2021 Retro

2021 was not the easiest year for the world, but personally it was a good one in many ways.


I hit the one year mark at DuckDuckGo (more on that in: 1 Year @ DuckDuckGo), and got promoted for the second time ever in my career (my last job didn’t have promotions). A lot of my energy has been on building out and scaling the team, and it’s been cool to push some of the things we did to achieve that into the wider organization – such as changes to the hiring and onboarding process. I still get to spend time on product development, such the new products we’re building and better delivery overall.

Outside of my day job, a focus has been long term plays for what options I want to have open to me in 5 years. I became an LP in the Acquired Wisdom Fund; I’m really excited about the model of investing in experienced founders, and getting a closer insight into early stage companies.

And, I continued my coaching journey. I took 3/4 courses from the intermediate Co-Active program (one remaining in February), and worked with 3-4 clients at a time over the year, 5 total. I love coaching. I was worried about how I would find the time, but firstly, I find it really energizing, and secondly, it’s only about 2 hours a week. I’m excited to continue that in 2022, although I don’t plan to rush into certification (the Advanced section) as it’s a lot of work and I want to focus on other things for a while.

I had already given myself 2020 off speaking, and in 2021 I kept it light – I replied to many kind invitations with “unfortunately, I realized I hate giving talks on Zoom”. I gave one talk in person (a terrible mistake) and did 2 talks for the LeadDev Together program because LeadDev are the only people I’ve seen doing great remote events, and I have always loved working with them. I also moderated a panel for them, which is another thing I generally don’t do, but I loved the topic – Manager Mistakes – and got to invite some of my favourite people and play with a format of more in depth conversations (watch it here).

Generally feeling good about my priorities and trajectory here, and the balance between my day job and the space (both time and emotional) I have to do things outside of it. Hoping for that to continue in 2022.


My partner and I passed one year of living together, which was exciting. I can see how surviving lockdowns together would either affirm or destroy a relationship, and I’m grateful that ours was (mostly) affirmed. Once things reopened and the madness of summer accommodation abated (somewhat), we continued the attic renovation that we started in 2020, which continued to be a bit of a nightmare, now because of global supply chains. And since my partner got a job that required him to relocate to the Netherlands, we now have a second place in Rotterdam and are going back and forth. This is extra convenient in the periods where our Irish house is uninhabitable, and we’re figuring out how we want to split our time. As much as moving during a pandemic has been a nightmare, it’s been fun to explore a new city. I really like Rotterdam.

My fitness goals for 2020 were basically just “do what you can and survive a pandemic” (although I did also get my kayaking certification), but in 2021 I came back to my love of exercise. I caved and became a Peloton person (regular spin bike + app), and have been getting back into regular spin classes. I love the quality of the classes and the on demand nature, I am never going back to group exercise classes. I finally got a yoga mat and started trying to do yoga at least somewhat regularly. The gym has been a bit rubbish in Ireland, with one hour slots, advanced booking etc, and once I was vaxxed and wanting to do personal training again, I discovered that my trainer was an anti-vaxxer. But, I swam as much as possible, especially when we travelled. In Rotterdam I was able to get a good balance in with a mix of cardio/swimming, personal training (the gym right below us does these very intense 30 minute sessions), and spinning. It was great, and I’m excited to pick it back up again when we’re back there (and things are open).

I did a lot of crafting this year. I started it last winter break as a way to jump start my creativity. I’m not sure how creative I was after that – I mainly followed patterns – but it was a nice outlet, away from the computer. I completed four huge cross stitch projects, and many more smaller ones. I built some fun things using my Glowforge, hardest of which was the mini phone jukebox.

Our travel was mainly in Ireland this year, other than that I was only in France (for the terrible conference), Croatia (for work) and Rotterdam (to scope it out, and to live). We had a fun time exploring Ireland though, especially now we have a bigger car (a Suzuki Swift replaced Pinkness the Smart car – I still love a Smart car as a city runaround, but it was not fun for driving across Ireland in) returning to some of our favourite places from last year, like Liss Ard and Castlemartyr (we spent a month in one of the holiday homes). We had a weekend in Kinsale, which was lovely and a nice easy way to resume travel again, went to Fota, had a very quick (one night) trip up to Glengarrif to see the Ewe Experience (very weird but charming), went to Killarney to stay at the Europe (amazing, omg the swimming pool), and finally made it to Dingle (after last year’s trip to “not-Dingle”, aka Cahersiveen), where we stayed in a strange and not entirely comfortable place, with a gorgeous swimming pool. The Dingle peninsula is gorgeous though, a highlight was a seaweed bath by the side of the ocean. We also went to the K Club, where my partner enjoyed the golf, and I adored the spa, but we were otherwise a bit underwhelmed. I took my friend for a “decadent sleepover” at the Dean in Cork, which was super fun.

At the start of 2021, feeling a bit desolate, I booked a bunch of random things spread out through the year, figuring that we would at least get to do some of them. It went better than I expected and we made most things work, and I was really grateful to have things to look forward to. I’m hoping we can travel a bit further afield in 2022 – especially from our base on the continent, but we’ll see. Travel is still not fun in this timeline, and I am fine to wait until it is again. Except for my much delayed trip to St Lucia – originally planned for May 2020, now scheduled in May 2022.