It's that time of the year again for another year in review blog post! 2019 was a great year, and I continue to feel incredibly lucky to have landed in an industry that I see as a hobby; am very passionate about; pays well; and is full of such amazing people!
They say that the best way to grow, is to give. I must be completely honest - none of the community stuff I've done was intentionally done to either give or receive. I've done it because I enjoy it. So in a way, it has been for self-gain - enjoyment! It has not been for financial gain, or business networking, or anything like that - but it turns out that as a side effect, it's given me all of those things. I enjoy running the user-groups, blogging, public speaking, and mentoring - this is the only reason I do it. But I've found over time, through doing it, I've met so many amazing people in our industry; learnt a ton of stuff I wouldn't have learnt otherwise; and also got my past couple of contracts via people I've met doing this. When I say in conversation how lucky I am, I get told that I'm not lucky, I've worked for it - but this always makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't feel like I've worked for it - I've just done what I love - it doesn't even feel like work! A huge percentage of the population dread Monday mornings, and long for the weekend to arrive. That's a huge percentage of their life that they're wishing away. Sadly, a lot of people aren't as lucky and don't have that choice. If you're like me, and get paid for something you love, then you are lucky - so make sure you take a moment to stop and really appreciate it. Don't take it for granted - enjoy it, but also continuously ensure you're always learning and growing.
The big highlight for me this past year was being awarded the Microsoft MVP Award! I won't go into too much detail here, as I've written quite a long blog post about it going into a lot of detail. It's certainly not something I was expecting to be in my yearly review blog post this year, but I am over the moon that it is!
Another big thing this past year was starting a second user group - Azure Oxford, which is all about the Microsoft Cloud platform, Azure. I've been using Azure quite a lot for both personal projects and with clients, and whilst .NET Oxford does cover a lot of Azure stuff, I thought it worth creating a dedicated user-group - especially given the number of topics there are in Azure.
Again, rather than going into detail here, I'll link to a blog post I wrote about it: Starting Azure Oxford. That blog post was written before co-organiser, James World got involved, so doesn't mention him - but since then, he has now become co-organiser, and we're running this user-group together. At the time of writing, we've had five meetups already! Time goes so quickly!
2019 was .NET Oxford's 3rd year! We've had some great meetups this past year, including quite a few famous speakers, such as James Montemagno, Jon Skeet, Marc Gravell, Uncle Bob, Ian Cooper - plus many more awesome speakers! It's been amazing to see how this community has grown, and has been quite a life-changing journey! It was starting .NET Oxford that got me into public speaking, taught me a lot about both technology and myself, and allowed me to meet some really fantastic people.
Everstack is my consultation company. There hasn't been much of a change since my update last year in this - I've continued to work with our two main clients, and at the moment, I'm the only member of staff. This is something that I want to change moving forward, as I plan to start growing the company.
I've done a few talks this year (ontop of the usual user-group intro-talks that is). Full details can be found on my public speaking page, and below is a summary of my talks this past year...
One of the bigger talks this past year has been a talk on .NET, Docker and Kubernetes, and running it all on a Raspberry Pi Cluster. See here for an indepth blog post about it. I've done this talk at DDD Southwest in Bristol in April, .NET Oxford in August, and DevSouthCoast in October. The .NET Oxford version was videoed, and can be found here.
On top of those full-length talks, I've also done a few lightning talks. One about IoC Containers and Dependency Injection at the May .NET Oxford; one about the Azure CLI and Cloudshell; and another about ML.NET. The ML.NET talk was recorded, and I'll include a link here as soon as it gets published. The Azure CLI/Cloudshell talk wasn't recorded - however I did record a version for the Azure Advent Calendar - see my blog post for further details.
This past year I published 13 blog posts (including this post), which is down from last year's 22, which was inturn down from the previous year's 25! I'm going to have to up my game in 2020 as far as my blog is concerned! Hopefully I can be excused, given all the other things! :) One big reason it's down is that I'm no longer doing indepth blog posts for every single .NET Oxford meetup. I go into the reason's why I stopped this in this blog post. At least I can reason that my decrease in blogging this past year has been due to my increase in public speaking!
Outside of work/technology, nothing much has changed really - I'm still married to the most amazing person ever, and have two fantastic boys who are getting bigger every time I blink! Jack's in his second year of school (well first if ignoring foundation class), and we've now picked Mason's school choices! Last time I checked, he was still a little baby - how is it possible he's in school this coming year?!
This past year I also started to try to get into running. I haven't done cardio sports before - favouring weight training at the gym, or sports like climbing, gymnastics, even jumping out of planes!, etc. I found the running hard at first, but quickly improved and have done a few 2k park runs with Jack (my 5yo), and also a couple of 5ks. Unfortunately, I badly twisted my ankle on holiday and had to stop for a bit. I haven't really got back into it. So this is one of my 2020 new years resolutions to try again with this, and also do more at the gym. I also started indoor climbing again, which I'd like to continue in 2020, perhaps doing a bit of outdoor climbing too.
As well as the fitness new years resolutions I mentioned in the last section - I plan on going through some of the Azure certifications. I know quite a bit about Azure, as I use it with multiple clients and also for my own projects, and now obviously run a user-group about it!... However, I still think it's worth doing the certifications to both check I don't have knowledge gaps I'm not aware of, and also to challenge myself and have learning goals.
I plan on continuing both the .NET Oxford and Azure Oxford user groups, as well as continuing my public speaking and blogging. Hopefully doing enough to get my MVP renewed at renewal time! In March will be my first MVP Summit in Redmond, which I'm really excited about!
Also, as I mentioned in the Everstack section above, I would like to start looking at expanding the company. Going from permanent employee to a contractor is one thing - but going from contractor to then hiring staff and premises is a much bigger step! I would certainly love to be able to read next year's 'Year In Review' blog post now to see what happens over the next 12 months!
Finally, I'd also like to get back into playing the guitar. However, looking back at last year's 'year in review' blog post - I said the same thing last year! Oops! I have very recently moved my guitar into the living room, as finally I think the boys are old enough for it to live there without risk of destruction! I'm finding that I'm now naturally picking it up daily now it's in the living room - so hopefully that'll help me do better this year!
To summarise - 2019 was a great year - with lots of growth, learning, and new experiences. Getting yourself out of your comfort zone is so important, and I'm really starting to feel the benefits of doing this over the past few years. It's such an incredible industry we find ourselves in, with such an amazing community worldwide. The internet has certainly made the world a smaller place - where I feel I've got to know (and meet) so many amazing people that I wouldn't have done otherwise.
I'd like to end this post with a few thankyous! Note that these are in no particular order, and do I apologise if I've forgotten anyone that should have been mentioned here!
My first thank you goes to the team I'm working with at Sharp Life Science. Not only because they're currently Everstack's biggest client, but also because they're such an amazing group of people! I've worked both for and with quite a few different companies now, and have experienced a wide variety of levels of passion towards software development across different teams. I've also met a wide variety of egos too! Within SharpLS, I haven't seen a single ego, and everyone's really into software development - most of the developers have also spoken at .NET Oxford and are regular attendees too! The manager of the software team, John Parkin, is one of the most enthusiastic people you could ever hope to meet - and he's also both spoken at .NET Oxford and regularly does our photography!
My next thank you is to Corriculo Recruitment for all they've done for both .NET Oxford and Azure Oxford. They've been our primary sponsors and have covered venue costs, drinks and snacks, and also helped us out in plenty of other ways too. Three years ago when starting .NET Oxford, I was wary of being sponsored by a recruitment company - however, this worry was completely unfounded - they've been amazing!
I'd also like to thank both Matt Nield and James World - co-organisers of .NET Oxford and Azure Oxford respectively. Starting ventures like the user-groups alone isn't ideal - even for things like having cover for if you happen to be sick on the day of a meetup, etc! But also for both support, sharing the work-load, and having someone to bounce ideas off.
For the MVP Awards, I'd like to thank both Matt Nield and Steve Gordon for the nominations, and also Claire Smyth for her help in the acceptance process. And of course, everyone involved with .NET Oxford, as this is one of the main reasons I was awarded!
I'd also like to thank both Gregor Suttie and Richard Hooper for organising the Azure Advent Calendar. This was my first attempt at recording a technical video on YouTube, and I learn a lot through doing it. It was an amazing initiative which seems to have been extremely popular! My blog post and video about it can be found here.
Then there are all the amazing speakers who have travelled free of charge (some from abroad!) to speak at .NET Oxford and Azure Oxford. Organising these events isn't possible without the hard work and dedication of speakers willing to travel to user groups. If you've never done a talk before - never underestimate the time and effort that goes into these talks!
And I can't end without a big thank you to my wife, Anna. We love our kids to bits, but they're certainly full-on, hard work, and very draining. Even so, she still supports me with not only running a business, .NET Oxford, and my various side-projects - but also starting Azure Oxford this past year too. I'm very lucky to have such an amazing person as not only my wife, but also my best friend.