2015 Recap

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I called 2015 as "Best year ever". As I reflect today, it was indeed one of the best years in my life personally and professionally. Before I recap my last year, similar to what I have written in the past, I will call out some big personal milestones that occurred in 2015. Sakthi officially became my better half in January, and we also welcomed our little angel Swara in October.  Became a husband and also father, double promotion in the last one year:). Professionally I made a big career change - after being in human resources for about 5+ years, I moved to a technical product management role in Bing search user experience (Microsoft has a title of Program Managers unlike the industry). It definitely got me to closer to one of my passions- technology. So that sums up some big changes at home and work, among many other things that happened in the last one year.  Now let us review actions in my passionate areas in 2015 and goals for 2016.

Technology :
My Goal for 2015 was to make a shift in my career where I get to work closely with technology.
  • Did some good research and experimentation on streaming services technology in the industry and even wrote a review on various devices available in the market like Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast etc. It is one of the most read posts in my blog ever in the last 10 years. I even got an advertisement sponsor for my blog from one of the streaming channels. Did some good research on prepaid phone plans in the US , which I have reviewed here.
  • Got hooked into researching on the tech business models like, on demand services etc. along with few other friends. This is still in infancy. 
  • Dirtied my hands with Android app programming, by setting up the environment to creating some basic screens. Took a course in Udacity to learn android programming and  open APIs. After many years, dabbled again with programming, leant some new stuff.
  • My job post October got me closer to technology, so have been learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript to better understand how to build awesome user experience. Even revamped my blog theme with a great theme from BlogTipsnTricks.
For 2016, my goals outside of work are : (1) Swift programming (2) Machine learning basics.
Plan : I would try to attend some MOOCs, read few books and build some basic app and some basic classifier or spam filter to deepen my learning in the coming months.

Health & Fitness
2015 goal was to complete STP in a day , and a stretch goal of completing Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3.
  • Completed STP in 18 hours , with a sprained leg and a broken rear derailleur in my bike. Trained well with Asha Seattle biking group and raised close to 600+ USD for the cause of educating kids in India. Checkout my training summary in this video.
  • Could not participate in any other events like lake to lake swim, GrandFondo or Ironman 70.3. My fitness levels varied through the year, beginning of January was my peak level of fitness and gradually deteriorated by the year end. Irregular exercise schedules and erratic (over) eating behaviors due to stress were back last year.
  • By end of the year got back some focus to eating better, tried master cleanse in March and again in December. Those provided some sanity, and some experiments with food and exercise helped me to maintain my vital numbers in the safe range. By December, I switched my diet to eat more real food, and reduced intake of processed foods or grains.
For 2016, my top 3 goals for fitness are  : (1) Get body fat level to below 20% (2) One day finish at STP  (3) Swimming : 300 miles , cycling 1000 miles
Plan : I would stick to the same diet of eating real foods (Veggies, egg, meat , fruits, skip sugar and grains), with intermittent fasting. Regular at swimming (learn flip, dive) and cycling. 

Personal Finance
I did not set clear goals for 2015, but just called out that I need to act more with changes in my life.
  • With FATCA / FBAR regulations, I completely stopped investing in Indian mutual funds. Switched my residential accounts to NRO/NRE accounts
  • Reworked on the asset allocation of my mother's portfolio and built a comprehensive master document
  • Moved my retirement investing to US index funds completely - Increases 401(K) contributions and started investing in Roth IRA. Aggressively invested in Health savings account, which helped in all the hospital expenses I had last year for my wife's delivery and emergency visits. 
  • Built emergency corpus separately in US , doubled my term insurance coverage with the increase in dependents.
  • Continued to stay away from debt, and focused on savings rate (% of income surplus saved) rather than investment returns as a key metric for improving. Tracked my spending pretty well inspite of high expenses by end of the year with life changing events.
For 2016, my top 2 goals : (1) Increasing the saving rate to move towards financial freedom (2) Continue to stay away from debt
Plan : Do a good risk management, with options to handle unforeseen events. Manage expenses diligently and relook every recurring expenses.

Books
For 2015, I had a goal to improve my reading habit and read more books.
  • I did spend a good amount of time reading about 21 books, and also reviewed them most of the times in this blog. 
  • Taleb became my favorite author, read 3 of his books. Got inspired deeply by Charlie Munger & Warren Buffet's writing.
  • Goodreads gave a good summary of my reads here
  • My major focus areas of reading were Finance, investing, business, randomness & Mathematics
For 2016, my top 2 goals : (1) Read 25 Books at an analytical level (2)  Write about 10 companies
Plan : Read 2 books a month, and increase comprehension by writing regularly. Write analysis of 1 company a month and read 25 pages a day. Write a page every week.

Music
This used to be holding bucket to write about any other thing I spend time like movies, travel, music  etc. So did not write my goals last year. Now I have forked it to Music as an area of focus and reduce my involvement in things like movies.
  • Had been scratchy with my Tabla classes. I almost gave up on learning a musical instrument mid of the year, but luck got me a Mridangam teacher in Seattle.
  • My mom gave me an audio clip of Rudram 7 years ago when I was in XLRI. Have been listening to it almost every other day. But only in the past year I learnt to chant them. Now I am able to chant Lagunyasam, Namakam & Chamkam  along with Purushasuktam. Have got associated with Seattle Rudram chanting group and attended ekadasa Rudram (11 times) chanting every month.
Goals for 2016 : (1) Play Aadi Talam in Mridangam fairly well (2) Memorize Rudram, and sukthams
Plan :  Practice Mridangam at least 2 days a week and attend weekly classes regularly. Memorize one stanza of Rudram a week.

Movies , Travel & More
So there had been no goal are intentional focus in this area always. I used to enjoy watching movies and it was the biggest time killer. I did watch most of the Tamil movies last year, and by end of the year with added responsibilities, could not catch up with new movies. I did travel to a some new places in January after marriage. Visited Singapore, Indonesia (Bali) for our honeymoon.  Short trips to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Colorado & Vancouver, Canada. The second half of the year with Swara's arrival our travel bags are in the backburner, but pretty excited about our travel to India in March 2016 to visit our extended family.  Wrote at least one post a month in this blog, and hope to write every month next year as well. That is a 2015 summary of productive things I did other than my day job or personal time with family. 2015 was a year with so many changes and I called "Best year ever".


For 2016 , my theme is going to be "Intentional Focus" . Will do a detailed post on this theme, but in brief I would want to reduce distractions and doing too many things without getting deeper in few key things. Intentionally focus on activities that are related to only on (no particular order)  - Improving productivity at work, Spending quality time with my family, Focus on achieving my goals set on Tech, Health & Fitness , Personal Finance, Books (includes writing) & Music

Reflecting and writing about the last year made me think deeply on things I can improve for the next year. The goals and plan should set the stage for the next year. I will also post very short progress report against goals every quarter, which will make me accountable and get serious.



Happy new year every one!

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