War in Ukraine
No wonder the biggest impact goes to the Ukraine war. Not only do I have friends, and former and current colleagues there, but the very fact of brutal, meaningless war touched me to the bottom of my heart. Throughout the whole year, I have been worrying for people there, asking everybody I know how they go through that living hell. Still, as we should find at least something useful in every situation, I learned that even in cases when you're absolutely lost under the pressure of the situation, you can still help improve it for some people. I spent over 600 euros on direct help to Ukrainian people; I helped gather the information to help those who flee to Europe; I gathered the info and wrote a Twitter thread with funds and initiatives which reached over 200,000 people; I know that one of the initiatives received over 18,000 euros overnight thanks to that thread. I am not writing it to brag: I want you to know that even small steps can have a great impact. So - go and help as well!
I moved from Saint-Petersburg to Tallinn, Estonia on the 1st of March. It was not because of war itself - I planned the relocation for 10 years, so it was a coincidence. Despite the fact that we only had to drive around 500 km from one place to another, the relocation still is a complex process starting with obtaining the documents and ending up figuring out how to get a mortgage here. The first several months were extremely hard: we had to search for a house, get acquainted with the customs, and ways of working and living here and adapt to a new landscape. For example, the medical system works very differently here and we should have gotten used to it.
The big problem became the closed borders; we thought we could easily get our parents here for a short trip - but it is available no longer. Sad, but it is our new reality.
From another perspective the relocation went rather smoothly; we got our TRP approvals in the first month; it allowed us to open a bank account, apply for medical insurance, use free public transportation, discounts, and much more. We found a house we liked and discovered a company that would help with leasing; now the leasing agreement is successfully closed and we stepped into a mortgage. My wife found a job; we also found a kindergarten for our kid which he liked - and what is important as well - we like it too. There is no problem with language here: half of Tallinn is Russian-speaking; who's not - speaks English no problemo. I am learning Estonian and try to practice it once in a while.
The year at work was not easy whatsoever. From my previous experience, I thought I would rock the place right from the get-go. I got technical experience and I was leading a unit of 50 people with no problemo - and this is actually a Director level position. I came to Bolt as a Senior Engineering Manager, leading a team of fewer than 20 people. I was really expecting a smooth transition.
However, I was too overconfident. First of all, I didn't take into account the cultural difference: the people were not sure if they should say I was doing something wrong. That led to an unpleasant escalation. Looks like I managed to fix the issue from the side and establish trust. It taught me to check my explicit assumptions. The second problem was getting to know the business domain. As billing works simultaneously for Bolt Ride Hailing, Food Delivery, and Rentals services it has triple complexity. It is also part of the horizontal platform, and I used to work in business verticals themselves at my previous engagements. It took more than 3 months to understand what was going on, and another 3 months to understand what should I personally be doing.
Good thing I went through those difficulties. In the end, we delivered many cool things for the business; I will start talking about them in the upcoming blog posts and tweets once they get live. I also manage to close the hiring goals of the unit hiring the engineers and Engineering Managers for one of the teams. Boy, that was cumbersome as well: the folks are really picky but good for them :) The company is doing good too, but I can't share the numbers with you, unfortunately. Though I can say we didn't do any layoffs and that's a good sign in the time of the global tech market cooling.
The blog and the newsletter
On January, 23rd I published the first issue of the Architecture Weekly newsletter. It was sent to 298 subscribers. Since then a lot of new people signed up for the newsletter: it grew more than 300% to whopping 1058 persons!
I also launched a Telegram channel for those who are not willing to subscribe using email. The group now has 722 subscribers.
I also started doing video covers for the newsletter issues on the Architecture Weekly YouTube channel. There I have 332 subscribers. And that's really nice.
I believe some of the people following the newsletter are also subscribed to the channel as well, but if we just combine those we will have almost 2000 people in our community. Thank you very much for your support!
But of course, I need to mention the most loyal supporters of my work: patrons and boosty subscribers. Their support helps run the newsletter and YouTube channel. For the time being, it allows me to pay for the hosting and newsletter, but hopefully, I can improve the quality of the video with some additional hardware ;) Consider becoming a patron as well - especially as they get access to a closed telegram group where we discuss my materials and solve architecture problems ;)
Next year I want to continue the Architecture Reading topic in my YouTube channel; grow it up to the monetization threshold of 4000 hours of watch time having 1000 subscribers; start the interviews with professionals in the IT field. This year I started attending courses of acting, and they rendered to be extremely useful(check out the last Architecture Weekly Issue - mind the intonation and storytelling). I also want to launch a small enterprise of coaching technical speakers helping them to prepare for talking at conferences.
I also started paying attention to my physical form and health. We bought an elliptic machine, I subscribed to a training app, and started doing exercises. I already see some results and want to improve on those significantly. I also plan to bump Estonian to the A2 level, travel to several places in the world during vacation, and catch up with some technical skills. Should be an exciting year!