selbekk

A look back on 2021

December 31, 2021
7 min read

A summary of what happened to me in 2021

As I'm writing this, I'm sitting on my couch, my toddlers playing with the couch cushions while they are watching a particularly noisy episode of Paw Patrol. Last night's celebration is quietly punishing me with a low-key headache, and I couldn't be happier about it.

This post actually started as a Twitter thread, where I wanted to talk about my goals and aspirations for the year to come. But as I started writing, I felt that starting a new year with promises without reflecting on the year that had just passed. So in this post I will summarize what I spent this year doing - both on a personal and a professional level.

Ending my paternal leave

The first four months of 2021 was spent taking care of my wonderful daughter, Sonja Marie. I spent a lot of that time walking around our new neighborhood, getting to know our new neighbors and just enjoying some one-on-one time together with my youngest kid.

Thanks to some meticulous planning, a wonderful wife and a very flexible employer, I was able to take about 7 months off. I'm not going to lie – it felt weird to not work for that amount of time, but I'm so happy I got to spend that much time together with my daughter.

Being promoted

At the end of my paternal leave, I ended up receiving a coveted promotion at work. I was promoted to what we call "fagsjef", a role where I help figuring out how to spend the resources set aside for making our people smarter - a key part of any consultant company.

I now found myself in the company of some of my most clever colleagues, working together to figure out what goals and actions we wanted to take moving forward. I'm learning a lot every day, and it feels like this part of my career definitely is on the right path right now.

As a side note on promotion, my wife got a new job! She's now Head of Anti-Financial Crime in Neonomics - an open banking platform that's aiming to democratize payments across the world. Anne Kristine is helping them catching criminals and money launderers, and making sure it's not the platform for those kind of people. Incredibly inspiring, and I'm so, so proud of her! 🥰

Working with Vy

When I returned to work, I started working with a new client - our national transportation company, Vy. There, I've worked with several parts of their purchase flow, and I'm currently helping their design systems team implement a component library, documentation website and collaboration culture.

Vy is a very old organization, with several centuries of history behind its new brand and logo. However, their technology stack is top notch, with continuous deployments, lots of automation and micro-frontends in both React and Elm. Lots of fun to be had in the years to come, that is.

Reading books

In 2021, I discovered the joy of listening to audio books on Audible. I spent a lot of time driving my kids to and from day care, and I just ran through books while doing so.

Some of my listens last year included:

  • Barack Obama - A Promised Land
  • James Clear - Atomic Habits
  • Clayton M. Christensen - The Innovator's Dilemma
  • Tim Ferris - Tools of Titans
  • Ben Horowitz - The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  • Jim Collins - Good to Great
  • Bill Gates - How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
  • Eric Ries - The Leader's Guide
  • Gene Kim et al - The Phoenix Project
  • Gene Kim - The Unicorn Project
  • Geoffrey A Moore - Crossing the Chasm
  • Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer - No Rules Rules
  • Robert C. Martin - Clean Architecture
  • Eric Ries - The Lean Startup
  • David Allen - Getting Things Done
  • Benjamin Graham - The Intelligent Investor
  • Nicole Forsgren et al - Accelerate
  • Sheryl Sandberg - Lean In
  • Stephen R Covey - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Mathew Walker - Why We Sleep
  • Amy C Edmondson - The Fearless Organization
  • Ethan Kross - Chatter
  • Matthew Skelton, Manuel Pais - Team Topologies
  • Jina Anne et al - Design Systems Handbook
  • John Doerr - Measure What Matters
  • Christina R Wodtke - Radical Focus
  • Naomi Shragai - The Man Who Mistook His Job For His Life
  • Susan McPherson, Jackie Ashton - The Lost Art of Connecting
  • Kim Scott - Radical Candor

When I list them up like this, it looks like a ridiculous amount. It's been such fun to read most of these books though, and I would urge you to read each and every one of them (in your own pace, of course). Some has even been listened to several times!

Reading this kind of literature was definitely a new way for me to level up professionally. Learning about leadership, strategy, personality and a few higher level topics gave me a lot of energy and ideas throughout the year.

The success of OPRA

Last Christmas, me and my friend Eric launched our side project OPRA - a discount service for service members and police officers, fire fighters, ambulance personell and rescue workers. We've been growing steadily, adding new discounts and partners every few days throughout the year.

It's been such a joy developing this product, dealing with everything from creating the portal to figuring out accounting requirements. We're currently over 700 active members, and it feels like we're creating real value for each and every one of them. We're even giving away a large part of the operating profits to a particularly heroic individual early 2022, along with a trophy and all.

If you haven't already, check it out at opra.no.

Recreating Bekk Christmas

Outside of my day-to-day work with Bekk and Vy, I've been organizing one of Bekk's great feats of sharing culture - Bekk Christmas. It's the fifth year we're doing this, but this year we've created a brand new site, migrated all content to Sanity, and made ~20 advent calendars into one.

We ended up creating about ~100 pieces of content this year - no record by any means, but still a solid number of articles, videos and podcasts about everything from strategy and design to technology and side projects.

A huge inflatable Santa looking in our third story windows.
Oh, and we bought a 30 foot Santa

The result is amazing, and can be viewed at bekk.christmas. 🎅

A CoViD Christmas

Like so many like us, our little family ended up catching CoViD at the end of the year. Two of us caught it, while two were - for some reason - not infected. Luckily, none of us got any serious symptoms outside of a light cough, so the only real hit was celebrating the holidays without our closest family.

We're looking forward to inviting our family and friends over after our obligatory isolation and quarantine periods, and celebrating with them then. 🤗

Looking back, looking ahead

2021 was a great year for both me and my family. We accomplished a lot, and looking back, I'm not sure I would change a thing. Well, except for catching CoViD, perhaps. 😅

Today is the first day of a new year, and I'm ready to get started trying to fulfill the goals we've set for this year as well. Me and Anne Kristine are trying out personal OKRs as a way to keep ourselves committed to bettering ourselves throughout the year. I promise I'll keep you up to date on how those will go in a future post.

If you're still with me - thanks for reading. I wish you the very best for the year to come 🎉

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