2013 in review

If 2012 was the year that I finally became a real, contributing member of society, then 2013 was the year that I became a grown up. I bought a car, started a pension and got my first credit card!

Personal

This is always the hardest part to write. The first draft of it was pretty much “I’m enjoying work and I like the people I work with”. Whilst that definitely helps (and leads to things like our weekly games night and trips to the pub), it’s not really personal.

The hardest thing in 2013 was that I left Lally behind to move to Reading. I used to think that the 2 hour commute from Leeds when I was a student was hard, but having done a year of 5 hours each way I’m starting to respect people who can manage long distance relationships even more. It’s hard, but it’s still worth it.

I didn’t see as much of my parents as I’d planned to. This was down to a combination of spending any free time with Lally and not having many reasons to go home. Normally I’d say that I need to work on that this year, but I feel like my visits were enough. It’s always nice to see them, but I’m learning to appreciate that we only have a limited amount of free time, and that it should be spent as efficiently as possible.

Finally, I feel as though I’m finally an adult. When I was 18 and went to university, I thought that was it. Then when I started renting a house and paying utility bills, I thought that was it. Then I graduated and started working full time and I thought that was it. I may be mistaken this time too, but I think that this year’s the one that I finally stopped being a young person and became an adult. There’s a few material things that have contributed – starting a pension, getting a credit card, buying a car, but they’re not the be all and end all of it. For me, the realisation that when I speak people are listening is the line between being a young person and an adult. As a young person, people hear you, but they’re very quick to dismiss you as inexperienced, or try and rip you off as they think you don’t know any better. As an adult your ideas are heard and discussed, and third party services call you sir. This might just be perception, but it’s something that I’ve definitely noticed over the last 12 months.

Overall though, 2013 was a pretty good year for me. I worked at a job that I love, I got to see three places around the world that I wanted to visit, and I had Lally at my side through it all. If 2014 is as good, I’ll be just as happy.

Holidays

I managed 3 holidays this year, which is a pretty good effort. In January (which feels like a lifetime ago) Lally and I visited New York with my sister and her boyfriend. We did far too much to write up here, but I covered it over on my DayZero blog.

In March, we visited Iceland with the intention of seeing the Northern Lights. We thought we wouldn’t get to see them thanks to a combination of bad weather and low magnetic activity, but we finally caught them on our last night there. They’re one of the best things I’ve ever seen. If you ever get the chance to see them, do it. We stayed in Reykjavik, which is a tiny capital city. We ate good food, went whale watching, went to a geothermal spa and just generally relaxed. It’s worth mentioning that we also hired a car and I got to drive it! This was the first time since passing my test in late December last year that I got behind a wheel, so I loved it.

For our final trip away, we went to Rome for Lally’s birthday. Rome was very much a sightseeing holiday, with lovely food thrown in. We did the Trevi fountain, the colosseum, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese. Of them all, I think I enjoyed Villa Borghese the most. It’s a huge park where we just sat and relaxed, and I got to try out a Segway!

Work

Work’s still fantastic. We’ve hired loads of people, built some interesting systems and raised a load of money. I mentioned all the social stuff earlier, but the work itself is still interesting. I spent a lot of time working on Storyplayer, our open source test tool which was insightful. I also did quite a lot of work debugging new services, which lead to a pretty thorough understanding of how the platform fits together. The more I learn about the system, the more I marvel at how well it’s put together.

In the new year, I’ll be leaving the delivery team and moving to a new team that’s responsible for monitoring the platform and developing internal business metric dashboards, along with the billing system. I’m looking forward to getting more exposure to the business side of things, as well as the technical side that I was working on this year.

Barcamps + Conferences

I had another fairly quiet year for barcamps and conferences. I only went to two barcamps – Berkshire and Blackpool – the same two as last year. Lally organised Blackpool, and it was bigger and better than ever! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next year.

I also only managed 3 conferences. The first was PHPUK in January as an attendee. It was my first time at PHPUK and I enjoyed it. The talks were fairly interesting, but I found that a lot of them were about things I’d already learned at DataSift. This proved to be a common theme throughout the year.

Next up was DevsLoveBacon in May. I had a talk accepted, and went along to talk about Asynchronous Working, something which I’d learned about at Tweetdig. I personally don’t like the talk as I prefer more technical talks, but I had some good feedback so it all worked out well in the end.

In September, a colleague was scheduled to give a talk at the PHPNW user group in Manchester, but was unable to make it. I said I’d go in his place, and I gave a talk based on a title that he had submitted. It was an interesting experience, one that I might have to try again in the future.

The user group talk lead me nicely into October, where I was scheduled to talk at the PHPNW conference. I was prepared and had notes and slides prepared more than a week in advance! Then on the train there, I decided that I hated the talk and started rewriting it. I’m glad that I did. I enjoyed delivering it and it seemed to go down well.

I’ve submitted to a few places for 2014, but all we can do is wait and see what happens.

That was 2013

When I came to write this post, I went back and read my 2012 post. At the bottom, I had a few goals that I wanted to achieve. I’d completely forgotten about them, but looking back I met them all. This tells me that they were things that I really wanted.

In 2013, I read 17 books, smashing my target of 12: Slaughterhouse Five, The Republic of Thieves, Red Skies under Red Seas, The Boy Kings, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Neverwhere, The Gunslinger, The Wise Man’s Fear, The Zero Game, Bossypants, Life with No Breaks, The Name of the Wind, Inferno, The Colour of Magic, Falling Kingdoms, The Hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared and The House of Silk. I built a few personal projects (notably trello-cli, twitter-id-to-username and one as yet unlaunched site). Finally, I did get fitter! I joined a gym and I love it. I’m looking forward to getting back to it when I’m in Reading again in the new year.

I also mentioned that I wanted to speak at another conference and write something for a magazine. I achieved both of these things (just!). I spoke to DevsLoveBacon, then PHPNW (again) and I had an article published in the December issue of PHP Architect.

So, 2014?

After two years barely attending any events, I think 2014 is going to be the year that I attempt to do more public speaking. I’ll submit to all the conferences that I normally do, as well as others that are new to me. I’ll also be submitting ideas to user groups across the country to get a bit of practice in.

As with every year, I want to ship more side projects. This year I had a bit of an epiphany that side projects don’t need to be beautiful, they just have to work. Hopefully that will help. As goals should be quantifiable, I’m going to launch 5 projects in 2014 (including the one I built this year).

Less technically, I’m going to try and experience more. I’ve got a list of places to visit, a list of events to go to. I’m going to see Sonic Boom Six in February, and hope to add a lot more gigs to that list (whether I have to go alone or not!). I’m gonna go on a whisky tasting day, and a murder mystery weekend, and to see a London show. Basically, I’m going to do as much as I can, whilst I still can. I still have a long way to go on my Day Zero project, and I’m looking forward to crossing a lot of it off in 2014.

Michael is a polyglot software engineer, committed to reducing complexity in systems and making them more predictable. Working with a variety of languages and tools, he shares his technical expertise to audiences all around the world at user groups and conferences. You can follow @mheap on Twitter

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