2020 End of Year Summary

by Kehang Han on 2020-12-20 | tags: reflection

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 is a challenging year. If I’d known what was going to happen, I’d probably adjust the list of my new year resolution on my 2019 birthday. 2020 unfolded itself anyways as the first year of my 30s.

So many special things took place in this year, I guess it won’t hurt for me to add another one: my first time writing some kind of end of year summary.

Staples to Google AI

My career changed its course in 2020. I worked as a data scientist at Staples for 2 years and enjoyed the experience there. I got to work on many impactful projects ranging from NLP, computer vision, strategic pricing to operations research (I’m especially proud to be part of the team setting up Robotics Operation Logics of Staples Fulfillment Centers and even got the first patent in my life). As the tech lead for several projects, I enjoyed the fast-pace of moving things along but also felt a lack of time and space to digest and think deeply about the fundamentals.

As I later realized, my ideal work condition consists of three aspects: sufficient research freedom, real application opportunities, tangible ownership of the work (e.g., publications, open-source softwares). The urge to make up the first and third aspects triggered me to adjust my career path. After a lengthy job search, I was lucky enough to get several offers from excellent companies and eventually I chose to join Google AI @MTV to deepen my understanding on AI through fundamental research. I’ll spend 1.5 years there as one of the 40 AI residents selected this year to carry out research of my choice.

Boston to LA

Another important thing happened in my life is my girlfriend (now fiance) just graduated from Harvard and started as an assistant professor in UCLA in the middle of the year. Although both of us didn’t have to move immediately since both Google and UCLA have closed their offices, we felt it’d be better to finish the relocation before the 2020 winter hits.

We almost decided to take the 6-hour flight before a different idea presented itself: “you know what? Maybe we should do a cross-country roadtrip”. As it turns out, both of us were not disappointed at all by this once a lifetime experience, although it meant an order of magnitude more logistic effort. We were so thankful to be able to see our dearest friends and incredible sceneries along the road, which definitely made our 2020 a bit more eventful. I even got to stop by the Roseman Bridge in Iowa from one of my favorite movies The Bridges of Madison County.

Having lived in Massachusetts for 8 years definitely has placed certain inertia on me when suddenly becoming a Californian. I’d say I’m still in the process of adapting myself to the waterless creeks and dusty mountains, of course also the fearless LA driving speed.

New year goals

2021 is only a few days ahead. Looks like it’d be a good tradition to add a few things as my 2021 goals.

Work and life

Make best of my residency at Google by

Outside my work

Blog and share

I’d also like to continue growing my blog site to share what I’ve learned and experienced and continue providing values to my readers. I’ve recently added a comments section for each post, please feel free to leave your voices there - I’m eager to know what would be of most interest to you!