Retrospective for 2022

Continuing my tradition of writing a retrospective (2021, 2020201620152013201220112010) or look ahead (201920142013201220112010), in this post I’ll recap 2022 and share goals for what is ahead in 2023.

Retrospective

A few years ago, my wife and I bought a digital picture frame as a Christmas gift for our family (one of the best gifts as our kids love seeing older pictures of our family). This morning I saw down to review photos my wife and I took over the last year to load onto our picture frame. Turns out 2022 was an interesting year for a number of reasons:

  • The first half of the year (almost) everyone in our photos was masking / social distancing (compared to now when it is much less common)
  • My wife and I are reminded of the sweet times when our kids are hugging, helping each other, etc. instead of the other times when they are “not as sweet”
  • Family traditions are starting to develop (special photo poses during summer vacation, birthday celebration activities, etc.)

Overall, 2022 was a good year, so here is a look back at some of the bigger things for me personally.

Reading books

Building on my 2021 book challenge to read more (finished 10 with a goal of 4 that year), in 2022 I set a goal of reading 6 books. I received great book recommendations from friends / co-workers and I ended the year reading 18 books. You can view my list of books read in 2022. I most recommend the following:

Going into 2023 I’m targeting 8 books for the year. I could target higher, but I’m also getting more involved in a number of school / church / family commitments this year, so I want to leave room for those as well.

Fitness

At the start of 2022 I purchased a Treadly 2 treadmill. This came highly recommended from a former teammate of mine. (Ignore all of the wires under my desk, project for another day…)

My goal was to get 15-20 mins of walking in my home office (I have an adjustable desk) a few days a week. Over the course of the year, I slowly increased the speed and duration of my walks. By the end of the 2022 I was walking 60-75 mins 3-5x times a week.

As an added bonus, I found out through my tracking app that I walked 120+ days of the year (literally 1 in every 3 days) and also walked more than 1,000,000 steps total.

Separately I’ve also been using a “core body” workout app to do a short morning workout for 10-20 mins about 3-4x times a week. I started halfway through 2022 and made good progress. I’ve lost 10 pounds and kept it off as well as shrunk my waist size a bit. Nice to have pants fitting more comfortably again.

I’m continuing my treadmill walking and exercise into the new year. I completed 2x 4-mile races at the end of last year. I don’t have goals to complete more races this year though as I hadn’t trained for those (treadmill walking doesn’t really compare to outdoor running).

Conferences

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most in-person conferences were cancelled or went virtual over the past 2+ years. The Stir Trek Conference that I help organize came as a hybrid event last May. We were not certain how attendance all-up would be, let alone in-person attendance. We had a lower target for all-up attendance (1,500 total, ~1,000 in-person) but were pleasantly surprised that we sold out of tickets and did end up having more than 1,000 attend in person last May.

Our board of organizers is very thankful to everyone who supported us through the pandemic. Especially from a good number of attendees and sponsors agreeing to keep their registration money with us (we had a big financial hit from cancelling our 2020 event). We’ve already begun planning for 2023 and are looking to open up tickets to our previous max (~2,100 total).

Separate from Stir Trek, in 2022 I did present at a number of virtual events and conferences, most of them internal or Microsoft-run events though. Starting off 2023, I’m Presenting at M365 Twin Cities 2023 which is my first presentation at a community conference in over 3 years. Looking forward to other opportunities over the coming year.

2022 goals progress

Recapping my goals for 2022, I can confidently say I hit all of them.

  • Read 6 books (read 18)
  • Walk 5 miles per week (6-9 miles most weeks)
  • Compete in a dance competition (March 2022, and no I’m not sharing pictures 😉)

Looking ahead

My wife and I are kicking off 2023 with some family planning activities as well as home organization projects. We’re also celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary later this year, so looking forward to a special trip near the end of the year.

Aside from those things, we’re actively encouraging our kids to find activities or clubs that spark their interest. This also means getting to know more families at our school and other places. Overall, I think 2023 will be a year focused on family growth / evolution, but without specific goals in mind at the moment.

Conclusion

As the world continues to experience many ups-and-downs, what are you focusing on for 2023? What things do you want leave behind or continue doing from 2022? Feel free to share any ideas or answers in the comments.

-Frog Out

Sources

Header Image by Ludo-Photos from Pixabay: link

Expressing Gratitude When Others Help You

Who has helped you recently? When did you last send them a praise / kudos / etc.?

On a monthly basis I lead a team retrospective for our Microsoft Graph CPx team. I generally adjust the questions each month so that we don’t keep repeating the same questions / responses each month.

This month, as part of our retrospective I posed the questions at top of this post.

  • Who has helped you recently?
  • When did you last send them a praise / kudos / etc.?

While everyone was able to identify people or teams that have helped them, responses to the second question varied from “I send perspectives feedback / praise regularly to X, Y, and Z” to “I haven’t sent anything to those people in awhile, thanks for the reminder”.

Personally, in addition to my monthly personal retrospective I also schedule time (~15 mins) on my calendar each month to send out praise to people that have helped me recently. Case in point, as we’re wrapping up this calendar year I just filled out 3 perspectives feedback requests before writing this post.

I encourage everyone to make a habit (schedule recurring time on your calendar, set a repeating ToDo reminder, etc.) of:

  1. identifying people that have helped you in the last week / month
  2. send those people a thank you / praise / kudos

How are you expressing your gratitude to others that have helped you?

-Frog Out

Drip by drip: cumulative progress over time

Starting July 1st of this year I set some goals for myself to get back into exercise routines and improve my overall health. Many of these are things that I had done before the pandemic but had not gotten back into.

  • Walk / run 4-mile (6.4 km) race before end of 2022
  • Workout for at least 10 mins a day, 4 days a week
  • Lose 10 pounds (4.5 kg) by end of 2022

Rather than dive head-first into these goals, I made small adjustments to my daily / weekly schedule and continued adding every few weeks, but always being consistent.

Much of the inspiration for this approach came from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear which I read earlier this year.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40121378-atomic-habits

Ex.

  • Installed a phone app for “core body workouts” that I use for 10-15 mins in the morning
    • I didn’t have high hopes for the app but here I am 40+ days later making real progress, repeating 3 days on and 1 day off for rest (even through vacations with family).
  • Walk on my home office treadmill at least 2-3 times a week
    • I now don’t let myself watch nighttime TV unless I’m walking on the treadmill. This motivates me to walk longer but also avoid eating unhealthy foods after dinner.
  • Reduce after hours snacking
    • This used to be a frequent problem, but with the other areas I’m seeing results with losing 7 pounds (3.2 kg) already, and I’m motivated to not gain that back by eating unhealthy foods.
  • Signed up for a 4-mile race in Oct
    • I’m already registered and working my way up in distance (see above for nighttime TV motivator for compounding effect).

Progress started out small and slow with the workouts, but overall I’m feeling in much better shape and plan to keep this up through the rest of the year. I enjoy that it was small adjustments that started to compound the gains I was seeing across the board.

What positive habits have you started up this year that have made an impact?

-Frog Out

Management for the Non-manager: Part 1

As part of my org’s FHL (fix hack learn) week, I wanted to explore Management training for Non-managers. I found a great learning path on LinkedIn Learning called “Become a Manager“. Here are a few lessons so far from the copious notes I’ve been taking.

  • Impact of the team
    • “Make the shift from me to we
    • Important perspective for managers as well as principal or higher individual contributors (IC)
  • Transition plans
    • If you are moving from IC to manager (or between management roles), define transition plans before and during changes
  • Communications
    • Communicate more often than you may think you need to.
    • Build relationship with team members (1:1s, recognize wins / failures as a team, etc.)
    • Share constructive feedback in private but in a positive manner
  • Delegate tasks / projects
    • Delegate strategically, even if it challenges a person
    • Ensure team has the clarity, training, and support to succeed
  • Civility and candor
    • When communicating, have a balance of civility (empathy) and candor (directness)
    • Without candor, communication lacks substance and manager may be seen as just “a nice person”
  • Feedback
    • When sharing feedback, avoid generalities (ex. “I know you can be a better salesperson”)
    • Be concrete and give examples (ex. “I’m confident you can increase sales by X% next quarter to show you are improving as a salesperson”)
    • Think SMART goals to create clarity
  • Decision making style
    • Share your decision making style ahead of time so team knows what to expect
    • Styles
      • Autocratic – Manager makes decision and informs team
      • Collaborative – Seek input from team then make decision
      • Democratic – Team makes the decision
    • If using Autocratic or Collaborative, explain your decision afterwards (if appropriate) and stick to decision
  • Integrity
    • Fairness relates to equal opportunities, not necessarily equal outcomes or distributions
    • Share credit widely as well as pains / failures
  • Authenticity
    • Confidence is projected through what you say, body language, etc.
    • Competence is demonstrated through work you produce
    • Being Authentic = open, humble, show humanity, and always “model the way”
    • Promote your employees more than yourself
  • Lieutenant / 2nd in command
    • Informal relationship for someone who can be your stand-in when needed
    • Shares feedback, mobilizes support, can take opposing perspective (plays devil’s advocate), and potential candidate for succession plan
    • They are not:
    • A clone of you, a “yes person”, nor an enforcer of manager’s commands
  • Resiliency
    • Understand how to get back up when knocked down
      • (I call this “filling your cup up after being drained” or “energizing your batteries”)
    • Diet, exercise, and sleep are basics to take care of yourself
    • Proactively reflect on yourself / team
    • Choose to spend time with other resilient, positive, and successful
  • Take notes
    • Easier to refer back to what was discussed / decided
    • Can be shared with others asynchronously

This post is only a partial copy of my notes from ~2hrs of training, but as you can see, writing / recording things helps for re-enforcing concepts but also being able to share afterwards.

I have more courses to complete in the learning path and will try to share out notes in a later post. Feel free to share in the comments other recommended training in the “management for non-managers” space.

-Frog Out

How I Use Stream Deck

In this post I’ll walk through the configurations I currently use with my Stream Deck 15 key.

Stream Deck home screen example

(Last updated 2022-03-14)

Background

For those of you who are not familiar, the Elegato Stream Deck is a device that helps automate keyboard shortcuts as well as offer integrations with many popular content creation platforms or streaming services (ex. OBS, YouTube, Twitch, XSplit, and more). Currently it is available in 6 key, 15 key, and 32 key combinations. Each of the keys is a mini LCD screen that you can customize with text, images, or even dynamic content through developer extensibility. On top of that you can nest folders within folders for additional use cases.

My Configuration

My “homescreen” is split up into the following folders (with sub-actions) and actions.

  • Folders
    • Time zones
      • (5 different time zones corresponding to various teams that I work with regularly)
    • Recording
      • OBS Studio
      • Clipchamp
      • Descript
      • Carnac (app to show keystrokes on screen)
      • Scene switcher for OBS Studio (3x)
      • TikTok
      • File Explorer launch to folder for editing videos
      • Record (start / stop)
    • Community call admin
      • (various hotkeys and launchers related to community calls I co-host)
    • Media
      • Spotify
      • Windows Weekly (locally downloaded episodes)
      • Player.fm (podcatcher app)
      • Xbox Cloud Gaming
      • Goodreads
      • Play / pause control
      • Mute / unmute control
    • OneNote
      • (links to various OneNote notebooks I use through my week)
    • Text snippets
      • (multiple text snippets that I use on a regular basis)
    • Microsoft Teams
      • (keyboard shortcuts to control Microsoft Teams meetings / presentations / etc.)
      • Sysinternals ZoomIt (draw on screen, zoom screen, timer, and more)
  • Home screen actions
    • Microsoft stock ticker (custom app)
    • Dice Roller (for fun)
    • Elegato Key Light controls (on / off, brightness +/-)

Plugins

I primarily use out of the box (or installed by default) actions, but there are a few useful plugins that I do use (all from the same developer BarRaider. You can search for these and more in the Stream Deck Store as part of the configuration app.

  • Plugins
    • Advanced Launcher (BarRaider)
      • Launch Microsoft Store apps and additional customizations for launching processes
    • Games (BarRaider)
    • Stock Ticker (BarRaider)
    • World Time (BarRaider)

Extra tips

Launch browser profiles

For many years I have been using browser profiles in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Firefox. Each implements them slightly differently, but the general idea is that you can have different “profiles” for different personas. This includes a separate instance of saved credentials, home pages, favorites, and more. I use these extensively to test out Microsoft 365 sandbox tenants as various users, personal vs. work profiles for myself, and more.

Thankfully my friend Paul Schaeflein already blogged about launching browser sessions with different profiles. Read more on his post How I use Stream Deck – Browser Profiles.

Conclusion

In this post I overviewed the general configuration I use with my 15 key Stream Deck. I I’ve only been using my Stream Deck for a few months, but hopefully this post gives you a few insights into what / how you can use your own. Depending on future configuration changes I will update this post for major updates.

-Frog Out

Retrospective for 2021

Continuing my tradition of writing a retrospective (2020, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010) or look ahead (2019, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010), in this post I’ll recap 2021 and share goals for what is ahead in 2022.

Retrospective

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit full scale in the US in 2020, I didn’t know that we would still be dealing / struggling with this throughout all of 2021. I’ve heard others describe 2021 as “a year that just was”. Some have even joked about COVID Standard Time being a continual extension of 2020 (today is Tuesday, March 674th, 2020 by the way).

For my family, we adapted as best as possible and found ways to shake things up. We had a few notable events and updates that I’ll cover in the following sections. Overall, my feelings for the year were a blend of 1) being thankful for all of the blessings, friends, and support that we have received and 2) consciously needing to let go of some things in order to focus on the happy / positive side of things.

Promotion

One of the biggest events of 2021 was my promotion to Principal Program Manager (level 65) at Microsoft. I found out in late November and it was made official in December. As I mentioned in my LinkedIn post, promotion to from level 64 to level 65 at Microsoft is a rather big jump (compared to previous promotions). This includes new responsibilities and invitation to larger opportunities for continued impact internally and externally.

I’m thankfully to everyone that has helped me to get to this point, especially my mentors, team leads, and peer teams across Microsoft. I look to pay forward whatever and whenever I can all that these people have extended to me.

Reading books

In the past I’ve enjoyed reading books, but usually didn’t make / find the time to read more than 2 books a year (usually all compressed into the few days around big holiday breaks). In 2021, I set a goal to read 4 books. I also took the advice of a coworker to track it on Goodreads (link).

Surprisingly, not only did I hit my goal, but I doubled it by reading 8 books! I’m thankful to my many peers (Jennifer, Kristin, Sara, Mike, Ken, and more) sharing book recommendations and giving continual encouragement to keep up with reading. Many of their recommendations turned out to be great books with useful concepts and lessons that I am already applying to my personal and work life. Feel free to review my book list and / or suggest new ones (in comments or find me on Goodreads and share there).

Disney World trip

While my family took some smaller trips in 2020, our trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida is the biggest (duration, cost, amount of activities, etc.) we’ve taken in a few years. We had originally planned the trip in December 2020 but those plans were changed due to the pandemic.

Initially I was apprehensive of traveling and being around so many people, but I was appreciative of the health and safety efforts that Disney has implemented. Our 3 young kids (7, 5, and 2) each loved different aspects of the trip, but for sure having rest days in between park days and a decent sized house to relax helped. I look forward to taking them back when they are older and can ride more rides and appreciate other parts of Disney World.

Dance lessons

For me, exercise during the pandemic has been a challenge. While we’ve been able to take bike rides, walks, park visits, etc. in the warm months, these aren’t always possible, especially when the weather is bad.

With that in mind, my wife has always talked about taking dance lessons at a ballroom dance studio. I’m not one to shy away from dancing, but I knew this could be a big commitment from a time and money perspective. For my wife’s birthday I decided to get a Groupon for a small set of dance lessons to see if it is something we would like.

We’ve been taking lessons 3-5 times a month now for the past few months. We cover many styles of dance including rumba, cha cha, tango, waltz, swing, and more. I’m happy to say it has been fun and also a great way for us to spend 1 on 1 time together without other interruptions.

TikTok videos

As I mentioned in my Weekly Tips and Experimenting with New Mediums and In Search of Creativity posts, I started sharing short #PSAforTheDay tips and tricks. First it was Twitter posts with static images, then animated GIFs, and finally short form videos on TikTok. This was primarily a creativity outlet but also enabled me to learn new technology and processes (ex. creating GIFs, editing videos efficiently, adding subtitles to video, etc.)

The key through it all though was I was curious to learn and driven to share. I’ve always enjoyed the quote:

“Knowledge learned that is not shared is knowledge lost.”

This felt like a great way to ensure that knowledge I’ve picked up over many years (and still learning) is not lost.

PSAforTheDay posts on Twitter

BrianTJackett videos on TikTok

Looking ahead

I have a few high-level goals for 2022. I like to document them publicly to help hold me accountable throughout the year.

  • Read 6 books (started book 1 this week already)
  • Walk 5 miles per week (treadmill delivering this week)
  • Compete in a dance competition (signed up for March)

Conclusion

How about you? How was your 2021? I hope it was a good and fruitful year and that you can appreciate the positive parts. Now that we’re a few days into 2022 I challenge you to reflect on your past year and set SMART goals for the year ahead.

-Frog Out

Sources

Header Image by bertvthul from Pixabay: link