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My Year in Review: 2020

tawn33y profile image Tony ・Updated on ・5 min read

In early 2020, I came across Ire Aderinokun's post, 2019 Year in Review, and I couldn't help but be in awe of her accomplishments. That year, she had spoken at 4 conferences in multiple locations such as Paris and San Fransisco, traveled to 6 countries, interviewed by the BBC, among several other achievements.

I was greatly motivated and challenged to achieve my 2020 goals and record them at the year's end. I wrote this just before 2020 ended but I have been holding back on publishing it. Well, here goes...

Work Projects

I work at Africa's Talking, a company that provides an API for sending SMS, building USSD apps, and more to 40,000+ devs. You can think of it as the "Twilio of Africa". This year, albeit with the COVID-19 situation and everything going on, we were able to roll out a lot of amazing products/features. A couple of projects I worked on include:

a) Product Requests

I was privileged to solve one of the key challenges we had at work: the creation of a new tool to help customers request a product (e.g. an SMS Sender ID or USSD Service Code) effortlessly and quickly. Previously, to request such a product, you had to send an email to the team stating that you wanted this particular product. The team would then reply, requesting you to send your details, such as your name, contact information, a signed letter authorizing the request, and so much more. Simply put, there would be a lot of back and forth in emails between a customer and the team before a product went live.

To counter this, we created a feature on the dashboard called Product Requests where users could request the product on their own, upload any documents e.g. signed letters, fill out their information, etc. We also added in a couple of cool features such as a progress bar to show you how far your request was from being completed, a real-time chat feature where users could chat 1-on-1 with the team, and so much more.

We launched the Beta version in Kenya only, and I have to say, it felt really good to see more than a hundred product requests raised through this and the number of emails substantially going down. We are looking forward to rolling this out to more countries in 2021.

b) Africa's Talking Marketplace

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The Africa's Talking Marketplace is a one-stop-shop platform for users who want a ready-made no-code solution to their problem that makes use of the Africa's Talking API. All products in the Marketplace are created by our customers.

An exciting part about working on this product was using a purely vanilla Typescript implementation, i.e. no React, Vue, Angular, jQuery, etc. I wrote more about this on my blog. You can also view the actual Marketplace here. Impressively, the product received thousands of page visits after we launched πŸŽ‰

Speaking

One of my 2020 goals was to start speaking at conferences. The problem was, I didn't know how to. Luckily, I met Wayne Rambo, a Software Engineer at Nike, who gave me tons of advice on this. He then introduced me to his friend, Hung Truong, an iOS Engineer at Amazon, who shared with me the basics of conference speaking such as Call For Papers (CFPs) and more. Finally, I spoke to my work colleague, Anthony Kiplimo, about my desire to speak at conferences and he made sure to tag me along in the events he would speak at.

I mention these three people because I'm particularly grateful to them. Without them, I never would have been able to speak at the 4 events/conferences I spoke at this year, such as:

  • Build for SDG Challenge 2020: a Facebook/Andela immersive program where participants innovate in industry-led projects or SDGs.

Build for SDG Challenge 2020

  • Africa Digital Skills Conference: an Africa-wide conference to teach digital skills.

Africa Digital Skills Conference

  • DSC KU: Developer Students Club, Kenyatta University

DSC KU

  • DSC Moi University: Developer Students Club, Moi University

DSC Moi University

Events

Apart from speaking at events, I also attended several events. Although a pandemic, the COVID-19 brought along one advantage: virtual events; events that I otherwise would never have had the opportunity to attend. My top favorites were:

  • React Summit: to say that this was fun is an understatement πŸ˜ƒ

  • ByteConf React 2020: I think I attended this event just to hear Kent C Dodds speak πŸ˜ƒ
  • Github Universe: I still think that Github's Dark Mode unveiling is the coolest dark-mode launch ever! πŸ’―

Learning

This year, I mainly learned 4 new tools: GraphQL, Tailwind CSS, Figma, and Kubernetes (I'm still a beginner though!).

Other Achievements

  • GADS 2020: I was privileged to be a mentor at Google Africa Developers Scholarship 2020, a learning program offering free Pluralsight access to 30,000+ learners.
  • Code Hub: my telegram channel surpassed 500 members πŸ₯³οΈ
  • YouTube tutorial: my first YouTube tutorial garnered 800+ views πŸŽ‰
  • Blog post: I received the highest number of views on any of my blog posts ever, after one of my blog posts got 600+ visitors in less than 24 hours πŸ™Œ
  • Open Source: I only worked on one open-source initiative this year, url-to-markdown: a fast way to convert a Medium blog article into markdown. I created this since heckyesmarkdown.com was not working at the time, but I have since taken it down.

Personal - hiking

I was more serious about hiking this year and hiked several places such as Mt. Longonot (~13kms), Ngong Hills (~16kms), Karura Forest (~16kms), and more. Here's to more hiking in 2021! πŸ₯³οΈ

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What about 2021?

I can't wait to see what 2021 brings. One thing I certainly would like to work on this year is building more open-source projects, something I wasn't able to do last year. For now, I'm just thankful to God for everything I achieved in 2020. See you soon!

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