Thank you 2016

2016 (and the later part of 2015) has given me so many things to be thankful for. This is a positive look back at the past little period, because while there's been a lot of negatives in the world, I feel I need to focus on positivity in my life.

This is a (somewhat) chronological list of the things I'm thankful for.

My job

Since starting with Viva IT in the later part of 2015 - my capabilities, both technically and in the social & leadership aspect of my position have been elevated beyond what I thought I was capable of. The company fosters an attitide that I've not seen in previous jobs, they care about quality, community, ethics, as well as personal learning & investment. They've pushed me to go for what I didn't think possible. Apply to speak at conferences, write that talk on the subject I wasn't sure about, learn that new technology that I didn't think I had the time for.

Being given time during your job to learn and grow is something I'd never had before, and now I consider it 100% vital to have. Plus, working on projects I love and care for, with passionate and talented people means that getting up each day for work is something I look forward to, and I consider that a very rare privilege.

My family

I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing, or be the person I am today without my family. They've been behind me each step of the way with what I do. My Mum & Dad were the first people I told about being accepted at my first conference, and the countless messages of support and "good luck!" from them leading up to the event was wonderful.

I am very much looking forward to spending Christmas with Family!

My friends

I have an incredible group of friends, some who I've known for a long time, and others for only a few months or years. Each one of them is loved dearly. And since moving back to Leicester, it's brought back friendships that had drifted apart a bit due to other things life getting in the way and being difficult to catch up (in person) due to distance.

Whether it be flying quadcopters around fields (or conference centers). Rolling dice on a weekday evening while eating way too much popcorn. Telling a story as players are lead through their own adventure. Playing boardgames and throwing cards on the table. Complaining about the latest game-patch in Overwatch as we roll our eyes at people jumping at the new-best-thing. Or eating so much meat that we get the meat-sweats and have to reconsider our choices.

My first conference talk

The number of talks I've given each year has gone like so:

  • 2014: 3 talks
  • 2015: 4 talks
  • 2016: 12 talks

This year saw my first 'real' conference talk. It was at a conference which was the first conference I ever attended in 2014, and where I gave my first talk at the Unconference track.

I'm extremely grateful to the PHP North West team who selected not only my BDD & Behat talk, but also my Continuous Delivery with Jenkins workshop. Both received excellent feedback on joind.in, and at the conference I decided to make it a 3-for-3 and give an unconference talk as well (written at midnight the night before). So that was a workshop, unconference talk and main conference talk all in a weekend!

This week I gave my last talk of the year, a Webinar for Srijan Technologies and it was a great experience! It felt a little strange at first, talking to complete silence via the web, but there were fantastic questions at the end and it was a very lovely first Webinar experience!

The wedding of my best friend

This year my best friend got married to the love of her life. I've known her for 8 years now and I have never seen her as happy as she is with her husband. The day was filled with so much love from so many people for this amazing couple, I couldn't be happier for them.

(They also brought really nice chocolates home from their honeymoon for me, and we sat and ate many of them one evening when they were back!)

PHP East Midlands & the PHP / Tech Community

The later part of the year saw the PHP East Midlands Unconference roll around again. A stressful, challenging and scary event, because while you can plan the venue, catering, banners & design work, helper roles and ticket bookings. You have no talks scheduled.

You start the day with a blank board and you hope that the community around you will step up and talk about subjects they know & love.

It was a success again! Phew!

One of my favourite things said was this:

That was exactly what we were going for. We wanted it to feel relaxed with little pressure for newer speakers.

The wider community has given me so much as well, from recommending me as a speaker to groups, to sharing their knowledge, experiences and general chit-chat in the various slack teams. I've made friends, learned so much and will treasure some of the experiences for the rest of my life.

Security-based-things

Let's Encrypt

This service has meant easy (and free) TLS certificates on sites I'm running, as well as friend & family websites. I truly believe it's going to change the way that a broader audience thinks about security.

It's already seen a huge amount of certificates issued, and with some of the larger search engine providers ranking sites that are served over TLS higher than those that aren't.

Report URI

This service has helped me implement CSPs on websites and opened my eyes to a lot of new things.

Troy Hunt's Weekly Updates

These small, bite-sized updates are a great way to keep up to date with some of the goings-on in the data breach / leak world. Combined with the "Have I been pwned?" website, Troy provides a fantastic service to the community with what he does.

Meditation

I've recently taken up meditation. It's helped me more than I ever thought such a thing could. I find myself calmer. Able to switch off at night much easier, and generally just feeling better about my mental health.

So that's that.

Those are just some of the things I'm thankful for this year. These are just the big ones that came to mind. There's many many more and I've found myself appreciating the little things too (for example: having discovered black forest hot chocolate not so long ago, it's changed hot chocolate for me forever!) - but including them would make this post enormous and I'm sure I'd never remember them all anyway.

Thank you, 2016.