Goodbye and Thank You 2023

A note of farewell and gratitude to the year

Today is a beautiful day, just two more days to end the beautiful year of 2023 - a pivotal year of my career and life.

Reflecting back on the year, I am grateful and happy that I was able to experience the year in good health in the midst of wonderful people - my family, friends, and my team/colleagues at Intuit. Now is the perfect time to say goodbye to the year and share the invaluable lessons I have learned along the way.

Highlights of the year

This year was full of changes, opportunities, and events, but there are a few highlights:

  1. I expanded my leadership role at Intuit to take on the responsibility of backend and infrastructure areas of QBO Platform, in addition to Mobile and Search. Technically, this expanded role started in late 2022, but most of that time was spent on learning about the platform, the work and getting to know the team. This year I became very comfortable in the role and was able to make a significant impact in improving the availability and resiliency of the platform. We prioritized the most important work for the team, got out of the constant fire-fighting mode and completed many critical long-running projects. I was able to build a strong relationship of trust with the new team, integrated them with my existing mobile team and developed a strong leadership team. I am proud of what we did together as one team. 💪

  2. I embarked on the exciting journey of Generative AI this year with the responsibility to lead the engineering effort of Gen AI in QuickBooks. I started with a small team of passionate engineers committed and fearless to step into the world of LLMs to make QuickBooks more helpful and personalized. Our team was small, but we moved with speed - we launched an MVP in just 6 weeks, followed by Alpha and private Beta launch of Intuit Assist for QuickBooks in 6 months - in close collaboration with the Intuit AI team. I consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something so quickly in such a niche emerging space. We had a ton of learnings, challenges, and hallucinations. 😄

  3. My family is healthy and happy. This may look trivial, but it is very important highlight of the year. Seeing our loved ones happy and thriving in their life is indeed fulfilling and rewarding. My husband started a new role in his job and is enjoying it thoroughly. My daughter is finishing her junior year and got selected to do an integrated Masters in the same university. I am so happy and proud of both of them. My dad and mom-in-law are also doing well - no major health concerns. My extended family - brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, nieces, and nephews are prospering - they got promoted in their jobs, got new jobs, doing well in studies, doing great in basketball, taekwondo, and more. We went to India at the beginning of this year and had a wonderful time with uncles, aunts, cousins, and college friends.

  4. I doubled-down on my health after a long delay. Throughout my adult life, I was frustrated by the sluggish progress of my health journey. Countless times I dipped in and out of exercise programs, set workout goals and nutrition plans, but nothing would stick beyond 2 weeks, a month at max. All of that changed in the last two months. Now I am doing strength workouts 3 days a week, walking an average of 8000 steps every day. The happiest news? Last week, we went on our regular hike to Bear Creek Preserves and I was able to do the full loop of 6 miles without any fatigue. I enjoyed the hike from start to finish.

  5. Last, but most important highlight - two months ago, I took a break from work to focus on health and personal development and started my remagine journey. It took quite a bit of planning and preparation to make sure that my teams were in good hands, but it has been a very important change for me personally. It gave me the time and mental space to focus on my health, learning, and recreation. The progress of this journey is documented in this series, but the key points include:

    • I followed my passion for learning - and built a good foundation of web development with JS, TS, and CSS.
    • I picked up piano lessons - with the help of a good teacher and ample time to practice regularly, I learned a few songs just in time for the holidays.
    • I completed a lot of long-pending home improvement work - nothing fancy, just organizing a few messy parts of the house and properly repairing things rather than just replacing them.
    • I started to enjoy cooking - make simple things like home-made bread, yogurt, cupcakes, and a lot of Thai and Kerala dishes.

I am grateful for…

  • leading and working alongside an exceptional team of passionate, driven engineers and help them grow their careers
  • building a robust leadership team comprised of managers, principal engineers, and tech leads who show up every day with unwavering commitment to guide our teams - doing right by the customers and each individual
  • exploring Gen AI technology and building a customer-centric solution with an outstanding cross-functional team
  • evolving into a more seasoned leader - tasks that were hard to do two years ago have become much easier
  • understanding ML and Gen AI in more detail - thanks to OpenAI’s recent advancements that made LLMs accessible to everyone, including me with a programming background
  • prioritizing my health and fitness with daily exercise routine and focus on nutrition
  • embarking on a journey of self-discovery - understanding what motivates me, what distracts me, what kind of environment helps me focus, what is the best time to do exercise, what kind of food I love to cook, etc.
  • doing daily/weekly reflections using the Bullet Journal method and simple tools - no bells and whistles
  • starting to learn the piano - it is never too late (even at the age of 45), and this is only the beginning
  • embracing the challenge of learning Spanish - thanks to Duo Lingo

Lessons I learned…

  • Life is full of hard things - some thrust upon us, others chosen by us. Yet, the beauty is that hard things are transient - they won’t stay hard forever. The more frequently we do them, the easier they become. The key is to choose the hard things wisely - the ones that are meaningful and worth the effort. Doing such hard things makes us stronger and better than avoiding them.

  • Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. At every stage of my life - as a teen, student, daughter, early career, wife, individual contributor, engineering leader, and mother of a child who is going through her own stages of life - I had to prioritize a handful of things. So I dropped a few things along the way and that is ok. I did the best I could at that particular moment in time. Now I am at a point in life where I can think of what is next. So I should adjust my priorities and adapt. In the absence of an external work schedule, I build my own internal schedule and fine-tune my priorities every day.

  • The most important asset of a company is the team. Happy high-performing teams build products that make customers happy. If a leader takes care of the team, everything else will follow. Here, ’take care’ does not mean being nice to everyone. It is about putting the team - the collective entity - as the first priority.

  • Be grateful to those who supported you and be proud of what you accomplished - you can do both at the same time. Nobody can achieve anything alone, so we should be grateful to our family and peers who support us along our journey. But nothing can be achieved without the individual’s passion and grit. We need to go climb the mountain, take the long road - and it is hard - but that’s the only way to get to the other side.

  • Health trumps everything else. Throughout my adult life I was puzzled and frustrated with one question - why do I struggle so much in my health/fitness journey? Why can’t I bring the success in one area of my life to the other? I didn’t have an answer to this question for a long time, but now I do. Here is it - Yes, I always wanted all of it - career, family, and health - but I have been putting career and family as the first priorities until now and hence could not focus on health. Do I regret it? No, that clear prioritization is the reason why I am where I am now and I am proud of it. And now I have the agency to prioritize health and I am ready for it - ready to outlive, not just survive.

  • Motivation gets you started, Discipline gets you going. Watching a video or reading a book or listening to a success story motivates us to try something new. And we start a routine with good intent. But the motivation wears off very quickly and our brains find all the reasons/excuses to procrastinate or pause/stop the routine. That is where discipline comes to the rescue. The only thing that will help us is the grit, the routine, and our belief in deferred gratification. In those moments, we must tell ourselves - I have already made the decision to do this thing. So I am going to put my head down and just do it. If we keep doing it, the results will manifest in days. The deferred gratification will pay off.

  • “All or nothing” mindset is bad, bad, bad. The only way to make progress is to do in small increments. This pairs well with the previous learning and applies to learning, health, and work. A few anecdotes that come to mind:

    • TEDx @ PrincetonU video on Self-worth theory by Nic Voge says that trying to do everything perfectly creates an inertia to start the work. The more you want to do a great job, the more likely you are wait for the perfect moment to start and thus put off the work until then. In other words, perfectionism encourages procrastination - what an irony!
    • The book The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin has a few thought-provoking principles - 1) The only choice we have is to begin. And the only place to begin is where we are. Simply begin. But begin. and 2) Your work is too important to be left to how you feel today. On the other hand, committing to an action can change how we feel.
    • Steph Smith blog referred in this HN post says - great is just good, but repeatable. If you cannot do great things, do small things a great number of times. Yes, it is hard to be consistent, and it would seem boring. But that consistent habit of progression is the only way we can be better. I love this comment there - “greatness” is almost less about how high you climb those stairs—and more about how long you’ve been climbing. Interesting!!.

    To be clear, whether or not a person wants to be great at something is their individual choice. But if they choose to do so, then this learning will help them break the cycle of perfectionism and procrastination.

  • Young adults need time to learn things on their own. As the mother of a young adult, I witness the various choices and decisions my daughter faces. Some may lead to big wins, some may result in missteps. But regardless of the outcome, I cannot (and should not) make every decision for her or learn on her behalf. She needs to go through the challenges on her own and learn the lessons herself.

    • As parents, our role is to lay the foundation of strong values in our children, trusting that they will make the right choices. Now it is their turn to make the decisions on their own on that foundation. The best thing we can do is to give them the confidence that we will be there for them always. It does feel scary - I know - but that’s ok. That’s the way it should be.

What I regret….

Nothing. Nada. Niente. I am usually a person of regret - always thinking in terms of ‘I should have done that’, ‘I could have done that’ etc. But no, not anymore. Now I look at everything with a spirit of learning without judgement.

I reflect, not regret. Rather than thinking what I should have done, I will think what I will do next.

A few books I loved reading during the year….

Books I am reading now…

Closing Thoughts

Life is full of choices - every moment of my life is shaped by the choices I make and the environment around me. I am grateful for that and I embrace the consequences of my choices - good and bad.

Eyes on the stars and feet on the ground - Theodore Roosevelt.

Thank you 2023 - you have been wonderful. Now I am ready to embrace the new year with open arms.

 
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