Lessons learnt from the past two decades

It’s official: it’s New Year. 2020 is here! It’s also the beginning of a new decade.

 

It’s incredible how fast time flies.

 

Two decades ago, talking to your watch, controlling your home by voice, sitting in a self-driving car were the things you’d see in Hollywood sci-fi movie. Nowadays, you can order food from your watch while your car is driving you home. Your door camera probably recognizes you and tell the door to unlock auto-magically. Entering the home, you’d notice that your thermostats have already set the room to your favorite temperature based on past preferences.

It’s magical to have things, and what is even more magical is that these technological wonders have not been so special anymore.

I wanted to learn how did we achieve so much in just two decades. I also want to reflect on the lessons I learned in the past two decades to prepare and predict the future more accurately. This post is the very first one out of the series, hoping that it will help me to predict and create the future I want to see.

LESSON 1: IT REQUIRES A LEAP OF FAITH TO MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN.

Steve Jobs believed the center of everyday computing, should not be the computer, be it desktop or laptop, so he set the focus on iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Sergey Brin and Larry Page believed Google’s mission should be to arrange the world’s information. Elon Musk thought that electric cars would win over traditional vehicles, and human-being should be interplanetary species, so he betted on Tesla and SpaceX.

Their success can be attributed to many factors, including general intelligence, business acumen, excellent timing. But to me, it is their faiths, or you call tenacity that contributed the most. Faith, when well-presented, will be so powerful. It is so contagious that it can create reality force-field, which rallies people together to achieve unrealistic goals.

I was lucky to witness this many times at work. One particular and most recent example: Last year, we set out to build a new product on a net-new platform (Google Cloud Platform). It’s a new AI platform that performs a series of complex tasks, including OCR, Vision Object Detection, and NLP on documents.

We faced such an aggressive deadline while struggled with so many technical challenges of onboarding a net-new A.I platform: controlling system performance, improving platform security, keeping track of network monitoring, and defining production operations. Moreover, we had to face the greatest of them all: resistance to change.

But my team and especially my boss strongly believed we could make it. We poured all our energy into it: countless late-night coding, debugging sessions, improvised technical docs, demos, and presentations. We fought hard over resistance to change and ran many extra miles to get the changes we needed. On the day we clicked the button to bring the system to live, we were 12 weeks ahead of schedule!

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TL;DR;

To quote Emerson: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

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