Year of Learning

Danielle Adams
3 min readJan 11, 2019

A lot of people reflect on their year before it ends. On the last day of the year, I saw lots of posts of what people learned and accomplished in 2018.

Not me. I prefer to do my reflecting a little bit late. Since my birthday comes early January, it gives me a buffer to reflect on my year. It was an interesting year: I left a job I was emotionally attached to, I decided to go back to school, I joined a company I had admired for years, and I learned a lot in between. I write this as I’ve just been admitted to grad school, so the past year finally feels completed.

I learned when enough is enough

If you’re reading this, you probably know where I used to work. There’s no need to list all the reasons I decided to leave. While there had been times that I thought about leaving, I was loyal to the company. There was still interesting work to be done and leadership opportunities.

One day, I realized it just wasn’t working for me anymore. It was as simple as that. There was nothing that would make me stay. I gave myself a 2 month timeline to find a job, and I would move on.

I learned to not let people take the floor when you have it

This has happened a few times. During a talk or presentation, an audience member will either ask an a) slightly related question about a slightly related topic (“Do you know what X is?”) or b) completely related general question that challenges the entire point being made (“I thought you’re not supposed to use Y.”).

To be clear, I welcome questions. I usually give the benefit of the doubt because most people with questions have really great questions. However, I’ve done this enough now to know if it walks and quacks like a troll, it’s a troll.

I have still been caught off guard from time to time. I will have a moment that makes me think I misunderstood the question or wasn’t clear on a point. After a talk this year, I was mad at myself for not answering a question more quickly and moving on to the next. I let that person have the floor for more time than he deserved — I won’t let that happen again.

I relearned how to learn

In May, I joined Heroku (🎉). Two months later, I started taking online classes at NYU that I needed to be admitted into their grad program. After months of allowing my brain to run in autopilot, it was an adjustment. Somehow, I managed to balance everything I needed to learn for both without sacrificing too much of my personal time.

I replaced some old activities for new ones, and I slightly changed my lifestyle to be in the right mindset. It’s hard to summarize what worked and what didn’t work, but here are a few notable points:

  • waking up earlier (I used to be a night owl, but I found out I get a lot done in the mornings)
  • allowing my brain to have scheduled and limited idle time for watching TV or some activity with low ROI
  • replacing music, novels and podcasts with school and Heroku-related articles, books and videos
  • getting enough sleep (this is relatively new to me because I used to be of the opinion that sleep was time taken away from enjoying life)
  • meditating and yoga (also new because I used to think these were synonyms for sleeping)

I’m privileged to have enough time to do all of these things in a 7-day week. My work days became slightly longer with the added school work, and my brain was clear enough to be able to absorb the information I needed. I used a Kanban board to manage my work, so I could deprioritize topics I didn’t need or would never get to.

While none of these are directly related to the learning process, I would not have been able to succeed (ish) without these adjustments.

While a part of me wants to list the bucket list items I was able to check off, I don’t think that’s where the real value of the past year lies. 2018 was great, but I’m more excited for where it will take me to in 2019.



Danielle Adams

Software Engineer at AWS. Open source developer, New Yorker, TBD.