2020 in Review

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Here is my review of 2020, the weirdest year of my life.


I had two career goals:

  • Expand my professional network
  • Embody Netflix culture


  • Led multiple cross-functional projects successfully
  • Transitioned to remote working without a hiccup
  • Had a productive Q1 and Q2 at work
  • Got used to providing positive feedback
  • Gave a public talk to a crowd of 200


  • Couldn’t understand the importance of Q3 and Q4 projects
  • Failed to get enough context on my domain to have a deep insight
  • Still not used to giving constructive feedback honestly
  • Did not expand my professional network outside the talk

Intended Changes

  • Start questioning the underlying assumptions of our projects. I am only as effective as the impact of the projects I work on. I need to make sure that they are worthy of the team’s time.
  • Make time at work to play with new technologies that I am not comfortable with.
  • Be more honest about challenging conversations and my career growth.


I had quite a few personal goals in 2020:

  • Continue to have a happy marriage
  • Rest more
  • Get leaner
  • Reach personal records on big lifts (Bench 225 lbs & Squat 360 lbs & Deadlift 405 lbs)
  • Keep up with the recent trends.
  • Read long forms vs. short forms


  • Stayed healthy throughout the year
  • Daily walks with my wife gave us more focused time with each other without devices.
  • Ran 10k in one go (first time ever!)
  • Published my newsletter every week
  • Read a couple of eye-opening books like How to Hide an Empire and Riding for Deliveroo


  • Messed up my diet and gained 5 lb while losing muscle.
  • Unable to work out as much as I wanted to due to COVID and the California wildfires
  • My sleep pattern was out of control
  • Couldn’t find the will to meditate
  • Read fewer books than I originally planned (37 out of 52)

Intended Changes

  • I’ve relied on my years of training to get away with an unhealthy diet and inconsistent sleep. I believe that reserve is now depleted. I need to start taking care of myself.
  • Accept that my life pattern has changed and adjust my plans accordingly.


I am grateful that none of my family has caught COVID-19, that my wife and I got to spend more time with each other, and that I did not have to worry about my job. I did ok considering everything. 

Young Reacts #106 – What do I want from my career and my life?

I had a bit of a crisis last week. On my bed lying, I realized that I would be almost 50 in 15 years. I don’t have as much time as I thought I would (you may say 50 is the new 40, but I don’t buy it). So I am spending this holiday season contemplating where I want to be and identify the specific areas I need to improve. These are the questions I’ve been thinking about:

  • Do I continue down the technical path or return to management? Which one will I be better at?
  • Do I keep working at Netflix or move (I told myself that I would work here for 5 years)? If I do move, then where?
  • Most importantly, what do I want from my career and my life?
Photo by Zac Harris on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

Measuring app stability to reduce technical debt – James Smith

I always found it hard to create a metric for UI app stability. Two suggested metrics look like a good starting point: “a percentage of successful application sessions” and “a percentage of daily active users who do not experience an error.”

The Import On Interaction Pattern – Addy Osmani

This article contains a list of useful performance tips if you are building a large application. As my team plans to build micro frontend components next year, these tips will come in handy.

ts-morph – David Sherret

ts-morph is a wrapper library to help manipulate Typescript’s abstract syntax tree. This is useful if you need to update some Typescript code automatically.

People ❤️

Simple Burnout Triage – Ben McCormick

One simple question to self-check if you have burnt out:

If you take the pace & quality of the last 2 months of your life and repeated it again and again, how long would you be able to sustain it?

A better offer letter – Henry Ward

Lack of transparency around a startup’s preference stack bites employees in less-than-ideal exits. I am not sure if Henry Ward’s own company Carta still does it (the post is from 2016), but this transparency level should be the norm.

Reimagining Employee Productivity in 2021 – Sabry Tozin

Now that we survived the year of the pandemic and normalized remote working, what’s next? A VP of Engineering at LinkedIn shares his perspectives. I especially liked his point that “[e]very professional interaction we have in this new world is scheduled, and this is not how we’re accustomed to work.”

Business 💸

Roku Torments Entertainment Giants in Quest to Dominate Streaming – WSJ

As the streaming market becomes more competitive, the device makers’ power is increasing. Roku is leading the smart TV market and throwing its weight around.

Young Reacts #105 – @defer and @stream Directives

My mandatory 14-day quarantine finished last Friday. I went out to Seoul, and it was a bit surreal to be around that many strangers. Then I realized it had been more than 9 months since I was anywhere near a crowd. 2020 has been weird and challenging in a deadly way. I hope 2021, with vaccines arriving, is much better.

Photo by Adam Chang on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

Improving Latency with @defer and @stream Directives – Rob Richard, Liliana Matos

With GraphQL, it is so easy to craft a query that fetches megabytes of data. Large queries like that increase the server response time and slow down client apps that need to parse the response. The new @defer and @stream directives enable fetching a type or a list in a piecemeal fashion.

What’s new with Apollo Client v3 and GraphQL Codegen – Dotan Simha

GraphQL’s true power is in its tooling ecosystem. Dotan Simha, the popular GraphQL Codegen library creator, discusses four plugins that you can today. I plan to adopt @graphql-codegen/fragment-matcher and @graphql-codegen/typescript-apollo-client-helpers this week.

Finding Critical Open Source Projects – Google Open Source Blog

Google Open Source team created a way to rank the importance of open source projects based on the related metrics. I was a bit surprised to find that React Native was ranked higher than React.

People ❤️

Standing with Dr. Timnit Gebru – Google Walkout For Real Change

The controversy around the firing of Dr. Gebru is gaining more steam even as Google CEO Sundar Pichai promised an investigation. The lack of transparency even for the internal folks is jarring.

Evolution of my role as a founder CTO – Miguel Carranza

Miguel Carranza, a CTO of a Series A startup, shares his journey from a two-person company to a team of 19. He is now transitioning from being a technical contributor to an engineering leader. I like that I got to hear a rare story of a non-CEO cofounder.

Business 💸

Announcing Workplace Records for Cloudflare for Teams – Cloudflare

While the idea of remote working from anywhere is liberating, it does make legal and tax problems for the employers; some jurisdictions require you to pay local corporate taxes if your employees work there. That creates a need for a tool like Workplace Records, which tracks where your employees are working.

Death of an Open Source Business Model – Joe Morrison

A popular map rendering library, mapbox-gl-js, just turned proprietary like Redis or MongoDB. Given that the cloud providers all keep adding new features to beat the competition, the venture-backed open-source companies have to figure out how to differentiate.

Young Reacts #104 – A Failed Internal Transfer

I applied for an internal transfer to an internal platform team for which I couldn’t pass the interview. My friends and family are incredulous that I had to go through an interview again for the internal transfer. While I am also deeply disappointed, I respect that the team stuck to the company’s culture of hiring only the best for the position.

Thankfully, the hiring manager offered to walk me through the solution to help me get prepared for the next time. 😃

Software Engineering ⚙️

Changing Lanes: How Lyft is Migrating 100+ Frontend Microservices to Next.js – Lyft

A JS build system requires an enormous amount of effort to maintain. Multiply by 100, and you get a huge productivity sink across teams. Lyft’s platform team leveraged Next.js for build best practices, jscodeshift for automatic platform upgrades, and Webpack plugins for shared code.

Module Federation: Micro-frontends with webpack 5 – Hege Haavaldsen

I heard of module federation newly introduced in webpack 5, but I never grasped how it could be used until I read this article. I like how simple it is to set the federation up, even though I am wary of relying on matching strings to federate.

New – Use Amazon EC2 Mac Instances to Build & Test macOS, iOS, ipadOS, tvOS, and watchOS Apps – AWS

Now we can build iOS apps on AWS instances. However, the price tag i’ price tag is quite hefty at $25.99 a day, which means you can buy a mini in 77 days. I am curious to see how iOS CI/CD space will evolve.

Artificial Intelligence Incident Database – Partnership on AI

This Database publicizes incidents related to AI, such as self-driving accidents, market flash crashes, and facial recognition biases. The hope is that the industry learns from one another’s mistakes and matures faster. The website looks like it is from the ’90s, but the entries are interesting.

People ❤️

The withering email that got an ethical AI researcher fired at Google – Platformer

Another controversy at Google. The contradictory accounts from the researcher and the department’s head make it hard to understand what exactly happened from the outside. But I could see her frustrations from how she was treated as a woman of color.

Business 💸

WarnerMedia’s CEO explains why he’s blowing up the movie business – Jason Kilar

In 2021, WarnerMedia will release all of its movies via HBO Max on the same day as theater releases. COVID-19 accelerated Hollywood’s transition to streaming by a couple of years. Two things to watch: 1. whether this acceleration took away time from Netflix to grow further, and 2. whether theaters will survive as a medium in the long term.

China’s iQIYI to Produce ‘Roommate’ as its First Korean Original Series – Variety

Many US streaming services are producing local-language originals across the globe. But I never thought of Chinese streaming services. Eyeopening

‘It will change everything’: DeepMind’s AI makes gigantic leap in solving protein structures – Nature

Another one of Deepmind’s breakthrough research. AlphaFold can predict a protein’s structure and function, enabling scientists to understand which genes are related to certain diseases.

Young Reacts #103 – Sending gifts to future-you

Over the weekend, my wife and I traveled to Korea for my sister’s wedding. We’ve been ordered to quarantine at home for the next two weeks. This experience has opened my eyes to how a government can use technology and bureaucracy to surveil its population (of course, in this case, it is for the better).

When we entered Korea, we were asked to install an always-on tracking application and register our information (including our identification numbers, phone numbers, and address where we will stay to quarantine). The airport agents then checked that we actually installed the applications and even called our contact on file to ensure we were reachable. Now, for the next two weeks, we have to enter our self-diagnosis three times a day into the application. If the application detects our GPS signal is off or not at the said address, we get calls from the agents right away. In the meantime, we get multiple emergency alerts about confirmed COVID cases in our city.

The combination of technology and bureaucracy is impressive, especially compared to the US’s response so far. But it is just as scary when I think about its possible misapplications.

Photo by Rohan G on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

Summary of the Amazon Kinesis Event in the Northern Virginia (US-EAST-1) Region – AWS

AWS suffered a long outage last week, impacting a variety of services such as Coinbase. Due to complex dependencies and latent issues, a simple act of adding more servers triggered cascading failures across different services for almost a full day. I appreciate that this summary is both detailed and honest.

GitHub Actions vs CircleCI – Kim Gault

I haven’t used GitHub Actions since my team has Spinnaker and Jenkins to do our continuous integration. So I found an article on the capabilities of Github Actions. tl;dr is that GitHub Actions is a good alternative to the more established services like CircleCI.

GraphQL Terminology – Cheatsheet – Ido Shamun

Do you wonder what a mutation, a directive, or a federation means? This cheatsheet is all you need.

People ❤️

Sending gifts to future-you – Tanya Reilly

Our “planning” (for our team or ourselves) often devolves into just listing what we planned to do anyway. But the right approach is to imagine ourselves in the future and figure out what we would wish we’d invested in. Like a 🎁

What did I forget by working for the same company? – Jaana Dogan

Jaana left Google because she no longer felt she knew where the rest of the industry was going. I fear that I will feel the same if I stay at Netflix for too long. I need to make sure that I can be productive outside Netflix’s internal infrastructure.

Vidyard: From sales-led to product-led and how it changed everything – Ashton Rankin

A business model affects more than the marketing and sales organizations. It changes how your product teams prioritize and how your engineering teams interact with the customers. This account gives a good view of how a business model change (from enterprise-sales to freemium) led to a full company transformation.

Business 💸

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer on Launching the New Xbox and the Future of Games – Phil Spencer

Two notable quotes from the executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft:

“Now, as you said, a TV is really more of a game console stuffed behind a screen that has an app platform and a Bluetooth stack and a streaming capability.” -on TVs as a gaming platform

“I want third parties to see the distribution and monetization capability of Game Pass as something that is accretive to their business and important to them.” -on Xbox’s platform strategy

Are you a seal? – Benedict Evans

Startups often worry about how to fight the big tech companies off their turfs. So did my teams. But the right question is, if and why they would enter your market?

Young Reacts #102 – Writing accessible code

It is weird that we don’t talk about our past experiences at work unless it is the very first introductory 1:1. Even during that chat, we may talk about the newer person’s history, but we don’t talk about the others’.

That is a big loss on everyone’s part. You may have relevant experience that could help my current project (“Are you an expert at web components? Great! We are considering it for the next project. What’s your take on the technology?”). Or just the empathy from understanding our background would be useful.

I loved how my team shared our individual journeys with 5-7 photos as an icebreaker last week. I think you should try it with your team!

a person holding four photos
Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

Writing accessible code – Julia Ferraioli

A product may be accessible, but that doesn’t mean its code is accessible. So Julia wrote about a couple of ways to make code more readable to disabled engineers. Among others, the tip about using newlines meaningfully was new to me. Just as non-disabled people find accessible products easier to use, I expect the same for the accessible code.

International Telephone Input – Jack O’Connor

I recently had to add a country code input at work. It was more interesting than I anticipated. I originally planned to create a dropdown option per country, but that wasn’t possible because some countries have more than one country codes. So I ended up creating an option per code, which was also complicated because some countries share the same country codes.

I couldn’t have done the work in the short amount of time I did if this open-sourced collection of codes had not existed.

Does it ARM?

It turns out backward compatibility is hard. This website shows if your favorite devtool runs on M1 Macbook yet. (Spoiler: VS Code doesn’t yet)

People ❤️

Being visible – Will Larson

I believe that internal visibility at large companies leads to more opportunities and credibility. One shouldn’t have to play this game if they don’t want. But if you do, this article has a few useful tips like “Write more long-lived documents,” “Be a cheerleader for your team’s and peers’ work,” and “Attend, or potentially even host, office hours for your team.”

Business 💸

Developers see a world of possibilities with new App Store Small Business Program – Apple

Apple announced a program to half its fee to 15% for businesses with <$1M revenue. It may be due to antitrust pressure, but I still think many indie developers will find their apps more viable now. I don’t particularly care if which of the large co (say Epic or Apple) takes the cut.

Flash Loans, and Attacks — explained – The Defiant

A video describing flash loan attacks in the decentralized finance world in an amusing style. In short, attackers take a large flash loan (a loan for a single transaction) to create a price difference of a crypto asset between markets and take advantage of it. Notably, all the protocols have been “audited.” It makes me wonder what they actually “audit.”

Young Reacts #101 – Netflix’s GraphQL Federation

I will be in Korea for 6 weeks after Thanksgiving. I will be so bored without my gaming PC, so I am giving a go at Microsoft’s XBOX Game Streaming and ordered a Bluetooth enabled controller. It is mindblowing that I can play triple-A titles like Witcher 3 and Fifa 20 on my tiny Pixel 3, not to mention that my game saves will be synced across devices. All I need now is this one controller.

Photo by Kamil S on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

How Netflix Scales its API with GraphQL Federation (Part 1) – Netflix

My close colleagues published my org’s journey into GraphQL Federation. I’ve worked on paving the path for UI engineers to adopt the new federated graph and building the right schema that will stand the test of time. I liked that the article gives a thorough context on why we decided to build the federated graph.

Operator Lookup – Josh Comeau

I always had a hard time remembering names like “Nullish Coalescing” (which is ??). This simple site makes it easy to find the names.

Systematically removing code – Henrik Nyh

While static type checking and tools like ts-prune help, I still need to remove code manually daily. I learned to be methodical like this article so that I don’t have to rush a CSS hotfix.

Small Copy, Big Impact – Allen Pike

Since our designers are time-constrained, a lot of the copy work falls onto the engineers. That led to inconsiderate success messages like “Success” or incorrect error messages. I will at least keep this in mind:

Are there verbs that could be more thoughtfully named? Is there any generic “Continue” or “OK” buttons that could be clearer or more compelling?

People ❤️

Kill Your Heroes, Stop Doing it Harder – Will Larson

“Projects fail slowly, fixing them takes time too.” struck me. A broken system that forces people to work in a crunch will repeatedly do so. There won’t be an overnight fix, an individual heroic act saving the day. We have to fix the process.

Business 💸

Apple Silicon M1 Chip in MacBook Air Outperforms High-End 16-Inch MacBook Pro – MacRumors

The highly anticipated MacBook Air will become available tomorrow. Intel’s fall and the rises of Apple and TSMC are clear in these benchmarks where the low-end Air with M1 beats the previous high-end devices with Intel chips.

Why IPOs, Direct Listings, and SPACs Will Flourish in Startupland – Tomasz Tunguz

A short analysis of why there have been many tech IPOs despite the uncertainty. tl;dr:

raising capital in the public markets is now less expensive than in the private markets.

Young Reacts #100 – Centennial Edition 💯

My habit is my superpower. I am not great at going into overdrive and pulling an all-nighter. But I can keep doing the same thing day-in and day-out for a long time. This newsletter has been one of those things for the last 2 years. I thank you, readers, for being part of the journey. To celebrate all 100 issues, I am re-sharing the articles that made a lasting impact on me.

To the next 💯!

Celebrating 100
Photo by Floris Andréa on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

How Complex Systems Fail – Richard I Cook

I keep coming back to the lessons of this short reading almost daily. I especially find “Catastrophe requires multiple failures – single point failures are not enough.” and “Human practitioners are the adaptable element of complex systems.” insightful.

When frontend means full stack – Chris Coyier

While we are all called “frontend engineers,” we come in a different shape. That means: 1. when we look for the next role, we need to think about what we truly enjoy. 2. when we hire for our team, we need to look for the exact skills the team needs explicitly.

Blogged Answers: A (Mostly) Complete Guide to React Rendering Behavior – Mark Erikson

I read this a month ago, but I already used the article’s learnings multiple times about setState. If you skipped this article because it’s too long, please think again.

People ❤️

The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers – Daniel F. Chambliss

“Excellence is accomplished through the doing of actions, ordinary in themselves, performed consistently and carefully, habitualized, compounded together, added up over time.” This is my kind of jam.

The Feedback Fallacy – Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall

A lack of shortcomings does not make one excellent. We need to focus on each other’s strengths that make us uniquely effective.

Get your work recognized: write a brag document – Julia Evans

When busy with daily work, I forget what I achieved last week, let alone last year. Just the act of writing a brag document has saved me from impostor syndrome countless times.

Don’t ask forgiveness, radiate intent – Elizabeth Ayer

The proverb, “Don’t ask for forgiveness, ask for permission,” makes a terrible teammate. When we are part of the team, we need to radiate intent and align better.

Speed as a Habit – Dave Girouard

I started asking, “when do you think will finish the thing?” and that cleared up a lot of uncertainty when collaborating. There are more great tips I haven’t internalized yet.

Business 💸

The rise of the global first startup – Elizabeth Yin

The article was written before the COVID. I can only imagine that the trend is now far more accelerated since everyone’s remote.

The New Brandeis Movement: America’s Antimonopoly Debate – Lina Khan

With the Biden administration next year, we will see how the antitrust issue will play out. But I hope the administration continue the inquiry and reform where necessary.

Thank you for reading this issue. I hope you stay with me for the next 100!

Young Reacts #99

In the US, the daylight saving time ended over the last weekend. The start and end of daylight saving time reminded me of when I was working on data visualizations.

If you store and render the data in UTC, you can safely assume that every hour exists. But that’s not true if you want to represent the data in timezones with daylight savings. I remember that our visualizations would break because 2 AM is missing when the saving time ends (you also get two data points for the same hour when the daylight saving starts). It’s a funny reminder that even seemingly absolute things like time can’t be relied upon in programming.

Photo by Ocean Ng on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

ts-prune – Nadeesha Cabral

While code linters can automatically detect unused variables inside the modules, it has been very time-intensive to find unused modules; I manually global-search exported variables (it gets much, much worse if the same names are used for different variables). This CLI tool promises to automate that process.

Why Rounded Corners Are Easier on the Eyes – UX Movement

Have you wondered why your designer always round corners? Here are your answers: First, sharp edges make the object look brighter and harder to look at. Second, we are raised to avoid sharp objects in the physical world. And last, smoother paths make it easier to process the information.

Myths about useEffect – Kent C. Dodds

I started using hooks as soon as they’ve become available. However, I still learn every day. In this article, I found the shift in perspective from “when does this effect run” to “with which state does this effect synchronize with” illuminating.

Rebuilding Twitter’s public API – Twitter

Twitter is building its public REST API with a GraphQL backend. In other words, if you hit their REST endpoint, they translate your request into a GraphQL request to an internal GraphQL endpoint. I am most curious about how Twitter develops and maintains the internal GraphQL schema for both consumer app use cases and the REST API use cases.

People ❤️

Career ladders aren’t enough – you need a thoughtful promotion process, too – Sarah Milstein

If a company leaves the personnel decisions solely up to the managers, it is hard for employees to see that the process is fair. The process needs an explicit and well-understood structure to justify its decisions.

Business 💸

How Riot created the virtual universe of the 2020 League of Legends World Championships – Polygon

Because of the current pandemic, much of the League of Legends world was held in a closed space without live audience. To create a dynamic stage suitable for the competition of this level, Riot Games used the virtual studio based on Unreal Engine, also used by The Mandalorian. I very much look forward to how this technology will change film productions.

NVIDIA Announces Cloud-AI Video-Streaming Platform to Better Connect Millions Working and Studying Remotely – NVIDIA

Instead of saving bits with more efficient compression, Nvidia saves by regenerating the image with AI on its cloud platform based on a few key points. It is most useful if your upload bandwidth is limited. Here is a link to the demo video.

Young Reacts #98 – React 17

I don’t have many things to share, so I will keep it short. Happy Halloweens!

Photo by Łukasz Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Software Engineering ⚙️

React v17.0 – React

React 17 is out. The goal of this release is to make it easier to upgrade React in the future. While there are no new features, that doesn’t mean there are no breaking changes. Watch out for subtle changes in event propagations.

Full-Bleed Layout Using CSS Grid – Joshua Comeau

Setting up a clean, scalable layout saves many headaches down the line. Please read this guide if you are starting a new project. I am sure I will come back to this article many times in the future.

People ❤️

Engineering management 101: evaluating your team’s performance – Camille Fournier

The key lesson in this article is that “[e]valuations start long before it’s time to actually determine a rating.” If you are a manager, set your expectations explicitly and communicate them repeatedly with your reports. As a report, we all should strive to clarify the expectations.

Rejections – Vishnu Bharathi

When I was looking for a job before, I found the whole process demoralizing. That feeling of strangers scoring your past achievements and potential hurt my self-esteem. I hope you read this article and find it encouraging to know that you are not alone on this journey to your dream job.

Business 💸

United States v. Google – Ben Thompson

The Department of Justice of the United States sued Google for its alleged anticompetitive behavior. That alleged violation is how Google pays smartphone makers to be the default search engine, which improves its algorithm with more data and takes away the breathing room from the competitors.