My 2019 Annual Review

Alfred Lua / Written on 20 December 2019

Days are long, years are short. It felt like 2019 just started not too long ago, and here we are, at the end of the year.

One of my favorite things to do around this time of the year is to take stock of the year. This is my third annual review. (You can find my past annual reviews here: 2018, 2017.)

Here's how my 2019 went:

A new role: Product marketing

It has been a great year for Buffer. We had another profitable year, launched a new product (Analyze), redesigned our websites, and many more wonderful things to list all here.

Buffer at San Diego 2019

Earlier this year, we saw the potential to improve our product development by embedding marketers in the product teams. In the past, our marketing and product teams worked in series. When a feature was built, the marketing team took over and shouted about it. We thought it'd be beneficial to include marketing earlier in the process (and it has been!)

I had wanted to move on from content marketing for a while. When this opportunity opened up, I jumped at it.

It has been about eight months since I made the switch. There has been so much to do and so much to learn. I launched our latest product (Analyze), set up onboarding emails and in-app guides, did research and positioning, sent many emails, wrote website copy, and communicated a lot.

All that has been amazing, and what I've enjoyed the most is being closer to product development. Being part of a product team, I have been able to contribute to early product strategy discussions by sharing research, customer feedback, and my opinions as a marketer (since we're building marketing tools). It has been wonderful to help shape our products.

Most of this year has been spent exploring this new area of marketing. In 2020, I would love to systematize some of our processes so that we can work more effectively as a team. Of course, there is still a lot to learn, and I look forward to the challenges ahead.

Triathlon adventures

2019 is the best year of my triathlon journey so far.

I raced against Singapore's best triathletes at the SEA Games Trials, competed in the Philippines and Korea, and (surprisingly) came in first in my age group at the Singapore International Triathlon.

I set new personal bests for 1.5km swim (in Korea) and for 10km run (in the Philippines). I also bought a new bike and finally got myself professionally fitted to my bike.

Subic Bay Triathlon 2019

As luck would have it, the Super League Triathlon Grand Final was held in Singapore. I got the chance to watch many of my favorite Olympians race in this new format of triathlon and interact with them before and after the race. (Massive fanboy moments!)

Selfie with Johnny Brownlee

I had a fair share of challenges, too. A crash during a race gave me a hairline fracture on my rib. A terrible episode of food poisoning (on my birthday!) took me out for almost two weeks. And work trips sometimes meant training without proper facilities and racing with jetlag. While no athletes like these, I'm starting to learn they are a part of racing. I'm grateful to my coach, Eugene Lee, for holding me back when I wasn't in a good condition to train, adapting my training sessions when circumstances changed, and guiding me throughout the year.

I have recently set my triathlon goals for 2020. It should be another fun and eventful year ahead!

Building things

Last year, I took the plunge and paid almost a thousand dollars for Udacity's frontend developer nanodegree. It gave me the confidence to work with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

To keep learning, I started working on a simple fitness planning web app with vanilla JavaScript this year. Through the process, I learned to deploy my app with Firebase Hosting, build a simple signup system, store and retrieve data from a cloud database, and how to use Promises. (The previous sentence would have sounded like an alien language to me just a year ago.)

My incomplete fitness web app

I stopped working on the app in April when my priorities changed. I wanted to spend more time learning my new role, planning for my wedding, and training for triathlons. It's scary how much I have forgotten after pausing for several months. In 2020, I would love to spend more time coding and building things.

Getting married

The highlight of 2019 is definitely getting married to Ying Yan.

Even if nothing else happened this year, it would still have been an awesome year. We spent months preparing for the day and, unlike most people, we really enjoyed the preparation. On the day, our families and friends (some traveled across the globe) were there to celebrate the important moment with us. We had a live band that got everyone singing throughout the dinner. I didn't want the night to end.

My wedding

Nothing much has changed since the wedding but everything also feels different. There's a bond between Ying Yan and me now that is hard to describe. We feel like a team that can take on anything life throws at us. I'm enjoying this new chapter of our lives.

2020: A new decade

2019 has been great, and I look forward to what the new year and decade will bring. While 2020 might "just" be another year, the start of a new decade and the nice two-zero-two-zero number have gotten me excited about what I'll do in the year.

How has your 2019 been? What are you looking forward to in 2020?

This is my third year of doing annual reviews. You can find my previous annual reviews below:

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