2016 retrospective

Amidst the wider chaos of 2016, it occurred to me that I’ve managed to get quite a lot done. And learn a huge amount in the process. I thought I’d share something of a retrospective / brain-dump of my 2016.

What went well

I created three videos: a skill that I never imagined I would develop, but which I’ve rather enjoyed. I’ve been consciously developing my creative skills e.g by making websites for bands such as Hey! Hello! and this was an excellent extension of this. Creating the first video was a bit of a light-bulb moment forced by a short deadline for an internal competition. Necessity triggered invention.

I achieved internal certification as an IBM Certified Architect (and got the badge to prove it). This also gave me external recognition as an Open Group Master Architect. The certification process was involved, culminating in three interviews and it was a real sense of achievement to achieve this.

I went to Prague while my wife was presenting at a conference there. I had great fun exploring the city in 30 degree heat, possibly walked every street in the centre of the city and took far too many photographs.

Helped Defra with their data-programme. Defra are making real strides along their digital transformation: adopting agile techniques and public cloud services; driving cultural change and looking to deliver better outcomes to their end-users. It’s been a real privilege to help in a small part on this journey.

Being on the winning team at two internal hackday events at driving innovative solutions using Watson Developer Services and IBM’s cloud-foundry PaaS Bluemix. The winning formula seemed to be a mix of: design thinking to create the idea; rapid smoke and mirrors prototyping to bring it to life; and wiring up to Watson services using Node-RED to show the real potential.

Volunteered and got far more involved in IBM’s Academy of Technology than I had ever expected, contributing to several key IBM initiatives and meeting (virtually) many of IBM’s technical leaders. It just goes to show what can happen when you put yourself forward and get involved!

Gave this blog a new responsive theme, as it was looking old and tired. As a web-developer I intended to design my own from scratch, but “the cobbler’s children have no shoes” as they say.

Helped Defra to deliver many improvement projects to enable continued and secure access to key cross-government IT systems. The kind of projects that are unsung, but essential.

Discovered good walking very close to home in Bushy Park. This gave us a good quick escape where we could walk ten miles and still be home for lunch! We also saw large amounts of wildlife including deer, kestrels, herons and cormorants.

Kept in long-distance touch with friends in Canada, with a combination of internet connection upgrades, google hangouts and monthly online board-gaming nights. A great improvement on only seeing each other once every few years and shows how technology is making the world smaller.

Mentoring three of our up-coming technical professionals, and learning an awful lot from them in the process!

My heartfelt thanks in particular to Richard Hopkins, Simon Greig, Martin Gale and Geoffrey Coan for providing several of the opportunities above, along with ongoing support, help and encouragement.

What could have gone better

It wouldn’t be a retrospective without a few reflection points for improvement, although I don’t have good answers for most of these. More reflection and self-awareness needed as we go into the new year.

I still swear by saying ‘yes’ to things, as most of the good things above wouldn’t have happened otherwise, but at times I had one too many plates spinning. I need to figure out which of the many things I’m interested in, to not do, to help keep things balanced. And to not break anything in the process.

The technology churn of cloud, javascript, web-development and devops doesn’t help, as there’s always something to learn or relearn, especially as an architect spanning a wide range of technologies. I’m not sure there’s a good answer to this, other than doing a little and often to keep up.

Email overload as I tend to use my inbox as a todo list. I’ve been getting on very well with Todoist in 2016 to keep track of everything, so I need to go the next step and stop using my inbox as a safety net.

Didn’t manage to get away for any serious hiking. We’re about halfway through the South West Coast path, but had various clashes with our preferred walking weeks for other trips and commitments, so didn’t manage to fit a trip in.

I could have read more. As it was, the only things of note I read purely for pleasure were Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 days and Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough. My best reading time is when commuting, but this got eaten up with working on my laptop, conference calls, and more often than not just frittered away reading Twitter.

What can I do more of

Not quite resolutions, but a few fledgling thoughts.

Keep saying yes to things.

But find things that I can stop doing, especially if they can become opportunities for other people.

Be more open on social media.

Be more deliberate with my time. E.g. less mindless scrolling of twitter on public transport; more reading of books on my Kindle.

Create more things. Doing is better than reading about doing.

Continue to support musicians, creatives, startups etc. by putting my money where my mouth is. In the internet age, it seems like we believe that content and services should be free, but in reality everyone needs to pay the bills. If we don’t support art and creativity in all its forms then we are hypocrites when we mourn its passing.

Go hiking more often.