"Are you sure you can do this?"
Every couple months, something came up in my life when I had to ask myself this question. Sometimes every other day. Sometimes multiple times a day. Why? I thought the year of crazy was over!
The theme I had set for this year in my last review was "grow". I wanted to spend the year looking at opportunities to grow and expand, whatever form that would take.
The funny thing is, when you look for something vague like that, you will find the weirdest results. The things that you want will come packaged with the things you don't want, but you will need. If you accept the packaged deal, you will be thankful. If not, you'll soon end up looking for the same deal.
Every time I was presented an opportunity like this, I found saying to myself "This is a lot of work. Are you sure you can do this? You're not even good at this!".
The year started off with not one, but two areas of my life where I had to be the unwilling leader. Remember the new high-profile project that I was assigned to? Well, soon more people would be assigned to the same project, and I would be given some leadership responsibilities. I didn't want to be in that position, but I got to work on an awesome new project, which I definitely wanted. Starting out it was just one other person, on the team over the summer, so it wasn't too bad, and it gave me an opportunity to experiment and test my leadership capabilities.
But then in August, another person was added to the team, essentially doubling my concerns. Now I had to work even harder to make sure the team is motivated and productive. I don't think I did a great job being a leader and a team player there, even though I was a great programmer.
The other interesting and eventful area of my life was the IT Student Association (ITSA). My fasciation of student tech orgs and events is not hidden from anyone. I have been involved with ACM@UC for a while now, and there are a lot of things that I wanted to do but didn't get the opportunity to do so with ACM@UC. I also had some outsider feelings at ACM since it's almost entirely comprised of EECS students. I wanted an org like this but with IT students.
ITSA had existed for years, but they had been inactive for a couple years due to the old exec graduating, and COVID preventing events. There was no one with enough motivation to pick up the org and host some activities.
After having spent a considerable time in organizations and events, I felt confident that I could revive this org. I also wanted to take this opportunity to grow my network among the students, faculty, and industry, and host fun and educational events.
But obviously, I couldn't have done it alone. Running an organization also meant leading an organizations, which I was not good at. I still took the jump and held an election to get more executive members, and then selected some people to be committee chairs. But I could not follow through on a lot of things, especially sharing my passion and enthusiasm for hosting events and creating a community.
I will go into more detail on my time as the President of ITSA in my upcoming Honors Experience Showcase.
Speaking of organizations and events, I also love organizing larger events, especially hackathons. Since 2020, we have been doing 2 hackathons every year RevolutionUC and MakeUC, each hosted by different organizations. However, because of my interest in organizing, and the application I have built to help hackathon organizers, I have been a part of every hackathon. Last year, I led the web team of RevolutionUC.
This year, I got the same opportunity for MakeUC, which I refused, because last time it didn't go as well as I wanted it to (check out my RevolutionUC Honors Experience Showcase). So I instead volunteered as a regular volunteer instead of a lead, while still having a somewhat of a technical leadership role (since I was the most experienced).
In hindsight, I am not sure if rejecting that role was a good choice, because the hackathon ended up being pretty fun, and it was a good opportunity for me to re-test my leadership skills. Although the person who ended up leading the team did great, and I am not sure if I had the time to make that commitment. This is one of the opportunities that I now kinda regret not taking.
Something that did make me feel better about my leadership skills though is watching someone be a terrible leader and basically create a hostile environment and not understand how authority works. It gave me the feeling that while I might not be a great leader, at least I don't have the capability of being such a terrible leader.
While being a leader in ITSA was not the best experience, getting to host a variety of educational activities brought some of the best fruits I can imagine. I was able to network with a lot of great people, both in the industry and the faculty at UC. The ITSA executives (and by extension me) have been recognized as the leaders and representatives of the entire IT student body on multiple occasions, giving us the opportunity to work with people I never thought I would. On top of that, ITSA allowed me to attend a very high-profile tech conference and meet a lot more people who are deep in the industry that I want to get into, and I have built connections that will undoubtedly help me in the long term.
As I start a new year, my goals for the near future have become more clear and approachable. Now that I have started building my network, I can't progress much further with it until I have something to show people why they should look at me. So I have started working on this portfolio website a lot more. I have already added 2 new sections, Projects Showcase, and Blog. I want to turn this into an actual portfolio of my skills and my work by showcasing what I've done over the years, and writing about things that will capture attention and show how much I actually know about things. While I am pretty confident that I am ahead of my peers in this field, I also need to show some tangible evidence to support this claim, and this is the best way to do so. I have also started working on video content that I can put up on YouTube or TikTok and expand my reach even further.
So it seems pretty clear to me that the goal for this year is craft. Craft a personal brand that is catchy, unique, and represent who I am, craft my skill set to be something that I am proud of, craft applications and technology that helps the community, and craft my network using all of these things and expand my reach even further.