My Year In Review: 13 Lessons From 2023

I was writing my year review
I was writing my year review


For this year review, the big lesson that I learned is about having a balanced life (also known as work-life balance). For me, work is also counted as a part of life. But, I affirm that it is a very large part of my life. A balanced life means that I do not over-focus on a single aspect. I do not always prioritize one aspect over another. I divide my life into two main areas, each with its own smaller sub-areas:

  • Mindfulness: Belief (or My Life Purpose).
  • Compassion: Living with Others in different areas including Work, Personal Life, and Personal Business.

Here are some topics that truly matter to me.

I. Belief

I truly believe my life’s purpose is all about becoming mindful. With Mindfulness, I can truly connect with “Life,” which many people might call God.

1. Self-Awareness

After feeling lost earlier this year, I’ve started to simplify my approach to managing tasks. It essentially boils down to two things: mindfulness and compassion. Journaling is the tool I’ve adopted, which I find adequately serves this purpose.

2. Health Care

Continual overtime had wreaked havoc on my health. Despite being aware that I was in war-engineering-lead mode, I knew it wasn’t okay to leave the situation unresolved.

I had been experiencing severe headaches, a clear signal that I needed to take better care of my health. In response, I had implemented a set of practices:

  • Waking up at 5:30 am
  • Taking a 30-minute walk
  • Making juice for breakfast
  • Having a healthy breakfast
  • Eating a salad for lunch
  • Staying hydrated throughout the day
  • Starting fasting at 2:00 pm
  • Going to bed at 9:45 pm

3. Self-Learning

I joined an English class organized by the company with the goal of sharpening my speaking skills. My teacher, Charles, follows his branded method very well:

  • PRO: Pronunciation – Real life – Own it
  • Slow: Speaking – Slow – Loud – Low
  • ABC: Always Be Curious

I learned a lot from his class. My teacher and I became good friends. We exchanged a lot about our lives and our personal businesses.

II. Work

4. Working with Development Teams

I had joined the development teams as a developer for a two-month period. This was notable as my typical role was an engineering lead, overseeing autonomous teams handling their daily operations.

After completing a challenging project, I found myself not wanting to revert to my previous state.

  • I chose to fully participate in the sprints or not at all, instead of partially joining.
  • I prioritized a single focus over juggling multiple ones.
  • I opted to wait for the right time rather than rushing to show off.

5. Engineering Training Workshop

It was the first time I conducted a technical workshop for all members of the development teams. However, the policy was that only two members of a team could join.

I spent time preparing the training assets, including a mini-project (source code), and training materials. These assets can be reused for later training sessions.

6. Group of Experts

I had formed a group of developers who were interested in front-end web development to build a company standard we called “front-end web development good practices”. I had also joined the group as a member. My section was web accessibility.

From my point of view, this cross-team activity had been beneficial for our developers. When they worked together, they could not only contribute their extra effort to the corporation but also learn from others.

7. Technology Radar

Managing the upgrade of platforms and frameworks used in projects was crucial. I spent a significant (boring) amount of effort to create documents that listed all the major technologies that the company was currently using. This information included adoption stages (use, evaluate, or rethink), lifecycle support tracking, and project tracking.

Moreover, this documentation helped us build the skills of our developers in the skills matrix, or software engineering roadmap.

8. Development standards

I collaborated with my team, Team Engineering Lead, to establish a software development standard for constructing quality software. The scope encompassed a range of topics, including setting up a git repo, constructing an Angular module, creating a Spring Boot module, automated testing, reassigning team members, among others.

These documents assisted us in preserving a shared understanding and the procedures of our software development.

9. Continuous integration

My team had successfully integrated SonarQube into our major project’s build pipelines. It had enforced developers to write automated tests and fix bugs on each merge request. This had been a significant step, as we introduced SonarQube in 2018 but did not strictly apply it until then. The outcome had been positive, as we saw increased confidence in our developers and a green status in the SonarQube gate.

III. Personal Life

10. Da Nang Trip

After my business trip to the Da Nang office, I gained insight into the team’s work habits there.

  • They concentrate on work throughout the day.
  • They take a nap at noon.
  • They often enjoy meals together.
  • They begin work slightly later, after a relaxed coffee and breakfast time.

11. Thailand trip

I had joined a company trip to Thailand and the view from the plane had been exceptional. The vehicles moved on the left side of the road and cars gave priority to pedestrians. Thailand had a rich history and a diverse population. The food in Thailand was excellent and affordable.

12. Permanent Resilient

I finally registered as the permanent resident of Ho Chi Minh city after living here for 10 years. I was surprised by the simplicity of the registration process, which was mostly done online. Previously, I had heard that this task was very complicated.

IV. Personal Business

13. MindfulTec

After having worked as a professional software engineer, I felt it was time to run my own business. I acknowledged that I wasn’t particularly skilled at this task, but there was a deep calling I couldn’t ignore.

This year, I had conducted the engineering training workshop for my colleagues. I believed I could do this job well, and I truly enjoyed it.

My ultimate goal was to help developers, especially Vietnamese developers, to have successful careers in software engineering. I genuinely loved my job.

This was my initial motivation for forming MindfulTec. I had plunged in without fully understanding what I was getting into. I just went for it. “Fake it till you make it” became my mantra.

By Huong Nguyen

I am a full-stack software engineer. I have working experience with Java, Node.js, Angular, PostgreSQL, Jenkins, and OpenShift. I enjoy spending time with my son and wife on weekends. I am also a book lover. All posts and content I share solely represent my own views and do not represent the views of my employer.


    1. Absolutely, it’s been such a transformative year. I really appreciate all your help in broadening my mindset and skillset. Thank you so much!

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