2015 in review

This article was published 4 years ago. Due to the rapidly evolving world of technology, some concepts may no longer be applicable.

Well, 2015 came and went as quickly as 2014 did. If they’re anything to go by, I’ll be sat writing the 2016 edition of this before I know it. Before then though, let’s take a look at 2015.


I’m writing this on my shiny new(ish) Macbook that I bought back in August. It’s my first new laptop in 5 years and it’s great. Not only is is tiny (12”) and light, it’s a decently powerful machine for running VMs on. I’m very happy with it.

Chantelle and I are still going strong. We celebrated 12 months together this year and are looking to buy a house together towards the end of 2016. I intended to save a house deposit this year, and I did well, getting 50% of the way there. Another 12 months and I’ll be ready I think.

I saw my parents more than usual this year. I made the trip home for family birthdays as there were a lot of big ones this year, and they came down south too. My sister and Chris bought a flat that has a spare room, so they can stay there. Speaking of those two, they also got engaged on Christmas eve, so it looks like we’ve got a wedding to look forward to in 2017.

Finally, I started taking the gym a little more seriously. I’ve played squash 3-5 times a week for most of the year, but I also got into weightlifting more seriously. I did a short stint in April, but only really did more when Nick joined me from September. From a 35kg bench press last year, I’ve improved a lot. Here are my current figures (5 sets of 5 reps):

  • Bench: 60kg
  • Squat: 75kg
  • Deadlift (1×5): 105kg
  • Overhead Press: 35kg
  • Barbell Row: 60kg

As well as that, I completed a Tough Mudder in September. A 16k run plus obstacles (including monkey bars! I got half way across which I’m very happy with) in 3h42m. We were against our US counterparts who finished in 3h48m. Go team UK! I’d do another Tough Mudder, definitely.


I did start another DayZero list, though I’ve not shared it this time. I’m making much better progress with it as the goals are more realistic, but still fun. Here’s a list of things on there that I’ve achieved this year:

  • Save an emergency fund of 3 month’s wages
  • Try out Stronglifts 5×5
  • Run sub-30min 5k (28 mins)
  • Run sub-60min 10k (53 mins)
  • Complete a 10k race (Frimley park 10k)
  • Complete Tough Mudder (Seattle 2015, 3h42m)
  • Climb Sears Tower, Chicago
  • Watch all James Bond films (ending with Spectre at the IMAX)
  • Go on a hot air balloon ride (over Henley)
  • See the Book of Mormon
  • Go to London for the New Year fireworks (Not in the centre, from Stave Hill)
  • See an IMAX movie (James Bond – Spectre)
  • I was a tourist in London (Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, Big Ben etc)
  • Went ice skating at Somerset House
  • Rode the Emirates cable car over London
  • Joined the National Trust as a member
  • Tried contact lenses (Didn’t like them)
  • Haven’t played a bandit all year
  • Read a chapter of a book every night (I did this for ages, then had a break. Back into it now)
  • No phone/laptop before bed (Again, did it, took a break, back to it now)
  • Be in the office for 9am (Achieved unless I was at the gym, in which case it was by 10:30)
  • Took a photo of myself each day (kind of. Every few days is enough)
  • Rebuy my wardrobe (A £500 trip to Gunwharf Quays in the January sales. Expensive, but worth it)
  • Attended my 10 year school reunion
  • Became a feature lead at work (Scutters maintenance team)

That’s 25 things! Some easier than others, but all things that I’m glad I did.


2015 was a good year for holidays. With a long weekend in Iceland (didn’t get to see the lights, but we did have an awesome time staying in an Airbnb shed).

Then we spent a weekend in Belgium with Nick and Andy from work along with Chantelle + some others. We hired a big house between us that had a pool, a cinema and a million different rooms. We got the Eurostar into Brussels then hired a car to drive to the house (about 90 minutes away). It was my first experience driving abroad since Iceland and it was actually fine. We also went to see the Spa Grand Prix, which was awesome. I’ve not walked so far in a single weekend in a long time.

Then, it was time for 10 days in Spain. Chantelle’s aunt has an apartment out there so we just booked flights and stayed there. It was an enjoyable break – not too hot but not cold either. We went out a few evenings (including a spectacular place down by the beach) but we also spent a few evenings at home having a BBQ and relaxing. We’re going to head back there in 2016.

I don’t want to call them holidays, but I also ended up in Italy and the US thanks to speaking at different conferences. I’ll cover those later though.


Life at DataSift is going well. Around June I was tasked with tackling our backlog of customer issues and technical debt – a challenge I was ready for. With a rotating team of engineers, we smashed it. We solved every customer related issue (except the really hard ones) and made a good start on improving the internal platform that we have to work on day to day. Sadly we let a few people go at the end of the year during a restructuring, but I’m optimistic for this year.

Outside of work, I’ve been busy. As well as conferences, I completed a video series on ExpressJS for Packt publishing (which was an experience, though I don’t think I’ll do it again) and I’ve started writing a book on Ansible for Apress.

Over Christmas I picked up my first bit of freelance work developing Ansible playbook for a set of existing applications. It’s been enjoyable – I’d love to do more freelance work helping improve the quality of existing code bases but I’m not sure anyone is willing to pay for it.

Conferences / Barcamps / Usergroups

Back in February I attended PHPUK as an attendee which was enjoyable, just like every year I’ve been. After that, I only managed to attend as a speaker thanks to DataSift very generously giving me time off work to speak.

It started with PHPday.it in Verona, where I taught a tutorial on Vagrant and Ansible. I was only there for a short time, but I managed to explore the city for a day before spending some time at the conference and teaching my tutorial. Sadly I had to leave straight after my tutorial as I needed to fly back to England to catch another flight the following morning.

After arriving home at 10pm on a Friday, I was back out to Heathrow at 7am to head to Chicago for php|tek where I was talking about PHP and Standards, and teaching a Vagrant and Ansible tutorial. This was a week long conference out at the Sheraton O’Hare. It was my first US conference and I loved it. It’s a great conference, and I’d love to go back. It’s not covered on our conference policy at work, but I’ll be submitting a set of talks again this year so we’ll see if I’m as lucky this year.

To wrap up the year, I was lucky enough to speak at Redevelop.io in Bournemouth and PHPNW in Manchester about Pipeline Architectures. I was at Redevelop last year as a backup speaker (thankfully not required) and I’ve been to PHPNW for the last 4 years in a row, so I knew to expect a high quality conference from both events – they did not disappoint.

Regrettably, I had to decline an invitation to speak at EndpointCon in Amsterdam in September as we had already booked our week in Spain. There’s always next year!

Finally, conference talks for next year. I’ll be at PHP Benelux in Belgium in January teaching my tutorial again and speaking about DevOps for Developers. PHPUK also accepted one of my talks after years of submissions – I’ll be there talking about Automation Automation Automation in February.

Finally finally, there’s the usergroups. I’m speaking at PHPSW in Bristol in January and PHP Hampshire in February. No others planned yet, but let’s see what the rest of the year holds.

Gigs + Events

This was a quiet year for gigs. I saw Ben Howard at Alexandra Palace in April with Chantelle which was good. It wasn’t my usual kind of gig but Chantelle enjoyed it lots and I found myself singing along a little too.

We also ended up in London at a pub to see Imperial Leisure and Sonic Boom Six. I’ve loved Imperial Leisure ever since they popped up on a Spotify playlist, so seeing them live was amazing. At one point there were a dozen people on a tiny stage playing trumpets and just generally having a good time.

I was supposed to see Nightwish in December (I had tickets and everything!) but I had to sell them to go to my work Christmas party which was on the same night. Supposedly it was amazing – I’ll just have to try again next year.

That was 2015

Let’s take a look at what I thought I’d do this time last year.

I’m going to commit to 12 books next year. I don’t know when I’ll read, but I’ll find the time.

Didn’t quite get to 12. I managed to get through 6 books (5 fiction, 1 tech). I read every night for a while but fell out of it one I finished the series I was enjoying.

Speaking of the gym, I’m definitely going to get to 10k this year. Chantelle ran a half marathon last year, so we’ve agreed that we’ll do a 10k this year.

We ran a 10k! The Frimley hospital 10k back in April. We finished in around an hour and 10 minutes, which wasn’t too bad. A few weeks later I set my personal best, 10k in 53 minutes.

I’m going to go through my DayZero list and start another one.

I started another one (see above) and seem to be making decent progress. Just need to keep on with that

I’m happy in my personal life and I’m getting fitter.


I’m enjoying where I’m living (which is more than I could say for this time last year)

I am, though this is my last year here as I’ll be moving in with Chantelle.

I’m saving for a house deposit (slowly).

£10k down, £10k to go.

Fingers crossed that this time next year things are going just as well.

They are! Life is busy, but I’m really enjoying it. I’ve done lots personally, lots professionally and lots physically. The highlights for me are Chantelle, running a team at work successfully and completing Tough Mudder

Looking towards 2016

Let’s commit to reading again this year. 12 books by December. This should be easy if I keep up my plan to read a chapter every night.

I say it every year, but, SHIP SOMETHING. I have whole lists of projects, and though I’m busy with books and work and things, I found time recently to program for me and really enjoyed it. I need to find time to write code for myself.

I’m going to write for PHP Architect again if they accept. I’d also like to write for places like Sitepoint and the Zend Devzone. Places that have a widespread readership and would be good for getting my name out there.

Finally, I’m going to buy a house. By the end of 2016 I should be living with Chantelle we should be close to completing on a house if all goes to plan. Fingers crossed!

Thoughts on this post

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