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Beyond Plateaus, Retro's as tools for growth
Jun 2, 2023
3 minutes read

During my time at Alpaca, we frequently encountered a substantial volume of API requests each day, sometimes reaching up to a billion. Operating at such a scale, it was almost inevitable to encounter peculiar and unexpected bugs. What fascinated me was the engineering culture that fostered support rather than blame when someone caused a bug in production. Instead of being hounded for mistakes, we were encouraged to tackle the bug and implement a fix as quickly as possible. Once the storm settled and the bug was resolved, the responsible team or individual would write what we referred to as post-mortems. These post-mortems served as retrospectives on the issue that occurred, providing answers to questions such as the cause of the bug, the speed of resolution, the likelihood of recurrence, and a technical analysis of the approach taken to fix it.

My greatest fear is reaching a plateau. The mere thought of stagnation sends shivers down my spine. To me, the true beauty of life lies in its dynamism—the concept of growth and change, which drives not only my decisions but also my passions. Now, however you choose to define growth & in whatever context, a consensus can be reached that to measure growth there has to exist a starting state, typically in the past and a reference to your current state..

One of my favourite pastimes during my tenure at Alpaca was reading the post-mortems and retrospectives written by engineers. It was fascinating to witness the transformations in our infrastructure over time. I apply the same principle to my personal life, deliberately setting aside time in my schedule to reflect on past events, past “life states,” and ask myself challenging questions that ultimately provide answers to the fundamental question: “Am I growing?” I encourage you to consider incorporating life retrospectives into your routine as well, as they can help you track your progress towards your goals. Here is my three-step approach to conducting a retrospective that you can adopt if you wish:

  1. Schedule the retrospective: By adding it to your calendar, you ensure that you won’t forget this valuable exercise.

  2. Formulate guiding questions: Develop a list of questions that can assist you in assessing your growth in relation to your goals. Here are a couple of examples from my own personal retrospectives: “Am I more articulate now than I was five years ago when I was 16?” and “Have I become more emotionally mature compared to five years ago?” You can choose to write down these questions or answer them mentally, but I recommend putting your thoughts on paper.

  3. Identify actionable steps: This exercise serves no purpose if it doesn’t leave you with a greater sense of clarity on how to achieve your goals and continue growing. Use your retrospective as a springboard for defining actionable steps that will propel you forward.

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