Year in Review - 2021 Edition

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Year in Review - 2021 Edition. Illustration has a woman talking to a phone and looking at her computer. It also has the year 2021 written in the top right corner.

It's that time of the year again: time to look back and summarize what has happened last year. And when I started listing different things, oh boy, what a year has it been!

This blog post will look into some of the highs and lows of 2021 in my life. I also checked what I've added to Polywork and made a collection of 2021 highlights. There are some additional things there, so if you want to have a look, here's the link:

2021 Highlights in Polywork

Let's dive in.

Blogging

So, I started blogging a little over a year ago. First, I was publishing my posts in Dev.to. In the fall, I finally put together my own blog, and since then, I've published the posts first there and then cross-posted to Dev.to.

In addition to that, I've published a couple of other blog posts, one in Mimmit Koodaa (a Finnish organization working towards equality in tech) and in my previous workplace's blog.

I want to mention a couple of my favorites:

This blog post has been part of my talk with the same name, and I've shared it when speaking at conferences. I've also been able to use it at work; I've been constructing checklists for PR templates, and this blog post has been really helpful.

This blog post has been one of the hardest to write and publish. When I cross-posted it to Dev, I got tons of comments - many telling me how wrong I am to feel excluded. Some of them were really rude, and I noticed I'm still reluctant to publish posts in Dev after that.

In addition to rude comments, I got supportive comments, and I am super happy about them. So thank you all who wrote them!

I guess one of the reasons I feel so bad after the comments is that this was the first time I faced this much hatred towards my opinions on the internet. And I'm sad to see that in the developer community, there are so many people who want to ignore the feelings of those in minorities.

Although this was the hardest to write and publish, I'm proud that I did it.

The points I list in this blog post are something I've come back to throughout the year. I've been either reminding myself about them or the others in different instances. The most important point has been that nobody knows everything. And yet, we often feel bad and talk ourselves down because we think we should know everything.

Oh, and one more accomplishment in blogging: I've started recording my blog posts. That means they will be available in both written and audio formats and thus serve more people.

Speaking

Last year I was also speaking a lot compared to the previous year. There was a total of 11 different events, plus some internal talks. Of these 11, seven were conferences, one was a vodcast, and the rest were meetups or other speaking engagements.

The talk for the year was definitely "Don't Develop Just for Yourself - A Developer's Checklist to Accessibility." I gave it in six events. I also talked about the theme of "Reduced motion" and equality in tech.

I'll list three of my favorite events and say a couple of words about them.

Euruko 2021

Euruko was so much fun! It was organized remotely, and they streamed some things from an actual studio. Most of the speakers gave their talks remotely, but I got to go to the studio to speak.

Even though we had some minor technical difficulties, the experience was incredible. I mean, I got to meet some real people 😄 Also the production was good.

However, the community was the key to making the event fantastic. Even though I don't use Ruby or Rails, I was already talking with someone that I was already telling people that I will mark Euruko 2022 in my calendar right away because of the community. So, see you then!

Mimmit Koodaa This is Not a Webinar

Okay, this is something I just need to mention. It was the event where I received the Mimmit Koodaa-award (more on that later). But that was not all - I also gave a talk at the event with my (former) colleague.

We spoke about the importance of role models and representation and how to encourage representatives of minorities to be those role models.

It was my first talk where I collaborated with somebody. As the Covid-situation did not let us practice in person (and the talk was streamed live from a studio, so we were at the same place), I was super nervous. But it went well!

And it actually led to an opportunity to be a guest in a radio program for the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). So, I also made my first visit to the radio in 2021.

Inclusive Design 24

Speaking at Inclusive Design 24 was definitely one of the year's highlights. Even though I've decided my strategy in speaking about accessibility is to get to the conferences that are not about accessibility, ID24 was something I have dreamed of for some time. And when the email came that they accepted my talk, I was thrilled.

I spoke about reduced motion, a theme dear to me. The response was great, and I also got to meet one of my role models in the accessibility world, Sarah Higley, as she was hosting the session.

Also, the other talks were so good. I've been watching the recordings and got some ideas from them. For example, the talk about Auditorial gave me the idea to start recording my blog posts and adding a possibility to listen to them.

Accomplishments

When looking back last year, it's been a year of accomplishments. I'll name a few.

Mimmit Koodaa-award

First, Mimmit Koodaa-award. I was the first person in history to receive the award for my volunteering and my work for equality and breaking the IT industry's stereotypes. It's a great honor. One fantastic thing regarding the award was that my role model, former president of Finland Tarja Halonen, presented it. She has done so much for equality and has had a remarkable career. I highly recommend reading about her, if you haven't yet.

Finalist in Nordic Women in Tech Awards

Continuing with the awards theme, I was nominated and shortlisted to be a finalist in the Nordic Women in Tech Awards in the category Rising star of the year. That was an honor!

Naisten Linja

Naisten Linja works to help women and girls who have faced violence. I've been working to help build their website as a volunteer. That has been one of the most meaningful things for the last year. The work they do is super important.

Started at Oura

And finally, the one thing I'm super happy about is that I switched jobs from the consulting world to a product company to work as an accessibility specialist. If you want to read my initial thoughts about the first month, head to this blog post I wrote: First Month as an Accessibility Specialist at Oura.

Things You Probably Didn't See

I Got Tired

It was a challenging year. Not from the remote working perspective, no. That is actually something I enjoy. But there have been some other contributors that have led me to be on sickness leave.

It has been primarily work-related, which was one reason I switched jobs. Right now, I'm happy to be working in a role that I have control over, and I get to concentrate on accessibility.

Last spring was hard, and there were so many changes and uncertainties in the project I was working on. And this was even though the project team was fantastic! Many things worked smoothly, and we had good communication with the client. We had control over many things related to the project we were doing. People on the team - both from our and the client's side - were nice.

However, I was tired when the summer was approaching because of uncertainties and other things. To be honest, I was exhausted. And I realized that even though we had control over the project-related things, the uncertainties came from the corporation level, and no one in our team could do anything about it.

Maybe the best decision for the whole spring was to call the occupational health doctor and get sickness leave for the last two weeks before the holidays.

When the worst was over and I started to see more clearly, I realized that I needed change. Many of the problems that caused my condition were because I was working in a consultancy. So I sent an application to the one company I had often said that I would apply to when I wanted to switch away from consulting. I could say that the rest is history. Or some other cliché.

Exploring the Nature

I am one of those who picked up a new outdoor hobby in 2020. I learned kayaking in a local club, and I could say that was one of the best decisions ever. I've seen so many incredible, beautiful places that you can only reach by water.. And I've continued learning this year, and my next goal is to pass Euro Padel Pass level 2.

Another thing I've picked up in the last two years has been hiking. I've visited some Finnish national parks and can only repeat that Finnish nature is stunning. And nights in a hammock, away from all the rush and negativity on the internet, that is just amazing.

To give some numbers from this theme, I visited 11 out of 41 Finnish national parks last year. I plan to visit all of them at some point, but as I live in the south and many are in Lapland, it will take some time to accomplish.

So, What's Next?

I don't want to set anything in stone. These past years have shown that anything can change in an instant, and so can my plans. However, there are some themes I'd love to see being part of my life this year.

Cognitive Accessibility

This year, I want to learn more about cognitive accessibility. I think I have a basic knowledge about it, but I want to go deeper.

This goal is related to so many things - work, studies (technical communications), and personal life. I want to understand it better and to be able to help people around me to create content that is more accessible for everyone, and especially for those who need cognitive accessibility.

Accessibility Content in Finnish

I've noticed that writing (and speaking) about accessibility is more natural for me in English. My approach to content creation around accessibility has been about the content I needed - and one thing I want to improve is that I create content in Finnish as well. That's something I totally would have needed when I started learning about coding and accessibility.

So, I have some ideas for content creation in Finnish in 2022. However, I will not stress myself out about it.

Spend More Time Outdoors

As mentioned in the previous section, I've picked up some covid-safe hobbies such as kayaking and hiking. I want to continue with those and spend some more time outdoors in 2022. I also want to spend more nights outside in my hammock, preferably after a day of kayaking in different places. And when there is no water around, hiking is okay too.

So, to conclude this post, I want to wish you a happy New Year, may it be better than the previous ones!

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