2014 Retrospective

At the end of 2012 I performed a simple Retrospective of the year.  I seem to have neglected to do one at the end of 2013 but it shall be a yearly habit from now on.

Conferences attended:

Presentations:

Published:

This is a big achievement for me personally.  Thank you to those that made it happen.

  • Joint Contributor with Paul Shannon in More Agile Testing by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory
  • Contributed a chapter to Build Quality In – the collection of Continuous Delivery and DevOps stories edited by Steve Smith and Matthew Skelton
Personal:

  • Co-organised my first conference – PIPELINE 2014!
  • Went skiing for the first time
  • Started Portuguese lessons
  • Took Cycling Classes and Bicycle Maintenance classes
  • Continued my Cello lessons (aiming for Grade 3 this spring)
  • Attempted the Computer Networks Coursera course and achieved a grade of 47%. I’m proud of this score as it was a pretty intense course.
  • Stepped down from the ACCU committee as I could no longer devote the proper time to it.
  • Only managed to finish reading 6 books when I’d hoped to read 18.
  • Donated blood 3 times before being temporarily suspended to investigate anaemia 😦
  • Sadly, I still have limited proficiency with the Portuguese language

Changed Jobs
In August I left my role at 7digital, I job and company I loved and spoke about, after 4 years of being with them.  I wanted to try a new challenge.  I know it sounds corny, but I really did.  I wanted to see if I could take all the things I’d learned there to somewhere new, share my knowledfe and learn even more.
I took up a Senior Engineer role at JUST EAT and it’s been great.  I’ve had much to learn and as a result have been battling my own Imposter Syndrome, but I hope I’ve been making a difference, even a small one.

Next Year

I plan to get back on top of my reading, blogging and neglected fitness – the usual stuff.

Having left 7digital in August I now longer feel comfortable presenting about the experience report about their journey towards Continuous Delivery.  Change happens there every day and I am no longer able to ‘finish’ the presentation with details of what is currently being achieved.  There are still many things I could talk about from that time though, possibly distil the learnings into something more transferable, but I believe the audiences enjoyed hearing a real life experience report.

Creating a new presentation is top of the list and I’m open to ideas and suggestions.

Conclusion

Once again I’ve achieved more than I thought – a year is a long time and we regularly fail to remember anything other than recent events.  This feeling has been compounded by my focus in the latter half of the year being centred almost exclusively on my new role at JUST EAT, which is to be expected.  A new role is challenging with a new codebase, domain, terminology and people to learn about, which is exactly what I was seeking, so I’m happy!
Here’s to 2015!
Advertisements

Agile on the Beach – Day 2

After the first day of Agile on the Beach I had a restful sleep in the excellent student accommodation.  The next morning started with a tasty English breakfast provided by the campus kitchens.

The second day of the event was kicked off with a second keynote speaker, Gabriel Steinhardt, about his take on Marketing Driven Product Management.  The talk started off very well, with an overview and definition of the Product Owner role and where Gabriel sees it fitting into product development – it is indeed true that in many places the role lacks definition.
http://agileonthebeach.com/2013-programme/2013-photos/img_3368/

Gabriel then spent some time discussing where the role fits in a classic hierarchical company structure, followed by what seemed like advocating for the Software Development Team to be removed as much as possible from clients and even decision making related to the product.  This all felt a bit too “command and control” for my liking – he seemed overly concerned with putting people into boxes.  It was at this point that his talk began to become controversial – in an agile conference with a stream aimed at Developers and another at Teams, his points felt incongruent to the overall feel.  Though, as Alan Kelly stated, a controversial keynote is an excellent way to get people thinking. It’s good to break the effect of the echo chamber now and then, and I appreciated Gabriel’s points about Product Owners, but we’ll have to disagree on the role Developers should play.

After the Keynote I attended Steve Freeman’s talk Fractal TDD. This turned out to be the same talk I had seen presented at Devs in the Ditch. Regardless, as with all forms of learning, repetition is extremely helpful in assimilating new information and I appreciated the recap.
Seb Rose was up next in the Software Craftsmanship track with Good Test, Bad Test.  Seb has six attributes he feels define a good test and he backed these up with examples. A very good talk although I disagree slightly on one or two small things, but these are personal niggles and will need a blog post of their own.
http://agileonthebeach.com/?attachment_id=1110

Lunch was once again a range of sandwiches and a short session by Tanya Krywinska who was appealing to the general community for feedback and suggestions on a range of Games Development degree courses she intends to launch. I felt that some of the audience had forgotten what it was like to be at university as they made statements that the university fees alone should be enough impetuous to fully engage students in group work. I distinctly remember money and fees being a “future problem” that “future me” would resolve (and 10 years later that future is nearly here as my loan dwindles) and group work being something fraught with egos and procrastination.

I suggested regular 1-2-1s to highlight any group issues, although I conceded that this may not be practical. Also, regular demos, as in Scrum, could help maintain focus.
For the rest of the day I decided to leave the Software Craftsmanship track and saw Judith Andersen’s talk. This was probably my favourite talk of the event. Judith explained how, when groups grow, they reach certain numbers which cause a change in the dynamics – increased channels of communication, the formation of cliques, etc.  She included her tactics for tackling and overcoming these problems, which are a function of our human nature, and dispelled some myths. The incorrect assumption that talking about feelings is unprofessional being an extremely important one. I highly recommend watching the video.
Finally, I stayed on the Teams track and saw a talk enticingly entitled The “Just Do It” Approach to Change Management. Unfortunately I could not maintain my attention during this presentation. I don’t know if this is a reflection on me and how tired I felt or the speakers. They had attempted to do a kind of double act where they bounce jokes off each other, which I always feel is so difficult to get right that it mostly ended up feeling awkward.

All in all, it was a good conference. It was small, friendly and with interesting talks. The organisation was good too – many events forget to add a few minutes between presentations and they soon begin to go off schedule as laptops must be setup and attendees move from room to room.
I would also like to than Alan Kelly who badgered me into submitting my presentation – I honestly didn’t think people would consider it worthwhile but I’m happy to have been proven wrong.
I hope to see everyone again next
year on the 5th & 6th September.

Agile on the Beach 2013 – Day 1

This is the first time I’ve attended Agile on the Beach and I feel it was a very successful event.  There were three tracks, Software Craftsmanship, Teams and Business.  I almost exclusively attended the Software Craftsmanship track and a couple from the Teams track.

The event kicked off with a keynote from Dan North.  He explained his view on mastery – a progression from apprentice and journeyman with the defining characteristics of each.  Dan ties his talk together with a story of his own journey to the mastery of a particularly difficult origami fold called the Jackstone – a fold he attempted as a child, but failed to master until decades later.

Jim Barrett had the first slot in the Software Craftsmanship track and he was unfortunately beset by some technical difficulties.  After the initial hiccups he dived into giving an overview of Clojure.  I haven’t done anything in the language before, nor have I tried anything in Lisp which it is based upon and so was interested in learning of its power.  Unfortunately I feel he spent too much time on the syntax.  I personally don’t get much out of watching people code simple snippets on-screen.  I realise this isn’t very constructive feedback.  Maybe it would have worked better as a workshop with a Koans approach or with some direct comparisons between Clojure and Java code to show the advantages and differences.

(negative) feedback

Marcin Floryan was up next with a presentation focussed on feedback and how important it is to collect, review and act upon relevant feedback you can gather about your system.  An enjoyable presentation with a dash of humour.

Lunch was a variety of sandwiches, nothing particularly special, but nothing bad either – vegetarian options were well represented and there was plenty available to ensure you got your fill.  I know I’m commenting on food, which may seem inconsequential compared to the presentation content, but I feel it’s an important part of keeping up the stamina and morale of all attendees and speakers.

After filling our bellies James Lewis had the difficult after lunch slot but he managed to keep us interested with an overview of how systems built as microservices can create highly reactive and flexible ecosystems.  This is essentially how the architecture is designed at 7digital – small, focussed internal HTTP based services supplying functionality for their bounded contexts.  We’ve found it to be highly successful and it was good to see it being presented.

I took the stage next, hiding my nervousness by cajoling the audience into a Mexican Wave, a silly thing to do, but it made the distance between us feel smaller.  I believe my presentation went well and I fielded many questions, some of which I am now finding to be repeated each time I give the presentation and as such I must find ways to incorporate the answers into my slides.  I’ve got answers to some previous questions asked listed on a blog post here.

I’m afraid that I didn’t attend the final session as I was too amped after my talk (apologies to Phil Nash) – I’m still getting accustomed to speaking and I find that it can knock me sideways once the adrenaline wears off.  I hung around in the communal area, grabbed some coffee and wrote up some notes for the day.

The day was finished up with a few Lightening Talks of which the highlight was a method for visualising problems and obstacles, which I believe the person called The Mercado Technique, but I must have heard wrong because I can’t find any sources of this on Google.  If anyone managed to get the proper name, or the name of the person who presented it, please let me know. Update: @AnthonySteele informs me that it is The Mikado Method and @EwanMilne let me know that @facilligent had presented it.

https://twitter.com/Agileonthebeach/status/375701598535954432

The day wrapped up with a Beach Party which included a free pint of the local ale and a hog roast (veg burger option too).  The British weather let us down a little and it was slightly cold and windy, but nevertheless the sunset was beautiful and the conversations were interesting.  A good first day.

Slides and videos from the event are being added here.

Presenting at Agile on the Beach

After some reassurance from my friend Alan Kelly, I submitted my experience report on Continuous Delivery to this year’s Agile on the Beach.  To my surprise and delight I’ve been accepted!  This will be my first full scale conference as a speaker and I’m very excited and nervous – I hope I can finish the day having inspired at least one person.

Agile on the Beach is a two day business and technology conference taking place in Falmouth on the 5th and 6th of September.  It’s on the Cornish coast and from what I’ve been told the weather is great and there will be a fantastic beach party on Falmouth’s famous Gyllyngvase Beach.

The conference includes three strands of agile adoption – Software Craftsmanship, Business Strategy and Teams and I’ll be presenting in the Software Craftsmanship stream.  The full list of speakers and a schedule are up on the site.

I can also let you know about an offer of 10% off your ticket at Agile on the Beach using discount code SGUEST13 when booking in via Eventbrite – tell them I sent you 😀

Early bird tickets are available until the 31st of July at £265. Accommodation is also available to book on site at an additional cost.

To book tickets to Agile on the Beach visit http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/event/5135380060 and follow them on Twitter @Agileonthebeach / #agileotb.

Presented at SyncIpswich

Following on from the success of SyncNorwich, Carl Farmer has set up SyncIpswich – a regular event for technologists, creatives, entrepreneurs and graduates to meet up and talk in with the aims of growing the community in Ipswich.  Paul Grenyer recommended me to Carl as a speaker and after letting Carl know that I’m not proficient at speaking (yet) I agreed to come up and give my presentation on Continuous Delivery at 7digital.

Despite fighting with the traffic in Ipswich town centre I made it just in time and spoke in front of a crowd of roughly 60 people.  As before, my slides were done in roughly 15 minutes and I fielded questions from the audience for about another 15 minutes more.

After a short break I was followed by Richard Astbury giving an introduction to the Azure platform where he deployed an empty MVC App from his laptop and then a simple Hello World node.js site from his Raspberry Pi at home, which was rather impressive and demonstrated how smooth it can be.

We then gathered at the nearby pub where we broke into a few discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of feature branches among other things and I admired the view of the boats in the marina before I left for the nearly 2 hour drive home.

I had a great evening and it was good to talk to people outside of London and once again be reminded that we don’t have the monopoly on smart, inquisitive, talented developers doing great things.  Thanks to Carl for arranging it and Paul for recommending me.

Team Transformation Presentation for London Continuous Delivery Group

On Tuesday 19th March I gave a short presentation on the steps 7digital took to transform our team in order to facilitate Continuous Delivery.  This was held at Skillsmatter for the London Continuous Delivery group.  I also managed to rope in a few of my colleagues for a discussion panel after my short set of slides

I’m really grateful to Hibri, Goncalo, Matt and Rob for coming along as I felt that having more than just my voice would add to the credibility of what I said and it would also be more interesting.

You can see the video on the Skillsmatter site and these are the slides.  James Betteley also posted a running commentary of the event where you can read some of the discussion which took place.

//speakerdeck.com/assets/embed.js

APIdays 2012

On Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th December Paris held host to the first international API focused event in Europe – APIdays.io.  Myself, and my colleague Hibri, eagerly took part and we gave a short presentation on how 7digital grew their public API, the lessons we learned and the effect it had on the way we work.  You can view the slides at the end of this post.

We received great feedback from our slides – it felt as if many people are just getting started in the world of APIs whilst 7digital have had their public API for many years and that they were very interested in hearing our real-world story.

The format of the event was a little odd, with talks in slots of less than 30 minutes, which on the plus side meant that we got to see a lot of different viewpoints and experiences but that there wasn’t enough time for anyone to get deep into a topic.  I’d like to suggest that a technical track has available 1 hour slots for anyone who wants to host a full-on technical presentation and debate – it felt like we barely scratched the surface in less than 30 minutes.

It was a great couple of days, and the first time I’d ever been to Paris.  I’m hoping that this event becomes a regular conference and that next time we can get far more technical with the content and swap the really gritty stories of lessons learned.

//speakerdeck.com/assets/embed.js