  • On a more personal level - to be detach myself emotionally from draining situations that are not to my expectations and not within my control. It's still a work in progress but I’m slowly but surely getting there.

I’m glad for the support system that I’ve had, in particular, the friends and family that have helped me through difficult periods this year.

I look forward to 2019 with new resolutions and hopefully a new energy. In 2019 I’d like to work towards:

  • More speaking opportunities that allow me to learn and share and meet new people in South Africa and abroad all aligned in trying to learn, share and make a difference through technology.
  • A more healthy way of living - gym, good eating habits and some balance in my life.
  • As fun as it was doing all these amazing things in 2018, I’ve realised that I’m not very good at saying no to new endeavours. Whilst this has had its perks over the years, it has left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted for months on end. This year I want to focus on the things that I am extremely passionate about and that I can truly make a difference towards.
  • Tech Tech and more tech. As always I want to continue learning as tech constantly evolves. However, I'd like to have more focussed learning.
  • Expanding the Kasi Maths program to help more students and to run sustainably. This means getting out of my comfort zone and reaching out to partners and volunteers.

With that being said - Wishing you all a successful and happy 2019!