My Top 10 Reflective Key Takeaways of 2021: A Year-End Review of Lessons Learned

The last day of 2021 but one day to go to the beginning of another new year of 2022!

It has been a tough year for most of us because of the worldwide pandemic. The way to live our daily lives is currently not how it normally used to be. The year 2021 started with the COVID-19 pandemic that is not over yet. In spite of the ongoing situation, we try our best to live our lives normally and learn how to work remotely from home.

I started 2021 with some typical goal plan. Ending this year, I saw that some of the goals on my list were accomplished and some of them not. Surprisingly I achieved a lot of unexpected yet great and valuable things this year. For that, I am very thankful!

Compare less. Reflect more.

It’s been a while since I blogged due to my busy schedule, tech community engagements, book writing project and more. However, I took my last week of the year off to take it easy. Today I wanted to spend the last day of 2021 with some reflective thoughts and review how my year has been. I decided to list down my top 10 key takeaways and lessons learned from year 2021.

1. When You Let Go, Amazing Things Happen

When I was a young child I like the quote “The only constant in life is change“. As I walk through the journey of my life, I can testify to it. Changes in our lives require adaptation and adjustment to new things. Sometimes it is not easy to accept changes. Why would we change what is already good and get out of our comfort zone?

The past years of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 were tough year/s for me. I was stressed and depressed over the toxic people and work environment around me that never took value and appreciated all the good things I did. I was humiliated, emotionally abused, and more.

Looking back to those “bad and sad” days makes me so grateful right now because it made me learn the art of forgiveness instead of retaliation, learning from the bad situation instead of holding grudges, and forgetting the negative experiences yet brave enough to recall (like writing about it right now). Most of all, letting it all go to move forward and to be in a healthier and better place.

If I didn’t dare let go and moved forward, I wouldn’t be so satisfied and happy I am right now. Amazing things did actually happen and a lot of blessings came!

2. Conquering Fear of Public Speaking

It is amazing how you can beat and conquer your fear by just trying to slowly get out of your comfort zone and by listening to your heart’s passion.

I grew up with the fear of being in front of public and too many people. I was scared and I used to get “shaky” as a child being forced to present on stage. This was back then while I was in elementary school. My mother used to motivate me to face that fear of being in the crowd. She died of breast cancer when I was 18, but I know she is watching over me from the heavens and can see how I have succeeded in conquering that. I hope she is proud of me.

I learned that public speaking is easier if you speak as you are, be genuine and think more of how you can help others. As a public speaker, you are on the stage as a mediator of information to others, because you have the skills and experience that others can learn from.

In 2021, I did  33 public speaking about a few of my favorite Microsoft Azure technologies at several tech conferences and user groups (mostly virtual, a few in-person) in different countries. In April this year, I broke my record of doing 7 public speaking in a month for the first time. I also organized and led 15 tech community events through Azure User Group Sweden, a Meetup tech group I started and founded in March 2021.

3. Being a Software Developer is more than just programming

Even though I started working full time in different roles since 2006, I have been working as Software Developer/Engineer for at least 6 yrs now, I learn and I get better as a programmer by doing and by solving problems and bugs.

Being a software developer in this modern world is also not just about writing code and thinking logic, but it is also about working agile, adapting to changes, collaborating with colleagues, delivering value to the business, learning to understand the different perspective of different teams, tasks management, managing the limited time, knowledge sharing, daring to ask stupid questions, learning to say no, dare suggest a better idea, investigating to understand the problem, listening, understanding the details as well as the bigger perspective and so much more!

4. Remote working can be boring but advantageously effective

Since the pandemic started, I have been working from home for over a year now. It works pretty great for me!

I miss the “fikas” and coffee breaks with co-workers but these are special days when in-person socialization has its limitations.

So, I have my corner small office at home where I do my day job tasks at my consulting project at our client via Forefront Consulting. Aside from the consideration of the restrictions we have this past year, I enjoy working from home because I don’t need to travel or drive at least 45-mins to the office. So by working remotely, I save almost 2 hours every work day!

Because of remote working, sometimes I get a lot of meetings a day! As a programmer, I want to minimize it. I want to be solving problems and writing code, but remote working requires us to discuss and collaborate. It is about finding time to focus ( I block my calendars for scheduled focus/coding time) and having the balance between talking in meetings and doing the “real work” we talk about in our meetings!

I also invested in buying myself a desk-bike that I can use while working especially on long meetings!

5. Continuous Learning, continuous Development – The CL/CD of Lifelong Learning

I learned that everyday we have is the opportunity to learn – in so many ways. For a software developer like me, or even with any career or role, continuous learning and continuous learning and development is part of our daily routine. We learn from our mistakes, we learn by studying, we learn by listening to the experiences of others, and more.

The school of life is continuous as long as we are alive in this world. I kind of got inspired by making my own abbreviation CL/CD for this one.

Earlier this year, I blogged on Medium about what I thought about learning. If you missed it, check Continuous Learning — An Integral Part of A Programmer’s Development

6. Forget the bad leaders, be inspired by the great ones

I’ve experienced being led by both the worst leaders, the good leaders and great leaders in my entire life – both in school and in my career.

I realized and learned that having a great, inspiring and empathetic leader is priceless. It is one of the things I take value and importance.

It is hard to describe and know beforehand if you have a good or bad leader. It is because you just know it when you have one!

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.

Alexander the Great

7. Achievements and Awards are Tokens of Appreciation for Who You Are and What You Do

2021 is a special year and amazing year of achievements and awards. A few to mention is my Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award I received in June this year. Middle of this year, I blogged about my award and Microsoft Certifications, Microsoft MVP Award, Passed Azure Certifications and Personal Reflections of Half Year 2021

Aside from the two nominations from Nordic Women in Tech Awards, by the end of this year, I was also recognized as Forefront’s Årets Supernova at work.

So how does it feel to be receiving all these awards and recognition?

Of course, I feel very happy and thankful. I am not actually used to being famous yet. Believe it or not, you feel more humble than before especially when you do not expect them.

I learned that awards and recognition sounds fancy and great; however, the deeper and true meaning of it, is all about appreciation from others for who you are, your passion, your heart and for what you have done without expecting in anything in return. You do it because it is your calling. You take inspiration from it. You are inspired inspiring others.

9. The heart of community is about knowledge sharing, collaboration and passion

Since I started sharing knowledge, collaborating with awesome friends in the community, and following my passion, I grow.

Grow? Yes! I am a gardener, that’s why I used the word “grow” 🙂 We grow best with good people who also wants to grow with us! I hope you understand my gardening example.

To understand better what I meant, take time to listen to my interview at Microsoft Reactor’s Community Spotlight this December 2021.

9. Be Courageous and Be Genuine

We are not perfect and will never be perfect. However, sometimes we have to break our barriers and get out of our comfort zones to move to where we want us to be. I learned that being courageous and being genuinely yourself is a great adventure.

My life story and my journey to tech is an example of this. If you missed my story, check out my blog at DEV Community, Inspiring Story of Software Developer Jonah Andersson in Sweden – SheCoded in 2021!

10. Express Gratefulness and Pay It Forward

From letting go of the bad and to moving on, I continue to speak from the heart and be expressive as who I am in all the gratitude I feel, especially for all the great things that happened and that I have experienced this year. I am very thankful to all the great people, friends and family who supported me along the way. Too many to mention one by one but you know who you are! 😊

Pay it forward means share it to others what you have and what have others have done good to you. I usually pay it forward by sharing knowledge, share my experience and by mentoring others.

Speaking of paying it forward, “Pay It Forward” movie was one of the inspirational movies I like. If you have not seen it yet, worth checking it out if you like some feel-good movies.

So these are my random reflections and lessons learned from of the year that passed before us. I also recorded a short video on YouTube about my last workday of the year and did also some reflections. If you missed it, you can re-watch it on Jonah’s Vlog – Last Work Day and Reflective Recall of Year 2021 (HD)

A smile from me! I hope you had a great holidays and Happy New Year 2022 to all of you!

Thanks for all your support and looking forward to great things to come.

”Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.”

Brad Paisley

About Author: Jonah Andersson is a Filipina-Swedish Software Engineer who codes fullstack system development in C# .NET/NET Core. She is a Microsoft MVP for Azure, Certified Azure Developer, Founder/Organizer of Azure User Group Sundsvall Sweden. She currently works as a Software Developer Consultant at Forefront Consulting in Sweden. Jonah is passionate about learning, developing and sharing knowledge about Microsoft Azure cloud technologies. A woman who code advocating gender equality in the tech industry through mentorship and by being role model. She also loves creative technical writing her experience.

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