A Year In Review - 2017 Edition
The end of 2017 is almost here (and by almost, I mean there are less than two weeks left), so it’s a good time to look back at the last year, see what happened, and throw some ideas for the year to come.
docs.microsoft.com Experiences #
This year, at least for me, kicked into full-gear at docs.microsoft.com. We’ve launched the documentation platform in 2016, and 2017 brought in the solidification of the product - we’ve consolidated many content pieces, and introduced a number of completely new experiences.
Among other things, I got to work on two new parts of the platform - the .NET API Browser and the PowerShell Module Browser. The goal is to make it easy for developers to find API details, whether they are on desktop or mobile.
It’s been fascinating to see the impact these tools had and continue to have on developers that leverage Microsoft platforms - lots of feedback on UserVoice tells us what developers are excited about in the new web-based API discovery toolchain, and we are taking that feedback to heart.
In 2017, I learned how to better and more proactively listen to customers - as a PM, that is a crucial skill to master. And while I can’t say that I have mastered it, I think I am doing way better than I was doing in 2016 in that area.
Goal for 2018: Engage in more customer interviews and be more data-driven in making product decisions.
@docsmsft Twitter Account #
Speaking of feedback, I also witnessed how we grew our social following:
Quite an outlier to mention this early in the post, but I am really excited about this! From a mere 500, we bumped the total number of followers to 5359 - by no means Jimmy Kimmel levels of popularity, but I’m excited to see this number going up day-by-day - and I will try to bring more awesome content with a side of good GIFs in the new year.
Goal for 2018: Grow the @docsmsft following to 15,000. Engage more with our community on Twitter.
Professional Growth #
And while we are on the topic of growth, it’s also been a tremendous year dedicated entirely to getting better both professionally and personally. Launching new products meant learning how to get better at planning, follow-ups, organization and time tracking. Two years ago I wrote on the topic, and a pretty much every single point outlined there applies today - having a 360 degree view of the product you’re building, being able to apply soft skills, being a jack-of-all-trades and driving the tasks until delivery were all crucial areas that I was working on improving.
There are 4 resources I would recommend for those that are looking to expand the reading list for 2018:
- Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian - a good book that describes the start of reddit and the importance of believing in the product mission and ruthlessly executing on the established goals (even though the author might disagree about my interpretation of the meaning).
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz - typically recommended as a go-to startup book, but it’s widely applicable to product/program management. Highly recommend giving it one (and eventually, several) read.
- Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager, also by Ben Horowitz - there might be some changes needed to that depending on individual circumstances and experiences, but the core of the article stood the test of time.
- Lean Startup by Eric Ries - a good read on the importance of building your Minimum Viable Product and determining the correct types of metrics to move your product forward.
Goal for 2018: Read more, starting with Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella. Find more mentorship opportunities at work and in the local developer community. Take on more responsibilities at work in areas I am not familiar with.
Personal Growth #
By far the biggest event that happened to me this year was getting married - that’s the start of a whole new life stage, that I am very excited about!
In addition to that, my wife and myself moved to Canada for work - we couldn’t be more thrilled to be in the wonderful city of Vancouver, British Columbia (just a hundred miles away from Seattle)! It’s amazing how similar this city is in both weather and spirit, to Seattle - differences include, but are not limited to, currency (it’s fancy plastic - I like it), metric system (remember, 30km/h is not the same as 30 mph), and way more cargo ships in the bay. Other than that - the same vibrant urban scenery that we are all too familiar with.
Getting used to a new country can be hard, but it’s definitely easier with someone you love living with you - and before we both return to the United States, we hope to try as many food places around here, as well as hit up the slopes at the nearby mountains.
Being in Vancouver means that there are plenty of photo spots that can be visited, giving some really good views of the city - so yet another development area would be my photography hobby (I know, so unique).
An area of personal growth, or at least I would bucket it here, would be the personal brand. In the past year I’ve over-emphasized my presence on social networks (Twitter, Instagram), without driving much conversion back to what’s going to last for much longer than a single medium. As Andrew Chen said:
Building your network, your audience, and your ideas will be something you’ll want to do over your entire career. Likely a multi-decade thing that will last longer than any individual publishing startup. That’s why I refuse to write on Medium or Quora. Instead, I prefer to run open source software that I can move around, prioritize building my email list (more on that later) and try to keep regular backups. I used to write on Blogger and watched them slowly stop maintaining the platform after the Google acquisition. Then I switched to Typepad, only to watch the same thing happen. I learned my lesson.
So that’s something that should and can be fixed by me in 2018 - build a brand and a name around my own blog, where I can share everything that I can share in any other place, but entirely managed and maintained by me.
Goal for 2018: Explore Vancouver and Canada. Keep building my family (definitely a new experience that I will need to get good at). Improve the approaches to building a personal brand by focusing on this blog instead of social. Keep growing our relationships with friends and family.
Programming & Technical Experience #
Technology keeps moving at light speed, and the best way to keep up with the changes is to be in the middle of it all. This past year, I’ve been thrown in the middle of some automation work for managed API documentation - this gave me the opportunity to learn in-depth about CI/CD, Visual Studio Team Services, Python, NuGet API, Docker and plenty of Azure services.
I really got a sense of what it’s like to work in the cloud. I’ve also got to work a lot with data - from the PM perspective, I got a sense of what it’s like to be able to draw out conclusions from numbers that represent feature usage, and I want to advance that much further.
Goal for 2018: Become more proficient in Python, R and Big Data (yeah, I know, might sound like a buzzword, but there is a lot of substance behind it). Increase investment in fundamentals (CS and math) and cloud (architecture, patterns).
That about wraps up this post - less talking, more doing! I am curious what ideas you have for the year to come.