2019 – a recap

Let’s do the usual.. Things that went well and those that didn’t. Starting with those that did not go so well –

Tara

Tara was diagnosed with celiac after five months of tormenting diagnosis. The blood draws, the endoscopy, the ambiguity with each specialist that we met during the course of diagnosis. It was all very new for Agam and me. And of course extremely traumatizing for little Tara. We were told that she is likely the youngest kid to be diagnosed with Celiac. 

Family

We had to cancel our well planned and much awaited trip to Greece with Amma and Papa. It was so disheartening and exhausting to cancel all bookings and incur the losses that came with it. But most disheartening was that I could not keep my promise to celebrate Amma’s PhD how we had planned to. Quite a disaster.

A tryst with life and death and in between – 

I lost a cousin. My eldest cousin who carried me on his shoulders when I was a lil kid. I still can’t believe he is no more. A half lived life. A grieving mother. 

A few months after that I witnessed an almost hit and run accident. I saw a human body tossed in the air, and land a few inches away from my feet. His blood on my shoes. It all worked out in the end. Paramedics arrived on time, and a police case was registered. But these two incidents stirred me. 

I still shiver when I walk by the intersection where the accident happened. And I will never forget the day when we drove to Half Moon Bay since I was feeling a little low, and as soon as we arrived, my Mom called to tell me that my cousin had passed away. No one had told me anything about his illness and the fact that he was in the hospital. I could not tell if I was cold with the news or the chill in the air at the beach. 

We witnessed a friend go through the pain of losing a parent to cancer. Things you read in books actually came true. I ended up arranging for the funeral and got a first hand experience of facing death and departure. It was tormenting. But it also offered a closure on my own half lived experiences. I was offered this opportunity and I am thankful for it. But it was so disheartening to see my friend struggle with the expenses associated with medical treatments in the US, while dealing with the grief of losing her mother to cancer. 

I sucked at prioritizing myself –

I dropped out from my daily walks in summer and was unable to get back to them for a variety of reasons. That meant that my ‘simple to follow’ health regime failed and I fell off the wagon. Walks make me happy. I failed to prioritize my happiness.

Tara got her celiac from me. But I refuse to go through the diagnosis. I have severely reduced my gluten intake. But that’s about it. I don’t have the energy to go through the cycles of diagnosis. I suck at prioritizing my own health. And this year was no different.

There were a few upheavals on the work front too –

I went through some major challenges at work with respect to org transfers. Something that should have been bureaucratic paperwork turned into a project that consumed energy and patience of multiple people involved. I wish the whole process had been easier on everyone. More than my time and morale, I was very troubled by the time my leadership had to spend on this issue. For once in my life I became the “problem child”. A phrase borrowed from my class teacher in middle school. She used to always tell my father, “Mr Khullar, you don’t need to come to PTAs. Your daughter is not a problem child.”

I experienced dissonance between how I operate and how my team perceives me. Some of it was us just getting used to each other’s styles. But it was a difficult phase for me as a manager to operate in an environment where I was not sure what to trust and how to proceed. I thrive on trust, and for a whole quarter, I experienced something I had not been exposed to ever in my professional life – lack of people’s trust in my intentions. It was a major professional blow. It was a first, and hence I probably took it more personally. It was quite a journey.

I struggled with the “what do I want to do with my career?” question a lot this year. I am in a strange place where the teams I work for see value in a certain skill set that I for some reason take for granted. And the skill that I thought I had is slowly rusting away. So I struggle with – “How do I add value currently?” vs “How do I want to add value in the long term?” I don’t think I got any clear answers. But I simplified my choices based on where I am in my personal life, the current team/environment I am in and boiling it down to whether I am driving impact today or not. The good news is that there is no near term crisis to solve. The bad news is I will slip if I don’t see a future in what I am doing. I need to see the next step in whatever I do. It encourages me. I don’t see a clear next step for myself, from where I stand today. And it is OK for me to not have that until I work for the team I am in, but this equilibrium is sustained by a few forces, and any movement in these forces can de-stabilize my situation rather quickly.

As a result of all that was going on at work I experienced a bout of impostor syndrome. I switched environments within Google. And this adjustment has been a little challenging. I was quite impatient with myself most of this year. I fortunately had a lot of patient people helping me along . I don’t think I could have survived it without their patience with my impatience.

I also experienced my first, mansplaining. Cannot believe I survived 36 years without having experienced it. I have a thick skin for things like that but I realized how that might not be the case for other women. Sigh! 

And now onto the happy stuff – 

Tara and I did some projects together, like Project Nemo – where we picked family pictures for our walls. It was a lot of work and lots of planning. We did a few other mini projects like engaging her in kitchen work, and encouraging her to help her friends and teachers in school. She and I also created some stories and poems together. Most of our projects were quite successful 🙂

Lots of time by the water. I LOVE the ocean. And I had my share of ocean time this year. With two Hawaii trips, and several beach trips to Santa Cruz, Dana Point, and Monterey I was a happy crab. Oh also on our Kauai trip we also saw the Milky Way studded in the sky. That was a major YAY!

I baked less, but cooked a lot. We did not have much help through the year, so I figured out newer ways to simplify dinners and Tara’s meals. We made a lot of bowls – Acai Bowls, Poke Bowls, Egg and veggie bowls that were a great way to eat a lot of nutrients in a fun way. And learning how to make acai and poke was simply splendid..!

I got a lot of very good advice this year. Across a spectrum of topics and from a diverse set of folks. To ask for help does not come naturally to me. But a lot of times this year I was in a situation where I didn’t know the answers and I leaned on my support system to guide me. It was so gratifying to get all the help I needed. And a lot of hugs too. Talking to people helps me clear my mind. It’s literally the best thing that happened to me at work this year. I spoke to a lot of people from different parts of Google and even outside Google. Rich conversations full of insights, guidance and feedback. 

Tara’s has a great sense of rhythm and she is quite lyrical in her conversation style. It is a joy to see this world from her lense. She appreciates the beauty in simple things. She seeks joy in being helpful to others. She is a good child. She is more like a friend than a daughter to me. I hope it stays that way.

More about Tara

Tara started hiking with us. She is such a champ. We did six real hikes with her and made some lovely memories on those hikes. Her record is 5.4miles. We want to do a lot more next year.

We started watching movies in a theater with Tara. We saw, Toy Story, Frozen, It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and Secret life of pets. It’s a lot of fun watching movies with her 😀

I went on an adrenaline packed trip to Delhi and Hyderabad for work and ended up spending 24 hours with Mom and attending the sixth day of Durga Puja. It was wonderful to get undiluted time with Mom. And the trip made me realize how I am capable of stretching myself across roles. It was a very insightful trip for both professional and personal reasons.

Despite how the year started, I turned the tide on perf and feedback from team. Lots more to do. And a lot more trust to be won. But at least I don’t feel insecure in my environment anymore. Impostor continues. I think that’s going to stay for a bit. I am still not certain about how to navigate the environment and if there is a road ahead for someone like me in an engineering organization. But for now, I definitely have a packed year ahead and I am looking forward to drive the projects I am undertaking, including ramping a team in India. 

I am not sure if this deserves a mention here, but I finally found what I thought I was joining Google for, now almost five years ago – a dose of idealistic leadership that I can observe and learn from. I was tired of seeing siloed, self-promoting leadership styles at Google. I wondered if I’d ever be led by someone I’d actually respect, and want to emulate. And my wish has finally been granted. It is very satisfying to work for someone who makes it easy for you to determine what is the next right thing to do. You can call it empowering. But it is a bit different than that. It’s more like, let’s operate from first principles, and see how far that goes. And if that doesn’t work then do the right thing and I’ve got your back. I had experienced this type of leadership a decade ago. I thrived in that environment. And I feel like I am thriving again. Well let’s not jinx it. 

Although, I have been blogging since 2005, this blog has been around since last 10 years. And I’ve been writing a recap for the year over the last ten years. Being consistent with my passion is definitely a Yay!!

Last but not the least I self published a short and flimsy collection of some sub standard and grammatically abhorrent poems. It was a birthday project for Tara, and I got the inspiration from my ex-manager. She likes to challenge me. D’uh knows me too well. But I am glad I put it out there. My next project is already in the works. I hope to publish it before Tara’s 10th birthday 😉

Overall this year, Agam and I faced a few storms, and raised Tara with a lot of love and effort. She will start school in 2020 and we know there is a lot of change ahead of us. As we try to manage our careers, spend time with our families, travel, take care of our health and that of our parents, and raise Tara, may we also find time to take care of ourselves, and each other. We need to take out some “we” time. We did better this year with a two nights when Tara was home with a sitter. But I think we need a little bit more.

Thankful for all that 2019 gave us, and waiting to kick off 2020 with a lot of enthusiasm and hope.
We leave for Delhi tomorrow for our annual pilgrimage. Cheers to happy times.

Happy Holidays! 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s