2016 in review

As predicted last year, it’s time to write my 2016 wrap up and it’s arrived far too quickly. 2016 was a big year – I bought a house, changed jobs and did a hell of a lot of travelling.

Personal

Reading back over past years, it feels as though I have to start off this section talking about computers. As with last year, I’m writing this on my lovely 12 inch Macbook, but I did end up dropping around £1200 on a new PC this year. I’ve been looking at getting one for years, but when Civilization 6 came out and I needed something to play it on I finally had an excuse.

I thought that I’d need until the end of 2016 to save a house deposit, but I actually managed to get it done by August-ish. Saving an entire house deposit in 20 months was hard work, but it put us in a position where we could put in an offer on a house. It needs a ton of work, but it’s in a good location with enough space for us. We’re still in the process of sorting out paperwork, but hopefully we’ll complete early next year.

Activities other than work have suffered since I changed jobs (see below). Whilst I lived in Reading I played squash 4 times a week, football once a week and went to the gym infrequently. When my tenancy ran out in August, I moved in with Chantelle into her parent’s house whilst we wait for our house purchase to go through. It works as it’s closer to work, I have a proper desk set up and of course, I get to see Chantelle every day 🙂 The downsides are that I don’t play squash or football any more, and I’ve been pretty lax on going to the gym. After Christmas I’ll start up again! I definitely need to get into a routine again as Chantelle and I have agreed that we’re going to do a triathlon in 2017.

DayZero

I didn’t think that I’d done much from my DayZero list as I haven’t really been looking at it. After reviewing it though, I managed to cross off quite a few things:

  • Save money for a house deposit
  • Live debt free for a year
  • Take the stairs when possible
  • Visit Edinburgh – I spoke to ScotlandPHP and Edinburgh is lovely
  • Drive a Mustang in America (kind of, we had a Lincoln which is another lovely American car)
  • Go to Vegas
  • Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon
  • Read 36 books – Pretty sure I’ve hit this as I’ve read 24 books this year
  • Cirque du Soleil – ‘O’ and Ka
  • Ride a tandem bike – We did this across the Golden Gate bridge
  • Fly a kite – We did this on a beach in Monterey
  • Become a mentor – this happened, but my mentee stopped replying after a while. I tried to follow up but didn’t get a reply. I don’t know if the issue was me or them.

Holidays

I travelled a lot this year, though most of it was for conferences which I’ll cover later. Holiday-wise, I managed to get 10 days in Spain at the end of June and we spent 22 days travelling through California, driving down route 1 with a detour out to Yosemite National Park and a trip to Las Vegas to wrap it all up.

We planned on hiring a Mustang, but people advised us not to prebook and to choose a car on the lot on the day. They didn’t have any Mustangs left (We ended up with a Lincoln MKZ which was a lovely drive), so lesson learned there.

Thanks to Brexit, we were significantly poorer than we expected to be (hotels booked pre-Brexit, paid post-Brexit) so we didn’t get to eat as much nice food as I’d have liked. Some days we bought food from supermarkets and made our own sandwiches, some days we managed to survive on a single meal. Special shout out to the buffet at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas though – we won a bit of money in the casino and decided to treat ourselves to the buffet. It’s expensive, but definitely worth it.

Finally, we got to see two Cirque du Soleil shows. The first one was ‘O’ at the Bellagio, which is the best one that I’ve ever seen. The staging for it is incredible, with moving platforms under the water so you never know how deep it is when people dive in. By the end of the holiday we were running low on funds, but we had the opportunity to see Ka (another Cirque show) for $50 for the both of us. The only downside was that we had to sit through a timeshare presentation. I knew what we were getting into, but Chantelle didn’t. She wasn’t impressed. But, we spent our few hours in a presentation where they fed us, and we got our tickets for Cirque as promised. We went to see it that evening and honestly, it was a little disappointing. Given the option, I’d definitely recommend going to see ‘O’.

Work

Though I didn’t think the day would ever come, I decided to leave DataSift this year to join Digi.me. It wasn’t something that I set out to do, but when I tried my standard way of getting rid of a recruiter (ask for way more money, refuse to travel during rush hour, work days from home) and they agreed to everything, I figured it was worth talking to the company. Long story short, I’m now working 4 days per week on a more operations focused role. I’m learning a ton of things and working on a product that I actually find interesting. The fact that it pays 10% more and I only have to work 4 days per week is a massive bonus too. I’m planning on using that free day to build up some SaaS products and do a little freelancing next year.

Book

At the end of 2015, I got in touch with Apress as they were looking for people to author a book about Ansible. I pitched my idea and they went for it, which means that 2016 was spent writing a book! It was launched successfully in October 2016, and I’m very happy that it’s over.

Writing a book is a much bigger investment than I had initially anticipated. When you understand something, it’s easy to miss out small details that make all the difference. I must have read the book several dozen times during editing to make sure that it made sense. My technical reviewer was excellent and taught me lots of things about writing books that I’ll take forward with me. The rest of the editorial team was less excellent, more focused on chasing dates (whilst missing their own) than improving the book. Combined with the percentage of each sale I get (it’s not a lot), I won’t be publishing another book with a big name publisher. Having a printed book is pretty cool, as is being able to say I was published by Apress, but if I write any more in the future it’ll definitely be self published.

Conferences

This year, I gave 13 talks and taught one tutorial at 9 different conferences:

  • PHP Benelux
  • FOSDEM
  • PHPUK
  • php|tek
  • PHP South Coast
  • PHPConfAsia
  • PHPConf Phillipines
  • ScotlandPHP
  • PHP[World]

After adding the talks at usergroups to practice, I presented 23 times this year. I enjoyed it, but by the time I was at PHP[World] in Washington in November, I was ready to get my talks done and get home.

For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed presenting. With the exception of Devops for Developers (which went terribly), I think the majority of them went well too, as I’ve managed to maintain a 5/5 average on joind.in.

For next year, I’m mainly going to submit to conferences that I’ve not been to before. There’ll be a few duplicates, but they’ll primarily be new to me. I’ve managed to make the talks informative and factual, but I’d like to work on the storytelling aspect next year.

Gigs + Events

It’s been a busy year! We kicked the year off with a trip to see War Horse in London (our Christmas gift from Chantelle’s parents). Our seats were incredible, and the costumes were so well made. Through the year we also saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Feb), Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap (April), Footloose (July) and Oliver’s Christmas Pants (Dec).

I only got to three gigs – Scala, Celine Dion and Electric Six. Electric Six were a little disappointing compared to when I saw them in Liverpool 10 years ago. We saw Celine Dion at the Colosseum in Caesar’s Palace, which is an amazing venue. Finally, there was Scala in a church in London. I’ve been a fan of Scala for years, so getting to finally see them was great.

As well as gigs and shows, we went to a Murder Mystery night, rode on a steam train (the Watercress line), visited Hampton Court, went to Highclere Castle (where they film Downton Abbey), attended two comedy nights and did the Christmas lights at both Blenheim Palace and Kew.

Finally, in the Easter holidays we climbed Mount Snowdon with Claire and Guy. It was cold, but we managed to get all the way to the top and back down again. I’d like to do something similar in the future, but maybe not in 2017 as it’s so busy already.

That was 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.

Absolutely smashed this one. A lot of them were audiobooks, but they totally count. Instead of my target of 12, I managed to get through 24 books! Some fiction, some non-fiction, some self improvement. I enjoyed most of them, but a special shoutout for Daemon by Daniel Suarez.

I say it every year, but, SHIP SOMETHING.

I didn’t ship anything that users can use just by signing up and logging in, but I did ship a few useful projects:

  • Hold Your Horses – A Github status check that prevents merging pull requests for a certain amount of time
  • Terraform Azure Credentials – A bash script that uses the azure command line tool to look up all of the credentials required by the AzureRM terraform provider.
  • mheap.app-backup – An Ansible role to back up a path on disk and mySQL database
  • ansible-module-mas – An Ansible module that uses the has command line tool to install applications from the Mac App Store.
  • ansible-apply-role – Apply an Ansible role to the local machine e.g. ansible-apply-role geerlingguy.nodejs.

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.

I didn’t get around to writing for any new publications, but I did get around to writing for PHP Architect again – this time on Characterisation Tests with Behat. In the new year I’d like to write more, which should be possible if I attend less conferences and don’t have a book to write.

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.

We’re almost there. I moved into Chantelle’s parent’s house so I guess we can class living together as a success! We had an offer on a house accepted in August, but things are taking longer than expected to go through. Fingers crossed we’ll have the keys in the next month or two.

Looking towards 2017

Just like every year, let’s commit to reading 12 books (audiobooks count!). I’ve really enjoyed listening this year, and would like to keep the streak going.

At some point in the year Chantelle and I are aiming to complete a triathlon. My fitness has been going downhill since Tough Mudder and having an aim is a good way to start building up my fitness again.

I have some work to do on open source projects this year, including trello-cli, ansible-module-mas and joind.in. On top of this, I’m going to start a SaaS project and built an iPhone app.

As my saving goal for the house is done, I need to find something else to start saving towards (I’m a huge fan of YNAB). My car is 10 years old this year, so perhaps I’ll start saving for a new(er) one. It’ll need to be something quite big if we’re going to get a dog or two in the back!

Finally, 2017 will be all about starting up my freelance business. I’d like to be contracting full time by the end of 2018, so getting a few days here and there in 2017 would be a great start.

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

Thoughts on this post

Leave a comment?

Leave a Reply