Turns out last year that I forgot to write one of these. 2021 was a difficult year, put it that way. A job move didn't work out for me over the summer, but on reflection I absolutely made the right to decision to walk away when I did. Some would consider that a failure - I don't. It's only a failure if you don't learn from it. In the summer my second son was born and that really brought to the fore that I need to make the most of my time working, so that I could make the most of the time at home. If the two start bleeding together then bad things happen.
So anyway, I rejoined Tesco Bank. First I was part of a team releasing a product launch, which was great fun. That work was rewarded with a promotion to a Lead Engineer role in Insurance, which I started August 2022. Every day is different, and challenging in its own ways. My promotion coincided with the adoption of SAFe (first through a pilot, soon to be rolled out across the org) and with supporting the release of a new project. It's been... busy, but fun. I'm making a difference, there's a great cohort of developers that I'm supporting and in many ways we have made a huge amount of progress compared to where we were in 2020.
As a parent of (now) 4 and 1 year-olds, this hasn't been a year of huge creative output, and I won't lie that in many respects it's been a struggle. The first year of a child is brutal in terms of its relentless schedule and impact on sleep. But it's been a joy to see both boys grow, the eldest into a role of big brother. The youngest is just starting to talk now, soon we'll be in that lovely 18month period which is incredibly rewarding!
Return to Speaking
I fell into a right funk with public speaking. I lost confidence, then motivation. Only two public-facing events this year - both a virtual and then physical workshop for my Example Mapping course. The latter went really well and brought back my mojo. Luckily I've already got my first speaking engagement for next year sorted out - I'll be speaking about Smart Notes for Developers at NEBytes in January.
Podcasts are a good friend of mine, they're the perfect partner for a run. Some of my favourites are:
- Oh God What Now
- The Bunker
- Origin Story
- Doomsday Watch
- The Rest is Politics
- Deep Questions with Cal Newport
- Athletico Mince
- Tech Won't Save Us
- Agile Uprising
This year I was fortunate enough to appear on three podcast episodes - answering "Do You Need a Microfrontend" on Scott Logic's Beyond the Hype podcast, conducting a Two Year Retrospective on Remote Work and talking about The Waterfall in the Room with the Agile Uprising folks. Joining in with podcasts has been a fun and slightly out-my-comfort-zone experience and something I'd very much like to continue honing next year.
A mix of ups and downs this year. Poor start. After my birthday I made a serious effort to correct that, using the longer summer hours to make up distance once the kids were asleep. For the first time since 2014 I ran over 30 miles in a month, finally getting back and comfortable running 10ks! As the nights got longer and the need to build my Halloween decorations kicked in, running tailed off, leaving the end of the year very much back to where it started. Consistency is the key here. I've found that running gives me mental resiliency, it clears away the cobwebs, gives me the time and space to decompress and I really need to pay attention to this as I get older. Perhaps even complementing running with some other exercise types.
Games-wise at the back end of last year I was thoroughly playing the shit out of Metroid Dread on the Nintendo Switch, which is just an amazingly well-designed game, with just the right amount of difficulty to keep me engaged but challenged. This then sent me on a bit of a retro kick, my wife gifted me a Retroid Pocket 2+ for Christmas and I used it to play some old Game Boy games I've got shoved somewhere in the loft - Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission, then Wario Land 2, including all the secret endings! Following that was the release of Splatoon 3 on the Nintendo Switch, which has got me back into the fantastic world of colouring in maps with brightly-coloured paint. I still play a lot of Splatoon 3. Late in the year I purchased a Steam Deck so I've also been enjoying playing some metroidvania games that have been kicking around in my Steam library, unplayed, for quite a while: Guacamelee, SteamWorld Dig 1 and 2.
This year I've been watching a lot of wrestling, again, in particular AEW. I don't think this has been the strongest year the company's had, but they always put on a good show filled with a variety of high-quality wrestling. It's a shame that some off-screen drama detracted from the product this year. Yes, I know it's fake, but so is most of the stuff you watch on telly too. Standout performances this year are from Jon Moxley (who carried the company during turbulent times - again), Jamie Hayter (so glad she's finally women's champ!) and Chris Jericho, who even at this stage in his career is consistently driving the industry forward. Both Daniel Garcia and Wheeler Yuta are going to be big stars (their ROH Pure Championship feud has been great), as is Jungle Boy Jack Perry, whose program with Luchasaurus and Christian Cage ended in one of the best Steel Cage matches I've seen.
Music-wise, probably as expected, my highlight is IMPERA by Ghost. This is a band at full confidence, full strength, breaking new ground through a modern-day lens of nostalgia. Don't be put off my the costumes and make-up.
As for books, my favourite two tech books of the year have been Sooner Safer Happier (which I describe as "everything we've learnt about this Agile thing in the last twenty years") and The Staff Engineer's Path. The former has really aided me when speaking to commercial folk at work, bridging the gap between the technical foundations of agility and business agility. The latter has helped me with wayfinding in the new role, helping me shape it into what I want it to be, working on the things I want to be working on, and how best to elevate the teams that my efforts support. A special mention goes to my favourite tech book of last year: Fixing Your Scrum, which is genuinely like a book of cheat codes. It takes an approach I like - starting from the fundamental values - and engaging in practical problems through the lens of those values. How can we demonstrate more openness? That kind of thing. It's really good. All these books are ones you'll be encouraging others to buy and read!
For non-techie stuff I've recently been re-reading era 2 of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, ready for the finale of that phase of books. Prior to that I caught up on his Stormlight Archive series, which are epic-length books that remain surprisingly readable. if you're into your fantasy, you can't go wrong here.
Genuinely? I don't know. I suspect the transition to SAFe will really hold a mirror up to some processes that we have at work, and present us with a real opportunity to adapt how we do things. We've already made great strides on the engineering front around continuous delivery - I'm going to be championing that (and the related "build quality in" concerns required to enable continuous delivery) over the course of the year. Almost like a consultant but on the full-time payroll.
Anyway, I'm off for my traditional Christmas Eve curry. Be merry, let's do it all over again in the next solar orbit.