What I learned professionally in 2019

In 2019 I read 17 books which may not sound like much but for me it’s the highest number of books I’ve read in years (here is my “completed” books in Goodreads). In addition to an earlier post about my favorite 2019 books here are some other ones that I strongly recommend you to read:

Better

Better” simply was one of the best books I read and Atul Gawande is now my favourite writer. Even though Better mostly talks about what it takes to be a better doctor I found the advice universal to all professions and extremely useful. It talked about becoming better by applying diligence, incorporating ingenuity to understand root problems and do right by people while weaving fascinating medical and public health stories from around the world to deliver the points.

Asshole survival guide

“The Asshole Survival Guide” offers strategies in dealing with, avoiding and even fighting general assholery in your life. In addition to highlighting what makes a person an asshole, the author also sheds light on blame and call-out culture, reminding us that personal responsibility and empathy is key even when dealing with assholes. I must confess that I found the book depressing but useful.

Obviously Awesome

“Obviously Awesome” is one of the best marketing and strategy books I’ve read this year which provides practical and useful ways to look at a business and the efforts it takes to position a product or service. The advice is sound for both startups and mature products and it provides a systematic way to apply Jobs To Be Done for your marketing efforts.

Committing to Be a Better Communicator

This year my boss gave me critical feedback that despite my best effort when presenting to upper management or stakeholder in general, my ideas seems complicated and people leave the meeting feeling confused. This was an important discovery for me (as in my head I was very clear on what I want to convey) so I invested to fix this.

I read some excellent books on public speaking and started going to Toastmasters to practice my public speaking because no matter how much you read about something you only get better by applying it in practice! Even though I’m far from perfect I learned about main elements of a talk and gained valuable insight on what makes a presentation great. I’ll definitely will continue this path.

Letting Go of rigidness of Agile

At the peak of this year I worked on six projects (2 of them major ones) with four remote teams. Since all teams worked in agile I attended a lot of ceremonies from daily stand ups to end-of-sprint retrospective. I understand the ratio of 1 PM to 16 engineers is out of whack but frankly I spent all this time hoping to help my team but not only many of these meetings weren’t good use of my time but they felt draining. In many of them it seemed the core Agile principles have faded; instead people were focused on the useless nuances like endless discussion about story points per user story (everything tended to be given 3, 5 or 8 points to show that its small but not too small), or doing retrospective rituals (what went well, what went not so well) with no tangible improvement in the way the worked or their output.

As controversial as this may sound I don’t care about these agile ceremonies anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the idea of iterating and delivering thin layers of end-to-end functionality as oppose to give me all the requirement upfront and I wait and see the result but for me an ideal way of working is an engaged team who understands product vision, asks questions when things are not clear, collaborates and challenges PM on the solution put fort, constantly shows the work completed and releases it to production regardless of how they do it.

and with that looking forward to all the learning that 2020 will bring!

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