It’s a wrap! 2020 In Review

Whoops! We are now 10 days into 2021 – time flies, indeed! Similarly to everyone else, 2020 was the strangest year of my life. Therefore, with 2020 finally gone, I want to look back and take stock of everything lost, and the surprising things gained.

Disappointments and detours

Did anyone’s 2020 turn out the way they expected? To be sure, 2020 was full of dashed dreams and deferred wishes. Consequently, I failed to realize the top two things that I’d wanted in 2019:

  1. Re-joining Expedia after the re-organization
  2. Embarking on a new journey as a licenced foster parent

Although some of these paths have closed, perhaps temporarily, perhaps forever; I still found a silver lining in taking new roads. In November, I started a new job at Zulily that gives me the opportunity to test and apply many of the areas I have spent my year upskilling in.

Also, I successfully got my foster licence in March. Though my time in active service was cut short by the pandemic, I gained many life skills through the training. These are still serving me well in dealing with interpersonal situations at work and in life.

Completely new skills in 2020

When the pandemic brought life to a halt in 2Q 2020, it created an opportunity to focus full-time on upskilling. I picked up several new skills, some which were on my bucket list, but a few completely unexpected ones:

  • Video editing – for 2 years, I’ve wanted to produce sewing videos. However, editing isn’t just about stitching snippets of video together. It’s an entire art of communication, which I look forward to explore and improve.
  • Colour grading – an intriguing journey through RGB curves, vectorscopes and colour wheels. Just 3 months has made a huge difference in my image quality.
  • WordPress content creation – navigating the world of web hosting, using WordPress themes, and most intimidatingly, creating and registering my own domain name.
  • HTML – I started out wanting to learn all of web development, and only got through the HTML part of the course. Even though I can’t code my own website yet, knowing HTML helps me appreciate more aspects of good web design.
  • Regex – before 2020, I had no idea that regex (regular expressions) exist. They’re very useful for creating rules to work with any data set involving text.
  • Machine learning – I’m far from being able to create production models for work, but getting my feet wet with sklearn helped me appreciate the process. It also made me more savvy with using automated optimization tools.

The skill sets that I’m picking up as a content creator also help me appreciate aspects of my job in digital marketing. This is because many of the same questions – getting Google and YouTube traffic, optimizing your content to show up with the right keyword searches, driving viewer engagement – apply in both areas.

Upskilling in existing areas

With most of 2020 taking place within four walls, taking mental journeys was the only way to make life interesting. After the event, I’m astounded by the number of skills I could practice within the 250 square feet of my living room:

  • SQL – I got better with subqueries, common table expressions, and analytic (window) functions. After writing Survival SQL, my speed of writing and debugging SQL is probably about 2-3 times faster than a year ago. I also practiced a lot of BigQuery.
  • Python – This was an opportunity to “fill in the blanks” and start from basics. Before this, I was mainly muddling through Pandas and reverse-engineering other people’s code. After learning the syntax and data structures from first principles, I can apply Python to a wider range of tasks.
  • Sewing – I gained speed (by making 900 masks), building muscle memory in Margaret Islander’s techniques. Also, I can now sew jeans by memory with no instructions.
  • Photography – Vlogging is, simply, moving photography. It forced me to use all my camera settings. Also, I can now set up a tripod very quickly.

Things I tried, but didn’t master

Not all the upskilling journeys were successful. Here are a few nuts that I didn’t manage to crack:

  • Baking – I started working my way through Christopher Tan’s Nerdbaker recipes. However, I lack the equipment, climate and ingredients to replicate his instructions to the letter. It seems that my work-arounds aren’t successful, as two attempts at Chris’s Hot Buns were not great.
  • CSS – By the time I started trying to learn CSS, I was already brain-fried from practicing Python and HTML. So, I ended up throwing in the towel and focusing on Python instead.
  • GIMP – Although I am using more of GIMP in my thumbnails, I still can’t achieve the things I want in it yet. However, Photoshop is still not in my budget, so I’ll want to persevere.

What’s in store for 2021? At this point, we don’t know how much freedom of movement we will have (or be forced to have by circumstances). As we settle into a new normal, hopefully 2020 has made us into more resilient and stronger versions of ourselves. I look forward to building on the foundation in 2020 to become more effective both as a digital marketer and a content creator. Happy New Year everyone and towards a first step to a post-COVID world!

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