My 2021 in Review

On this post:

  1. Personal Life includes: 1.1 Book Recommendations and 1.2 Chris Shayan TechTalks
  2. Professional Life: 2.1 Achievements of 2021 & Lessons Learned, 2.2 Best Vendors and 2.3 Transformation & Agile at Scale

I started writing year end reviews while back you can read 2019 and 2020 in those posts. I have listed usually the books and trainings that I liked during the year.

For 2021, I will summarize it in few chapters as below:

  • Personal Life topics like book recommendations and techtalks.
  • Professional Life topics like achievements of 2021, lessons learned in architecture, transformation and agile at scale.

1. Personal Life

Relentlessly elevate local experience (my life purpose) is my personal life tagline. There were two key activities that helps me to realize the purpose into practice more efficient and effectively which are reading books and learning from experts.

1.1. 2021 Book Recommendations

Reading books and applying my learnings into real life is been an essential of part of my life and success. I have read 34 books in 2021. I read and listen to many books, here is the list of the books that I like and I do recommend. Please share with me your list as I am building my list for next year.

  1. From Here to There: The Art and Science of Finding and Losing Our Way. How is it that we can walk unfamiliar streets while maintaining a sense of direction? How can we come up with shortcuts on the fly, in places we’ve never traveled? The answer is the complex mental map in our brains.
  2. Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell. The team behind How Google Works returns with management lessons from legendary coach and business executive Bill Campbell, whose mentoring of some of our most successful modern entrepreneurs has helped create well over a trillion dollars in market value.
  3. 12 Seconds of Silence: How a Team of Inventors, Tinkerers, and Spies Took Down a Nazi Superweapon. The riveting story of the American scientists, tinkerers, and nerds who solved one of the biggest puzzles of World War II — and developed one of the most powerful weapons of the war.
  4. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly.
  5. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. Following his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet.
  6. The Gene: An Intimate History.
  7. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in a noisy world. Author Cal Newport introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.
  8. The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Disrupting Business, Industries, and Our Lives
  9. Stillness Is the Key. All great leaders, thinkers, artists, athletes, and visionaries share one indelible quality. It enables them to conquer their tempers. To avoid distraction and discover great insights. To achieve happiness and do the right thing.
  10. Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art. There is nothing more essential to our health and well-being than breathing: Take air in, let it out, repeat 25,000 times a day. Yet, as a species, humans have lost the ability to breathe correctly. Journalist James Nestor travels the world to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.
  11. AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. In AI Superpowers, Kai-fu Lee argues powerfully that because of these unprecedented developments in AI, dramatic changes will be happening much sooner than many of us expected.
  12. What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture. Ben Horowitz, a leading venture capitalist and modern management expert, combines lessons both from history and from modern organizational practice with practical and often surprising advice to help executives build cultures that can weather both good and bad times.
  13. Ego Is the Enemy. I’ve found that history is also made by individuals who fought their egos at every turn, who eschewed the spotlight, and who put their higher goals above their desire for recognition.
  14. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. We live in the age of the algorithm. Tracing the arc of a person’s life, Cathy O’Neil exposes the black-box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society.
  15. User Friendly: How the Hidden Rules of Design Are Changing the Way We Live, Work, and Play. In User Friendly, Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant reveal the untold story of a paradigm that quietly rules our modern lives: the assumption that machines should anticipate what we need.
  16. Banking on It: How I Disrupted an Industry.
  17. The Money Revolution: Easy Ways to Manage Your Finances in a Digital World. There’s never been a shortage of advice on managing your money, clearing debt, being canny with your cash, and getting the best deals. But it can be hard work, and everyone seems to be saying something different.
  18. Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them. In a world of unrelenting change and unprecedented challenges, we need organizations that are resilient and daring. Unfortunately, most organizations, overburdened by bureaucracy, are sluggish and timid.
  19. Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaos. The authors break down how agile really works, show what not to do, and explain the crucial importance of scaling agile properly in order to get its full benefit. They then lay out a road map for leading the transition to a truly agile enterprise.
  20. Experimentation Works: The Surprising Power of Business Experiments. When it comes to improving customer experiences, trying out new business models, or developing new products, even the most experienced managers often get it wrong. They discover that intuition, experience, and big data alone don’t work.
  21. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know. The best-selling author of Give and Take and Originals examines the critical art of rethinking: learning to question your opinions and open other people’s minds, which can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life.
  22. The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer. Best-selling author and peak performance expert Steven Kotler decodes the secrets of those elite performers — athletes, artists, scientists, CEOs, and more — who have changed our definition of the possible, teaching us how we too can stretch far beyond our capabilities.
  23. Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. The new era of gamification and human-focused design optimizes for motivation and engagement over traditional function-focused design.
  24. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization. A business management book like no other, Tribal Leadership is an essential tool to help managers and business leaders take better control of their organizations by utilizing the unique characteristics of the tribes that exist within.
  25. Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.
  26. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. Tribes are groups of people aligned around an idea, connected to a leader and to each other. Tribes will help you understand what’s at stake, and why YOU should lead a tribe of your own.
  27. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable.
  28. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
  29. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
  30. Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow. Team Topologies is a practical, step-by-step, adaptive model for organizational design and team interaction based on four fundamental team types and three team interaction patterns.
  31. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, students, and businesspeople — both seasoned and new — that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called “grit”.
  32. Being You: A New Science of Consciousness. What does it mean to “be you” — that is, to have a specific, conscious experience of the world around you and yourself within it? There may be no more elusive or fascinating question.
  33. The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. In The Best Place to Work, award-winning psychologist Ron Friedman, Ph.D. uses the latest research from the fields of motivation, creativity, behavioral economics, neuroscience, and management to reveal what really makes us successful at work. Combining powerful stories with cutting edge findings, Friedman shows leaders at every level how they can use scientifically-proven techniques to promote smarter thinking, greater innovation, and stronger performance.
  34. The Model Thinker, In The Model Thinker, social scientist Scott E. Page shows us the mathematical, statistical, and computational models — from linear regression to random walks and far beyond — that can turn anyone into a genius. At the core of the book is Page’s “many-model paradigm,” which shows the reader how to apply multiple models to organize the data, leading to wiser choices, more accurate predictions, and more robust designs. The Model Thinker provides a toolkit for business people, students, scientists, pollsters, and bloggers to make them better, clearer thinkers, able to leverage data and information to their advantage. I read this book usually once every year.

1.2. Chris Shayan TechTalks

For many years I was always watching and following each episodes of David Letterman (Late Show) and Jon Stewart (The Daily Show). Even nowadays, once a while I go back and watch some of past episodes. I always wanted to have such kind of shows for engineering. It is been a dream of mine for many years. Being in front of camera (not a surprise for those who knows me) is very uncomfortable and I feel quite insecure about and that’s also the primary reason I have avoid being on interviews. I always prefer to sit down and just write, you can track my blogs; I have written over 200s of blogs on experience design, technology, innovation, leadership and product management; managed to gain as of now 10,924 followers. Not a big number for many of you but for a techie and introvert like me it is a big achievement.

This July I became 37 years old and I have decided to finally end my fear and pursue my dream of building a video channel and a podcast which I like to call it:

TechTalk — Chris Shayan

https://www.youtube.com/c/TechTalkChrisShayan

This will be on a YouTube channel and probably a podcast which I will share later. “TechTalk — Chris Shayan” will be primarily focus on Vietnam and companies that are active in Vietnam.

2. Professional Life

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy or passion. — Terry Orlick

It was 16th December, 2019 I was sitting alone in Sunset Beach Bar at Bali. I had already made up my mind that I will leave my employer of the time (despite how much I love and respect Chris). I was in phase of thinking about my options. I got one a call with my brother, Hadi. After few minutes of chatting about mom and other family matters, I asked his advice regarding my next move. He reminded me the pact I made to him when I was very young that if one day I managed to help to rebuild my village, what will be next? I had have told him, I want to help people to achieve their dreams. Hadi told me, maybe Techcombank will be the platform to enable that purpose. I took his advice and continued my talks with Techcombank executives.

Hadi unfortunately contracted covid in late January and till I realize what is happening, he passed away in 24th of March 2020. Till today, the pain is still alive within our family.

I managed to join Techcombank in April 2020 as a CTO. I was responsible for couple of projects and the most important ones are: building a strong team, DevSecOps, ekyc, lending and two most important ones: launching a brand new omni-channel platform for retail banking and business banking (SMEs). These projects became personal to me because of Hadi and because of my pact to him, help people to achieve their dreams. Later on, Techcombank also changed our vision to “ Change banking, change lives. Uplifting everyone to reach their full potential.

2.1. Achievements of 2021 & Lessons Learned

2.1.1 Building Teams

I owe all of our success to these incredible engineers and talented individuals who stepped up to deliver an impossible. Thank you all, I am very grateful. Soe, Hue, Harry, Duc, Tien, Tiep, Trung, Minh Luan, Tuan Anh, Huyen, Dustin, Fei, Lang, Victor, Do, Dzung, Hung, Steve, Nam, Luke, Tuya, Thuy, Tho, Hoai, Mukesh, Arthit, Minh, Tony, Nguyen Duc, Tung, Tu, Linh, Yen, Veo, Ruby, Thu Thuy and many more that is quite hard to mention one by one.

2.1.1.1 Team Charter

Working in teams can be fantastic — if team members work well together. However, if people are pulling in different directions, the experience can be awful. What’s worse is that, without sufficient direction, teams can focus on the wrong objectives, can fail to use important resources, can be torn apart by avoidable infighting, and can fail, with sometimes dire consequences for the organization. Read more.

2.1.1.2 Employee Value Proposition

Watch my TechTalk on how we approach to our EVP.

2.1.1.3 Hiring 100s of Engineers

Watch my TechTalk on how we hired 100s of engineers and what activities we did to keep them engaged and aligned.

2.1.1.4 Training Platform

Each member of technology team is entitled to get access to PluralSight (unfortunately you will need to sign a training bond). Pluralsight helps engineering identify and close skill gaps in critical areas like cloud, security, software development, IT, and data. Pluralsight Skills provides visibility around technology skills and roles you need to develop to maximize existing teams and deliver products faster. You can read more about what is the benefit of using PluralSight individually in here.

2.1.2 DevSecOps

In re-imagining TCB digital channel over the next 5 years Strategy (2021–2025) to achieve our market cap goal. DevSecOps-the collaboration of Development (Dev), Security (Sec) and Operations (Ops) teams-is an organizational approach that enables faster development of applications and easier maintenance of existing deployments. By enabling organizations to create stronger bonds between Dev, Sec, Ops and other stakeholders in the company, DevSecOps promotes shorter, more controllable iterations through the adoption of best practices, automation and new tools. DevSecOps is not a technology per se, but it covers everything from the organization to culture, processes and tooling. Initial steps usually include Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), real-time monitoring, incident response systems and collaboration platforms.

Our DevSecOps principles are listed below we follow devsecops manifesto:

  • Leaning in over always saying “NO”
  • Data & Security Science over fear, uncertainty and doubt
  • Open Contribution & Collaboration over security-only requirements
  • Consumable Security Services with APIs over mandated security controls & paperwork
  • Business Driven Security Scores over rubber stamp security
  • Red & Blue Team Exploit Testing over relying on scans & theoretical vulnerabilities
  • 24x7 Proactive Security Monitoring over reacting after being informed of an incident
  • Shared Threat Intelligence over keeping info to ourselves
  • Compliance Operations over clipboards & checklists

Read on more on this topic in here.

2.1.3 Modernization of Omni-channel Architecture

Organizations need a better understanding of how MicroService Architecture fulfills new business demands for rapid, continuous change. I am proud to announce we have achieved this in Techcombank as well.

They also need a firmer grasp of the complexity trade-offs involved in achieving these benefits. This understanding can be gained by considering the analogy of a “train service” versus a “taxi service,” as shown in below:

  • Train service: The release schedule of traditional development approaches and architectures can be likened to a railroad schedule. The planning and delivery of different pieces of functionality are linked and delivered in specific, scheduled time intervals, much like regularly scheduled trains. This approach provides benefits in efficiency and dependency validation, but it constrains the speed and cadence of functional delivery. Passengers on a train cannot depart until the scheduled time. Similarly, any application functionality in a traditional architecture approach must wait to be delivered in a scheduled release — or wait for other pieces it depends on to be completed — before it can reach the users who need it. Agile Release Trains in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) are an example of this model.
  • Taxi service: Microservices, by contrast, are more akin to a taxi-dispatching service. Taxi passengers depart as soon as they’re ready to go — rather than on a scheduled departure time. Likewise, microservices can be used to deliver smaller chunks of functionality fluidly, quickly and dynamically. Because pieces of new functionality don’t have to wait on a deployment schedule, users don’t have to wait as long to take advantage of new functionality. Of course, independently changing the components of your system means you have the additional complexity of managing dependencies. Managing dependences requires disciplined interface design and versioning. It also requires late binding between services at invocation time using service discovery and request routing.

Adopting MicroService Architecture means embracing new team structures to match the new responsibilities and processes needed to deliver the new architecture. If your IT leaders are supportive of MicroService Architecture, they must also understand, support and help to implement this change in focus for you and your peers. Below figure shows the difference between organizational structures suitable for traditional application delivery (on the left) and teams organized to deliver microservices (on the right).

Mesh app and service architecture, shown in below figure, allows you to optimize for agility through modularity at all levels of a system. It promotes clear definitions of the components involved, the data and functional requirements of those components, and the optimal communication channel requirements between components. Mesh App & Service Architecture (MASA) enables the composable business.

2.1.4 Retail Omni-Channel Digital Banking

Due to confidentiality of projects, I won’t be able to share much about this projects in detail. However, we have managed to build native app (swift, kotlin, angular) following micro-frontend architecture, micro-services and micro-db in less than 8 months.

2.1.5 Business Omni-Channel Digital Banking

Due to confidentiality of projects, I won’t be able to share much about this projects in detail. However, we have managed to build native app (swift, kotlin, angular) following micro-frontend architecture, micro-services and micro-db in less than 7 months.

2.1.6 Retail Banking Digital Lending

Due to confidentiality of projects, I won’t be able to share much about this projects in detail.

2.2. Best Vendors

I have worked with many vendors in 2021 and these vendors have been very supportive and helpful during times that projects get into a very complicated situations:

  • RedHat — OpenShift. Thuy, I am very grateful for your help and support. I am grateful.
  • MuleSoft API Gateway.

2.3. Transformation and Agile at Scale

I have documented all of my learnings on this topic in following articles:

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