Happy New Year everyone! I’m feeling super pumped for the new year as always. It’s another 365 days to live, spend time with our friends and family, create, fail, achieve, laugh, cry, build ourselves up and rise. How exciting, right?!

But before we jump into the fresh new year, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the last 12 months. Oh and also, ICYMI, you can read the annual 5 lessons learnt from 2018 here.

In 2017, I started giving each year a theme. This was something that was inspired by the Bullet Journalling community and is a grounding word when the day-to-day gets overwhelming.

Last year, my theme was “Imagine” because it was the year of expected changes…the close of a (very) long chapter of my life and the beginning of another. Throughout the year, imagining where I could be next kept me going when things got tough. I was very ambitious in 2018 and as a result, it has been my most productive year yet.

Let’s rewind back to all the wonderful moments of 2018!

Imagining 2018.

Jump to sections:

💭 Reviewing 2018: Imagine

1️⃣ Level up on Mission: Live Healthiest & Happiest Life 

I’m really pleased to say that I managed to keep up with my fitness habit this year, hitting my 2 years of #PawGainz.

My parents said that this has to be the longest commitment I’ve made and stuck to perhaps since I was born. 😆Growing up, I was known to start something and never finishing or continuing with it. However, committing to my physical health in 2016 changed my view on motivation, and since then, this habit has never left. My enthusiasm towards health has only grown with time as I learn more about what works for my body.

PawGainz in 2018

Specific 2018 goals I wanted to hit:

  • Lift heavier. Although not a huge increase, I’ve been slowly lifting heavier on my upper body days. I’ve upped my squats, leg presses, and hip abductions greatly!
  • Improve overall strength, stamina and build muscle. I’m pleased about my upper body strength because it was my focus! I started to finally measure myself and throughout the few months of June – August, I saw a slow increase in muscle gain and fat loss. I (oops) haven’t been measuring myself frequently since – this is something I need to get better at doing! I did hit my lowest body fat percentage of 15-16%, I have since gained this back but it was awesome to see how far I can go.
June to August progress – note to self, take more measurements
  • I. WILL. BECOME. MORE. FLEXIBLE. I joined Hot Yoga in January and practiced a weekly on improving my flexibility up until May when Hot Yoga felt too hot to be attending in the summer. I then moved to Leeds and hadn’t signed up to another studio since but have been joining in work’s regular weekly yoga classes. At the start of 2018, I could feel that my lack of flexibility was limiting my range of motions in certain exercises. Yoga has helped with this and I now feel confident in performing safe stretches, yoga poses, and mobility exercises.
  • Continue self-care rituals I’ve built over the last year. When I get stressed, I lift and feel better. I feel like I’ve fully established this. 😆
Graph from FitBit data showing activity over the year
  • Focus on getting enough sleep. Okay, this is something I’m actually super happy about. I’ve really focused on trying to sleep 7-8 hours this year, by being consistent with my bedtime and undertaking healthy evening activities. I have to credit Calm’s Sleep Stories that has been able to knock out my always-on brain without fail 🤣
Sleep log comparison from 2017 to 2018, data from Fitbit. Note: there were some days where I forgot to log my sleep, so this isn’t 100% accurate but gives a pretty good picture of improvement over the year.

2️⃣ Avoid setting up camp in the comfort zone 

I kept myself uncomfortable last year.

That will always be my favorite sentence to write. I will always feel proud of myself for keeping uncomfortable because as those wise words famously say, “nothing grows from your comfort zone.”


I continued to push my fear aside and get up on stage to talk in front of people. I celebrated my one year of public speaking! Over the 12 months, I’ve transformed my fear into something I truly enjoy. I experience the same endorphin rush I get when I’m at the gym chasing gainz!

Speaking at CFGNConf 18

My favorite talk of 2018 has to be at Inspire Women in Tech Nottingham where I spoke about my story into technology and the power of persistence. I received a lot of positive feedback and saw for the first time, the impact of sharing my story especially to younger girls. At the end of my talk, a little girl came up to me saying that she wants to be just like me when she grows up. That still pulls my heart strings. 😭💜

Another very significant talk that I did was in November, I was invited to a cross-governmental event in Westminster where I encouraged young girls to continue studying STEM subjects at school because of the doors that they open.

Being a role model or any type of inspirational person was never my intention but since this day, I realized how important it is to become someone that my younger self needed.

Speaking at Inspire Women in Tech Nottingham


I have always considered myself to be a better writer than speaker, and so this is why speaking in public is a huge deal to me. My blog has always been my comfort zone but at the end of 2017, I was told by one of my bosses at the time that he could see me shine on communicating on video. This was the encouragement I needed because filming was always interesting but the thought also terrified me. So, I committed to publishing a video at least every month on YouTube.

BBC Bitesize Careers Project

Speaking in front of the camera is something I still need to get better at but I’m pleased that I not only hit this goal but also went above and created videos for and with others.

One of my most significant work was being part of BBC Bitesize’s Careers Project where a whole film crew followed me around Leeds as I talked about technology careers. Earlier in the year, I was also part of the University of Sheffield’s International Women’s Day campaign which highlighted the fact that women rock in whatever they do.

I’ve also improved my video editing skills and “my eye” for angles and effects. I’ve become interested in creating quality videos that captures life well!


I moved out of Sheffield and Matt became my roommate (he hates it when I say that so I’m going to continue saying it haha 😛) It was difficult at first because up until this point, I was dependent on my parents. This wasn’t something I was necessarily aware of until I moved. You all assured me that it will get better with time and you were all right! I’ve grown to love my new life in Leeds and I’m so grateful for an amazing first apartment and for Matt for putting up with my need to tidy up every week to calm my mind down.

The day we confirmed our move to Leeds!

Thank you to everyone that made sure that I transitioned well into Leeds by inviting me to meet-ups, coffee, lunch and the lot! 🤗

Matt and I exploring our new city

3️⃣ Be in control of my personal finances

If you asked me about the proudest moment of 2018, it has to be making the decision to use the money I was earning to stash away and create more money i.e. investing and saving.

I’ve been earning more than I ever thought I would be for my first job after University (including remote work!) so being smart with my money became a necessity. I had been putting money away on-and-off in June, but since September, I’ve managed to put away a £100 minimum with some months I’ve gone a little crazy and put half of my wage away 🤣This has come from doing a ton of self-reflection, honesty and completing Personal Finances courses on Lynda.com!

I’m so proud of this because I have always been a known hoarder, and heavy spender (sometimes more than my account can handle) Finally taking control feels good!

4️⃣ Make the most out of time 


I highlighted in my personal development blog post that one of my realised strengths is being able to optimise my time. I especially made sure that I made use of every second I have in a day and got increasingly better at juggling things. I think I earned some sort of super-human productivity badge (self-proclaimed) 😂

Even though I became a supercharged productive machine last year, I quickly found that humans aren’t machines.


I became increasingly aware of how many times I use my phone, and how distracted I can be. In fact, I learned that I have a twitch when I know my phone is in my pocket. Not good.

I have been making progress though. The introduction of Screen Time on my iPhone has allowed me to set myself daily social media limits and when I can, I try to leave my phone at home if I didn’t need it. Other things I’ve been doing is putting my phone on Airplane mode before bed and reading a book instead of scrolling until I pass out 😅

This is something I will be continuing on improving over the year but mindfulness, again, has proven to be powerful.

5️⃣ Declutter

Moving away from my family home helped a lot with this. I organized all my stuff into “bringing with me”, “leaving here” (a small amount of clothes for weekends!) and “throw out”. This has shrunk my wardrobe greatly and motivated me to stop buying things (unless absolutely necessary!)

Although I will never be the minimalist that Matt is, I’m happy that I no longer want to hoard everything into my life! I’ve reached the stage where when I do my weekly apartment clean, I’m looking for other things I no longer need. Throwing things away can get addictive! 😂

6️⃣ Continue what I’ve started

Hell yeah.

Community work

Teaching at Vodafone

I continued another year of volunteering with Code First: Girls, where I helped teach female students at both Sheffield University and at DWP in Leeds how to build their own websites in 8 weeks. In February, I taught a room of school kids how to code. I also joined in the furtHER programme with BT, where I am a mentor for one of the current delegates.

Screenshot taken from DWP Communications Teams’ video on Code First: Girls General Course in Leeds

Community work tends to look at what is given to a community, and it can be overlooked at what that community has given back to the person. With this in mind and a heart full of gratitude, I wrote a blog post about it because community work gave me more than just something to add to my CV. It gave me a purpose and opportunities beyond words!

My “Paying it Forward” post was used as part of Code First: Girls’ CEO, Amali de Alwis’ award acceptance speech for Computer Weekly’s most influential women of the year which was a huge honour.

My final class at Sheffield University’s Beginners Courses

Although I’ve decided to take a break in instructing at Code First: Girls in 2019, I will always support the organisations’ work and continue to work closely with them to bridge the gap of women in STEM. Thanks for everything CF:G! 💜


Back in 2017, my main goal was to attend a hackathon.

HackMed18 as organiser and Hack Sheffield 4.0 as sponsor

Fast forward to the end of 2018, I not only have attended a few hackathons, but also organised one and sponsored one with BT. Hackathons gave me a sense of community, helped me create better relationships with like-minded folks, and allowed me to learn exciting new technologies from others.

Networking and events

I continued what I started in 2017… attending events to learn, connect with like-minded people and bring back some gems to my community. I never saw myself as the networking type, but this year has helped me become a better attendee.

Sheffield Women in Tech Meet-up Launch

However, I have suffered from serious burnout this year. I found myself attending quite a few events in 2018, to the point where my weekends or evening were always packed with event after event.

Taking space away from a favourite hobby, in this case – event organising/attending – has been difficult but for my overall health, I’ve decided the importance of stepping back for a bit and taking a quality over quantity approach.


Numbers and graphs are my best friends when trying to explain growth. So, here are some numbers:

  • Blog: Over 1,000 readers per month have been following along with my daily adventures on Pawlean.com. My aim has been to inspire at least one person with what I write, and out of that 1,000 on average, I want to believe one person left with a nugget of useful information. 💎
  • Social media:
    • Twitter: I started 2018 with just over 2,000 followers, I aimed to get 3,000 by the end of the year but hit my target early 2018.
    • Facebook: 167 page likes, from 4 (including myself, my brother and my parents 😂)
    • Instagram: 2,600 followers from 2,000 at the start of the year!
    • LinkedIn pages: 67 from 0
    • LinkedIn (in general): 3,000 connections from 2,000

Please note: Numbers aren’t everything, keep creating for the love of it!

2018’s Inspiring Figures

I launched Inspiring Figures – the blog column of people you should know about! In July, I extended it to a fun media project where I spoke to each inspirational figure through IG Live. Highlight other people’s work and success have brought me so much joy, the whole project has been a success and is something I want to continue in the future! Thank you to Clark Narvas for post-production work every month without fail. 🤘🏼

And finally, I celebrated 4 years of Pawlean and delivered Pawlean stickers around the world. 🌎Seeing the stickers on people’s laptops, notebooks, phones etc. put the biggest smile on my face, thanks for spreading the pawsitivity y’all!

Pawlean stickers placed everywhere around the world

Other Highlights

Life after University

Matt and I during my graduation ceremony in July

👩🏻‍🎓 I finally graduated from University and got my degree in Biomedical Sciences. One of my biggest academic achievement was in the Spring Semester, where I took a really difficult module (it was also the module where I fell out with one of the professors.) Anxious throughout the revision period and during the exam, I was certain that I would fail and have to re-take the whole year… But I ended up with my personal highest grade for a module… ever. Turns out wanting to prove someone wrong and studying like a mad-woman pays off!

👩🏻‍💻 Earlier in the year, I was flooded with rejections. But as the end of university drew closer, I managed to secure my first professional experience 2 weeks after my last exam. I worked at a health tech company for the summer and thought that I would continue working there after until I received the call from the company I interviewed at a few weeks before.

Come September, I joined the graduate training programme at BT which was a dream come true! I sit with the Digital Engineering / DevOps team where I have since learned so much about DevOps, an Agile way of working, Scrum, Architecture (which is my first rotation) and exciting new technologies. The company has also given me the opportunity to speak at events, promote careers to current students and be part of exciting campaigns! I’m really enjoying myself and can’t wait to see what is to come in 2019 🤗

🕸 I also hit my remote web development anniversary which I secured last November. It’s been fun to do some front-end development on the side of my full-time job.

Graduating, summer internship and my induction week in London for my graduate programme (from July, August and September)


2017 vs 2018 comparison on NomadList

Although I didn’t travel as much as I did in 2017, Matt and I went to Malaga where I resumed Moana duties and we went for our much needed post-university break.

We travel places and do this. If you know, you know.

For the rest of the year, I traveled around the UK a lot for work including Ipswich, Hatfield, Nottingham, London, and Newcastle!


2017 was the year of constant action, 2018 was constant action with recognition. Thank you to everyone that supported me and put me forward for these!

Finalist at the NUE Awards in February

I was also featured in a number of different things:

Speaking on live on BBC Radio Leeds

General life

Moments of Learning

Reading through these highlights can look like it’s been an all-dancing, all-singing year but it hasn’t. Although most of the year has been fantastic, I wanted to talk about moments that weren’t so great. But these were learning moments for me moving forward.

My dad’s health

In November, my dad had a health scare that he is still recovering and dealing with today. This whole experience taught me a lot about health (especially cardiovascular health and genetics) and the importance of spending quality time with our loved ones.

Watching the sunset on the beach in Malaga

Burn out

As I highlighted in my lessons learned, although it’s been productive year, by the end of it I started struggling keeping up with everything. Even when I hit a milestone, I’d instantly look for the next thing to complete. I began feeling drained, anxious and unhappy, resulting in strains in relationships and unhealthy behaviours like comfort eating. I learned about the effects of adopting to the always-on culture and grind the hard way – by burning out.

It wasn’t just me who had observed this about myself but also my colleagues, my friends and family. This experience will be the foundations of my 2019.

🚀 2019: RISE

I need to say this again (just as I’ve always been all year) but I am so grateful for all the opportunities that has come my way in 2018. I wouldn’t be here without everyone’s support for helping me create the path that I am walking! 🙏🏻

Rise, yo.

My 2019 will focus on building on what I’ve done, celebrating small achievements everyday and creating a better balance with living life.

This year’s goals

💪🏼 Health


  • Beat current lifting numbers
  • Increase muscle mass, decrease stubborn fat
  • Eat to nourish 💚
  • Don’t take too much on, be mindful of my mental capacity


  • Because health is important

How can I get to this point?

  • I’ve committed to switch things up a bit and will be training with a personal trainer!
  • Get better at tracking numbers (e.g. weight, body fat percentage etc.)
  • Keep up with daily meditation and weekly yoga practice
  • Walk everywhere (this is so much easier in Sheffield than Leeds 🙈)
  • Review in 6 months – write a follow up blog post

💸 Wealth


  • Commit to putting a minimum of £100 away into savings and stocks monthly and don’t touch.


  • Because it is important for the future – a house, a trip, retirement and financial freedom!
  • Because I’m in it for the long-term game.

How can I get to this point?

  • Keep inspired and learning about finances
  • “Pay yourself” principle with a minimum of £100
  • Review monthly – how much money can be saved in 12 months?

🚀 Career


  • Have an idea of the area of specialism for after the graduate programme
  • Pick up skills and knowledge that is valuable in the industry. Points of interest:
    • Cloud Computing
    • React
    • Apache Karaf
    • Java
    • Basics of app development
  • Continue delivering talks around career development and technology


  • I spend most of my days at work – I need to make the most out of the resources given to me to future-proof my career.

How can I get to this point?

  • Schedule weekly learning and development sessions to learn more about specific technologies
  • Complete a course on at least one of the technologies listed above and document progress
  • Continue networking with other colleagues beyond my department and outside of my workplace
  • Study the current industry practices to get a better focus on learning
  • Asking myself daily questions:
    • Is this what I want to do?
    • What is the future in this? Is this area growing and expanding?
    • Is this area applicable and needed in other companies?
    • The skills I’m learning – is this transferable elsewhere e.g. project / freelance work?
    • What is being done industry?

💖 Relationships


  • Create better meaningful relationships
  • Be a better friend and partner


  • People around you are everything

How can I get to this point?

  • Be present when with family and friends… that means no phones!
  • Continue going to events to meet more like-minded folks (do this more spaced out!)
  • Meet a friend from the online world
  • Remember not to let others take you for granted. It’s a two-way street.
  • Express gratitude and thanks to friends and family daily

👩🏻‍💻 Online


  • Keep creating what I love for my own enjoyment and to share knowledge with others
    • Writing and blogging
    • Filming and editing videos
    • Inspiring Figures
  • Start a column about money and building an online presence


  • Because I enjoy it!

How can I get to this point?

  • Keep up with my weekly posts – writing or filming!
  • Stay inspired by following new people, networking, and living

🗺 Travel


  • Go abroad at least twice
  • Spend weekends wisely to explore outside Leeds and Sheffield


  • Because inspiration is out there, not beyond a computer screen.
  • Because relaxing is trendy.
  • Because I’ve only explored 5% of the world and there’s still so much to see!

How do I get to this point?

  • Budgets!
  • Planning and organisation
  • Use up all my annual holidays 😆

These goals are definitely not set in stone, I expect them to change throughout the year and that’s one of the reasons why I write my monthly round-ups to refine each of them.

Whatever your goals are (or even if you don’t have any!), let’s make 2019 an awesome year. We all have it within us to create huge changes even with the tiniest step everyday.

That gym session, that better food choice, that tenner put away or an hour put into quality learning all add up. Let’s all make it a goal to rise above our present selves – bring it on 2019!

What are your top 3 goals this year?

10 responses to “Rise”

  1. HAPPY NEW YEAR PAW! I’m actually chuckling a little at the 2017 vs 2018 travel because it looks exactly like mine, since I became broke after my exchange semester LOL so I only resorted to interstate travel. I’m sure you hit up many spots within the UK though and even that counts too – Newcastle Upon Tyne, for example, looks really lovely and the bridge I’ve heard was actually the inspiration for the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

    I love how you’ve improved on logging your sleep. I have too, become a FitBit addict and I love logging in my stats, which I’ll hopefully get better at in 2019 too. Have a great start to the new year, hope you’ll be able to work on finding a better balance this year to avoid burn out 😀

    1. Happy New Year to you too Enoch! Haha, I think I remember saying the same thing to you – I wouldn’t be travelling much in 2018 because it was all about heads-down hard work. I just booked my trips for this year to make up for the lack of trips in 2018 haha!!

      Have a great year ahead, wishing you all the success in the world!

  2. You had an amazing 2018! I agree, fitness is the hardest to commit with but you’ve done it, I wish I can do the same 🙂 Here’s to awesome 2019, happy New Year!


    1. Thanks Mercy! Have a great 2019!

  3. Awesome job on your 2018 goals! Seeing how far you’ve gone the past couple of years both in fitness and in the tech community is so inspiring. Also major kudos for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Public speaking is a fear for many people, and you really tackled that one. That must have felt amazing when the little girl told you she wants to be like you! How sweet!

    I’m glad you’ve grown to like your new life in Leeds! I really enjoyed moving away from my parents’ house and the new feeling of independence. I’ve also been on a decluttering kick the past year, and I think my husband is getting annoyed by how often I want to go through the house to declutter more, haha.

    Congrats on graduating and on all of the recognition and features! They’re well deserved! I’m glad you wrote about your burnout too. It sucks to hit that feeling, but I feel like not everyone will admit that they’ve reached that. Seeing someone mention it is a good reminder that we all need breaks sometimes! I also hope your dad is doing ok! I wish him the best in his recovery!

    Good luck on your new goals! I like how you have a reason and plan for each one. You’re definitely prepared! I hope you have a great 2019!

    1. Thanks so much Cat 😊 I don’t think I’d be where I am today without everyone’s support so this really means alot. 🙂

      HAHA, I declutter every week. I know how you feel! It gets so addicting, what can I say?!

  4. Happy New Year, Pauline! I love reading your yearly round-ups, they’re always so inspiring. Congrats on all your achievements this year; it’s great to see how much recognition you’re getting for all the hard work you put in. I can’t think of anyone more deserving.

    I remember how much I decluttered when I moved out. Our flat was soooo tiny so I had to leave so much at my mum and dad’s and basically spent the whole time I was there trying to get rid of much as I possibly could. However, since moving into a house I’ve bought so much more! Need to get back on it!

    I’m with you on the financial goals. I’m very good at spending more than I need to, and want to really try to maximise my saving this year. Obviously, I don’t want to stop buying things altogether, but I want to make more considered purchases. Hope you succeed in saving!

    Good luck with everything and hope you have a wonderful 2019. I know I keep saying this, but we definitely need to meet up sometime – I’m just so bad at organising stuff!

    1. Thanks so much Amy! Happy 2019!! I hope we can meet again this year, would love to see you 😊

  5. You should be super proud! And I always say this but it’s still true, you’re so inspiring!

    I also like how for your goals you put reasons/how to do them. May have to borrow that. XD

    1. Definitely do it if it helps you! Thanks Megan, happy 2019!

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