At the end of 2015 I’d been really struggling: the stress of living on a building site for a year and my sleep/sanity waning; desperately trying to move house to get away but the chain collapsing numerous times; brain tumours and subsequent travel uncertainty. It all led to a place where my work and health were suffering hugely. My summary blog post reflected this – it was very gloomy and full of frustration. Thankfully, this year (personally rather than globally!) has been very different.
We finally managed to move house in February, a year after our house went on the market. Right up to the end it was exhausting – another hard deadline, and exchange was attempted every day for a week but failed to happen each time for a different reason, so we were at complete breaking point. Thankfully it happened eventually, and then it was another whirlwind week of arranging the move. Luckily our house had been in boxes since the previous summer, so that part wasn’t so challenging!
The new house has been nothing short of wonderful. Naturally there will be bits we’ll need to work on for many years to come, but so far it has been an excellent, peaceful base with plenty of room for the future. Whilst 2015 was challenging because of all of the things hampering my ability to plan work effectively, my biggest professional challenge in 2016 has been wanting to take off a lot of time to enjoy life!
This has been a bit of a theme for me this year – doing things I want to be doing, because life’s frankly too short. The brain tumour saga and a family friend very suddenly dying after a couple of weeks of diagnosis has done much to highlight this. It has manifested in, yes, taking the time to do gardening, painting, exercise and travel, but also working with people and organisations that I really care about. Subsequently I’m feeling like I’m doing the best work I have ever done, and I’m really excited for next year.
I’m now at 4 years of working for myself, and in my third year of running Records Sound the Same. This year saw some more collaborations, and this is an area that I’m looking to firm up somewhat more in 2017. I still haven’t felt the need to hire more employees as the ability to flex around different types of project and expertise is working, but I’d like to formalise this a little bit more into the future.
Some select highlights have been:
- Internal transformation work with the Manor Racing F1 Team.
- Doing some work with the Scottish Government’s Digital Transformation Service.
- Helping the RNLI to define internal digital technical standards.
- Working with the Open Data Institute as an Associate – I collaborated on a couple of projects but am particularly excited about our ongoing work with Sport England.
- Speaking around the world, including in the USA and Poland. I did much less speaking this year as a conscious decision, turning down several fantastic opportunities to focus on my client work and life. I’m writing a new talk now, and I think I’m ready to start getting back out there next year.
- As well as conference speaking I did a lot more teaching of young people: students at West Thames College through Tech Talk, and a Ri Computer Science Masterclass for 13/14 years olds.
- Acting as a mentor and technical advisor for Prolifiko.
- Going to 10 Downing Street.
- Nominated for my first award as an individual, outside of any company I’ve worked for.
A couple of things that I really had my fingers crossed for didn’t come off, but I’m really hopeful that more will happen on those fronts next year.
Personally, I’m so much happier in my surroundings and have found this reflected in the things that I’ve done. Yes, I’ve played a lot of video games, but I’ve also done a lot more exercise and enjoyed doing more than sitting with my face in a screen. Some good things that happened this year:
- Taking rollerblading lessons, realising I can be taught, and enjoying doing something active that adults usually look down their noses at.
- Skiing in Val D’Isére/Tignes. I love skiing, and we had a great week in France with the deepest snow I’ve seen in years.
- Travelling around Japan, and getting much better at reading and speaking Japanese.
- Feeding otters (see below).
- Finding my wedding dress.
- Reading lots of good books. Please send recommendations for the future.
- Another year of successfully completing Euro 2016 Dinners.
Song of the year: Zen Zen Zense / 前前前世 by Radwimps
What do I want to do next year?
Next year’s going to be a slightly different one. I’m determined to keep the balance of work and life, to make time for exercise, house and garden improvements, and things that aren’t digital. To an extent this will be mandated as I’m planning to take quite some time off later in the year to get married and go on holiday, but I’d like to make sure the little things don’t get forgotten too. In addition to this I also want to:
- Finally pluck up the courage to start giving some workshops that I’ve been planning for a while.
- Think more seriously in terms of products, and do these properly
- Make time for side projects!
- Keep traveling.
- Continue to approach people I want to work with, and who I think I can really make a difference for
- Redo this site and clarify our offerings – they’ve been very much redefined this year and the current site doesn’t convey them well at all.
2016 has seen some awful things happen, which I’m sure will sadly continue into 2017. It’s shown us that as web professionals we have a lot of power for good or evil, and that as people we can either stand by and talk about how dreadful the year has been or actually do something about it. Step one for me was looking after myself, and next year I’m going to be trying to do a lot more to do good in the world, whether through work or life.
Happy New Year, everyone. I look forward to seeing what we’ve all achieved by this time next year.