2017 into 2018

Another end of a year means another time to look back, but also to look forward. As they usually do, 2017 has had both extreme highs and lows, as well as plenty in the middle.

Life

Let’s start with the important bit - life.

My 2016 summary post talked about a shifting mentality to take a bit more control, and doing things that were important to me in both work and my personal life. This continued in 2017, which in all honesty has felt like the first year where work took a little bit less of my focus. Coming off the back of such a professionally successful 2016 I’ve found this a little bit difficult to square away with myself at times, but on the other hand I wouldn’t change a thing.

A big driver for this was that in August, after 13 years of being together, and 3 years of engagement, I got married.

Our wedding

I didn’t really share a huge amount online - our photos aren’t on Facebook, and I didn’t tweet much about the build up - but it took up a surprising amount of brain space and time throughout the year. Most of the actual ‘doing’ happened over the last twelve months, and as we were essentially getting the keys to a beautiful big house to sleep 40 of our favourite people for a weekend, we were responsible for everything from equipment hire, to music, catering, decorating, stocking all of the drinks, and everything in between. Everything was personal, we made everything we could, and the registrars were the only people we hadn’t spent time with in advance.

Some of my favourite points were:

  • Everyone staying at the house having breakfast together in the dining room before we all went our separate ways to get ready.
  • Friends and family from different groups all chipping in to do washing up, make decorations, or just chatting together.
  • Meeting Robert privately before we went outside for the ceremony together.
  • The fact that the sun, completely unscheduled, came out for the entire weekend. This meant that we were able to spread out, didn’t have to do annoying room changeovers, and everyone was able to sit out on the terrace into the evening and eat outside in the morning.
  • I’d set up some games consoles in a side room, which was meant to be my escape space. It ended up being constantly full, with people playing games, snooker, and chess.
  • People napping on sofas in the quiet room.
  • Having my favourite beer made by my friend Oli’s amazing up-and-coming brewery on tap.
  • My brother bringing me a Pikachu balloon, which became part of the decor.
  • Guests embracing that we wanted people to explore the gardens and the house’s unique rooms, which were full of all kinds of rare books and art. It was so lovely seeing photos of things they’d seen turning up on instagram!
  • Managing to run the entire day’s music (pre-ceremony/ceremony/evening) flawlessly using laptops, phones, Spotify, and bits of Sonos kit.

Whilst nothing has really changed, it’s something that means an awful lot to me and that I’m very glad we did.


Honeymoon

We’d toyed with a few different ideas for our honeymoon, but in the end we were drawn back to Japan, again. Our last trip over had been in September/October 2016 after a break of quite a few years, and on leaving I remember being upset that we probably wouldn’t be back for a while again. One honeymoon trip, and one 2018 Japanese break booked has shown once again that life is what you make it! We travelled to Hong Kong to book-end our trip, jumped over to beautiful clear seas and wonderful remoteness in Okinawa, then headed to the mainland for old classics like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima, and slightly off the beaten track stays including the seaside/onsen resort of Atami. We did a huge amount - lots of fun interspersed with relaxing remote stops - and ate so much incredible local food, the likes of which I'll probably never have again. Once again my Japanese confidence skyrocketed with so much constant exposure, this time with my kanji knowledge being the area of focus. Japan is a place where I would love to live one day. The timing isn’t right for us just now, but I really hope that at some point it will be.

A post shared by Sally L (@greywillfade) on

A post shared by Sally L (@greywillfade) on

A post shared by Sally L (@greywillfade) on

A post shared by Sally L (@greywillfade) on

Lunchtime views. #nofilter needed. Japan is so beautiful.

A post shared by Sally L (@greywillfade) on

This will always be my favourite view

A post shared by Sally L (@greywillfade) on

Other notable memories

On top of the above we only managed to have one real break this year, going Skiing in Austria. We spent a morning having a private lesson which I’d really not been sure about, but it was incredibly useful to tighten up technique. In general I’ve found myself becoming a lot more open to being taught and making myself vulnerable this year, and have seen the benefit.

Another example of this was through taking two Japanese cooking classes throughout the year. I love cooking, and can pretty much chef up anything that I’m given some instructions for to a fairly decent level, but this was a great way to learn some proper techniques.

And finally, I want to mention someone important. Towards the end of the year, my mum went to stay with her best friend, Joan, who was feeling rubbish. After visiting the doctor and then the hospital, it turned out that she had terminal cancer. 10 days later, she died. It was all completely unexpected, and another horrible loss to this terrible disease. Joan was one of those people who had been around my entire life, and you expected would always be there. She visited our family when we lived abroad, we’d stay at her house when in the UK, she spent last Christmas at our house, and came to our wedding. I can’t think of the last time that I was so emotionally affected by something - I’m not normally hugely tearful but I went through a period where I couldn’t stop crying. It’ll take a long time for this to become the new normal.

Joan

Work

On the work side of things, as I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ve felt like I’d intentionally taken my foot off the gas a bit this year. I started the year with all kinds of plans that just didn’t pan out; not in a bad way, but because I found myself with other priorities.

Speaking

The August/September/October blackout in my calendar in particular caused me to consider my speaking plans for the year. I only did a little bit, but was proud of what I did:

  • I gave my first closing keynote.
  • I was an MC again, this time for two days.
  • Due to a strange set of events involving the UK general election and Purdah (pre-election period), I gave a brand new talk at The Lead Developer that I wrote in a week. I only found out on the morning of the talk that I was definitely speaking.
  • I travelled to Nottingham, to finally give a talk I’d promised DXN for a long time!
Speaking at Render conference

Client work

A large amount of my professional time and energy this year has been working on OpenActive, which is a Sport England-backed community-led initiative that’s aiming to change the sport and physical activity sector’s relationship with data, technology, customer experience, and working together. Ultimately the goal is to help people be more active. It is an enormous endeavour spanning all kinds of work, I’m working alongside some very talented people, and I have learnt a ridiculous amount that requires a separate post… or ten. Needless to say that this is the most complex piece of digital transformation I’ve been involved in to date, and it’s been equally rewarding and challenging.

I’ve also continued to work with other ongoing clients like the RNLI, where this year’s work has involved:

  • Helping to redefine their new in-house digital team roles
  • Reviewing over 200 individual lifeboat station websites and making recommendations, as part of a project that reminded us that transformations don’t need to be about technology
  • Feeding into the process for a new Intranet
  • Contributing to the strategy for what will (hopefully soon!) be released as a useful resource including a pattern library and digital guidelines - something that started back when I originally made recommendations following some digital technical standards work.

There have also been numerous other smaller projects, some of which I’m able to talk about, some of which I’m not. For a long time I’ve wanted to be totally free to speak openly about all of my work, but I’ve come to understand that I won’t always be able to do so, and I’m ok with that if there are good reasons involved. In the end, it’s about how to make the most positive impact for my clients, and sometimes that’s going to require some behind the scenes work.

I recently wrote about making positive change in 2018, which is my main professional goal for this coming year. The post outlines how myself and others may be able to help, but in short, if you’re looking for help in making any kind of digital transformation stick (whether that’s updating a website through to…. changing an entire sector!), then I’d love to have a chat. I’m particularly keen to start some new relationships with different people this year - not because I don’t love my existing clients, but because new challenges, situations, and technologies are so important to experience.

On that note, I also want to acknowledge that there have been some really disappointing points professionally this year. All too often we see these end of year reviews as flawless highlight reels, and so I’d like to share some of the other side too. Three new, larger projects in particular failed to happen after they all seemed to be set to, and in each instance I was extremely gutted - the hardest thing was feeling so excited and passionate about the opportunity ahead, and not being able to participate. There will always be times like this, and I need to get better at channelling that energy in more positive ways.

Other points of note

  • I managed to do a bit more volunteering this year, including a day helping out with the STEMettes at a workshop for school children held at Essex University.
  • I’ve continued to be involved in mentoring, which I wrote about Case study: part-time CTO support and mentoring with Prolifiko
  • I went through a rebrand of Records Sound the Same with the lovely Katherine Cory (hire her for visual design work!)
  • Subsequently switched both my personal (this site) and business sites over to a JAMstack setup using Hugo.
  • I started speaking to some people about creating some online content and video courses. It didn’t end up being the right fit, but was both a confidence boost and sparked some ideas for the future.
  • Put together some workshops that I’d been planning.
  • Played with technology more - towards the end of the year I created some data visualisation and dabbled with neural networks.
  • Shaking hands with Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Next year and goals

A few weeks ago I started planning my 2018, and whilst there are some things that I’d definitely like to do, I’m mindful that others will need more flex.

My husband is at a point where he’s considering taking a long break and changing careers, which could potentially have a knock-on impact in terms of what I need to do to support us fully. I have no idea how that will play out, but it could mean that I end up having a bit less freedom with my options. So, this could all change, but my current goals are:

  • To do a number of online development courses that I’ve purchased. My day to day doesn’t involve much development apart from prototyping, and I’d like to brush up on some newer areas.
  • To actually launch a project that’s been stuck at 80% for too many years, although I’ll likely want to re-write the entire front- and back-end first.
  • We’re booked to go back to Japan, where this time we’ll be skiing, plus Robert will be competing in EVO (fighting games competition) in Tokyo.
  • I’d like to speak at at least three events - I’m currently booked to host one conference, and am also on the programme committee. I’m also booked to speak at another international event later in the year. If you’d like me to speak at yours, please get in touch!
  • To give my hobby language learning into a bit more focus, by starting the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) exams.
  • To gain 2 or 3 new direct clients.
  • To continue to try to look after myself, with exercise, good food, and sleep and rest when I need it.
  • To finally dare to migrate all of my personal Google accounts over to something non-Jenkinson! (terrible personal future-proofing)

There could be a lot of change ahead, but I’m excited to see what comes and am really looking forward to 2018. To all readers, I hope that you have a great year too, in whatever you do.