🍿 7 min. read

2019 into 2020, Year in Review

Monica Powell

Monica speaking at React Conf 2019

The past decade included many transitions for me, from graduating high school to graduating from my dream college in New York City to successfully switching careers and becoming a software developer.

I’m hoping in the next decade that I can continue to do meaningful work to make it easier for underrepresented folks to thrive in tech roles, learning how to work smarter not harder, further develop my sense of self & identity outside of my career/professional skills, and tackle some of my vices for the long run (holding onto things too long and procrastinating esp. when that means more work or trouble for me later, etc.).

I could go on and on about the last 10 years but it's officially 2020 and I've decided to start by writing my first public year in review!

In 2019, I started to learn new technologies including TypeScript, Concourse, GraphQL, etc. and explored new-to-me areas of the codebase at my full-time job. At work, I presented my product engineering work at various internal demo days, had the opportunity to work with more legacy code and also contribute to production-level software from its inception. In 2018, I primarily contributed to a relatively new (but pre-existing) software project. Whereas, in 2019 I had the chance to create a deployment pipeline, streamline the creation of new packages via CLI prompts (which inspired my talk on generating React components at React Girls Conf in London) and lead more independent projects and investigations.

Sketchnotes from Monica's Automating React Workflow Talk at React Girls Conf in London Sketchnotes by @malweene from my talk at React Girls Conf

Below are some professional-related highlights of my year:

Redesigning My Site

I've started to consider my site my playground (similar to a digital garden worthy of a love letter.

I decided to completely re-do my website in September and am pretty happy with where it landed. Instead of managing a separate blog and portfolio site I combined the two which has given me the flexibility to experiment with different website content hierarchies. The site was written with GatsbyJS and through building my site I learned more about writing JavaScript in a server-side rendered site and how to use GraphQL in Gatsby. The previous version of my site was using outdated technology and in my opinion, was difficult to update as it wasn't modularized.

Throughout the year I had a desire to be more creative and learn in public more and so far my site has allowed me a creative outlet to explore and provided me opportunity to share some of my learnings from my explorations like How To Add Search Functionality to a Gatsby Blog and Less JavaScript Makes Font Awesome More Awesome. While building out my site with GraphQL I also started using GraphQL more at work as both an API consumer and developer. I learned more tech-wise throughout the year both at work and beyond I want to push myself to explore new creative mediums in the future as that is something I wish I had done more of.

More Public Speaking and Community Involvement

After attending Global Diversity CFP Day in March, I leaned into more public speaking and even spoke internationally. I spoke at a Women Who Code NYC, useReact NYC, React Girls Conference, React Conf, Barnard College (2x), Columbia University and The Flatiron School. I also made my podcast debut and was featured on an episode of the Egghead.io podcast where I discussed my journey to landing my first engineering role, attending and organizing meetups and contributing to open-source.

At the end of 2018, I was accepted into Dev/Color and as I'm writing this I just completed my first year. Being a part of Dev/Color and having the opportunity to connect with other Black software engineers has helped me grow in terms of developing professional development goals as an engineer. Before I transitioned into engineering full-time a lot of my professional goals were tied to just getting in the door as an engineer and after I started working as an engineer I needed to start shifting my goals in the context of "okay, I'm an engineering individual contributor now what?".

In 2017, I went to Ela Conf where I met people who changed my life (Michelle, Lauren, Laura, Kristen)! Ela Conf was an inclusive tech conference and community for cis women, trans men and trans women, and gender-queer people. I wrote about what I learned from attending Ela Conf which was centered around self-care, inclusion, diversity, learning, and growth.

To this day I continue to be involved with a ~ goal ~ group that spun out of Ela Conf and act as a facilitator. We have weekly check-ins and monthly video calls which have provided a consistent time for me to check in with myself and others about what we'd like to accomplish. When I first joined this group I was not yet working as a software engineer and it has been inspiring to see over the last 2+ years how my goals and accomplishments along with everyone else in that group have evolved.

In addition to joining other communities, I hosted 7 React Meetup events for the React Ladies community which I founded in 2018. I am looking forward to hosting more events in 2020 and finding co-organizers. Our next scheduled event is Global Diversity CFP Day in January. If you’re interested in being a co-organizer of React Ladies e-mail me at monica[at]aboutmonica.com. One of my highlights of React Ladies from 2019 was the Hacktoberfest we hosted with StackOverflow which helped make contributing to open-source feel less scary to some people.

Another highlight was seeing the community rally together to provide Sylwia Vargas, a React Ladies member a free ticket to a Kent C. Dodds workshop, thank you Donavon West and Christian Nwamba!

In the larger React community, I was featured in a zine that was distributed at React Conf alongside some amazing women involved in the React community. Thanks to Rachel Nabors for putting this project together and for including me.

Photo of React Ladies Zine Interview with Monica Powell

Overall, I am excited about what I accomplished in 2019 and for what's to come in 2020. I want to focus on helping other underrepresented folks in tech thrive, dive deeper into API development (REST + GraphQL), build a stronger understanding of Computer Science (data structures and algorithms), learn in public more and continue public speaking. In terms of non-engineering related goals, I want to discover new hobbies(and do more things without a practical purpose), explore different creative outlets, digital and analog illustration and expand on the fitness routine I doubled-down on last year.

I hope 2020 gives us all a fresh start.

This article was published on January 01, 2020.


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