Ryan Walker 🚀


Sharing everything I learn

In 2022…

A year on from my first blog, a reflection on how the past year has been.

December 13, 20226 min read

I wasn’t a writer

Last year, on the 13th of December 2021 I wrote my first blog, It took a lot more than I expected to write but afterward I felt inspired to write more… this inspiration only lasted for a further 4 blogs.

But I’ll be remiss if I don’t use this opportunity, a year on from my first blog to reflect (for my present self) and to record (for my future self, cringing when he reads this) on how the past year has been.

I was in person

Perhaps the most obvious difference between 2021 and 2022 was the reopening of the world.

Last year I mentioned I had yet to meet the rest of my team at Startmate -

With the unfortunate reality that I've been unable to meet the rest of the Startmate team IRL since starting 290 days ago.

Well, on March 21st, 381 days since starting, I finally met the rest of my team at our Q1 offsite. It was as surreal as I could have ever managed. Thinking back, the feeling I walked away from that experience was the dichotomy of familiarity. On one hand, I had known most of my team for over a year, and yet seeing them in the flesh, it was as if I didn’t know them at all.

Relationships in the online environment are transactional by nature and building momentum is incredibly slow, every moment I worry I am wasting the other person’s time or, worse, I’m multi-tasking through a zoom call.

Fortunately, in comparison to last year, being able to spend a lot more time, not just with my team but with my wider friends and family that make up the Australian and New Zealand startup community, has been a blast. It feels like coming back to school after the summer holidays and getting to see all my friends again.

My favourite moment this year would have been the Startmate Winter’22 Accelerator Demo Day in Melbourne.

This was my 4th time organising Demo Day. Each event is special in its own right and that's mostly because of the founders in that cohort. This event in particular will always hold something extra special, being back in person, seeing the people who make up the Startmate community, and feeling the unbridled energy that each and everyone shares. Congratulations Founders, you did so well!

I was building

In 2022 I came to grips with the fact that my job title doesn’t define me. I’ve always avoided labeling myself as a designer, developer, or similar. As a long-term advocate of optionality, I fully subscribe to the belief that the more options I have, the more areas where luck can strike. In reality, when I try to optimise for this, I find myself doing lots of different things and accumulating lots of opportunities but lacking the constraints to know what opportunities are worth investing my time into.

On a side note, what is an opportunity that I should invest my time into? I believe it’s subjective, it’s defined by the goals or north star I set, usually aligned with where I want to go in life.

This worry I had about choosing a role such as “designer” and how it would constrain me comes from my fear of being seen as a one-trick pony, never having a chance to add to the bigger picture of the organisation. I believe this is the same reason why it’s popular for people to want “strategy” roles. The allure of these roles is that the work possibilities are almost infinite – any goal or strategy can seem revolutionary with enough thought put behind it. I find this ironic as I’ve had arguably more job satisfaction and impact when I knew the rules of the game (or in this case the job). A defined role gives a strong sense of empowerment because I know what needs to be done to excel, which then dramatically increases the ease with which to create goals and strategies that will directly drive the organisation forward.

The moment this all clicked for me was when I took on the role as Product Manager at Startmate.

Being a Product Manager is the holy grail between stakeholder management and building, which leads to creating things that users want, working with said users, building, testing, and iterating. It’s a process that never gets old – I think I’ve always been a product guy.

I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to really dive into this at Startmate, with products like the Talent Engine, and outside of work whilst doubling down on learning to code. Startmate may not be on paper a traditional product company (at least compared to the Startmate Alumni Companies) but all businesses can benefit from the skillset that a product person brings to the table.

Product to me isn’t about scale, automation, or even SaaS. It’s about human experience, regardless if we make money off the product or not. The human experience is the various touch points we have with our users – for Startmate our users are first and foremost our community. A product mindset is a human mindset. When we think and operate in this manner the ideal outcome is that our community benefits from it – the tools, strategies, and processes are just the inputs we use to achieve that.

I was consistent

In the last section, I mentioned that this year I’ve been learning to code. For those who aren’t aware, in March I started a challenge to launch a React app in 100 days. I didn’t achieve this, as what I actually wanted to learn was how to build full-stack web applications and at the time of starting the challenge, I definitely didn’t fully grasp the sheer amount of learning that would be required to get there. (I hadn’t even realised yet that learning React was only a part of the way there to wrapping my head around full stack development)

Without going into too much detail about the challenge the main takeaway for me was the importance of consistency, especially at the start of any new project when I have no accomplishments and everything to prove. Time and time again I found that just showing up and doing the work consistently will accelerate my learning faster than anything else out there.

This year I’ve spent over 300+ hours coding, this is whilst working a full-time job.


Looking at this graph I can picture the different stages of my coding journey. In the first ~150 hours, I went from hating to loving Javascript. The following 150-300 are dealing with back-end servers (which I’m still dealing with…)

Coding wasn’t the only place where consistency enabled me to achieve something I wasn’t even sure was possible. I also tasked myself with the challenge of running a Marathon. Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve the full 42.2km challenge this year but I did end up training for 27 weeks and went on to complete my first official half-marathon.

Looking back I don’t think I grasped how important it was each and every time I put in the effort. However, by doing this I have noticed a change in myself, I’ve become less worried about the outcomes (which would usually make me impatient) and have focused on enjoying the moment, knowing that I’ll achieve my goals eventually.

In 2023, I will be Optimistic

Whilst writing this and reflecting on how much I’ve enjoyed this year, I’ve identified one area, in particular, I would like to lean into in 2023 - being more optimistic.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. — Winston Churchill

Like most, 2022 has had its challenges, and when times are tough it’s easy to turn to pessimism; it’s popular, and it sounds smart because we’re playing to the human condition.

But to be optimistic means being open to all realms of possibilities…

For others, it means that in every conversation I have the privilege to be in, I can play my part to further the conversation rather than shutting it down with unnecessary rationality before it’s had a chance to get going.

And for myself, if I want to be in the best state of mind next year when I’m reflecting on 2023, I will need to be optimistic about myself and the possibilities that will come.

If you made it to the end, what will you be in 2023?

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