Dr Lukas F Lang

Passionate about maths, science, and data

It's a wrap: end of year retrospective

I am sure most of you have noticed: apps have released their “2021 in review” stories showing your favourite songs, your most-purchased items, or your most-read articles.

Visitors at Tate Modern, London, UK Visitors at Tate Modern, London, UK.

In this post, I will run a personal retrospective to reflect upon 2021 and to formulate a personal vision for 2022.

Despite the pandemic, it has been a great and exciting year for me. So, let’s go!

What went well?

Parenthood. In early 2021, my partner and I became parents. I have been given the opportunity to go on parental leave for a month right after the birth of our baby son. I am lucky enough to add two more months in 2022. Taking care of our son and watching him grow has been incredibly rewarding. Each day holds new surprises, raises new challenges, and sparks new joy.

I have also come to the realisation that, in expectation, my son will (hopefully) get to know me approximately half of my total life time (the global average life expectancy in 2019 was 72.6 years according to the United Nations).

I promise to give my absolute best to make every single one of those roughly 2000 weeks count, especially during my parental leave!

Work. In April 2021, our digitalisation team at voestalpine High Performance Metals was spun off as a new company: DIGITAL SOLUTIONS. As the name suggests, our mission is to develop scalable digital solutions and services.

This exciting step allowed my team to grow and to hire more specialists in the areas of Data Engineering, DevOps, and Full Stack Development. Together with existing Data Scientists we now constitute a fully-functional data team. We have developed a strong focus on data products, with the primary areas being our divisional big data platform, use case implementations in data science & machine learning, and data-intense web applications.

In 2022, we will grow again substantially and open a new branch that focuses on the development of vision and image analysis products with applications in visual inspection. It is an exciting opportunity that allows me to combine my past research with my passion for machine learning!

Sports. In light of the pandemic and as a young parent it has been incredibly challenging to pursue my favourite sports, to which I count rock climbing, yoga, and swimming.

Luckily, I have managed to run on a regular basis: Activities in 2021

In 2021, I have completed more than 52 runs covering 560.8 km in roughly 51 hours. On average, this amounts to one 11 km run per week at a pace of 5.44 min/km. My secret sauce: making it a regular practice and having reliable, motivated partners to run with. In addition, I have continued to commute by bike whenever conditions allowed.

Photography. While I did not manage to edit and publish any of the many pictures I took during the past years, I have continued to take photos on a regular basis.

One of the early advices given to me as a young parent turned out to be one of, if not the, most valuable: take as many pictures of your child as possible, ideally while they are interacting with your loved ones.

Those memories are indeed a source of great joy. Thank you for that great advice!

What didn’t go well?

Blogging. While I managed to redesign and launch a new website, I wrote only three blog posts (including this) last year, none of which is technical. I hope to be able to dedicate more time next year.

What did I learn?

I have also learned new things last year. In 2021, I have spent a significant amount of time researching the topic of investment. I managed to develop a solid personal investment strategy. I did so by following the wisdom of many. Gathering feedback and opinions from various people in the course of this turned out to be highly valuable.

Another topic I have dedicated quite some time to is product management. In particular, the management of data and machine learning products. Going through a product discovery phase has been great fun and quite insightful to me. Pursuing this process together with potential users and customers was key.

Most importantly, I have developed a clearer picture of my leadership style and have gotten a better idea of what type of leader I strive to be: to create an environment where teams can innovate and perform, and where individuals can excel.

In the past year, I spent quite a lot of time developing strategies and using data to change course of action. I like to provide a clear vision and a solid strategy, and then let a team find the best solution. It requires a high level of trust, embracing failure, and establishing enough safeguards to cope with shortcomings. While I have a clear vision in mind in most cases, I will have to dedicate much more time to bring it to paper, and to communicate and align it with all relevant people.

Another learning for me is that, within close reach, I have many highly knowledgeable people in each of those areas. It was worth finding them and talking to them!

For all of the above-mentioned topics I found it best to learn through a combination of reading and practicing. I will continue to follow the stop thinking and start doing approach:

What did I wish it happened?

While I am very grateful for the plenty personal interactions I had in 2021, I wish I had taken more chances to spend time with family and close friends.

On the professional side of things, we have had the first in-person workshop in October since the start of the pandemic. Despite first signs of a fourth wave, it could take place in Kapfenberg, Austria, under very strict Covid measures in order to guarantee the safety and health of all participants. It has been my main source for inspiration and motivation for the following quarter at the very least.

For 2022, my wish is to participate in more of such stimulating events! Kapfenberg, Austria
Autumn colours in Kapfenberg, Austria.

My professional vision for 2022

2021 was all about laying the foundations of DIGITAL SOLUTIONS. I have built a strong team of five, set up new processes, and introduced new tools. My team has started to develop great products. Groundwork often means doing things for the first time and from scratch. It also means to adapt often as circumstances change.

My vision for 2022 is: sustainable growth and impact.

It will require new strategies, a constant pace, and a clear focus but, foremost, to keep an open mind about new ideas and unique approaches.