2020 has been one heck of a year, for some obvious and some not-so-obvious reasons. Yes, we were hit by a pandemic that no one saw coming. For me, it was terrible in the beginning but things started to get better, a lot better as time passed by. And the year ended on a very special note. There’s a lot I want to share with you in this yearly review. So, let’s get to it.
Unlike every year, I’ve decided to try a different format for this year’s review. I’ll split this post into two major categories – work and life. And also add a highlights section at the top as a summary for those who don’t want to read the whole post.
- Lost my job at Contentful
- Joined GraphCMS as their first product designer
- Started writing a book about cracking a product design interview
- Launched Product Disrupt 2.0 – #2 on Product Hunt
- Made $1,853 ($1,565 Sponsorships + $288 Affiliates) in revenue from Product Disrupt
- Published 100th story on Product Disrupt Blog and started moving it to WordPress from Medium
- Added 1,412 new subscribers to the Product Disrupt newsletter and created an archive
- My girlfriend helped me create a typography poster design for “Consistency Outplays Talent”. Put it for sale on Gumroad and also ordered charms and pins
- Appeared on 8 interviews and podcasts
- Spent 5 months with my girlfriend in Berlin and later got married to her in Dec in Gujarat, India
- Gained a lot of lockdown weight and went out of shape
- Learned cooking after moving to Berlin
- Grandma tested +ve for COVID which put my family in a very stressful situation. Glad she recovered well
- Traveled to 11 cities in Europe and India. Also went on my first road trip in the countryside of Germany
Lost My Job
Right before the lockdown in Germany, I lost my job at Contentful. I didn’t see it coming and hence was taken aback by the decision.
The way that the news was given to me was also very dramatic. I had just returned from the Awwwards conference in Amsterdam on Sunday. The next Monday morning on my commute to the office, I saw a meeting invite on my work calendar with my direct manager and someone from HR. I had no time to contemplate what this meeting was about.
Clueless, I showed up at the meeting. I was informed by my manager that they had decided to let me go. And that was about it, I wasn’t really given any reason.
After I recovered from the shock, I did some digging and got to know that it was probably due to re-organization and lack of team management.
Long-story-short, three months into my new job after moving to a whole new country, I was left at this uncertain stage of my career. Maybe I’ll share more about this incident in a separate blog post.
Losing a job in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t easy. Most of the companies in Berlin and around the world went on a hiring freeze for some time, it was difficult to land any new job interviews for the first two months.
Eventually, the world started adapting to the new way of working and so did the companies in Berlin. All my job applications started getting a positive response and were progressing nicely.
At the end of three months, I received three job offers and I accepted the one from GraphCMS. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but the way my interviews progressed with GraphCMS gave me a pretty good feeling about the company’s culture and its team.
At the time of my joining, GraphCMS was a 20-odd member startup without a designer. I was offered an opportunity to be the first product designer in the company and lead the design efforts on feature work and creating a design system.
Throughout my career, I’ve found great pleasure in the challenges of building a product with a smaller team of passionate folks.
It’s been seven months since I joined and I’ve had a great time working with the team. We’ve closed 2020 on a stronger note with great excitement for what’s to come in the coming years. Stay tuned for more updates.
Writing a Book
I started interviewing extensively after losing my job at Contentful. By going through the process and documenting my learnings in Notion after every interview, I ended up with a huge repo of questions and insights.
It helped me get better with every interview and I believe others could also benefit from it. This is why I decided to write a book about cracking a product design interview. I’m going to share what I’ve learned about product design job interviews and also bundle it with resume and email templates with a system to track progress in Notion.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put much work into the book this past year but it’s going to be my top priority for the coming year. You can follow me on Twitter for more updates on this.
On a related note, Artiom Dashinsky’s book – Solving Product Design Exercises is a great resource to prepare for design exercises or take-home tasks during product design interviews. I’ve greatly benefited from this during my interviews.
I had enough downtime while interviewing for jobs. This was the perfect opportunity for me to work on version 2.0 of Product Disrupt. And so I did.
I launched Product Disrupt 2.0 in the month of April and it was very well received by the product and design community. It didn’t bag the number 1 position on Product Hunt this time around but ended up on number 2 never less. One thing to notice though was that it actually received more votes on launch day as compared to the first version, which I can be proud of.
For the curious minds, here’s how I successfully launch my products on Product Hunt.
The launch of the new version also created a surge in traffic and helped with the growth of Product Disrupt as a brand. Here’s how it did in numbers:
2020 – Product Disrupt
- Revenue: $1,853 ($1,565 Sponsorships + $288 Affiliates)
- Views: 38K
- Subscribers: 1,412
- Blog Views: 52K
Product Disrupt is an Open Startup and I share its numbers on this Twitter thread on a monthly basis. Feel free to follow along if interested.
I also posted the 100th story on Product Disrupt Blog in the month of Feb. Thereafter I posted a few more stories and took a break from it to work on the new design of the blog.
Medium as a blogging platform worked well to quickly get started and build an audience but the blog outgrew itself and didn’t quite fit with Medium’s changing product directions. So I decided to move it to WordPress with a fresh new design. It’s almost ready and I’m looking to launch it in the coming month.
By the way, I also created an archive for the newsletter with some help from my friend Anubhav. I’m quite happy with the way it turned out.
Posters & Pins
As I had mentioned in last year’s review, I was collaborating with my then-girlfriend to create a typography design of my quote “Consistency Outplays Talent”.
Pooja did a fab job of creating this beautiful typography design for my quote which I uploaded on all my social covers and also put for sale on Gumroad.
Later, I also ordered a set of charms and pins of the same design. There’s something about the tangible products that you don’t feel with the digital ones. Just holding them in my hand gives me so much joy and happiness.
I also handed these pins to some of my friends that I met in person. I want to send it to more people but haven’t quite figured out the logistics yet. Let me know if you’re aware of an easy way to ship these items.
Interviews & Podcasts
With the outbreak of a pandemic, live speaking events have been replaced by virtual events and podcasts. So I appeared on a few of them. Here’s a list of interviews and podcasts that I participated in to share my story and learnings on different design and non-design topics:
- Balancing the Grind with Darshan Gajara
- Being a Freelance Remote Designer – Hireworthy
- Designing Remotely and Building Networks – The Creative Hustle
- Finding a Great Job in 2020 and Beyond – CutShort
- Freelance, Personal Branding and Side Projects – Whiteboard.fm
- Tech Talks Design – CodeChef VIT
- Personal Journey and Product Design – The Rohan & Max Show
- Career in Product Design – Coffee Hours Club
My girlfriend Pooja came to visit me in Berlin in Feb. We had plans to explore Berlin locally and travel to Italy for a week. But since the number of COVID cases in Italy was rising every day, we decided to cancel our trip and instead traveled to Poland.
Our first stop in Poland was the resort town of Zakopane. I’ve always been a lover of mountains so I had to naturally like Zakopane but it was even more special for Pooja as she was seeing the snow for the first time in her life. We had a lot of fun here exploring nature and enjoying traditional Polish food. We both developed a deep liking for Pierogi, which is basically Polish filled dumplings.
On our way back to Berlin, we also visited Auschwitz and Krakow for some time.
A couple of days before Pooja’s return flight to India, we got to know that all the international flights to India had been canceled until further notice. This is when she got stuck with me in Berlin for 5 months.
The news of the global lockdown came as a blessing in disguise for us, as this was the longest we ever got to stay together. Spending all this time with each other during a tough period made our relationship much stronger and that’s when we knew we were ready to spend this life together.
I went back to India in Nov to celebrate Diwali with my family and to get married to the love of my life in Dec.
As you can imagine, getting married in the middle of a pandemic is a whole lot different than in normal circumstances. We had a tiny Hindu wedding in my hometown in Gujarat in the presence of a handful of family members. I had also planned to live stream the wedding for my friends but the internet played a spoilsport. We managed to get some good pictures never the less.
I’m back now in Berlin waiting for the spouse visa process to be done so that I can see my wife soon again in Berlin.
Body – Out of Shape
Just like most of us, I also gained a few extra kilos sitting in the chair all day every day. Having easy access to snacks at home added to the regime of getting out of shape.
I did manage to lose some weight when I started running every alternate day in the summer though. But since summers aren’t very long here in Berlin, I quickly gained back that lost cardio weight as soon as I stopped running.
Then I again started to lose some weight when I started to play Cricket on the weekends. But just a day of sport can’t help much when all we do during the week is sit in the fu*king chair.
I also suffered from severe back pain for more than a week some time in Feb. I was starting to get seriously worried about it but fortunately, it was just a muscle spasm that got cured soon after I visited an Orthopedic doctor.
In short, 2020 has been a no-good year for my body but my habits are to be equally blamed for it. I hope I can make up for it this year.
I added a new skill to my armory this year – Cooking. The pandemic can’t take the credit for this. This one was due to moving to a whole new country.
We don’t have many options for Indian food in Berlin and outside food isn’t cheap anyway. As they say, necessity is a great teacher, it taught me to cook. And turns out, I’m pretty decent at cooking.
As I started spending more time in the kitchen, I developed a few cookery tricks up my apron. I’ve become a good enough cook to invite friends over for Indian food, without them being at risk.
I also made Dal Fry (that’s my specialty) for my teammates in the office and made my family proud by cooking this dish for them when I visited home.
But mind you, I don’t like cooking so much that I would cook without the need for me to cook. I’m more of an obligatory cook.
My grandma back home in India tested positive for COVID. Now she’s an illiterate woman who fortunately never had to be admitted to a hospital ever before in her life. So I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her being treated in a COVID center and for my family who was in home-quarantine.
The situation was pretty dire back there at my home and there was nothing I could do to help them from here. I felt very helpless hoping for non-negative news every time they called me to give an update.
With God’s grace, my grandma recovered from COVID and returned home safe. The family was out of this stressful situation after close to 20-days and I could breathe a sigh of relief.
What they say is true, it only hurts harder when your own suffer from it.
Since I moved to Europe this year, I had great travel plans for 2020 which went to the dumpster because of obvious reasons.
However, I did manage to see some beautiful places before it became not-safe to travel:
- Amsterdam – Awwwards Conference
- Obernzell – Road Trip
- Dadra & Silvassa
The road trip to the country-side of Germany and Austria with my friend Rahul was a special one. Driving through the country-side, I felt like I was in heaven. Yes, it’s that pure and beautiful.
It was a tough year, that’s without a doubt. But I’m glad I ended it on a very positive note.
I’m going to remember 2020 for a very special event in my life of getting married to the love of my life and for finding a great place to work at.
I’m grateful for the opportunities and thankful for the happiness I received.
I would like to begin this new year by being a good husband amongst other things.
Personally, I would focus on my body to get it back in shape. And professionally, wrap up the open side-projects that I’ve had floating around for a while. All this while, of course, continue doing good work at my full-time job.
There’s peace in balance.
I’ve also been contemplating starting a personal newsletter. Maybe this is the year when I’ll finally pull the plug on it. Of course, I’ll let you know if I do. Until then, you can subscribe here.
Phew! That was a long post and it certainly took me a looong time to write. Since you’ve made it this far, I hope you enjoyed reading it. In case you’re interested in reading my past year reviews, you can find them here – 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.
Also, feel free to drop a link of your year-end review in the comments below. I do love reading a good retrospective.
P. S. This year, I also did a little research to try and find out what do people know me for. The results very quite refreshing. I shared a summary of insights in a Twitter thread here.
2 thoughts on “2020 – My Year in Review”
Wow… warm congrats to you and your lovely bride, Darshan. I hope you have many happy years together. Take care and stay safe. 🙂
Thanks a lot and I wish you too a very happy and safe new year 🙂