Published December 21, 2020
I hope you’re well and safe. Slightly delayed in the schedule but reflecting on the year was a long process so it’s a long email but hope you enjoy the read.
Back in April I started a blog post called entering week 5 of lockdown, capturing all the anxiety I was feeling. I never posted it but now re-reading it, I can see how scared and worried I was but also how I was getting desensitized. At this point in time the numbers were scary. Now in December, the numbers are just a fact of life. Alhamdulillah I feel like one of the lucky ones, close family members did catch it and got really bad symptoms but did recover. However, many others from colleagues to friends to my social feed have been a constant stream of people sadly losing their lives to this virus. A reminder of mortality and every time I saw something, I found myself going down a dark tunnel and worrying even though my closest family and friends were okay. Those moments of fear and uncertainty have been terrible for all of us. The pandemic has had such an impact in so many areas of our lives, from the way we work, to the way we socialise and this year has really delayed many plans for all of us. As a Muslim, it’s been a clear reminder of:
“ They plan, and Allah plans. Surely, Allah is the Best of planners.” #Quran 8:30".
So with that in mind, I want to take this post and reflect on the things that got cancelled, delayed, and the things that changed and ended up as a big blessing instead. I’ve split this post into various areas of my life so here we go. It’s a bit of a long one!
What we planned:
At the start of this year in January we did an in-person hackathon with Deen Developers, which was a great success. We also had an agreed partnership with Google For Startups for monthly sponsored events in their space for the whole of 2020. We were also about to launch the Manchester Muslamic Makers Chapter in April and had to cancel our 4th Birthday event in March. I was also planning on getting a grant so that I can work part-time on Muslamic Makers.
What actually happened in 2020:
- Pausing in-person events was actually a big blessing. It allowed us to pause and figure out what we really want to do. I used those lockdown weekends to rebuild our website to better reflect Muslamic Makers.
- Most of the original team could no longer commit enough time/resources, so my first task was to build a whole new team virtually and I am so proud of all the people we have onboard now. Big shout out to them all! We’ve achieved so much this year because of them.
- Switching to virtual meant more emphasis on our slack community and building an online programme of events.
- We started a weekly virtual lunch slot in March to help isolated members connect once a week. It’s been going for 38 weeks now. Shoutout to Mustafa and others from the community who have kept this going.
- We ran an online skills workshop on finding future customers.
- Ran a Post Iftar Quiz Night with Ramadan Legacy and Muslim Youth Helpline and raised some money and awareness about mental health.
- We ran our lightning talks event with the community
- Ran a series of CV workshops over the summer to help students, specifically those who had graduated this year.
- Hosted a careers insight event with Box.
- Launched our first Digital Careers Kickstarter Programme which has been going really well. An impact report on this will be produced once the programme has ended.
2021 Plans: We’re really working hard to make Muslamic Makers self-sustaining. We are looking into officially getting registered as a not-for-profit, gaining sponsorship and finding ways to generate revenue so that we can finally start paying people for the work they do. Running an organization without any funding with just volunteers for 5 years has been hard work. We’ll be launching our 5 year impact report next year, doubling down on upskilling and looking to run the Digital Careers Kickstarter programme again. If you’re keen to support us financially then please get in touch!
Building my own consultancy
What I had planned: Grow my personal brand, do more paid speaking (had a keynote talk at a conference in Dublin that had been in my diary for over year get cancelled). Also pick up more freelance work and focus on multiple revenue streams beyond my day job.
What actually happened in 2020:
- Became an Ada Ventures Angel Investor — This was one of those opportunities I did not even dream of, having access to capital of £50,000 this year to invest in overlooked founders. It has been a huge blessing and a big learning journey for myself in having to upskill on the finance side and so I’ve come full circle in my journey. I’ve really enjoyed speaking to many founders — my experience so far needs a separate post. I’ll soon be making my first startup investment so stay tuned! If you’re a founder looking for investment, please get in touch.
- I created a personal website to have a portfolio of everything I’ve done in one place. The website is a bit out of date again as things keep changing and it’s good to finally have a base for all my speaking and interviews etc.
- I did paid speaking, albeit virtually, and picked up some freelance work including consulting and facilitating. I also managed to get a personal grant to help build the kickstarter programme.
2021 Plan: Grow my workshops and speaking freelance work, productise my knowledge into a digital course, invest in 5 startups through Ada, learn to focus and say no and document my journey and stay consistent with this newsletter!
Day Job — In Government
What I had planned: Building out the product and delivery management community, more in-person conferences, building out the product management course, commuting to London as always, getting promoted in a community-based role in government.
What actually happened in 2020:
- Working from home for the majority of the year, not seeing my colleagues, adapting in-person courses, meetups to support the community virtually. Going through a hectic and emotionally charged period at work.
- Building a whole course on introduction to Product Management remotely on FutureLearn — one of my proudest achievements in my old role. I’m helping to get the public version ready to launch for everyone in the new year.
And finally, amongst all the random things I like to do, I still had to juggle my personal life but the above would not have been possible without my supportive husband Hamza.
What we had planned: Hajj pilgrimage, buying a house, planning for children, an easter spa weekend, visiting Pakistan, Morocco, attending concerts, 3 in-person wedding events, celebrating our 1st anniversary but also getting legally married in the eyes of British law.
- Faith: We didn’t go for the hajj pilgrimage. This was one of the most heartbreaking things this year as we intended to go with my husband’s parents and mine. For a Muslim, this is one of the most important journeys one can make and for us it made sense to do it before having kids but sadly it was not meant to be. My faith has gone through good times and weak times. My Ramadan this year was the best I’d ever had, I was doing Islamic courses and I was so much more spiritually tuned in. Being at home makes it easier to read more Quran but I do feel like I’ve got distracted recently and need to focus on this more InshAllah.
- Marriage: We were lucky to celebrate our 1st anniversary with an epic London tourist weekend, although in hindsight if we knew we’d be stuck in the country for the whole year, we would have gone abroad! We also managed to get our marriage officially registered just before lockdown in Feb. Working from home for most of the year, my husband is now my co-worker and now I’m a bit too attached to him!
- Lockdown: I became addicted to Tiktok and although my Tiktok career didn’t take off, I managed to get one viral video that got over 150k views. Lockdown led to painting and lego building, board games and experimenting in the kitchen with cooking like the rest of the country. Attending virtual weddings became a thing.
- Health: We gained weight and in lockdown 2 realised we really needed to lose it so started a diet and bought a gym membership! On the flipside my husband taught me to ride a bike and we did a 19 mile bike ride in the Peak District! This is one of the best skills I’ve learned and it has made our holidays so much more fun. We managed to go to Dover and the Peak District this year, although we were lucky to do a day trip to Brussels in Jan!
- Family and Friends: Suffered anxiety and worry but Alhamdulillah lucky that no one in my personal circle was taken by the virus. I naturally saw my family and friends a lot less than expected this year but on those rare occasions that I did, the constant reminder of mortality led me to start having deeper conversations with my parents. I managed to record their stories of immigrating for my own personal memories using StoryCorps which was a goal this year.
- First home: My husband and I started house hunting back in August. Whilst the house purchase isn’t yet completed, we’re glad that we have found a house and are hoping InshAllah to have the keys by the new year, which will then kickstart a renovation before we can move in. We also became very financially literate in the process, will write about this in a future mailer.
What actually happened in 2020:
So that’s a wrap! Hope you’ve enjoyed my reflections. What plans did you have? What happened in your year? What do you hope to achieve in 2021? Drop me a reply and let’s chat! Also I just want to say it’s okay if you’ve just got through this year and just survived, it’s been a tough year and we all cope differently, mine was to throw myself into things, while others just needed to wait for the time to pass.
Originally published at https://arfah.substack.com.