As I write this, it’s early on the morning of January 1, 2021, and my family is still asleep. It’s quiet, just me and the dogs as I have my ritual cup of coffee. Today is really like any other day — not really different than yesterday, if you really think about it. But also — today is totally different. It’s a fresh start on a new year, and one that looks to be a whole lot better than the dumpster fire that was 2020.
I won’t go into the politics or anything, because that’s not really the point of this, but suffice to say that it felt like the world was more starkly divided in 2020 than in recent memory. Way more “us vs them.” There’s a global pandemic that is still there, despite the flip of the calendar. And of course, there’s the massive economic and psychological fallout of the associated lockdowns and other measures. But other folks will write far more words about that. And 2021 isn’t going to fix that either, I’m afraid.
There was a lot of crazy stuff in 2020. Murder hornets, swarms of locusts, major fires in Australia, California, Colorado and other places, the explosion in at the docks in Beiruit, Tiger King, Megxit, Brexit, lockdown induced panic buying, BLM protests, a presidential impeachment and acquital, a presidential election, the Pentagon admitting UFOs exist, those crazy monoliths, Twitter got hacked, Among Us, Quibi came and went, a bunch of celebrity deaths (including NBA legend Kobe Bryant, blues icon Little Richard, civil rights revolutionaries John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman, and beloved Jeopardy host Alex Trebek.) 2020 was a jam packed year of crazy.
But I want to write about my personal 2020, just so I have it down to reflect on in the future, and to force me to think about it now. I’m just going to let it flow a bit.
For me, 2020 is a year I’m happy to leave behind. I’m looking forward to change in 2021 — getting back to the US, so that the Canadian border closure doesn’t continue to be an issue for me in seeing ailing family as well as friends. Video calls just aren’t the same (even though they are tons better than not having that option at all).
I think that the people in charge of companies are still working it all out, but I expect that the WFH forced experiment from 2020 will fundamentally change how businesses view time in the office. Obviously, there are many notable companies that have told their workers they can work anywhere forever (Facebook, Twitter, Box, etc.) and many others that are implementing hybrid approaches (Microsoft and VMWare did a better job of this than Google, IMO) as well as some who are seeking a regular return to office overall (JP Morgan). I think that what is right for each business is different. At Google, we have a culture of working hard, no matter where you are, and everything we do is cloud-based anyway. Not all companies have that level of self motivated employees or are as outcomes-driven as Google and other tech companies are. There are data security things and effective creative collaboration things to work through and all, but I do think that we’ll see more of this, not less, in the next few years.
Personally, I’m hoping to figure out a way to relocate back to Atlanta for the next ~10 years, while the kids finish up school. I’ve introduced a lot of change in their lives over the years, and some stability of location wouldn’t be the worst thing for them, especially in their middle and high school years. If not Atlanta, then perhaps Florida, Washington, Colorado, Massassachusets, Tennessee, and maybe California are all on the list (California is still challenging with the taxes and overall cost of living, though.) We’ll see what happens, but I’m angling for Atlanta.
In Product Management terms, I’m trying to solve my user’s (in this case, my family’s) problems in an ambiguous space where there is no one right answer, and different problems have shifting priorities and occasionally conflict with each other. Living internationally is definitely not working well, so then where do I go — do I optimize for best schools, biggest potential social network, proximity to family, highest earnings, most opportunity after whatever team I join next, indoor living space, outdoor living space, weather, proximity to nature (especially water), etc. There are no easy answers, and honestly, I don’t have as much control as I would like in the situation. Welcome to product management, right? :D
But one way or another, 2021 will bring an improvement on the current situation, and will almost certainly involve me ramping up on a new team/space/industry/etc. which is always a fun challenge. I’ve learned a lot in 2020, and I expect to keep learning in 2021.
One thing I am extremely thankful for from 2020 is some of the relationships I’ve been able to build and grow with some old friends and new that I’ve gotten to work more closely with. From Jason Brett’s Product Coffee to Grant and Steve’s Product Growth Leaders, to deepening relationships with my (former) LeadingAgile posse — Scott, Jeff, and John, and even starting a podcast with Fallon and working with him on some future life visioning things, I’ve been fortunate to have created and deepened relationships with some very interesting people.
I’m also thankful that I do work at a company that is stable and cares for it’s employees (even if I don’t like their long-term WFH plans yet.) I have a lot of friends who are looking for new roles because they lost their jobs, and 2020 is a remarkably difficult time to be in the job market.
To those folks, and any of you who had a bad 2020, I hope 2021 is much better, and brings you better opportunites, and is healthier and happier thatn 2020. We could all use some more joy and hope these days.