It feels like a blur since the last few months have gone by, and I’ve posted on here. As I write this, it’s 11:55pm on the 31st of December, and 2023 is already at an end! This year brought so many new experiences and lessons for me, and I’m back with another post to recap it all, give my reflections, and some advice that hopefully, you can also apply to your life for the coming year.
First off, if you’re new here - welcome! I set up this site to document my uni life, share my experiences and offer insights based on what I’ve been through - whether you’re an engineering student, a content creator or just interested in what I do.
This year saw me set some big goals - succeed on a few, and make progress on many - going into my final year of university in September. Most importantly, I want to write this post to look back and appreciate what I’ve managed to achieve, because it’s not something I often give myself enough credit for. I tend to reflect a lot on the more career related aspects of my life, being overly critical of myself at things I could’ve done better - but this year has really made me realise there’s more to life than studying and work, and a course correction is in order for me to be able to achieve the life I want, and be happy while I work towards it.
As more of an introspective piece, a lot of this might not matter to you unless you’re interested in the specifics of my life - the engineering, the career progression, the self development. Many of these will cover my personal experiences, but towards the end I’ll outline some key lessons I took from the year, that can benefit you in the year to come - so skip to the end if you want those! Get ready for a long one :)
2022 Goals and How I Compared
A big question I asked myself when it came to writing this post, was ‘What did I actually set myself as new year’s resolutions back at the start of 2022?’. It brought me back to these graphics I’d made to clarify my mindset for the year:
At the time, it felt like there were so many different facets of my life that I wanted to try and optimise, it was paralysing to start on anything. That analysis paralysis was something I've been trying to break out of for the last few years, and when I began 2022, I set my mind on a few specific targets to try and remedy it.
I outlined self care (which encompassed sleep, diet and exercise) and creating content as my two main focuses for the year. Thankfully, a year later, I’ve made some great progress in both. Here are some of the big wins:
I downloaded and tried the Rise app for the first time, which helped me with my sleep goals and sleep debt massively (at least while I was on the free trial!). Also started to use Sleeptown for a while, which was similarly helpful in getting me to track my sleep regularly.
I started going to the gym: before this year, I hadn’t been since high school, about 4 years ago. It was a big step for me even just in terms of having the confidence to walk back in to be honest, but I managed it. My consistency record wasn’t the best, but at least getting my foot in the door was a huge success and something I’m going to keep working on, to move towards the astronaut dream.
I cut down on eating out: this happened through a combination of a few different things - moving further away from the cheap takeaways, starting to go to the gym, not wanting to go back to square one each week, and an honest look at my finances. It meant I ate out a lot less compared to last year, and started making time to cook more food for myself, trying to make it as quick, healthy and simple as possible.
- I made ~30 separate Instagram Reels to post on my Instagram account, everything from random videos about engineering life, getting an engineering career, trying to be an astronaut and going to conferences. I finally started to ease up in front of the camera, and figure out a style of video I liked making.
- I made 50+ LinkedIn posts about individual topics, documenting my life and the conferences I went to, as well as just my general thoughts on specific things related to productivity/aerospace engineering. A few of them kickstarted conversations with new connections, had me make new friends, and one even scored me a week long paid internship!
Other Big wins:
- Kept a Duolingo streak of 145 days: as someone who finds it really difficult to keep up any sort of habit regularly, this was my first step at holding one in an interest I wanted to work on in the future. Many people say Duolingo isn’t the best for learning languages, but something is better than nothing - so I’ll be keeping this up to try to build it as much as I can, and prepare for better methods to learn in the future. I did a lesson of Arabic every day of the streak, as well as keeping up Mandarin for a good while, and taking Dutch and Russian on the side too.
- Began reading again: this was a more recent one - I’ve been on and off Audible throughout the year, but with Ali Abdaal’s new book, ‘Feel Good Productivity’ I finally returned for good and listened to the whole thing in 3 days. Really insightful stuff and some great action points to take forwards, some of which I mention later!
- Took up a leadership position to stretch myself: I became the leader of Project Kestrel, my student drone team this year, and worked with my friends and other team leads to set the project up for success - getting together 60 students for another year, entering a drone competition for this coming July, and manufacturing a drone which can fly autonomously for a mission, that we hope to win! Hugely rewarding - stressful, but necessary for me to grow.
- Started flying lessons to put myself out of my comfort zone: this was delayed for a while, but I’m glad to say I’ve flown for 5 hours now, and have more training yet to come, including applying to and hopefully receiving scholarships to get more hours under my belt.
- Went to a number of engineering/career conferences, pushing myself to travel solo and put myself out there: every trip to London was around 5-6 hours travel total, sometimes more - but with each one I became more comfortable, to the point where, when the day of the European Space Agency’s Open Day in the Netherlands came around, I took the plunge and travelled for a weekend to go and learn more about the possibilities of a career in the space sector. Really glad I went, there was so much to gain, and some interesting new opportunities for the future.
- I was finally honest with myself about my dream to become an astronaut - and started taking seriously what it would mean to actually pursue that dream. This meant properly outlining what steps I could take each day, and how my actions were positively or negatively affecting this goal that I had.
A Month by Month Run Down
In this part of the post, I wanted to go through my journal and pick out specific points of the year I made some good progress, did cool things, or just experienced something really notable. Here are some of my 2023 highlights!
- Started my 3rd year 1st Semester exams (stressful as always, but another run through academic exam season was just that bit easier than before)
- Started out with proper content creation on YouTube and LinkedIn, sharing lessons I thought were useful and developing my voice, which was generally pretty well received!
- Received news of an unsuccessful Engineering Leader's Scholarship application - it was a failure of the type I hadn't had in a while, and while it was sad to hear, it pushed me to take the feedback on and develop the skills I needed to do better.
- Started using AI more and more, specifically ChatGPT/Midjourney for content creation and daily life - which have helped massively since.
- Released the pilot episode of Uni Unplugged after its first recording, with my friend and co-host Will Brookes. A great venture to get started learning how podcasting works and developing my speaking. I love thinking back to this time, have a lot of fond memories already and can’t wait to take it further next semester.
- Fell back into playing badminton regularly with some new friends, which was really fun - I realise I need to get back to that!
- Tried my hand at presenting more by giving a guest lecture on Avionics to a few engineering students.
- Went to the Royal Academy of Engineering's annual Diversity and Inclusion conference to learn - ended up vlogging the entire thing, went home and edited it, posted it as a YouTube video and was recognised by the CEO of the academy!
- Went to the National Student Space Conference, filmed the entire event, and interviewed some people for a video. Sadly never uploaded the footage, but still have it for later use. It was a good lesson to take forwards in terms of keeping it simple with content!
- Started to learn more about Sheffield Ahlulbayt Society - a religious society for Shia Muslims, from a new friend, who led me to apply for a position as Publicity Officer - really grateful this happened, and brought me closer to my faith.
- Applied for a SURE research project in Engineering Project Management, which was accepted, and is now being developed into even more resources (planned for 2024!).
- Attended the Get Up to Speed with STEM conference to represent Project Kestrel, my student engineering team, and showcase what engineering at university is like to secondary and primary school students.
- For the first time, I posted a product on my online store and advertised it for free to gauge responses - not mentioning it to friends or family specifically. Received 16 separate orders, mostly from complete strangers who came across the site, which was amazing as a start.
- Celebrated Ramadan, and took another chance to connect with my faith again. Prayer is something I struggle with a lot, especially managing to pray 5 times a day. Every time a religious event like this happens, it helps me feel more connected, so I try to stretch out that feeling of spirituality as long as possible into my habits, to keep going. Never gotten very far, but trying to!
- Attended the Graduate Engineering Engagement Programme's networking workshop, where I really came into my own - met a ton of new people, spoke in front of a larger audience, and filmed the event to post about on social media. Interviewed for the programme too, which is now in a featured video on their site! (https://youtu.be/vGJCtH8a3Sk)
- Set up a solo collab after talking to some new friends from Liverpool Aerosoc who were planning to go and see the Concorde in Manchester - an amazing experience to get in touch with people from other universities, and something I really hope to build on in the future.
- Finally got to the point of flight testing with the drone my team and I had developed for one of our university modules - getting to see the finished results of 2 semesters worth of work. It was really gratifying to see a design made into something real, entirely from what we'd thought of. Sad to say it couldn't fly due to the weather, but it was a massive highlight for me nonetheless, and I'm really grateful to my group for working together on it.
- I finished my second and final year with the Sheffield Engineering Leadership and Service Award, which no doubt contributed to my development in public speaking and confidence as a whole.
- I finished my 3rd year exams, and finally got to relax!
- Started my Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience project over summer, looking for ways to use project management principles to optimise Project Kestrel, the drone team I'm in.
- Had my first session playing Dungeons and Dragons - I finally took the plunge after watching countless hours of DnD games on YouTube, and went to a Level One Encounters session to get into the basics of the game with a few strangers. Really fun, and it's had me hooked to the idea of playing a proper campaign with a few friends since! (If you're interested, don't hesitate to get in touch!)
- June was a big month for me to reflect on how I was progressing with my goals, as well as where I was generally heading in life. As well as moving towards a leadership position in my student project, it really made me question what else I could do to maximise the chances of me finding success and meaning in my life - and what that actually even meant for me.
- In July, I properly started to take the Kestrel leadership role seriously - doing research and holding meetings to nail down our plans for the coming year, and make sure that we were set up for success. This also included working with our Operations Lead to recruit a new Operations team for marketing and finances in the project - and thinking back to that time, I'm really glad I met everyone I did then!
- I joined Sheffield Ahlulbayt Society as their Publicity Officer, doing some rebranding for the Instagram page, introducing the new committee and preparing for social posts in the coming year.
- I finally graduated from the Graduate Engineering Engagement Programme, receiving an award for Creativity for a video I made on socials!
- Finalised my part time job with the university, helping them assess Blackboard, the digital university platform, do podcasts for the student voice etc. - a really fun and rewarding experience that taught me a lot, but one I sadly had to leave due to final year commitments.
- I posted a vlog of the REFLECT 2023 engineering conference, where I properly tried to emulate what making a full YouTube video could be like - experimenting for the future. And it was a pretty big success!
- I also absolutely no life'd Baldur’s Gate 3 - a Dungeons and Dragons themed video game on PC - which, no coincidence, happened to win game of the year. That game had a hold on my life for the majority of this month. So good.
- In September, with the start of the new academic year, the overwhelm of activities really hit. At one point, writing down every responsibility I had on my whiteboard, and realising it filled the entire space, I realised I was getting pretty burnt out. But I'm glad at the very least, I took the time to realise that something was going wrong, and I needed to change to stop myself from getting worse.
- The new academic year also meant the onboarding of the team for Project Kestrel, with recruitment and publicity taking the focus at the student fairs. Kestrel also got published in the uni newspaper, thanks to some help from a friend!
- In October, I had my first flying lessons, in quite windy conditions - really experienced what tough weather is like, and getting thrown a bit further into the deep end than I’d have preferred really helped me adjust for later on.
- Started proper work on my final year project, modelling avionics systems for drones, using Project Kestrel’s as a case study. Started off with the basic power system. Planning to set up full sensitivity analysis (i.e. how does the drone fly if we change the payload, battery size, power etc.) and setting up a simulation to actually see how it flies.
- Took the plunge travelling solo abroad for the first time in 6 years, going to the Netherlands to attend the ESTEC conference. Absolutely amazing, and really insightful to learn more about the work at the ESA and how I could be a part of it in the future. Really grateful to have been given the opportunity by everyone involved.
- I travelled to London to attend the first Fantasy Wings conference of the programme - an initiative that's set up to bring more people from BAME and diverse backgrounds into the aviation industry.
- Training for Kestrel properly began, going through the PK Mini training programme to teach younger students the basics of drone design.
- Attended a Palestine protest and researched history on the area to educate myself and others. Started posting regularly on my story about the topic, and the injustice, genocide and humanitarian crisis that Palestinian civilians of all backgrounds are facing.
- Started engaging more with university staff to get Kestrel’s name out there!
- Attended and posted about the Art of Leverage Motivez session that scored me a week long paid internship with an insights agency (Entrepreneur's in Action) and their client, a global motor manufacturer!
- Proper work for Kestrel continued, with the submission of the Concept report and entry into the iMechE UAS Challenge to fly in July 2024.
- In December, I had the internship with Entrepreneurs in Action, made some more new friends, and finalised semester 1 work for Kestrel.
- I burnt out by Week 12 again (oops) with a 9-5 internship, final year report deadline, assignment, and needing to go home before the holidays properly began. Then spent the next few days slowly allowing all that stress to fade away. On a slightly related note - Dave the Diver is an absolutely fantastic game, and perfect for handheld consoles like the Switch. Really recommend it to relax. It’s an indie game about diving for sea creatures, and simultaneously running/managing a sushi restaurant - with a ton of great story hooks, and other really intricate side features dotted throughout the entire experience.
- Battled a lot with how I wanted to present myself in the future - this isn't something I regularly discuss, but I've received negative comments in the past, people saying things behind my back etc. - something I realise is natural for this style of hobby/business. It can be a hit to the ego sometimes, but I'm learning not to take it to heart, and use it to continue making content that I enjoy, and that provides value to people.
Biggest Lessons from the Year
- Everything balances on your health. Take more care of it. Physical and Mental. Know when to go 100%, and when to relax. The moment you set up that flywheel (100 to 0 to 100) you will bring success into your life.
- Keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It is how you will grow and bring better things into your life.
- Content creation sounds massively difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Get out of the perfectionism, turn the camera on, speak. Make the creation process simple, and consistency a habit.
- Continue not to let anyone else’s judgement have the final say on what you can or cannot do - this is your life. “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”
- My (and your) voice and actions carry a lot of power, and a lot of rippling effects - more than we realise. Our voices on political and humanitarian crises (like that of Palestine) are important. Our buying power is important. And the world has so much more going on than we can fathom.
Looking back on everything makes me realise how blessed I am to get to live a life like this. I feel as though I also have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to deliver. To the people around me. Towards my friends and family. And to spread what I am capable of writing, editing, filming and creating to the world. But I'm making a commitment to myself that I won't neglect it.
So, What Comes Next?
The future is bright! It's time to reset, and reflect on 2024's goals.
I think my goals for the following year deserve an entire post in themselves, but for the time being, these are the questions I'm wrestling with:
- What do I want to do differently this year?
- What areas of my life do I want to develop?
- By December 2025, what do I want to be able to say I accomplished?
Lessons from Feel Good Productivity to take into 2024
After reading Ali Abdaal's new book, Feel Good Productivity, I found some really useful new ideas to incorporate into my life, as well as my goals for the coming year. Here are a few of them:
- To find the most success in the short term, rather than setting SMART goals, it can often help to set NICE ones: goals that are near term, input based, controllable and energising.
- Rather than focusing on pushing through habits with discipline or motivation, I should ask myself what things might look like if they were more fun, and try to implement more playfulness into my life, finding ways to make the things that I'd like to do more enjoyable.
- A big part of goalsetting is breaking down the uncertainty in my goals as much as possible. Imagine it's a week later, and I haven't started on these habits. What are the reasons? How can I mitigate them? Who can I ask for help, or what action can I take right now to increase the odds I'll do the task?
- Try to pin down the goals I'd like to work on as much as possible. Build them into my daily routine in a way that's easy for me to get started, and remind myself why I'm working towards them as much as I can.
If you want to talk and learn more, I’d love to have a chat on socials. And if you have any advice for any of the topics I mentioned in the post, again, don’t hesitate to reach out. I really want to build a community around doing the things I love and educating people about them.
If you've managed to get to this point, thank you. Your interest in what I have to say means so much to me, and I hope I can keep writing, filming and producing even more for you, to bring more into people's lives.
Wishing you all the best for 2024, and happy new year!
On the off chance that you've read something on here and loved it, or want to read more, feel free to shoot me a message on my socials:
The feedback helps massively. Thanks!