Year in Review: 2021

February 01, 2022 - 9 min

We’re already at the start of February 2022, but who says retrospectives need to be done on January 1st?! A lot of things happened in 2021, both personally and professionally. Time to reflect and remember.

Personal 👶💍📄📃📑📜

This first part is the personal stuff, so if you don’t care about it, you can skip to the professional stuff instead. And if you don’t care about that too, why are you here? 😂

Welcome, Léonard!

In January of 2021 came the great news that we were expecting a baby and a few months later, my son Léonard came to this world! It’s been a few months now and it’s insane how much this event changed our lives.

It’s quite amazing to witness a human being’s awakening to the world, I do feel privileged.

Of course, it’s not just rainbows and unicorns.

Sleeping as much as I want is now a distant memory/dream, though I’ve been surprised that it’s actually quite possible to operate without the amount of sleep I used to get.

Having free time for side projects and writing almost vanished (and usually eats up time when I should sleep instead, while it’s allowed by baby-boss). I don’t know how other parents manage but time just flies by.

One thing’s for sure, Léonard makes sure I keep fit and exercise regularly (a promise I made myself at the beginning of last year, right):

  • it’s quite a normal day when I need to go up and down the 4 floors of the block of flats we live in (and when it’s at night, I have this game where I switch the lights on and go up and down within the 3 minutes they’re programmed to stay on; naturally, after my 4th round trip, I usually do the last flight of stairs in the dark 😅😮‍💨).
  • it’s also quite a normal day when I need to carry him in my arms for 10- to 20-minute stretches, while doing squats, at least 2 or 3 times.

Coach Léonard can ask for these drills at any time of the day (and night…), he says it’s for my own good. My knees and hips and back and arms tend to disagree.

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork

In 2021, I’ve had time to think so many times if the amount of paperwork we’re doomed to go through is some sort of devilish scheme to keep people busy on the boring stuff. It definitely does not help when you’re an expat.

If you had told me having a baby would generate so much paperwork chores, I probably would not have believed you. The story goes that we wanted to do an early recognition of fatherhood for me to be officially recognised as the father of my child to be. In France, as a French person, this is a 5-minute visit to my local townhall, easy-peasy. In Czechia, as a foreigner, this would have required tons of documents that also needed translating by a certified translator (aka costs some money).

Since we were engaged, and you’re officially recognised as the father when having a baby as a married couple, we thought we might as well go through paperwork hell to get married.

It did not disappoint.

Our child was due some time in the middle of September, so we had almost the entire year to get married, should be easy, right.

Being so diligent, we got in touch with the French embassy to understand what we need to do to get married in April:

  • weddings at the embassy are quite a rare thing, you should get married through the local authorities
  • getting married in Prague is like getting married in Las Vegas (say what?)

Only to realise at the end of June that:

  • babies aren’t always born around the due date
  • it’s already the end of June

Let’s just say that we managed to be on time paperwork-wise for our wedding at the beginning of August (ever heard of the necessary 2-week public display of your intent on getting married, during which somebody has the right to oppose it, to get the paper allowing a French person to marry…?), but the “getting married like in Las Vegas” was lost on us.

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My wife, my son to be born hiding in her belly and me, right after the wedding ceremony, in front of the Prague Astronomical Clock

Professionally

Promo

In January last year, I got promoted to Staff Engineer at Kiwi.com. Pretty crazy to me to think that I started working in the industry in September 2017. Even though titles only mean so much, it’s still a nice recognition that I bring value to the company.

Pair Documenting

I definitely learnt a lot about infrastructure and Kubernetes, which might seem overkill for a frontend platformer, but there was a void to fill when my ex-colleague Adam Janiš left, so I put on my newbie hat and pair-documented Adam’s knowledge throughout his notice period. I still refer or point people to that document quite regularly, it’s an investment that keeps on giving after all these months!

This was also the first time I tried to add original schematics/pictures and Excalidraw made it super fun and easy!

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"What would mob documenting look like?"

Robin’s Gazette

My newsletter, Robin’s Gazette, kept going quite well! It turned one year old on December, 9th! 🎂

In 2021, I published 25 issues (784 emails in total!), and went from 9 subscribers to 49 at the end of the year!

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Would you look at that subscriber growth!

Given the quite low volume of subscribers, my average open rate and click rate are pretty okay (though they are “all-time” performance metrics):

  • 70.35% open rate,
  • 24.38% click rate.

Even though it’s always some amount of work, I deem it worthy of my time as I get to practice writing and I always learn something slightly more deeply than if I just scrolled Twitter or Hacker News. This continues my efforts from “archivist to creator” that I mentioned in my last retro.

Special mention to Shawn @swyx Wang for being so encouraging along the way!

My goal for this year is to continue on that path, though I do need to put some effort into advertising it better:

  • the subscribe form is hard to find on my website,
  • the content is short-lived and behind closed doors — so I should repurpose it to an extent,
  • start marketing it more (instead of the infrequent tweets I’ve tried at some point).

One small change for this year: I now send the Gazette every other Friday instead of every other Wednesday.

Some of the feedback I received 😊

“Such a great newsletter this week Robin, amazing job!”

“Still enjoying the newsletter!”

Blog

The blog was a bit quiet last year, I only published 3 posts and refreshed my most read article about building APK files locally for Expo projects (it recently crossed 20K views in its lifetime! 🎉).

They were:

I really hope to start writing more again on the blog because the SEO game takes a long time for Google to start recommending your stuff: I saw more traffic to my How to Test Your ESLint Config and Get your Own Sentry Playground articles, and they were written in September 2020!

Started working on a course

In the last retro, I announced that I planned to write a book. That did not happen… 😅

Instead, I started working on a video course which essentially replicates the now defunct Margarita project from scratch (which was the subject of this article on my blog), showcasing how to build cross-platform web and native mobile apps through React Native and React Native Web.

This was the occasion to spend some time weeks watching all the microphone reviews on YouTube, all the Audacity and Obs Studio tutorials for sound production, to ultimately produce a half-finished tutorial on YouTube (the best 33 seconds of your life, trust me).

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My video production journey reminds me of this meme, Source

Ever since my son was born, I’ve had little time to focus for longer than 5-minute stretches outside of work, so this project has lost steam right now. I hope I’ll manage to finish it in the first semester!

A look back and forward

Revisiting some of my plans for 2021 and making some for 2022.

Family

As much as I would love to work on side-projects and such, my family comes first, and I want to keep it that way. I’m excited to continue discovering what my next workouts will be, courtesy of Coach Léonard! (Seriously, I’ve got some arms now! 💪)

I cannot wait for my son to meet all his grand-parents, aunts and uncles in France later this year!

Nehovorím pliynule po slovensky

aka I don’t speak Slovak fluently.

One of my goals was to make sure I would be able to speak to all my wedding guests in their preferred language (amongst French, English and Slovak). Because of the above (and COVID not helping…), the guest list was actually pretty small and my mastery of Slovak would not be entirely necessary to do well on my goal. So I guess I will learn better alongside my son this year whilst we wait for the big party?

Almost no SAD this past year

Come December, I usually feel pretty burnt out and in dire need of vacation to recharge. Somehow, in December 2021, I did not feel like that at all.

My new family life provided some amount of distractions from work. Even though that increased my context switching throughout the days and the nights were not as restful, it somehow created some distance between work and me. Or maybe because living with a newborn forces you to live in the moment, one day at a time… 😅

Writing

Less paperwork, more blog posts. 🤞

Keep the newsletter going, and make it better, faster, stronger!

Improve my note taking system, which is a bit chaotic and not really systematic at the moment.

Learning Rust

In 2021, I started dabbling with Rust, mostly through the really great WIP book from Luca Palmieri, Zero To Production In Rust. It assumed some knowledge so I sometimes struggled had fun filling in the gaps.

Given where the JS ecosystem is going in terms of tooling (oh yeah, in 2021 I started this Awesome List of JavaScript Tooling Not Written In JavaScript on GitHub — 667 stars so far!), I think it’s important to explore beyond the confines of JavaScript/TypeScript. So I’d like to spend more time with Rust this coming year!


Lots of things to be grateful for last year and lots to look forward to this year. C’est parti !

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    Personal blog written by Robin Cussol
    I like math and I like code. Oh, and writing too.