2020 Year in Review
Despite 2020 not being the year for everyone, it turned out pretty well for me. I revived my energy of 2016, which was a turning point in my life. On a personal level, 2020 was a year of bonding. I spent more quality time with my close ones. On the professional front, a lot of things changed, for the better.
- Scaled the team up — We added over a hundred talented friends & folks at GeekyAnts since the pandemic hit in March; we worked on over fifty new, existing and exciting ideas, dreams and projects. 👨👨👧👦
- Work-from-home had it's own perks and problems — We set up our home offices, and the productivity touched an all-time high, but we still missed seeing each other every day!
- Revived R&D and Open Source — I personally worked on projects like SyncState, React Pluggable, Flutter Starter, NativeBase, apibeats, BuilderX, useDB and moon (internal). All were possible because of the great folks that I have on my team. 💪
- NativeBase has now over 50,000 dependent projects — That responsibility is scary, but we are trying hard! The new v3 internal release on the last working day of 2020 wasveryexciting. We open it up for the public in the last week of Jan 2021. 🤩
- I spoke at React Native EU about SyncState, at React Europe about Building a Design tool in React, and a few more meet-ups and conferences. 🗣
- Started live coding & streaming for the first time— the response from the viewers left me speechless. Thank you, Sahil for the push. 📹
- A clearer mission — On a mission to empower everyone to build things 👷🏻♂️
Like everyone else, 2020 was an eye-opener for me. Between doing dishes and procrastinating, sometimes trying to fill every minute of my day and going days without taking a shower, I am now a lot clearer about life, happiness, relationships & work and it's so gratifying!
While life itself was a hell of a ride in 2020, work-wise, I think I have " found my why". I was on a journey to build developer tools to solve the problems of the dev community. Taking a step back, I realized that my mission might be to empower everyone to build things. 🛠
As I embraced working from home, a check on my diet & fitness became a necessity. Thanks to friends and family who pushed me to be active, I am fitter & stronger than my early 20s 🏋️♂️. Diet and workout have proved extremely fruitful in the last few months, and I feel great about myself!
During the lockdown, I finally picked up my old guitar and recorded a few of my favourite tunes. My rendition of the Hindi version of Coca Cola's Reason to Believe - Umeedo Wali Dhoop got a reply from Coca Cola India with their own version on Twitter. 🤯
And that's what pushed me to set up my home studio finally — the long-pending task needed a pandemic to happen.
I come from a joint family, and celebrating everything is a huge part of who we are. Given how uneventful 2020 was, my brother got married towards the end of it 🤭. I had a blast at the wedding, and it was so fun organizing it!
Staying at home, I spent a lot of time with my loved ones (I had no other option 😆) and realised how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who have my back, no matter what. The sangria and movie nights, the Ludo afternoons and the incessant baking is what I will remember when I think of lockdown. I am grateful for what I have rather than chasing what I want. 🙏
GeekyAnts in 2020
I am so thankful for the year GeekyAnts has had. While many businesses took a turn for the worse, we were lucky to stay afloat. To sum it up in numbers, we worked on the dreams of over fifty people, open-sourced a dozen projects and added a hundred new talented people at GeekyAnts.
While we kept learning new things, React, Next, React Native and Flutter remained the most used techs at GeekyAnts. Svelte, Kubernetes/Dockers, SwiftUI, Laravel Livewire, Inertia.js, GraphQL and AWS Amplify, were the new entrants we loved. 👩🏻💻
R&D, Open Source and products - These three words sum up what I hope to do full time. This year the team worked on projects like NativeBase, Flutter Bluetooth Adapter, Flick Video Player, SyncState, React Pluggable, Flutter Starter, Express TS Starter, apibeats, BuilderX, GA WDIO, useDB and moon (internal). The things you can achieve when the government locks you in your own house. 🤣
Having said that, we know that releasing open source projects isn't half as hard as maintaining them. To ensure that our "seemingly" great R&D and OSS don't go to waste from lack of upkeep, we use these libraries and tools internally as the first users and provide feedback to the creators within the team to help with the maintenance of the projects.
As we scaled, we learnt that we needed to balance our growing engineering team with people who understood other aspects of this ecosystem like business, design, product planning etc. We started 2020 by scaling up our design team and then adding business analysts, product owners and managers. These new roles bring a demarcation to our previously blended responsibilities. This does ensure smooth execution when it comes to projects, but we are still testing this structure with a few teams at first as this may bring a cultural shift that we are not ready for.
Not too vague and not too concrete
Building a company teaches you a lot. You progress, learn from your mistakes, and when you look back, you see a wonderful journey, successful or not. The 2016-GeekyAnts was different. We had a common unsaid vision, but we didn't have a concrete plan back then. Maybe things were haphazard, but everybody loved it. We didn't have a clear boundary between the departments, grabbed every opportunity that came our way and the teams were exposed to a variety of problems that kept us creative. Over time, we split people into focussed teams to solve specific problems which minimized the inter-team communication, both casual and formal, and the spark went down.
When the teams stop communicating with each other at a company, the ideas cease to flow, and everything becomes inactive. It felt as though everything was too process-driven and yet was falling apart. And it was my fault. It was like Brian Chesky was screaming into my ears, "Don't Fuck Up the Culture, Sanket". Great minds working together almost always result in tension, but the teams that go past that create miracles. I love the metaphor of the polished rocks by Steve Jobs, where he talks about the same concept. The image explains it well enough :)
I also realized that when we were a small company, we had fewer processes, but we had a strong sense of culture. The words "not too vague and not too concrete" from the book Shape Up by Ryan Singer (Basecamp) are still ringing in my head. Though the book mainly talks about how to use the concept in product development, I believe it can be applied beyond that, like to a company's structure or even to a CSS library (Yes, Tailwind). Or maybe to life in general.
Circling back to my belief that I am on a mission to empower everyone to build things (I know I have said it like 5 times already). But who knows, that may change in the next couple of years. I am always going to leave the window of uncertainty open.
No code, low-code and developer tools
Many of my products and ideas resonate with the ease of building things and how they can be made available to everyone, similar to the idea of the no-code movement. And from the looks of it, a lot of folks in the React community miss that experience too which Adobe Flash provided (including me).
BuilderX was Exhibit A. We continue to support BuilderX, but now we know the pain points and are pivoting to a tool (in stealth mode) that solves similar problems. We call it the moon project. Stay tuned for more! 🔥
2020 was a mentally draining year, to say the least. It was tough in more ways than one. But here we are! I feel like I have come out stronger, more resilient than I thought and ready for the curveballs life throws my way. 🧿
There have been instances that changed my perception of life. You can read a few of my musings in this Twitter thread.
Looking into 2021
Plans and goals are hard to make & measure for a year because everything is changing so fast. And that's why I plan to stick to quarterly goals. Having said that, I also have an abstract idea about what I need from 2021.
Given the unpredictable journey that 2020 was, I plan to never take things for granted and appreciate all that I am blessed with. I don't want to fall prey to short-term happiness. I am going to do more of what gives me long-term gratification.
I will minimize using social media; I want to enjoy the real experiences; travel more and read more. Drink that cup of tea rather than posting about it :)
For fitness, I will continue to stick to a good diet and a regular workout plan. Hoping to get those abs this year, but damn chilly chicken and fries 😭
Also, I am very excited to resume my dream project, to build a Caravan and take it to the Himalayas. ❤️
I am going to continue to bring more like-minded people to GeekyAnts. That means more employment, more experiments and more fun! Scaling up is only going to broaden our horizons to do more and push the world forward (I hope).
Keeping a start-up mindset while scaling is hard, but many companies are doing it well, and I hope we can do it too as we continue to grow.
I plan to put transparency, happiness and mental health first in 2021. Here's hoping we build the next GeekyAnts that's more accepting in the new world and promotes a culture of creators & individuals.
Suraj, Himanshu, Ankur, Gaurav, Aditya & Nishan are gems to work with, just to name a few. A big shout out to all the founders, leaders and every single person at GeekyAnts who inspire me to go to work every day and change the world bit by bit. Here is to another year. 🍻
And a big thanks to Vaishali for editing this article and for making the boring drafts so lively.
PS; My intention behind writing this review is self-analysis and evaluation. I only hope that it inspires readers. I wouldn't like any readers to feel that their 2020 wasn't as great or eventful. This is just my story which was only possible because of the great people around me.