Commit Logs

Yearly Retrospective 2016

Yep, you guessed it right. This is one of those retrospective articles flying all over the Internet at the end of the year. But, what’s a better timing than now to look back and learn from the past, or, more importantly, to look forward and plan the next big one?

2016 is an exciting year for me both professionally and personally.

Professionally, Steve Jobs’ famous quote from the 2005 Stanford Commencement has always been inspiring to me, and I think I finally have found what I love to work on this year. It took some years and detours, but the feeling is truly amazing and my motivation is at all-time high.

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Personally, I have became a father in November. Crazy crazy experience and I have been enjoying every little moment with my daughter. I can’t wait to look at the world in a fresh new way and learn many things through the eyes of a baby.

Alright, I think it’s time for some serious reflections.


  • Feel comfortable stepping out of my comfort zone. As a trained data scientist, writing production code wasn’t my expertise and Scala/Spark was completely new to me, but I took up the challenge anyways and was able to deliver effectively. It’s always a bit shocking to me that not everyone is willing to get out of their comfort zone, because I value challenges like this great opportunity for personal growth. It is almost like someone pay you to learn. Where to find better deals than these? More importantly, it almost always opens new doors for you. Some of the challenges may change your life for good. In my case, because of it, I fell in love with building things and got to actually work as a developer. This experience was an “aha” moment in my life and I think I’ve found what I truly enjoyed doing. Would I find it anyways without taking up this challenge? Possibly. But it would probably be much later.

  • Be able to execute consistently. There is a saying in the Valley: “Ideas are cheap; execution is the key.” I think consistent execution is the true differentiator. Although there still is more room for improvement, I did a much better job than previous years on this one. The idea of starting a blog has been with me for quite some time and I attempted a few times in the past, but this is the first time that I am able to actively maintain one at Besides this, I was also able to execute at work by delivering machine learning models and A/B testing infrastructures to production, and started a little side project (still at early stage, more on it in a separate post).

  • Figure out techniques to effectively plan and use time. This one has historically been my weakness. With severe procrastination, most of my time was spending at, guess what, thinking about doing something. This year, I have finally come up with some useful time management tactics. It’s a combination of todo list and Pomodoro technique. Every Sunday, I will compile a list of todos for the week arranged by day. For each day, my goal is to finish 8 Pomodoros worth of tasks. Apparently, not everyday is perfect, so I will revise the todo list at the end of each day to reprioritize tasks for the rest of the week. This way, I don’t need to spend energy to think about which tasks to work on during the day and can just use Pomodoro technique to go through the list effectively. Gradually, I have a much better understanding of how my time is spent and learn to estimate time for each task for better prioritization.


  • Communicate openly and effectively. I am in a pretty wired situation, while my micro-communication skills are not actually that bad, i.e. explain something to others, my overall communication strategy continues to be a pain point. Specifically, it seems that I tend to shy away from hard conversations. My courage of confronting with people and standing up for what I believe is the right thing to do needs some more fuel. I almost feel like I’m too soft and “easygoing”. I believe one needs to be able to speak up for what he believes and spark a meaningful discussion among shareholders.

  • Stick to a planned life style. There is a theory that any habits take at least 21 days to form. I attempted to foster some good habits using this technique with some success, e.g. I am now reading and practicing guitar pretty regularly. But, when it comes to life style habits, I failed consistently. Specifically, I have most difficulties in getting up from and going to bed on time. I think every strong man should at least has the power to control his own life style.

Development focus

  • Execute consistently. This continues to be the development focus for 2017 as I believe execution is the key to everything. If you do the math, 1.0 X 1.01^(365) = 37.8, every little step counts as long as you are consistent.A practical goal is consistently develop technical skills around building things by actually building them.

  • Form good lifestyle habits. One needs to have the power to have control over one’s own life; otherwise, how could you expect him to have power over anything else? There are a couple of things, but I’d like to call one thing out. That is, getting up at 5:00am everyday. I come to appreciate the morning time, since it seems to be the most high quality, uninterrupted time of a day. That also means, I should be able to get the most important stuff done during that time, but that’s all under the assumption that I can get up early in the morning.