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2017 - Year in Review

Mark Thomas

The Christmas sermon at our local church, really helped me to step back and reflect on 2017.  I was too busy to really notice at the time, but in hindsight 2017 was a year of change.

So, what changed?  There were two big changes in my personal life:

  • After three years of studying hard, my wife, Le'Nise, set up her own business.  Le'Nise is passionate about health and well-being, so if you need help with your goals for 2018 then definitely check out Eat Love Move.
  • My son started at school.  I can't believe that he is 4 years old already.  Watching children learn is fascinating, they are very flexible, open-minded and they pick up new concepts incredibly quickly.  Seeing a child learn something, like reading, that you take for granted teaches you a lot about how to learn.

And a lot happened professionally:

  • I started the year consulting at a bank, with lots of highlights:
    • First Kotlin app in production :-)
    • Lots of important changes delivered for the business.
    • Several of the components in our team’s platform were very performance critical.  We introduced InfluxDB and Grafana to replace an older Graphite stack.  This led to massive simplification, and the much better visualisation tools to help us to really understand what was happening in production.
    • I spent lots of time thinking about Operations, and worked on pushing out Consul (to support service discovery) and Ansible (to help standardise our deployment approaches).  This is the first team where I've worn a DevOps hat for a while and it was fun.  I’m a better developer because of this.
  • Alongside that, I worked with a really interesting start-up looking at ways to use Blockchain to improve Treasury management.  This was a great learning experience.
    • We partnered with IBM to look at Hyperledger Fabric, and spent 6 weeks with one of their technical experts.  I have a much better idea now of the practical issues and benefits of applying Blockchain to a business problem.
    • After years spent writing predominantly server side code, I built a modern web UI to demonstrate some of our ideas.  Lots of fun with React.
    • It's difficult to say whether a concrete offering will come from this.  But, I've learnt a lot about how to approach a startup, and some solid technical skills.
  • There are some benefits to being married to a software developer.  When my wife started her business, she had lots of interesting ideas for helping clients using technology.  We've been working together on implementing them.
    • The first priority was to provide a way for clients to pay for services.  We settled on using Stripe.  From a developer's perspective, it's pretty good, and it's reasonably priced.  The Stripe Checkout components made it really easy to get something live very quickly.  Definitely check it out if you need an easy to implement checkout.
    • Using Elm I built out a simple client web site with Stripe integrated and deployed.  Elm has been great.  I spent some time last year with Clojure + Reagent, and more recently with React and Javascript.  Elm seems to have just enough to be useful and is opinionated enough that it's easy to work out how to build out features.  I'll write up more detailed thoughts another time.
    • We deployed everything on Heroku.  It's my first experience with Heroku, but we needed fast time to market and it was great for that.  I was able to get the app deployed within a few hours, and loads of functionality comes for free: automated DB backups, log archiving/searching, metrics collection.  If you want to get up and running fast, it's worth checking out. 
  • Towards the end of the year, I started a new role at a Commodities Trading Firm.  The firm is moving from an environment of predominantly vendor products, to bespoke software solutions.  It's early days, but it feels like we can make a big difference going forward.

Balancing a full time day job, working with a startup, and building out software to support my wife’s business really helped me to focus and make the best use of my free time.  This may prove to be the most useful skill I learnt all year.

Quite a year!  

I'll post again with some thoughts on 2018 later, but for now Happy New Year!