Year in Review 2020 - Open-source, Major League Hacking, Talks
For the past two years, I have been writing Year In Reviews to take a moment and see how far I have come. I find it a good practice since it helps me to fight the imposter syndrome that 99% of us suffer from regularly. This year is no different for me and I am once again in front of my computer writing a piece about what I did the whole year.
Let me start this year's review by introducing myself to you. My name is Saad. I am a Junior at college where I am getting my Bachelor's degree in Computer Sciences. I am a developer by profession and passion. I coded my first website when I was around 13.
When I started my Sophomore year at college, I was accepted into a program at Google. The program was called the Developer Student Clubs (DSC) and since then I have been actively participating in the community. My work in the DSC also led me to secure a place in the top leads of Southeast Asia. My major contributions would be the workshops and talks I have delivered both off and on campus.
This year I dived into building Free and Open Source Softwares (FOSS) that are now being used by a couple of thousand developers. I was also accepted into some programs this year and you will read more about them as you go through this review. Currently, I am doing an internship with Major League Hacking (MLH) and also working as a Jr. Developer Advocate for the Worwox Group of Agencies. 👨🏻💻
I also picked up an instrument earlier this year mainly because I wanted to do something different. They say to try out things that are out of your comfort zone. Well, this has proven to be a quite useful resolution for me this year.
Microsoft Student Partner
Earlier this year, I got accepted into one of the Microsoft's programs called Microsoft Student Partner. The program focuses on empowering students with technology to help them grow. It also focuses on building a global community of Student Partners where you can connect with students from different parts of the world.
Every student who was accepted into this program started out with an Alpha status. It is the lowest rank in the program. Every Student Partner has to complete certain tasks that ultimately help them to achieve the highest rank they can get by themselves, i.e., Beta. I also started out as an alpha Microsoft Student Partner but now I am on the Beta level.
Microsoft Student Partner was rebranded in July to Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador. The primary focuses of the program did not change. It is still about empowering student communities with technology with Microsoft resources. If you are a student, you can also apply to this program.
In 2019, I was accepted into a Google program, i.e., Developer Student Clubs (DSC). For a whole academic year from fall 2019 to spring 2020, I was responsible for building a community, leading it, organizing and delivering different workshops, talks, and hands-on sessions.
Google brought this program to my country for the first time in 2019. A total of 42 students from 42 different universities were selected by Google and later mentored by a Googler. This year we all welcomed the 2nd cohort of DSC Leads in our country and also graduated from the program.
Weeks before our graduation, Google also sent us some cool swag and a certificate for our hard work during the whole year.
When we were all about to graduate, we decided to create a sign off video as the first cohort of DSC Leads from Pakistan. Almost all of us participated and in the end, the video turned out to be really good.
Building Open-source softwares
The coronavirus situation got worse in my country during March. And it was this month when everything shut down and we went into lockdown. Since I did not have the University at that time, I started experimenting with different stuff.
One of them was focusing on building open-source tools that everyone can use. I was working on something where I had to grab the public email addresses of different GitHub users. The whole thing was quite repetitive and I developed an urge to automate it.
I didnt know the first thing about automation back then so I did what I could do at the time. I started experimenting with GitHub's REST API. I used Postman to make API calls to the API to look at the response I was receiving. Eventually, I figured out what I need to do and I used Node.js to do just that. And from here, my open-source journey started.
- 🚀 github-interact-cli: This was the first-ever CLI tool that I build and it was back in April. At the time of developing this one, I had no idea what I was doing but a lot of googling and looking at open-source code made my life easier. I had to deal with a lot of problems like storing data locally inside the user's computer, authenticating the GitHub's API to implement certain features, etc. But over time, I figured out the solution for almost everything and then published the CLI on npmjs.com.
- 🦉 docx-to-markdown: Ever since I built my first CLI, I kept on building them. docx-to-markdown was another CLI tool I built this year when I had to convert 95+ docx files to markdown. Converting these files one by one was kind of repetitive and tedious. So I went to Google and found a command-line tool that could convert docx file to markdown. I took it and wrote a CLI on top of it that can detect all the docx files in a folder, convert them into markdown and then put them in a new folder called markdown. Finally, I published it on npmjs.com so the world can use it.
- 🔑 password-gen-cli: This is another open-source automation tool I developed. It can generate a strong random password and then automatically copies it to your clipboard. You then just have to go wherever you are signing up and press CMD (⌘) + V if you are on macOS or Ctrl (⌃) + V if you are using Microsoft Windows.
- 📌 geo-location-cli: I was writing a review on a geolocation API once for TheDevCouple. After the blog, I used the same API and built a CLI on top of it. The CLI takes an IP address, decodes it using the geolocation API, and then show the information to the user. It was quite easy to build since, by this time, I had already created a couple of these CLI tools. The CLI is available at npmjs.com for everyone to use.
- 🙁 who-unfollowed-me: There is a small story behind this open-source tool that I developed. I was about to reach 200 followers on my GitHub and every time I was about to reach 200, someone was unfollowing me. There was no way to track who were the people who were doing this. There is even a meme about how hard it is to get a GitHub follower and someone was continuously unfollowing me.
Of course, even if I know I can't do anything. Still, for my inner peace, I went ahead and created a tool that lets me know who has recently unfollowed me on GitHub. Funnily, this tools is used by 800+ developers other than me. 😆
These are some of the many projects I worked on this year. I also built several other open-source tools as well. And I will talk more about them when I will talk about my experience with the MLH fellowship.
Contributing To Open-source
I worked on a lot of different things this year. One of them was to be consistent with what I do. I built several open-source tools, did some projects, wrote a couple of Jamstack based applications, and most importantly I contributed to open-source software.
This year I opened 60+ issues and 80+ pull requests in different repositories. A pull request that I opened last year in the Node.js organization also got merged earlier this year. 🙌
You can find more about it on my GitHub.
For those of you who don't know about Hacktoberfest, it is an annual event that takes place in the month of October. It is hosted by Digital Ocean, The Dev Community, and a couple of other organizations. It is being organized every year to promote contributing to open-source software. Every participant who successfully completes this challenge receives a free limited edition T-shirt from the organizers.
This year again I participated in the Hacktoberfest challenge. I have been participating in this challenge for almost three years now.
I not only participated this year but also recorded a video about how someone can contribute to open-source projects and complete this challenge. 😎
The year 2020 might not be the best of the years for many people out there. For me, it was not so bad. In fact, it was one of the highly productive years of my life. I did so much.
Talking about doing something, in October I was accepted into a fellowship program at Major League Hacking (MLH). I also wrote a separate blog about my acceptance which you can find here.
MLH is a US-based company co-founded by Mike Swift who is also currently its CEO. MLH organizes series of hackathons throughout the world where developers come together and build something productive. Recently, they also started a fellowship program that is an alternative to a Software Engineering internship. The main focus of this fellowship is to provide students with industry experience and help them grow as a Software Engineer.
Since I had some time in the third quarter of 2020, I applied for the MLH fellowship. I went through the initial screening process and once it was cleared, I gave my interviews. Everything went smoothly and in the end, I received the acceptance email. 🥂
Won a Hackathon
I participated in several hackathons in the last quarter of 2020. Each hackathon had a theme upon which we were required to build our projects. It was quite fun and exciting since we had less than two weeks to come up with a working prototype.
I had a considerable amount of experience developing developer automation tools like CLIs by October of 2020. So when the hackathon theme was building the developer tools, I already had an edge. I and my two other teammates who were Aneesh and Angelina developed a StackOverflow CLI that brought StackOverflow to the developer's terminal.
More than 22 teams applied worldwide in which my team secured 2nd place. 🎊
🎥 I and my team also recorded a demo video for our StackOverflow CLI.
Joining Worwox Group of Agencies
At Worwox, I devised and worked on different ways to promote different courses recorded by Awais. I also wrote hundreds of articles for this purpose.
Because of the Google Developer Student Clubs (GDSC), I have been quite active in the community since 2019. I have organized workshops, delivered talks, organized speaker sessions. Last year in 2019, I even got a chance to speak at the Devfest stage at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) about how DSC is working towards helping student developers.
This year was no different in terms of my community contributions. The only difference was most of my talks were virtual rather than in person.
- 🌏 Global Solution Challenge Talk: This was one of the in-person talks I had a chance to deliver before the lockdown. Since I was leading the DSC at the time, I organized an info session about what Google’s DSC hackathon, i.e., Global Solution Challenge, is all about.
- 🌐 React.js 101 Session: Back in February, I also delivered an hour-long session on the introduction to Facebook’s open-source frontend library, React.js. I started from the basics concepts like virtual DOM, reusable components, and then moved on to how to write a component, etc.
- 💥 REST API 101: When there was time to deliver this session, everything went into the lockdown state. So this talk was the first talk I delivered virtually and not in person. It was about what REST APIs are and how to work with a REST API and get data from them.
- 👨🏻💻 DSC Info Session MUET: A friend of mine from the Mehran University of Engineering & Technology approached me and asked if I would be interested to deliver a talk at the MUET's DSC info session. The session was organized by the new DSC Lead of MUET, Fatima Yousif. I and three other DSC leads from the 1st cohort were the speakers and we talked about different things related to DSC. Everything went really well and the overall session was a success.
- 🎩 Hacktoberfest: Like 2019, this year again I delivered a talk on Hacktoberfest. What it is about. Why it is being organized, and everything else. The talk was again virtual.
- 🐼 MLH Fellowships: Since I am the only MLH fellow from my university and the 4th or 5th fellow from my country, I delivered a talk about the fellowship at the start of December 2020. I talked about what the fellowship is all about, the application and interview process, the journey after selection, etc.
Picked up an instrument
When this year started, I observed about myself that 90% of my day is being spent in front of my computer. And when everything went into lockdown, it hit me that I should do something different. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. I had so much time on my hand. So I took a spontaneous decision and bought a Guitar.
After buying the guitar, I had no idea how to play it. I had never played an instrument before in my life. And this was my first having an actual instrument in my hands. Anyway, I went to my best friend, i.e., the Internet, and found some basic introductory courses on guitar. I took one of them and developed a basic understanding of the chords, strumming patterns, and tunes. 💡
Once every year, I try to go to the northern part of my country where all the beautiful tourist places lie. But I wasn't able to go anywhere in 2019. So in early 2020, I and my friends went on a hike to Mushkpuri peak.
It was a 24 hours adventure where we covered around 450+ KMs on one side, hike up and down on the mountain, and then went back to Lahore. We started our journey at night at around 11 PM. And by the sunrise, we were in Murree. By 10 AM, we had our breakfast and we started our hike to Mushkpuri.
We all friends went on this tour at that time of the year when the whole place was covered with snow. Even when we were all on a bus and going up to the Dunga Gali from where the actual hike started, our bus started going backward due to snow and slipperiness.
The hike up to the Mushkpuri peak was extremely dangerous since from almost a 4 ft. track, we had only around 2 ft. to put our feet on due to snow. Going up on the left side there was the mountain and on the right side, there was the abyss. I had no idea how deep it was. And on top of everything, there was the snowslide that started when we were going down the peak. 😱
Once we reached the top of the peak, it looked like the whole Mushkpuri was covered with a white sheet. The whole mountain was engulfed with around 2 ft. dense snow. The scenery was breathtaking.
To summarize the whole experience in a couple of words, I would say it was adventurous, dangerous, thrilling, and exciting at the same time.
Brother got married
My eldest brother, Ashar Irfan, who is also a Software Engineer and currently working as a Sr. Backend Engineer (now Lead Engineer as of May 2022) at the WebDevStudios got married in the mid of December. Congratulations, Bhaijan! 🥂
We were planning this wedding for months. And two weeks back, we all traveled to another city where he got married to my now sister-in-law. The whole wedding festivities took place for a whole week which was awesome.
Movies & TV shows
This review cannot be completed without me mentioning the TV shows and movies I watched this year. Since most of 2020 were spent in lockdown, I had some time. So I watched more than 160+ movies alone in lockdown. I have a record of all of them which I am not going to share here. 😆
I cannot live without TV shows. They are my way of relaxing. So like every year, I watched more than a couple of them in 2020 too. And if I put my finger on two of my favorite shows then they will be House M.D and The Queen's Gambit. I am also sharing the list of shows I watched this year other than these two.
- The Queen's Gambit
- Emily In Paris
- The Haunting in Bly Manor
- The Night Manager
- House M.D
- The Good Doctor
- Once Upon A Time
- Penny Dreadful
- Lucifer (5th Season)
It is no doubt that this was a strange year for most of us. Every person around the world spent if not some months then weeks in the lockdown. The whole world turned upside down due to the pandemic. Fortunately, there is a vaccine now that is going to save millions of lives.
For me, 2020 was quite productive. Probably because of my major that mainly involves a computer. And there are loads of other small things that happened this year on which I didn't write about in this review. I have taken the most significant parts of my 2020 and have put them together. And that is all from my 2020, folks!