A year ago I reflected on the upcoming year of 2020. Reading that post now, just 12 months later, feels like I wrote it a decade ago. I think I’ll echo everyone’s sentiments here when I simply say 2020 was different, challenging, surprising, brutal, and somewhat unforgiving. But it also had some very good moments in between the pandemic, uncertainty, and lock-downs.
As is customary by now, I need to put things in writing to provide more perspective, and a sense of gratitude for the past 12 months.
In 2020 I had a chance to:
- Work for Microsoft for the whole year. I resigned in October, and the curiously lengthy 3-month notice period allowed me to wrap up my work nicely and cleanly.
- Work out at the gym three times a week. I had one week off due to falling ill (just influenza), but I kept the pace and tempo beyond that. A lot of progress, but perhaps when I least expected. On some weeks I felt like I was grinding through the exercises, and on other weeks everything was light and easy. Very enjoyable nevertheless.
- Fly just one time! Well, actually – two. From Helsinki to Lisbon and back in early January. Spending more time at home has been great. Many friends I’ve spoken with have said the same – and some feel they don’t miss the constant business travel anymore. I do like the idea that we can now work remotely and still maintain productivity.
- Write 101 blog posts. Mostly it was easy, but as I wanted to push out at least one article each week, at times, it was challenging.
- Not go back to Facebook. That’s that.
- Almost complete school. What started in early 2019 is almost coming to an end in early 2021. The Executive MBA journey was easier the second year and more time-consuming – I wrote the thesis, attended about 264 hours of school, and spent about 500 hours on assignments and writing papers in total. I wrote (and grammar-checked) over 1.5 million words in total. At times, super exhausting and challenging but inspiring at the same time.
- Complete a marketing degree on the side. Based on my thesis for eMBA, I felt I needed to understand more about modern marketing. The Kellogg: Modern Marketing program was great!
- Recorded and produced 51 episodes for the Ctrl+Alt+Azure podcast with Tobias Zimmergren.
- Let go of a lot of things, to make room for new things in my life. In no particular order, I drastically lowered the time I spend using the phone, LinkedIn, Twitter and several other things. I also watched less TV, and ate less fast food and sugar.
- I cut down massively on caffeine towards the end of the year. From five cups to just one took about a month to get adjusted to.
To look at the past year in pictures, I chose a few highlights. In chronological order:
When you’re in a hurry, sometimes things break. Early January:
IglooConf was organized in January as well – long before we shut down with physical events here in Finland:
Flew to Lisbon for a team meeting. I love the strong coffee they have!
I received a complimentary (free!) pen for having our old company alive after 12 years. It’s now just a holding company, essentially focusing on investing. But a free pen is a free pen.
Went shopping in Zara, to witness BSOD:
School has been rewarding, but at times, it’s been exhausting as well. This is from one of our lectures before March, when we hadn’t switched to online classes:
Like clockwork, I’ve gone to the gym to do my thing. During March, it was eerily quiet:
We also had dear friends over from Italy, and they made the most fantastic and delicious tiramisu:
(fun fact: the cashier lady at the grocery store asked me ‘are you guys making tiramisu? nobody else buys this stuff..’)
Just before Finland closed down, we managed to deliver a great in-person event in Helsinki, called TechDays Finland. This is from the keynote hall. I guess I was too busy during the two days to actually take any other photos.
Most mornings we did breakfast together with the family. Also, most mornings I had a cappuccino with oat milk, and a big bowl of porridge with a hint of butter. What’s missing from the picture is the usual protein-berry-banana-smoothie I combine with this.
We also did a lot of hikes in and around Helsinki. The wooden cup is called kuksa, and it’s hand-made in Lapland – can highly recommend getting one!
We retrofitted one of our balconies during spring to allow some semi-outdoor time.
Many great moments have been spent on this beach admiring the views, digging for smooth rocks, and waiting for the ice to melt or form.
This year I also had ample time to build more LEGO.
During one of our daily walks out, I found this empty office space close to our home. It was 400 euro/month, so admittedly quite a bit – but who wouldn’t pay anything to get some solitude and quiet hours when schools and kindergartens were closed? I ended up not following up on this plan, but instead relocated my home office to a room with a door.
We escaped to the country side several times during the year – it was made easier when schools shut down, as nothing was forcing us to stay in the city. I found working outside in the sun an enjoyable approach.
There’s a fun story here. We ordered most of our groceries from a local hypermarket. They let you select what you need, and you can then choose a delivery time. For months, we did this (and still do) but every second week we’d get an extra batch of salmon fillets. It wasn’t on our list, but was still charged on my credit card. After weeks of enjoying salmon in different flavors, I went through the store portal to figure out how it gets there. It was nowhere to be found – until I clicked on Profile. Someone had added a custom text stating “Extra salmon fillet” – so whoever was packing our stuff, figured they’d ensure that we really got our beloved salmon fillets.
Since then we haven’t had any salmon.
This is me, 1 minute and 13 seconds before going live at the ShareGate Deploy online event.
As schools resumed, our youngest – then 2 years old – wanted to pack his bag, too.
Sous vide salmon fillet with teriyaki glazing is perfect! Or at least, it was.
We spent time at the country side during summer. It was hot, quiet and relaxing.
I also finally built a new high performance workstation. This is one of the M.2 NVMe drives for it.
A steakhouse we try to support offers a neat private cabinet, so it’s been a safe place to eat every now and then.
We also had time to ponder whether to go swimming or not.
I had a few tire punctures in the past year. To figure out why, we rented a metal detector for a day. I found these at the summer cabin yard after two hours of scanning.
When I joined Microsoft, I had to give up my Microsoft MVP award. I got to keep the pins, though.
I found this cartoon in my photo collection. It’s great.
It was time to upgrade the home office chairs this year, also. After checking through all possible brands and models, we opted for the Herman Miller Aeron (remastered) models with my wife. The 2-year-old really liked their showroom, mainly because he got to play with the toy truck for an hour.
Home-made pancakes, because everyone loves it.
The new chair in its natural habitat. It has hard-floor rolls.
I also resorted to measuring my calves. That’s for getting the proper size knee warmers.
We also found a piece of land, and purchased that. The first step was removing some trees, and hopefully – one day – a new house can be built here.
We also experienced a water leak/damage in our main bathroom. This resulted in a months-long tear down-demolition-drying-rebuild-project. Subsequently, we have to do our laundry in the apartment complex basement. But the kids seem to love the electric mangle.
I’m eagerly waiting for 2021, as so many plans that have been long in the making are finally falling into their respective places. I’ll write an update on those in the next few weeks!
Enjoy the last moments of 2020, and best of luck for 2021!
I work with Azure and frequently write about my experiences. Former Microsoft Most Valuable Professional & Microsoft Regional Director, ex-MSFT. Based in Helsinki, Finland.