Reflections on 2020 (Taking Chances) and Looking ahead to 2021 (Making a positive difference)

Hey Lovelies,

It has been a really long time since my last post. Literally a year!

I haven’t written my reflections post in time, so half of this post will be some reflections on 2020. So brace yourself, it’s going to be a very long post!

2020 was the year of taking chances. And it lived to my expectations! Yes, i’m aware this it’s a very unpopular opinion!

Are you ready to count with me how many shots I took in 2020?

The year started with a great hope for a better place to go to in terms of work, where I joined a consulting firm, one of the Big 4 as a senior manager in Technology Architecture. A firm renounced for their quality of work in consultancy, which got me super excited. Shot 1.

I moved in with my closest friend mid-Jan 2020, the pandemic was still brewing overseas. We expected it to arrive the UK in no time, but nothing prepared us for whatever came next! Shot 2.

The Home Office approved the transfer of my work permit within 2 days! That was a first! And I joined during the 1st week of March 2020! (now you can see a twist coming, right??

Nonetheless, I was honoured and privileged once again to speak in the House of Commons on international women’s day. This time I talked about parts of my personal journey growing up, struggling with my identity, trying to fit in, and then coming to terms with who I am and embracing it.

My allocated timeslot was 4 mins, so I used them their fullest using concise and to the point statements that would deliver the meaning with as few words as possible. Yes, it was bloody hard for me to write such talk!

It was well received, so much so the supporting admin team in the chamber stopped me on my way out to thank me for learning something new and offer me few words of encouragement. And even complement how my diction and pace of speaking made her job much easier compared to other speakers.

Oh, I have to mention this, the Tory candidate for London Mayor was one of the speakers. His allocated timeslot was also 4 mins, nonetheless he exceeded it by 6 mins! The whip tried to interrupt him 4 times! At the last event he told her “just calm down I’m about to finish” and went on for 2 extra mins!!! How dare he be so condescending esp. on IWD! I was thinking “What a condescending total c***!” And I assure you, I don’t use the C-bomb lightly! Wow, just wow!

Anyway! Back to work, 2 weeks in the new job and a national lockdown took place! No worship, no commute (which I enjoyed on the train), no more book reading groups. Suddenly my world became confined within 4 walls, a window, and computer screen!

As soon as lockdown started, I told my friend “This lockdown will either make our friendship or break it, so we need to create spaces and times for each other to independently be” Afterall knowing someone is very different than living with them! Not to mention literally 24/7!

Funnily enough, and during Feb and before the lockdown I was proposing to our church leadership to start using online digital platforms to facilitate access to services and meetings online and allow people to access it from anywhere in the world. Shot 3.

Back in Feb the idea was immediately deferred as “we might consider it in the future” only as soon as the news started to break of a pandemic and an imminent lockdown, I proposed the idea again. This time round the response was “Yes, please, would you help us?”

This was the 1st step I took to try to make a difference in a non-corporate context! And how rewarding that has been and continues to be! Since Lockdown till today we haven’t missed a single Sunday!

Our online outreach goes all the way to New Zealand, Malaysia, Ireland, Tasmania, and next door!

People who are shielding and in isolation started to feel connected again with familiar faces, people they know and care about, they started to feel cared for and loved in ways they didn’t expect nor experience in the past. Not saying that it was an easy thing for everyone to adapt to! Nonetheless, slowly but surely, we are able to include and invite everyone. Everyone – no exceptions!

The ability to serve others and seeing the impact of your work in their lives (no matter how small) gave me another sense of being. A reason to be rather than just making someone else rich!

Back at work (which’s now just one cable away to switch between two laptops!) I was doing some work for banks, utility companies, telecoms, government bodies and more! and despite of lockdown, I learned a lot. Many mini-shots involved doesn’t count though.

However, this didn’t come without challenges. In a work environment that’s based on who you know and network with rather than what you know, a lockdown isn’t a good thing for your career. Nonetheless, I had a very supporting boss and two colleagues who kept pushing work (aka gigs) my way.

Nonetheless, I felt like lacking and missing something. I needed to get my hands dirty with tech and to see the outcomes of what I’m doing. I didn’t want to just advise on the tech, I wanted to do the tech!

This is where I took a very hard decision! Is to find another job! many friends called me insane for wanting to quit in the midst of a pandemic to pursue my tech-buzz! But I did it!

I started looking around and I have to admit I was super picky who I’d go it interviews with, and who should I take a call from. And there it came; an opportunity with UCAS.

For those who don’t know, UCAS is the non-profit organisation (it’s actually a charity) where students across the UK access higher education. And they were looking for a head of platform engineering!

I have to admit, i was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing me. I asked for a figure, and they just agreed to it! Later I learned that they have been looking around for over 9 months! Shot 4.

I started with UCAS late Nov 2020. So far so good! I think this is it! I can see myself spending few years there making a difference in young people’s lives making one of their biggest decisions, while making sure the tech works as it should, and have a proper say of how things are done, get to contribute making it happen, and hopefully make my team members’ lives a bit better. Fingers crossed, esp. for the latter!

On family front. As i was uploading some videos for the church on our YouTube channel, I came across the bereavement journey. A course of 8 videos aimed to help people deal with loss and bereavement. I felt I wanted to learn more about this. Afterall I suffered so many losses. Family, friends, kids, isolation, you name it I had it! So, I decided to engage with the content with our vicar and also during my counselling sessions. And it was a true revelation! Shot 5.

It gave me the language and the vocabulary to express and understand my grief and pain. I learned that many of my interactions with the world were governed by an underlying understanding of feelings emotions and how to respond to them. Most of which was malformed by the trauma of my loss of my mother at young age and how we as a family never really had the chance to grieve nor even talk about it!

I started to reach out to my family (father and older sister) in ways they were never used to, and they were not just surprised, but also were able to open up. They opened up about their wounds. Well, as openly as they can be – which when compared to other is barely at all, but for them it’s like ‘wohooooo, I can’t believe I’m talking about this with anyone!’.

I tried to ask them to connect with my girls so that they don’t feel isolated nor abandoned. Shot 6.

Now that is a tough one, the way they understand human connection is so dysfunctional that it’s very hard for them to admit shortcomings in their human communication.

Six big shots were made during 2020. Six shots that signpost the directions of which I need to proceed forward in my career, vocation, faith, and human connections.

2021 will be the year of making a positive change in the lives of those I come in touch with. Never before had I had this feeling that I need to something for others. To give my time, energy, skills in the service of others and bettering their lives (directly and indirectly).

I will continue to improve our church’s online digital presence.

I will strive to make a positive difference in my team members’ lives (not sure how on earth should I do this!).

I will try my best to improve the communication between my family members and how they can reach out to each other and to my kids.

I will try to make a positive difference in students’ lives through my work at UCAS.

I will try to make a positive change in my lifestyle, eating, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.

Good God, I have I no idea how am I going to do this. But with God’s help I will.

Truly Yours,

Nour xx

Your inputs are much appreciated, so please let me know what do you think ..

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