The end of 2017 told me that 2018 was going to be a pretty big year, and it didn’t disappoint. From buying a car in January without really meaning to, to visiting Liechtenstein for the day in December it’s been a packed year.
Zero computer purchases this year! Not even a phone or an iPad to speak of (I picked those up in 2017). Instead, I ended up sinking money in to home automation instead. We’ve now got an Echo in every room (except one, which has a Tap, my favourite Alexa device) which can control our hoover, lights and heating. We even used them to turn on the Christmas tree lights! (But yes, we still primarily use them for Spotify)
The house is still standing! Chantelle moved in full time in April after commuting back and forth to work and it’s been great having her around. We’ve put up some pictures and painted a few rooms and it feels fresher and more home-like! It took until December, but I finally got to grips with a bit of DIY too, learning how to drill through a stainless steel lintel to put up some blinds and how to replace the waste drain on a sink after ours split.
In January I ended up buying a car from the internet on a whim again. My previous luck didn’t hold up unfortunately and it needed it’s gearbox rebuilding, I got that done (and cycled 13 miles in the process) and it’s been great since. It’s a comfortable drive, has cruise control and is an automatic. Not bad for 14 years old!
Chantelle and I got married this year, which was a phenomenal day. All credit has to go to Chantelle for doing all the research and coordinating with suppliers. All I had to do is make sure that I turned up and fit in my suit (which I did, after a solid 3 weeks of exercise!). I loved every minute of the day, and would happily do it all again (so long as we didn’t have to pay for it again)
Speaking of exercise, my fitness hasn’t been great this year. I’ve not been able to get in to a routine due to the amount of travel that I’ve been doing. I managed to run 5k in under 30 minutes in the weeks leading up to the wedding when I was training, but really it wasn’t until the end of November that I could start hitting the gym again. I’ve managed to build up to 60kg squats, 40kg bench and 65kg deadlift before staying at that weight over Christmas. I’m ready to keep pushing upwards throughout 2019.
Last but not least, we finally got a dog! This is Luna, our 3 month old Cockapoo.
She’s equal parts wonderful and a pain. I’ve been getting up at 6:30 with her every morning, plus we have to think about her any time we want to go out for the day or evening. It’s been a learning curve, but in a good way. I imagine that it’s not dissimilar to having children. We both love her and am happy with our decision both to get a dog, and to get Luna specifically.
Well… what a year for travel. After joining Nexmo in 2017 I travelled a fair amount – 7 trips. This year I’d blown past that by the end of March. In total, I’ve done 22 trips for events, plus ~12 trips to London to the office.
- DevRelWeek in Lisbon
- Client visit in Amsterdam (3am-midnight – one day round trip!)
- SunshinePHP in Miami
- PHPUK and Hack City in London
- MidwestPHP in Minneapolis
- GrumpyConf in Ingersoll, Canada
- PHP Yorkshire in York
- LonghornPHP in Texas
- PHPDay in Verona
- PHPKonf in Istanbul
- PHPSrbija in Belgrade
- PHPTek in Atlanta
- DPC in Amsterdam
- LaravelLive in London
- DevRelWeek in NYC
- ServerlessDays in London
- LaraconUS in Chicago
- NortheastPHP in Boston
- APICity and Write The Docs in Seattle
- LaraconAU in Sydney
- Riot Hackathon in LA
As well as work travel, we managed to get away as a couple quite a lot. We did a couple of trips around the UK; to Devon to see the wedding venue in January and May, plus a trip to the Gower (note to self: it’s a one way to drive, so book more than one night next time!) in June and a mini moon in Cornwall after the wedding in September.
As well as four trips around the UK, we managed four trips abroad too! Chantelle came with me to Amsterdam when I was working in June, and we added an additional week in NYC when I was out there for DevRelWeek.
NYC was great as we’ve both been before, which allowed us to do less tourist-y things. We still walked the Brooklyn bridge and went for a ride in a horse and cart around Central Park though, so not entirely non-tourist-y. The rest of our time was spent exploring different neighbourhoods, including Bushwick which is where all of the street art is.
As Chantelle wanted a sun tan for the wedding we made our annual trip to Spain in August. Two weeks in the sun without thinking about work. I spent my time reading, writing my wedding speech and doing lots of cooking!
Finally, we escaped to Zurich for a few days to visit the Christmas markets. It was enjoyable, but not as good as Munich last year. We did however manage to cross Switzerland and Liechtenstein (thanks to a day trip on the train) off our list of countries to visit.
All in all, in 2018 I did:
31 trips over 154 days, visiting 44 cities in 13 countries and travelling over 125,000 miles.
Work’s been much more challenging this year. I made a point of saying yes to everything towards the end of 2017/in early 2018 and it lead to a couple of things:
- Far more travel than I intended (but I did get to see some places I’d never get the chance to normally, including a business class flight to Sydney!)
- Getting involved in every product launch Nexmo made in 2018 due to providing an API review
- A promotion to Developer Experience lead, responsible for Nexmo’s documentation, API standards and client libraries. This includes line management of a team of 4 advocates, technical writers and engineers (we’re also hiring 2 more roles, so get in touch!)
Although I travelled a lot in 2018 I’m still loving working at home when I’m not on the road. I’m finding that there’s not enough time in the day to get everything I’d like done, so I can’t imagine spending an additional hour or two each day commuting.
The big change for me this year was related to people management. I’ve done a lot of reading over the years about management, but haven’t had a lot of chance to practice as I’ve always been a technical lead, not a pastoral lead in the past. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and am learning a lot thanks to resources like Lara Hogan’s blog, the Rands Leadership Slack and of course, books. A special shoutout here to The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier and Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson which both gave me a lot to think about.
Conferences, Usergroups and Hackathons
In 2018 I managed to give 18 talks whilst on my travels – 12 conference talks and 6 user groups.
I kicked off the year with my Zero to Jenkins talk at PHPUK, before visiting Longhorn PHP, PHPDay, PHPKonf, PHPSrbija, php|tek, DPC and NortheastPHP before wrapping up the year at API City.
Of all of those events, I think PHPSrbija and API City were my favourites. Belgrade is beautiful and the conference was amazing. The organisation was top-notch and the attendees were all engaged. API City topped my list as it’s a community that I don’t know yet. The work that I’ve been doing at Nexmo gave me the opportunity to speak on API standards. I met lots of other developer advocates working in the API space and got to explore Seattle.
I did six user groups this year, which is more than I thought I’d done. They were all to practice new talks that I delivered in 2018. I don’t think any of my UG talks were particularly good, but it did allow me to work out what worked and what didn’t for the actual conferences. I didn’t get as much of a kick out of practicing as I have in previous years – likely due to the fact that it was more time away from home
A new entry this year! It’s a long time since I attended a hackathon as an attendee (we tend to sponsor them instead) but when the opportunity to visit the Riot Games hackathon at their HQ in Los Angeles came up, I couldn’t say no.
The cost of the trip was covered by Riot which was great, but it did mean flying in economy to the west coast, and sharing a room in a hotel – both things that I’m getting a little old for. I made it in one piece and neither the journey or the stay was too bad!
When the day of the hackathon arrived we were treated to a tour of the Riot offices. Each set of buildings is named after a region in Runeterra e.g. The Void, Demacia, Noxus and within those buildings each meeting room is named after a champion from that region. The only meeting room they didn’t rename was Skywalker, the main auditorium – it turns out that these buildings used to be the Lucasfilm studios and they couldn’t bring themselves to rename the room that was likely used for Star Wars promo screenings!
I ended up on a team of people that tried to parse the
.rofl replay files data, not just the header (hint: don’t, it’s hard) before pivoting to a replay sharing and game analysis site. It used a combination of python and node, plus some .net that hooked in to the League client to automatically upload game replays post-game.
The hackathon was my first experience with React, and although we didn’t win I was happy to have the time to experiment with something that’s been on my list for so long!
Gigs + Events
2018’s events kicked off in February, with OVO from Cirque du Soleil. This was our Christmas gift from Chantelle’s parents and we all headed up to London together to see it. I landed back from Miami that morning, and I recall enjoying it even though I was tired. (It’s not a patch on ‘O’ though).
I wanted to do something nice with Chantelle for Valentine’s Day this year, so I booked tickets to see Beauty and the Beast (the recent one) accompanied by a live orchestra at the Southbank Centre.
By the time April arrived it was time for another Christmas gift – this time an Alpaca walk in the South Downs. We drove through some lively little villages before taking alpacas for a walk through the woods. It was a (dry!) and relaxing afternoon.
Work travel really ramped up in May, and between that and the wedding I didn’t get chance to see anything else until October. This wasn’t just any gig though, it was Thibaudet and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House! I always love watching orchestras, and doing it somewhere as iconic as the opera house was awesome.
Finally, Christmas time arrived. Our day out of the year was the Christmas market at the Weald and Downland farm. There were lots of craft stalls and food/drink, and it was great to spend the time wandering around and catching up with friends. We were there for 3 hours and still didn’t see all of it! I’m looking forward to going back next year
That was 2018
Reading: I want to pick up my reading this year, so I’m going to aim for 18 book
Stretch Goal: Read 24 books – one every 2 weeks.
Achievement unlocked! Depending on how you view the Stormlight archives books (3 written books, or 16 audiobooks) I either read 29 or 42 books. Given that each of the audiobooks was 7-10 hours long (the length of a normal book) I’m choosing to view it as 42 books.
My highlights for the year were Never Split the Difference and The Manager’s Path for self improvement, This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor for non-fiction, and The Stormlight Archive series for fiction.
Exercise: Run one 10k each month and get my weight down to 90kg
Stretch Goal: Squat 70kg, Deadlift 100kg, Bench Press 50kg (5×5)
This is a weird one as I got closer to the stretch goal than I did the actual goal. I didn’t run each month (I don’t actually enjoy running) but I did manage to get over half way to my 90kg target in advance of the wedding thanks to an intense month of training (I’ve since put it all back on).
I got back to the gym in November after my travel for the year was done. I didn’t quite get to the numbers set, but given that I only had 4 weeks to train I’m happy with 62.5kg Squat, 65kg Deadlift and 40kg Bench Press.
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.
Nope, nope and nope! I’ve spent so much time working this year, the last thing I want to do is work some more in the evenings. If I ever have an hour or two to myself, it tends to go on playing League of Legends to relax instead.
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 🙂
Success! It’s been an amazing year for Chantelle and I. She moved in to the house full time, was able to join me on a few trips and managed to organise the wedding incredibly well. It was a day that I’d happily do over again, though it feels like nothing’s changed. We’re still the same people living in the same house doing the same things – it’s just that I’m wearing a ring now! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in 2019.
Looking towards 2019
The first goal for 2019 is to not have a reading goal. Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed learning more and discovering new worlds through audiobooks, but I think it’s a habit enough now that it doesn’t need to be a goal. I’m not travelling as much so I probably won’t hit 42 books again, but I’m planning on enjoying everything I read.
As I’m not travelling as much I’d like to build up my fitness habit again. I’m aiming to get down to 90kg by 2020. That’ll take some effort, lots of cardio (which I won’t love) and some dietary changes but I think it’s achievable.
Let’s keep it simple for project related goals. One project, Audithub. User signup, billing and automated collectors for one service. I’ve been thinking about an all-singing, all-dancing application but what I’ve really struggled with is getting started. Hopefully reducing the scope will make it easier to build something
That’s all, two goals for 2019. Get fitter and build something. I have a habit of trying to do too much and it usually means that nothing gets done. In 2019, my goal is to focus and achieve two things that have been goals for years.
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