At the start of 2019, I took a long-overdue break to see friends in Abu Dhabi. It was the first time I had made a "proper" trip at the start of the year, so when I got back, I vowed to try and do it every year. There's a great feeling coming out of the Christmas chaos to then go on a break to gather your thoughts. So when the start of 2020 came round, I did just that.
This review is a little bit later because of that. I went on an incredible trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, a delayed honeymoon in fact. As well as doing plenty of active things I also took time out to relax and reflect on a busy year.
As much as I find writing hard, I'm trying to do more of it. Being able to articulate your thoughts through writing is something I've not quite mastered yet, but I'll continue to give it a good go. Below are a few moments from 2019 that I want to document for my future self...
Finishing a large consultancy piece with LADbible
What started out as a six-month engagement with LADbible to help transform their engineering offering ended up spanning well over a year. I was particularly sad to leave LADbible, I can safely say that the people there are some of the best I've ever worked with. They've managed to get the culture just right, a beautiful blend of work ethic mixed with a group of people who really get on and care about everyone's wellbeing. I've made friends there that I'll be keeping in touch with for a long time to come.
Work-wise, I finished building their Engineering team and set the Data Science team on a path to expand and stabilise their Data Warehouse. Two projects that saw me deal with the wider business and prepare the technology department for many years to come. Being a part of LADbible and UNILAD becoming a single company was also something I won't forget in a hurry.
This sort of work is what I really love doing. Taking on challenges involving engineering improvements alongside culture change is something I've focused on for the last few years. It is something I'll continue to focus on for the foreseeable.
Hosting a two-day event with Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut
It isn't every day that you get to meet the first British astronaut, so I was thrilled to be asked to host an event with Helen Sharman as part of the Festival of the Moon.
As well as introducing Helen and doing a live Q&A with her on stage, I got to spend time with her backstage asking all sorts of questions about what it was really like to be the first Brit in space. She has more stories than time to tell them, but I felt privileged to be able to spend that time with her.
The festival was also a different kind of speaking gig for me. Something outside of technology and my usual comfort zone. It's definitely something I'd like to do more of in the future.
She Does Hey! panel on pathways into digital
I had loads of fun hosting She Does Hey! in August alongside Rose Mountague. We co-hosted a panel consisting of inspiring members of the community, each discussing their route into digital and what they learned in the process.
As a result of this event, I'm working on doing more collaborations with different initiatives and meetups across Leeds. I'm happy to be adding Leeds Digital Drinks to this list as we take on our first collaboration in February.
You can watch the recording of the lecture we did last year over on the Hey! site.
Delivering a talk on growing Hey! at Glug
I was asked by my friend Hannah if I fancied heading back to a Glug event to speak about some of my experiences building and running an events brand. Being from a software engineering background, I chose to do a retrospective with the audience on lessons learned organising events all these years.
It's fair to say I've learnt a lot since starting Hey! back in 2013, not least some of the components that go towards making an event run smoothly. As we come into the fourth year of All Day Hey! I'm still learning plenty of new things, but it was nice to reflect on the journey so far and attempt to share some of those lessons.
All Day Hey! 2019
Last year was the third edition of All Day Hey!, and it feels like we're getting the hang of it! We've had the most fantastic support from the community since starting the conference. While we've had positive feedback from attendees, there is still a lot of stuff we can do to make it even better.
As always Phil Hawksworth made running things that little bit easier by keeping things flowing on the day, and we had such a good bunch of speakers this year! Welcoming Sarah Drasner, Sharon Steed, Tim Kadlec and Nadieh Bremer from overseas was a proud moment for me. It showed we could bring talent from anywhere in the world to speak at our conference. We also welcomed two "local" industry favourites with Andrew Betts and Remy Sharp, two people who I very much admire.
We launched the tickets for this year's conference in January with a speaker announcement going out very soon. Watch this space for when they drop.
Moving to Monzo for Business
This item isn't a highlight as much as a statement. I moved my business accounts over to Monzo this year, and it has been a game-changer! Having the autonomy and ease of managing your money at any time has been refreshing as part of running a busy business.
Before Monzo, I was an HSBC customer. This meant I had to carry my 2-factor fob with me everywhere, not to mention the apps and website are pretty awful. Alongside this, tax and regular pots mean I can be more organised with money (and it makes running events like All Day Hey! a breeze). It still has a way to go, but the support alone makes it a worthwhile transition. The Xero integration is 👌 too.
Even with being away for a good part of it, January felt like the longest month. Coming back from a trip refreshed and ready to take on this year is the best feeling, I feel very fortunate to have been able to do it. I'm psyched for this year with so many things lined up, and I'm excited to crack on.