2017 in review

It feels as though every year has to be bigger than the last. 2017 was full of changes – a new job, new house and an engagement (plus of course, the usual travelling)

Personal

No new computers this year (unless of course you count my work machine, a 13 inch Macbook Pro with touchbar). I am however still thoroughly enjoying the PC I built at the end of last year.

This time last year we were waiting on a house purchase to go through in Yateley, which sadly fell through in February as the vendor decided to withdraw. It was tough, having spent 4 months searching for that one and another 5 months trying to get through the paperwork.

However, this ended up being a good thing as I’m currently sat in a much nicer house just 30 minutes cycle from the beach near Chichester. We went to see the house on a whim as we were already in the area and just 6 weeks later we were holding the keys.

It always felt as though buying a house was holding us up progressing with life, so once we had the keys I felt as though we could move forward whenever we wanted. For me, this turned out to be the next day when I decided to ask Chantelle to marry me, borrowed a ring and proposed to her in a room full of packed cardboard moving boxes (thankfully, she said yes!)

Despite leaving DataSift and Reading, I still saw people for games + occasional drinks. There were a few games nights and I played through Near and Far with Nick, Ben and David across about 10 sessions. It’s a little tougher now that I’m in Fishbourne but I still make the trip back for full day sessions – we’re playing through Pandemic Legacy season 2 at the moment which is hard.

Finally, fitness (or lack thereof). I didn’t do much exercise last year, but that has to change this year. I joined the local squash club who play once a week for 2 hours which is a good start. They’re all really good – one guy’s been playing there since 1990! With a wedding pencilled in for 2018, I need to lose the pounds I put on in 2017 and feel comfortable again.

Holidays

We did pretty well for holidays this year. No huge month-long trip to the US like last year, but we still managed to get away 4 times.

We had our standard trip to Spain in the summer (which I ended up working as it was only my second week at Nexmo), a long weekend in Devon and a visit to the Christmas markets in Munich. Having family own property in Spain + Devon makes getting away much cheaper.

I was in Washington in November for PHPWorld and Chantelle decided to join me for the week. We had two days before the conference and one day after to do things together, and Chantelle visited the Capitol etc (which I did in 2016) whilst I was working.

I would say that Munich was the only holiday that we paid for properly, but given that I used Avios for our flights (£35 each, return) and we had some euros left from Spain it ended up being nice and cheap too. The markets were awesome- lots to eat and drink and it even snowed just as we ordered our glühwein.

Four trips in a single year, all of which we did cheaper than full price. After spending a ridiculous amount on the US last year, that’s just what we needed!

Work

The year started out strong at Digi.me, building on the work I did at the end of 2016. Only working 4 days per week didn’t really happen as there was a lot of work to do to bring the infrastructure up. I learned a lot about Terraform and Chef and by the end we could build a complete infrastructure in under 30 minutes.

Digi.me acquired Personal, a company based in Sarajevo in Bosnia in early 2017. Not only did this mean we were a properly distributed company now (50% in each location) but it meant that I gained two team members and gained some more management experience. I don’t think I did the best job (there are lots of reasons why, some my own fault, some not) but it was valuable experience nonetheless. Acquiring Personal gave me the opportunity to travel to Sarajevo three times (in Feb, April and June). It’s beautiful in places, and very sad in others. I enjoyed visiting, and will always have a love for ćevapčići and kajmak.

In June, I joined Nexmo as a PHP developer advocate. I didn’t really intend to, but after chatting to Phil about the job description I realised that it might actually be a good fit for me.

I had a long notice period to work out, but at the end of June I finally joined Nexmo. I timed it well, joining the same week as our team offsite in Dublin! This was fantastic for me as it gave me the opportunity to meet everyone face to face before we started working together. As a totally remote team it can sometimes be difficult to get to know your colleagues but the offsite alleviated this a lot.

Over the last 6 months I’ve travelled quite a lot, visiting conferences I’ve not been to before and learning more about different communities. I’ve updated and maintained multiple client libraries for the Nexmo platform, written blog posts, tutorials and helped out on our community Slack channel. This is just the external facing stuff – internally I’ve been working on tooling, discussing how consumers use our APIs and helping design new ones.

It’s taken a bit of adjusting to work from home again, and whilst I miss working in an office a little, I don’t think I could ever go back to working in an office full time again.

Conferences + Usergroups

This year was quieter than last year from a speaking perspective, but I still managed to give 15 talks across 9 conferences (and 3 user groups). I made it to MidwestPHP, DevoxxUK, PHPTour and PHPSrbjia for the first time and was fortunate enough to speak a second time at the last PHPSC in Portsmouth – the only speaker ever to accomplish this feat if I’m not mistaken!

As an attendee, I managed to attend Laracon US in New York which was awesome (but very tiring – I didn’t get to see NYC at all). After that, we sponsored Laracon EU in Amsterdam, ScotlandPHP in Edinburgh and PHPWorld in Washington DC. I was speaking at World, but all of the others I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to attend without Nexmo.

Next year’s already starting to fill up, with trips to Lisbon (team offsite), Miami, Minneapolis, Ontario, York and Chicago already booked in. These are trips as a sponsor (and potentially speaker for some of them, who knows!)

Gigs + Events

We went to four weddings this year! Starting with Sarah (Chantelle’s friend), then Natalie and Chris got married, then Jenny and Dani before Claire and Guy got married in August. Claire and Guy get special thanks as their wedding was half way to Chichester and was the only reason we came to see the house we bought.

Gig wise, I only went to two. I got to see Lindsey Stirling again in April, which was awesome (if a little loud for me) and Chantelle and I went to see Phil Collins (and Blondie, and more!) at British Summer Time in Hyde Park. I wasn’t too fussed by BST but it was a pleasant evening with music and nice weather so I can’t complain too much.

For Chantelle’s birthday last year I bought her an experience day where we went to feed and walk some Alpacas. It went down well, and we’ve got another trip booked (this time to Funtington, which is a great name) in 2018.

Finally, we spent two weekends in rented houses. The first time in the Peak District in June in a converted pub. It was in the middle of nowhere, with terrible internet, and it was great! We did it for Chantelle’s uncle’s birthday and it gave me a good opportunity to get to know her family a bit better.

Our second house of the year was for New Year’s eve. We rented a house in Worcester with 23 other people, most of which Chantelle went to school with. It’d been a busy christmas so I was quite tired, but it turns out that some people wanted to visit National Trust properties and play board games which suited me just fine! We had a great time, but were glad to get home on New Year’s day.

That was 2017

Just like every year, let’s commit to reading 12 books

I managed to read 18 books, adding 50% on to my target! I particularly enjoyed How to win friends and influence people, and Norse Mythology.

complete a triathlon

Nope! New job, travel, house. Everything took priority over exercise (perhaps because we didn’t book anything in). Let’s try this again in the future.

I have some work to do on open source projects this year, including trello-cli, ansible-module-mas and joind.in.

I started rewriting trello-cli with good test coverage, but I got stuck on how to render the data. As I’m not a Trello user any more the work kind of stalled. I would like to finish it but perhaps not in 2018.

ansible-module-mas was submitted as a PR to the Ansible project, but it’s still sat there waiting for review. It’s been working fine for me in my local Ansible library so I’m not too worried.

I picked up joind.in for Hacktoberfest, but the project is in pretty good shape already. I picked up an issue that built on work that was already done in the API, and added the ability to show only starred talks to the web interface.

I’m going to start a SaaS project and built an iPhone app.

I started a SaaS project, but quickly found that I hadn’t thought the problem through thoroughly enough. I abandoned it in around March but after learning more throughout the year and thinking about it I’m going to give it another go.

As my saving goal for the house is done, I need to find something else to start saving towards

I started saving towards a new car, but proposing threw a spanner in the works. Instead, that money went on an engagement ring and now we’re saving for a wedding. Saving goal, complete!

2017 will be all about starting up my freelance business. I’d like to be contracting full time by the end of 2018

This didn’t really happen due to me joining Nexmo. I’m happy with my decision, but I think my aim now is to build up a year’s worth of expenses and start trying to build up a contracting business in the next few years.

Looking towards 2018

Life is already looking busy for the next year. Between work, family, friends and planning a wedding the first quarter has already disappeared. I’m going to try and keep my goals realistic in the knowledge that there is already a lot going on. This means breaking it up in to two sections, one aim and one stretch goal.

Reading: I want to pick up my reading this year, so I’m going to aim for 18 books
Stretch Goal: Read 24 books – one every 2 weeks.

Exercise: Run one 10k each month and get my weight down to 90kg
Stretch Goal: Squat 70kg, Deadlift 100kg, Bench Press 50kg (5×5)

Coding: I really do think that Auditkit (formerly Get Hansel) is a good idea. I’m going to launch an MVP this year.
Stretch Goal: I’m also planning to write another book. I’ve got a few ideas, and I should be able to write whilst travelling to make the most of the time in the air.

Finally, I’m going to get married. This is the most important one, so as long as Chantelle and I are happily married I’ll consider 2018 an overwhelming success 🙂

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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