Have you ever seen a cage fight? Where two MMA fighters go head-to-head until one of them concedes?

I think of it as the more gruesome older sibling of boxing. Every so often there is a fight where one of the fighters gets completely destroyed. Just imagine, you are an MMA fighter jumping into the cage. You’re feeling hyped and ready to prove that this is your time. The fight starts off well. You get in a few punches, start getting confident, maybe even a little cocky. Then the other fighter shows you who is really stronger. You get a jab to the face that makes you feel dizzy, a right hook to the ribs which has you in agony and an uppercut to the jaw that floors you. You’re trying to find the inner strength to get back up, but the other guy is on you throwing punch after punch until they are dragged off you because they’ve knocked you out completely. Before you even know what’s happening the fight is over. You’ve lost and you’re left in need of serious recovery and time to heal.

That for me, is the story of 2020…

Covid 19. Jab.

#BlackLivesMatter. Right hook.

#ENDSARS. Uppercut.

Grief. Sucker punch.

Everything else. Punch after punch after punch.

What’s wild is that we can’t really be in recovery yet as none of this is over, it may never be over, so we’re just getting by. Which for some people it has meant putting goals on hold, or even goals in the bin, and for others they’ve had the time they’ve needed to excel and put the work in. I’m definitely on the former side considering some of the goals and achievements I had last year. Though, I’ve had bursts of “productivity”. So, while 2020 has been an absolute ‘mare, I will still reflect on the good things that have happened in 2020.

Work

I got a new job! 🎉

I bid farewell to the amazing people at FutureLearn after working there for over 2 and a half years. This year I started at the Financial Times as a Senior Software Engineer. It has been an interesting change to go from my Tech Lead role at FutureLearn to the role I have now at the FT. In my time here I’ve worked on some interesting and challenging problems on FT.com and in the app and on all parts of the stack. My technical skills have already grown lots and I’m looking forward to developing them more.

Speaking

I didn’t attempt any conference talks this year, not that there were as many this year, but towards the end of the year I spoke on two panels.

  1. The first was at the Black Girls Tech Summit in November where we talked about navigating the workplace as black women.

I find panels much more daunting than giving pre-prepared talks and I still need a lot of practice! I want to get better at these so I’m keeping an eye out for tips and articles for being a great panelist.

Writing

At the start of the year I had the aim of writing something once a month to work on improving my writing skills. I did start my blog and managed a whole seven out of twelve posts (not including this one!) which considering how this year has been, that’s not too bad 😎

I’ve predominantly written about career development and some front-end development bits I’ve learned. The most popular has been the one I wrote on animating list reordering with React hooks which has been seen almost 5000 times 😱

Teaching

I have always enjoyed teaching through learning hours and giving talks, but this year this role became more official when I became an Instructor for the Black Codher programme. Black Codher is a six month coding bootcamp for black women, empowering them to progress into digital roles. I taught JavaScript and React and learned a lot about teaching, and teaching remotely, that I shared in this thread on Twitter.

I’ve also started using Instagram as a way to document and share what I’ve been learning, I’ve spent a lot of the last few months getting to grips with data structures and algorithms. As I’ve translated that content into Instagram posts it’s helped me understand the topic better and has been a nice way to get to know some of the tech community on Instagram too. So far I’ve talked about Big O notation, recursion and binary search. Take a look at my Instagram page.

Screenshots of some of the Instagram posts shared by Tara in 2020

Other cool things

I started learning to touch type this year and honestly it is great and has made me more efficient already. I was a slow typer before, keeping my eyes on the keyboard, which is why I decided to learn. It was pretty difficult to build up the new muscle memory and for a while it completely slowed down my typing as I tried to adjust to the new way. I am much faster now than I was previously and I plan to keep improving my number of words per minute. I have been using Typing club to learn which is really good.

2021?

Let’s not even go there, I just pray I’ll be alive to see it through…

We made it

Software engineer. She speaks and writes about career progression and front-end development. @tara_ojo