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2017 - in review

I am here where my time began. Not exactly (that place no longer exists, not in the way it did when I was young), but close enough. Up until this year, I had a firm conviction that I could map out my time from start to point X (some yet undefined pinnacle of whatever weird thing is considered success in our society) and then follow that map, carefully executing each step from point A to point B until I reach X. It didn’t happen that way. I didn’t make it through a lot of things, the trajectory that I so optimistically drew as upward slanting, tanked. I have failed, a lot (which is not to say, all failure is bad!). And this year, I have failed more than ever and learned more than ever. In fact, even the X I set out for myself has shifted. So here I am, with my failures and perhaps a few small successes, saying goodbye to 2017 and welcoming 2018 and all its challenges!


London is cold and quiet and most days the fog from the Thames is a milky white shroud. I’ve parked work on some side projects and am focusing on deploying a tricky component on AWS for a client. I’m also searching for “Austin, TX weather”, because I have been fortunate enough to receive a Cloud Native Foundation Diversity Scholarship to attend KubeCon and CloudNativeCon in Austin! Thank you very much to Ms. Wendi West from the Linux Foundation who was patient in helping me navigate travel arrangements and a huge thank you to Erica von Buelow (engineer at CoreOs), Kris Nova (developer at Heptio and also, badass mountaineer - just see her Twitter feed!), Jessie Frazelle (container engineer at Microsoft and all things Linux) and Michelle Noorali (Kubernetes exper from Microsoft) who made it possible for 103 diversity scholarship attendees to fly to Austin for a great week! I learned a lot, met a lot of interesting people, learned about containers, orchestration, what it means to be Cloud Native and lots more, which I’m saving for a proper blogpost.


One month into my new role as a independent software engineer. New team, new way of working. I’m still learning the ins and outs of collaborating with a fully distributed team. Thus far I can say that working remotely suits me very well. I, along with many of my developer colleagues, find open offices distracting. I appreciate that there are legitimate cases where teams are more productive when all barriers for communication are removed, for example ops and customer facing teams, but for feature teams, this often just does not work. The whole month passes in a bit of a blur - there are hardly any notes in my diaries.


I started my first ever job as an independent software engineer, which was a big (albeit slightly unplanned) milestone in my development career. Along with getting used to working fully remotely and configuring all of the ropes for my new consulting company, I’m procrastinating and preparing to give a talk at PyCon UK 2017. The topic is machine learning security - a newly formed field that blends aspects of infosec and ML engineering. I discover lots of gems while making my slides: self-driving cars that can be confused by salt circles, neural network image classifiers that misclassify pandas as gibbons and June, the oven that is connected to a GPU so it can use machine learning to find the optimal temperature for your cupcakes. I make the trip to Cardiff and spend a day holed into my hotel room practicing my talk over and over again. In the evening, the evening of a great boxing match in the Cardiff stadium, the streets are the colour of flashing bright blue and red and the shadows of hundreds of people walking across the streets to see the match. I walk past them and the castle and look into the glass eyes of the stone animal statues.


I attend Container Camp London and learn a bit about container security from Andrew Martin and Ben Hall using Katakoda. I realise that things move quickly in the infra & ops space. The difference in talks between this year and last year is staggering: all of a sudden a whole new vocabulary has evolved for discussing platform architecture - service mesh, container orchestration, managing state and secrets and so forth. Jess Fraz and her amicontained tool gets a shoutout in the closing hacking containers finale - all jokes and super long and frightening bash scripts courtesy of Andrew Martin and Ben Hall. I think I might have gone home and tried some of the techniques on, but unsuccessfully.

Rome and all of its delights, but most of all the canoli and the coffee. I finally saw the Ecstasy of St. Teresa at the Santa Maria della Vittoria and the Pieta. On a group tour of the Vatican, I stood next to an elderly American lady who was visiting Rome with her extended family. In the Sistine chapel, ushered in by the neverending flow of the crowds and shushed several times by a policeman standing by the microphone, we smiled at each other and looked at the frescoes. I remember the heat of the summer that seeped through the doors and the windows and made the air inside heavy or perhaps it was the collective warmth from the bodies of hundreds of tourists gathered inside. The sussuration of hundreds of people wrinkles the silence and I wonder, what is it like to inhabit this space alone.


I’m not in a good place and trying to reconcile my decision to leave a development job I had wanted for a long time with the challenges that I faced. The one good thing about the whole situation is that I can finally enjoy the sun and the Thames.


I read a lot.


I go to Borrowdale and attempt to hike Skiddaw. My map reading skills being what they are, I end up on the summit of Little Man. I stand next to the trig point and puzzle over the map while the fog and clouds swirl around me and conclude that I must have reached Skiddaw only to descend and realise that the summit is further away. In the end, I make an attempt at Skiddaw, but give up due to poor visibility. Until next time, Skiddaw! I descend past the summit and Sale How to the Skiddaw YHA hostel and then follow the Cumbria Way into the valley. The cloud cover disperses and the most brilliant beautiful sunlight illuminates the valley and the mountain streams running through the veins of the mountain. I’ve never felt so alive and at peace.


Working and doubting some of my choices.


I summit Snowdon using the Llanberis Way.


A brief visit home to enjoy the snow and then back to work.


Promotions. I recall a Hacker News comment about prestige that Dan Luu has kindly preserved for posterity.