2018 Retrospective

2018 is already behind us and what a year it's been! Lot's of exciting changes and a year marked with many successes along with some (smaller) failures but all in all it's been a good year! 2018 was also marked by one, if not the biggest, life-changing decision in my life - moving to the US with my family to take on a new role at Microsoft. It may have been only the second time in my life that I decided to embark in such a big change but the first time was much simpler as it only involved myself! But what else took place this year? Let's get started!

Career

The first part of the year was dominated by exciting engagements and projects as I continued my role as a Premier Field Engineer at Microsoft. If you don't know what a PFE is then check out this blog post where I explain all about it. While in PFE, I've wrapped a massive project with a big finance company in London migrating one of their flagship products to ASP.NET Core among many other projects, helped numerous customers with their Azure journey and I continued to learn as fast as I could. However, I felt that it was time to move on and try something different and, hopefully, bigger. I needed a new challenge and a role that would give me the opportunity to have more impact and wider scope. After a couple of false starts (nothing wrong with failure) I got a new role as the new Product Marketing Manager in the Dev Tools team. I felt that this role would be a great opportunity to use my developer background into marketing and provide a new perspective into the role. I'm now responsible for Visual Studio for Mac, the Mobile and Gaming tools across the whole Visual Studio product family as well as the Azure Dev Tooling, Storage Explorer and Container support in Visual Studio! A range of 11 products all in all, all with different needs and, yes, opportunities!

The new role has presented many new challenges and provides an immense potential for growth. I'm truly fortunate to have been given this chance to pivot into adeveloper-heavy Product Marketing role. My developer background means that I can make Marketing more relevant and relatable to our developers. I'm learning new things every day and my appetite for knowledge is only limited by the amount of hours in the day. I also have an amazing team and my manager has been instrumental in supporting me as I ramp up in my new responsibilities. I'm still struggling with the immense the scope of the role and the responsibility that comes with it but I hope I can make the right impact as settle more into the role.

Due to the amount of time I spend ramping up on the role, I've struggled to find time to stay highly technical. As my responsibilities now span multiple products it's hard to stay at level 400 across all of them. And since time is always limited, getting the chance to get my hands dirty with coding or trying the new shiny stuff is tough. You can see this also from the number of blogs posts I published since I moved to the US. However, one of my goals for 2019, as I get to grips with my day to day tasks, is to spend more time to work on things that excite me and to continue to contribute to the community.

Speaking and conferences

During the first part of 2018 I continued to speak at conferences and user groups about the technologies and tools I'm passionate about. I still managed an average of 3 talks per month and I was extremely honored to talk at the inaugural Techorama Netherlands conference.

In total, I spoke at 17 events in 6 months, including the following:

  • Keynote at UWS Student event
  • TechSummit Singapore
  • TechSummit Birmingham
  • TechReady Seattle (internal MS conference)
  • 4DotNet Amsterdam
  • DevBriefing Reading (internal MS event)
  • ShropshireDevs
  • JPMorgan Glasgow
  • Azure Bootcamp Gothemburg
  • DevExperience Polland
  • ICF Edinburgh
  • Techorama Belgium
  • Thessaloniki.NET Thessaloniki
  • Techorama Netherlands
  • DevIntersection/Microsoft Connect

I've been fortunate to have spent the best part of the past 4 years being on stage or in front of audiences in an effort to inspire and excite developers and decision makers. I've loved every single opportunity I was offered and I feel extremely privileged to have been part of this community. I've met a number of truly incredible speakers and I was able to interact with the developer community and learn about various exciting projects. However, when I took on my new role, one of my goals was to reduce my time away from home and my family! Traveling to conferences, as many fellow speakers are aware, takes a lot of time. Time to prepare for the session and time to travel to and from the event.

So how do I manage my love for speaking and engaging the community while not traveling? As a PMM I get to participate in Executive Briefings at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Consequently, I still get to speak with developers and decision makers about the Microsoft technologies and services I love from the comfort of the Microsoft Campus - win win!

But this is not all, I've decided to selectively submit to a couple extremely valuable conferences, such as Techorama, to stay in touch with the community.

Finally, one of the most exciting parts of my role is that as a PMM I'm now one of the many responsible people for organizing and coordinating the MS flagship conferences such as Build, Ignite, Ready, Connect etc! This is an insane, year-round, responsibility where I have to make decisions on the content, speakers, slots, logistics, messaging, blog and video content and product release alignment for the products I manage. So far, in my short tenure as a Dev Tools PMM, I have had to do all this for Ignite (Sept), Connect (Dec) and Ready (Feb). This is how I get to make a big impact and I love it. So, I may not be as much on stage but I get to play an instrumental role working with some amazing people.

2018's Highlight

On December 4th 2018, I managed to make one of my dreams a reality by sharing the stage with Scott Hanselman during the Microsoft Connect keynote. As a developer who's 'grown up' with Scott, it was a huge honor to be able to co-present with him at Connect and talk about AI Visual Provision. You can see the keynote here. If you want to know more about the project, have a look at the AI Visual Provision repo.

Blogging / authoring

In 2018 I've continued to work hard on my blogging. During the first part of the year I published 16 posts and contributed with 6 guest posts. After moving to the US things slowed down quite a bit as I tried to settle to my new role and I've got to spend less time solving hard technical/coding problems. My blog posts saw a healthy increase of visitors as per my GA stats and I'm slowly etching the 1M views per year.

However, one nice side effect of my new role is that I get to review and edit a very large number of blog posts. Any post related to the products I manage has to go through me so although I don't author them directly, I still get to impact the final look and feel of the posts. I truly enjoy this collaborative part of the job and I get to work with some truly talented PMs from around the organization.

Traveling

The first part of the year was insanely busy. Beyond the usual PFE-related traveling, I got to travel extensively for my public speaking engagements and I even got to visit Asia for the first time! From July onward, my traveling was drastically reduced which was a very welcoming change. I now get to spend a lot more time at home and with my girls and I've only been away twice for Ignite, Techorama and DevIntersection. In summary, I spent 137 days away from home and these were mostly during the first half of the year!

Fitness / health

I feel blessed that I've had a mostly healthy 2018 without any major health issues. As I hit 40 I became a lot more conscious with my health. In the past few months with the introduction of a predictable lifestyle and steady routine, I also managed to return to my Intermittent fasting diet which I sustained for 2 years before joining MS. My PFE role, as much as a blessing as it was, it played havoc with my fitness and diet due to the long hours and unpredictable schedule. Having a steady schedule and cutting drastically on travel means that I have been able focus on my fitness goals again. Also, with a bigger house here in the US I managed to build my own home gym. Having a home gym cuts the excuses to 0 and there's no way to justify skipping a workout! My new routine is simple and effective:

  • Wake up at 5.30am daily
  • Hit the gym (I alternate between weight lifting and HIIT)
  • Work/Family etc
  • One day a week off for recovery
  • Rinse and repeat

I work out fasted and I love it. It has only been 4 weeks since I've manage to get into this routine but so far I'm enjoying the lifestyle. I'm not advocating this for everyone and this is not open for debate. I wake up at 5.30 because I like to work out in the morning before everyone else wakes up. This means that the rest of my day is split between work and family and I don't have to worry about taking time away from them to go to the gym. I've always been an early rise, though I have to admit that at 5.30am that pillow looks sweeter and warmer than anything else. Remember what I said? No excuses! This is why I love my home gym - it keeps me straight!

Current weight: 92.5kgs (down 0.5 kgs)
Target weight: 85kgs
Overall goal: reduce fat, stay healthy, get strong!

What else?


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