2022 Wrapped

In 2020 and 2021 I capped off the year by publishing posts just about my year’s reading. For 2022 I’ll broaden things a bit, adding some retrospection and New Year’s goal setting.


graphic depicting my move from Sydney to NYC

In 2022 my future arrived. Ever since I embarked on a software engineering career seven years ago I have wanted to cut code in the USA. Even while thriving in Sydney on the Canva rocketship I wasn’t shy about my intentions to skip town. “Go! Just go!” I remember Will R imploring me on the office rooftop after I yet again complained that Australia was a small pond. Sorry for the complaining, Will, and thank you for the nudge, because in August 2022 I finally touched down in NYC, USA.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team or product to come and work on, too. While Stripe was ‘the one that got away’ during my grad role search and the intended destination, I noticed in December 2021 that a guy called Erik Bernhardsson had started something new: Modal.com. Not sure what would happen but knowing you have to have a crack, I sent him this DM on Twitter:

Hey Erik, I have followed your writing for a while, learnt a lot from it, and grown an appreciation for your eng style. I know you have begun a startup in the data platform/tools space. What should I learn, build, or achieve in the next 12 months to become the kind of engineer you’d headhunt for your team?

Four, not twelve months later, I signed an offer and became the 7th hire at Modal!

That was certainly the biggest thing that happened to me this year. I started working at Modal on August 22nd 2022, and for the first time in almost a decade needed a new future to envision and chase. But what? Well, this year I also hit 30 years old on September 22nd and those clichéd dreams of family and fatherhood finally bloomed. I thought I had more time, but alas, the biological clock tolls for me.

2023 Goals

These are not new year’s resolutions, which are cursed. I’m taking a leaf out of Eugene Yan’s book and publicly listing some goals for the next twelve months. This list will be optimistic, but I’d be surprised and disappointed if I can’t tick off 80% of this by January 2023.

Push Modal forward. I’d bet that the biggest wins and challenges will be unexpected, but there’s a few specific areas I’d like to push myself to impact: content marketing, DB scaling and operations, DevRel and user relationships, error-handling UX, and Python profiling tools.

Take writing classes. It’s quite unsurprising that a devoted reader would develop desires to be good writer, but truth be told I’ve always been an inveterate writer and I have a long back catalogue of bad writing on the internet (don’t look for it). In 2023 I’d like to seek outside help with my writing, and go beyond the isolated practice that sees comments and blog posts published into the internet ether. I’m likely to end up in a Gotham Writers Workshop, taking advantage of NYC’s fantastic literary culture. My focus during writing class will be narrative non-fiction.

Write 12 posts. Related to the above, I’d like to see the output on this website increase. I published only three posts in 2022 besides this one. Pathetic. That said, I did write drafts for around a dozen posts, so I should have a headstart on next year’s publishing. If Eugene Yan can push out 26 high-quality posts in a year, I can manage one a month of whatever quality you’d call mine.

Give more praise and compliments. This is something I explicitly struggled with in 2022. I listed my reticence to provide appreciation and positive feedback as a management weakness during multiple recent performance reviews. I’m disappointed in myself with this, because I know that I’ve benefitted significantly from praise in my career development and life. I remember interesting compliments given to me over a decade ago, and wouldn’t be surprised if I remember them to the end of my days. The most talented young engineer I’ve ever seen is one of my collegues, and the positivity he brings to reviewing my rubbish Rust code makes me ashamed of the curtness I brought to reviewing the code of my junior’s in the past. Everyone in my life deserves more praise and compliments.

Get back my strength. My physical fitness has been on a very gradual but steady decline for around six or seven years. I’d say the decline was precipitated by me ending my casual work as a waiter — which had me carrying plates, tables, and chairs many hours of the day — and my discovering that I loved programming and was happy to sit ininterrupted at a desk for all too long. Major leg surgery in November 2021 then put me in crutches for six months and further atrophied my muscles. Enough is enough, I will reverse the trend. By year end, I will be able to consistently perform 50 ininterrupted push ups, do a plank for 4 minutes, and 1-rep max benchpress 120kg. Oh, and I’ll actually go to a physio for my busted leg as I should’ve done 3 years ago.

Reach intermediate competency with Rust. Not much to say here. I spent a fair bit of time learning Rust in my time off between jobs, and use it infrequently at work. I’d like to continue building competency with it, because it’s a damn fine language and because Modal will need to write and run more Rust in the near future.

Keep reading. Detailed below.


landscape photo of Prospect Park's long meadow

I had a sluggish start to my year of reading. I was slammed at work, and a fair bit of my free time was taken by interview preparation and interviewing. Nevertheless, I kept up the habit and finished the year strong. Although it wasn’t my favorite book of the year, the nicest reading experience I had was reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden for three hours sitting against a tree in Prospect Park, under a new Brooklyn sun. Great book, great park.

  • Best fiction: No One Is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood
  • Best non-fiction: When We Cease To Understand The World, Benjamin Labatut (it’s partly fiction, actually, but counting it)
  • Best educational: Operating Systems: Three Easy Peices
  • Worst book: The Martian, Andy Weir

Rest of the best

Beyond my absolute favorites, below are the covers, titles, and authors of the eight books I read and rated five stars. The textbooks were all recommendations from teachyourselfcs.com, the best self-guided computer science curriculum on the internet. The included works of fiction shows a little bias in favor of Vonnegut, who may be my favorite author, but I wholeheartedly recommend them all.

A full reading list for 2022 is shown by my failed Goodreads reading challenge.

Mother Night

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

China in Ten Words

Yu Hua

No One Is Talking About This

Patricia Lockwood

When We Cease to Understand the World

Benjamín Labatut

Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces

Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau

Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective

Randal E. Bryant

Crafting Interpreters

Robert Nystrom

I’ve set my 2023 reading goal at 30 books, down from the failed 2022 goal of 40. I’m only four months into living in a new city and doing a challenging job at a small startup, so expect that the number of times I feel like sitting down for a few hours to work through a book will be still significantly lower than 2020 and 2021.

As to which books and authors will comprise the thirty or so that are read in 2023, they’ll be drawn from the collection I’ve somewhat quickly accumulated in NYC: Democracy In Chains, Gilead, Walter Benjamin, ED Hirsch Jr, Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Harlan Ellison, Daniel Yergin. So much to read, too little time.

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