The start of 2020 and another year has gone by. While I experienced so many different new things in 2019, it’s really hard to capture so many of the memories in a single post.
Here are some of my professional highlights of the year:
Keynote with Werner Vogels (CTO of Amazon)
As part of the AWS Summit in Berlin, I was invited to do a customer keynote with Werner on stage. His bodyguard, who is somehow even taller than Werner (and much more built) took this photo:
Another highlight was the presentation coach, who helps Werner and Andy Jassy with their talks gave me such positive feedback after the keynote, saying that she hoped I continued doing more of these.
Presenting about personal leadership lessons learned at a conference on the ski slopes in Austria
Taking part in Skinnovation was a really fun experience. It somehow blended investors, start up founders, other tech leaders and made it a fun and casual environment. There was nothing quite like the experience giving a talk in a ski hut while it was snowing outside!
Taking part in the first ever tech conference in Jordan
Jordan is a rich hub in the middle east and it was an honour to be invited to take part in the inaugural edition. I was super surprised at how vibrant the community was (the questions and conversations never stopped in the breaks!) and impressed by the gender balance (at least 50-50) that I don’t see here often in Germany or the UK.
A bonus highlight was fitting in a trip to Petra with a very early morning visit meaning a lot of peace and quiet before all the other tourists arrived.
Transitioning to Chief Scientist
Those who have played the CTO role know how variable this title can be. In the first half of the year, I transitioned officially to being a “Chief Scientist.” This new title allowed me to refocus where I could use my strengths and my interests of supporting people in tech (versus spending more time with other departments/teams). As part of this, I really enjoyed spending significant time doing more 1-1 coaching and mentoring of people in tech, helping them navigate the rapid changes in hypergrowth, find a way to navigate their worries during constant change and to help people accelerate their growth. It was such a pleasure to have personally helped so many people during this time.
Supporting a tech community in need
I was approached by a tech training community trying to upskill people in a war-torn area. Like a coding academy, their mission was to help cross-train people so they had new opportunities in life. Although I wasn’t able to physically attend (it would have been both difficult and likely dangerous) I was able to do a presentation remotely and support the community from afar. I received a lot of feedback afterwards about how helpful it was.
Starting a newsletter for leaders in tech
On the back of the semi-weekly email I used to send out as CTO, I had a lot of requests for sharing what I read, and what I was researching. LevelUp, a curated newsletter for leaders in tech was the result. It just reached Issue #20 and looking forward to even more this year.
Levelling up new Tech Leads
I ran a Tech Leadership development course in N26 three times this year and was able to offer this workshop as part of the Lead Dev conference in London and Berlin. Seasoned Tech Leads provided feedback like, “I wish I had this training when I first started out!” while others provided feedback like, “I never knew this is what was expected of a Tech Lead.“
One particular personal feedback stood out from one participant who came away realising they were more than ready for the role, but their manager hadn’t ever given them an opportunity to step up and they (a minority in tech) gained a lot of confidence to go back to their workplace and have a conversation around their role and future growth opportunities.
I am entirely grateful for all the good (and bad) experiences I had this year. As the old saying goes:
I wouldn’t be where I was today, if I never experienced the things that I experienced.Unknown
Here are some of my key learnings from this year:
- Only you hold yourself accountable for how you behave. You can’t control how other behave, but you can always control how you react.
- Stress (and especially extreme stress) sometimes triggers extraordinary behaviour. (See the above lesson).
- (Relearned) Trust is built slowly over time. Losing trust happens in an instant.
- Good leaders will always aim for the best outcome for everyone. Bad leaders will do simply what they’re told.
- (Reaffirmed) Having a title doesn’t automatically make someone a great leader.
- Psychological Safety is a huge prerequisite for learning and high performing teams. Leaders are responsible for nurturing this.
How was your 2019?
It was extremely useful to reflect on the year gone by and to share some of my lessons learned. Feel free to share with me how your 2019 was and any lessons you learned below in a comment.