Mon Jan 01 2024

2023 Year Notes

I wrote year notes for 2019, and 2020, and 2022. I remain super un-inspired to write over the last few years. Which is a shame - because it's a a great way to learn. Although 7 posts in 2023 isn't as few as I expected.

Goals I chose for 2023

and whether I achieved them or not

  • continue becoming a better engineer and team-mate 🧐
  • practice Italian every day 🥑
  • train at the gym at least twice a week every week 🌓
  • 8 leisurely cycle rides ❌
  • visit Italy at least twice ✅

visit Italy at least twice ✅

on the terrace in Anzio

I spent an amazing week in Anzio (near Rome) in spring for a family holiday. And a differently amazing week in Bologna in the winter for work.

Anzio was particularly great because the folk that live there didn't speak English. So, I had to speak Italian. Proving I have graduated from "Hangry three year old" to "Precocious three year old". A highlight was the owner of a pizza place complimenting my Italian.

8 leisurely cycle rides ❌

I took 0 rides. I'm not super sure how I'd fit this into my life right now. Maybe this shouldn't be a goal. I love cycling, I don't love cycling around British drivers.

train at the gym at least twice a week every week 🌓

Overall, I averaged a day a week at the gym. From January to July I averaged twice a week. But the rest of the year was tricky.

This has been great… I didn't think I'd enjoy it. But, having time to listen to podcasts & audio books, and to watch Italian TV has been amazing. I'm stronger than I've ever been (I'm not confused about how strong other people are relative to me (much stronger), but I'm not in competition with other people. I'm in competition with myself).

Why concentrate on being stronger..? Maybe, because I'm not any lighter :/

practice Italian every day 🥑

Another half achieved. I've done a lot of practice, I'm better at Italian than I was… but I'm not being purposeful or consistent about it.

I think this (like cycling) is about finding a way to fit it into my life. To some extent I need to be gentle with myself - we have a 2 year old and that is a ridonculous amount of work. Some of these things will be way easier in 2 years time.

But I don't want to wait 2 years :/

continue becoming a better engineer and team-mate 🧐

2023 was an awesome year of work. I've worked on some of the hardest things I've ever worked on with some genuinely amazing people. I've done good work, and I've achieved things. I'm going to be stepping up as team lead in 2024 and I'm super excited about that. We work on a wicked product with a great team. We're on the verge of releasing some awesome things. I'm super lucky.

But the imposter syndrome has been going hard this year. It's frustrating to still have my inner voice undercutting me.

I like pairing things up so they are in tension with each other…

Seneca said "Difficulty comes from our lack of confidence."

And Bertrand Russel said "One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision."

It's a good tension… I want to bring confidence in my work, but I want to temper that with humility and doubt. I need to do what I'd advise someone else to do and track what I'm really achieving and respond to that. Otherwise there's no way to know what's imposter syndrome and what's my subconscious prompting me to take a second look at something.

What was 2023 like?

It would be weirdly coy to write this and not say that 2023 was defined by grief. The realisation that grief would be coming, the lost months waiting, and then the grief itself. I've lost people before but nobody so close. Some combination of circumstances has meant it has cut so much deeper this time.

2023 very much felt like two years. The year before we knew grief was coming, and the year after. Despite that I really enjoyed the journey this year. I feel happier in myself.

#4 daughter still says "stankyou" instead of "thank you" and I'm going to be horribly sad when she stops.

It is cliche but this year has made me wonder what I hope to be able to say on my death bed when asked "what was your life like?".


In 2023 I visited 2 countries (I'm not counting the UK, and I'm not counting the few hours I spent in Schipol airport as a trip to Holland 😊).

2023 travel map from Google Maps showing the countries and places I visited

  • Aruba
    • for the whole company off-site
  • Anzio, Italy
    • for a family holiday
  • Bologna, Italy
    • for a team off-site

Aruba was amazing, astounding, and awesome (all the As). For weeks beforehand I couldn't help crow-barring that we were going into every conversation. It was beautiful.

At our whole company off-site we have a hackathon. And so, we were all working in the bar at an all-inclusive resort. A woman from a recently arrived cruise ship came over: "I have to ask… what kind of job do you all have that you're working in a bar in Aruba?".


A couple of times I'd said "We need to understand Kafka and ClickHouse better".

a monkey's paw

A monkey's paw somewhere kicked in, and I spent a lot of time this year working with the sharper edges of Kafka and ClickHouse. We saved money, made things faster, and made things more reliable. Which let us improve the product.

I now understand Kafka and ClickHouse well enough to be truly afraid of how little I know about them 🤣

In Rome in 2022 I got the feedback (roughly) "you spend a lot of time spinning plates, and worrying about it, but you're pretty good at it, maybe you should stop worrying about it, and get better at it"… That really resonated with me, and I've been trying to do that.

In Bologna in 2023 I got the feedback "you're the king of distractions". There is still always the risk of having too much work-in-progress and not finishing things but letting myself admit that my mind works better with a higher personal WIP limit has been great.

I also got the feedback that I'd done some things because we could without stopping to think enough about whether we should. Particularly since I'm stepping into the team lead role I need to think deeply about this feedback.

Again this year I've spent time talking to customers. And, as always, it's been absolutely essential to how I've been able to do my job. I've not purposefully focussed on this - other than knowing I want to be doing it. I'm going to be more purposeful here…


I've been enjoying cooking. Food has always been an expression of love in my life. I've got pretty good at pizza and pasta this year. Although I'm still pretty terrible at focaccia.

a gif of meals I've cooked in 2023

My favourite moment of 2023?

It has to be flushing this toilet in the modern art museum in Bologna to try and figure out if I was about to relieve myself in a piece of art or a toilet.

a toilet in a modern art museum

What writing this taught me I want to do in 2024

Looking back through photos and thinking over the year made me realise that every year is longer than I think it is going to be… we can fit a lot into a year. And we can miss a lot of opportunities…


  • continue becoming a better engineer and team-mate
  • take more time to lift my head up and look at the horizon
  • get better at digging into tricky problems
  • get better at not being distracted by tricky problems if there is some higher value work I should be doing
  • speak to customers for at least 5 hours over the year


  • more time with my family (screens off, not watching telly)
  • solidify my transactional Italian, figure out how to head towards conversational Italian
  • train at the gym at least twice a week every week (and lose weight)
  • visit Italy at least twice

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