A Sort of Year in Review - 2022
What a year 2022 was! Mixture of good and bad for different reasons. I meant to write this blog post a couple of weeks ago but I tried to completely switch off for the year. We are going to look through some of the things I got up to and even some travel hacks I learned along the way. This isn't a complete discussion of the year as it could go on forever, but I tried to pick some professional things that I think were interesting.
January was fairly quiet event wise. However, I did do one live stream for MongoDB. On our YouTube Channel, I do a streaming series called Learning with Luce, where I help shine a spotlight on the work of others. In January's stream, I had the pleasure of being joined by Joyce Lin from Postman, to learn all about the new Postman collection for MongoDB's Data API (you can read more about that in this post from my colleague and friend Joel Lord). It was during this stream that I learned about the 30 Days of Postman stream they do, that teaches you the basics of Postman up to more complex tasks. It teaches you about things you probably didn't know Postman could do. If you can spare 5-10mins a day to follow this, I highly recommend it if you do REST calls often!
Later on in January, I had the pleasure of speaking virtually at .NET South West, a user group here in the UK. I did my popular talk Zero to Document Hero: An introduction to MongoDB Atlas with .NET. I always find virtual user groups a mixed bag because you are at home in familiar surroundings with no travel, but you also can't interact with the audience as easily. Thankfully, this group is great and I had some interesting questions.
The following week, I popped over to Liverpool to speak in person at the .NET Liverpool user group, run by my old university friend Josh Duxbury. Always a great crowd, good food and drinks and it was one of my first in person user groups again after joining MongoDB in 2021 so I really enjoyed the thrill of being able to expense my travel.
I also set myself the task of 2022 press-ups in the month of January. I can't do full ones so I did incline press-ups against a variety of things for different angles of difficulty including windowsills, kitchen worktop and the stairs. I did it though!💪
February had it all. Travel, illness and fun with Microsoft!
As a Microsoft MVP, I often have the privilege of being invited to take part in a number of initiatives, both internal and external. One of the events I was involved in during February was a panel on inclusiveness in the community. I was able to discuss ways to make community events more inclusive and things I have learned from organising, attending and speaking at a variety of events. This was recorded and then shown at the MVP Summit, an annual event for MVP's where we can hear more about things on the roadmap, interact with the people behind the products we know and love, provide feedback and generally celebrate our alliance with Microsoft over the past 12 months.
The following week I headed to Dublin to see my boss Rita, her boss Joe and see my friend and colleague Mira in person. We had a busy week of lunches, dinners, a walking tour of South Dublin and odd bits of work thrown in. I came down with a cold on day 2 though so I survived off rest, Lemsip tablets and laughter. Being ill while away is not fun! Was just glad I was in Ireland so was able to get hold of the brands of medicine I know help. It also meant my flight home while feeling rubbish wasn't too long. Phew! Funny thing is, I very rarely get ill, usually once or twice a year at most, so it's always annoying when I do get ill.
I set myself the goal of taking cold showers in February. The idea was inspired by Wim Hoff but also being forced into cold showers in January for a few days due to a broken boiler. I did it for most of the month. I stopped in the last few days of the month when I was in Dublin and got ill because I thought cold showers while sick was probably a bad idea. It wasn't awful to take cold showers but it also wasn't life changing so will stick to cold bursts at the end of my showers I think, like the French do!
March was another mostly home based month. I recovered from my cold and set about the challenge of walking 5k steps a day. This was quite a commitment in terms of time. I don't have the longest legs or strides so 5k steps amounted to about 35-40mins of walking. I also did most the walking on the same lap around my local area. While it isn't horrendously urban or ugly, all the green space has been built on so it wasn't the kind of walk that made you excited to get there, like say Delamere Forest in Cheshire.
Overall, it felt good for my health and I lost weight (not the goal, just a bonus). But in the last week of the month, I found myself feeling exhausted. Exhausted to the point I couldn't climb stairs sometimes without needing my hands to help. I also had a cough and slight chest pain when I breathed in deeply. So I booked an appointment and went to see the doctor. It turned out I had a chest infection in the right lower lung. All the walking had made it rear it's head.
Seeing the doctor made it rear it's ugly head even more. I ended up getting really ill and bed bound for a few days after that. I did discover the YouTube channel JOLLY though while stuck in bed and they had me crying with laughter at times. Showing Rev Chris memes related to Christianity/Religion were some of my favourite videos. I mostly kept up the steps but eventually I just wasn't well enough to complete the last few days and had to admit defeat on health grounds.
In terms of events, things were pretty calm. I had another similar Microsoft panel recording, a Women of DotNet Live stream with good friend Alyssa Nicoll, a Learning with Luce stream on MongoDB Realm and Unity with my colleague Nic Raboy, and I also gave a talk at VMWare Tanzu's .NET Beyond event, organised by my good friend and fellow DevRel'er Layla Porter.
In April, Alyssa Nicoll and I were back on the streaming. This time I was a guest on her JS Girl in a .NET World stream on the CodeItLive channel, teaching her all about .NET MAUI.
Learning with Luce also returned, with my good friend and Twitch Partner Salma Alam-Naylor, aka WhiteP4nth3r, joining me as we learned about combining MongoDB Atlas with Netlify Functions to help power up a fun quiz website side project Salma was working on.
May is when things started to ramp up, but not in terms of loads of events. I had the honour of appearing in the Keynote at MongoDB World in June, our annual developer conference. At the actual event, I was on stage giving a demo of how MongoDB supports multi-cloud, multi-region deployments. However, leading up to it I was very busy helping to put together a larger demo which took up most of May. I generated the fake plant data (based on real info I sourced) and helped put together a story that would work to explain the power and value of what we were demoing.
Our annual conference is a huge event at MongoDB as you can image. Developer Relations is heavily involved in the event, both in terms of preparations and speaking. So we are strongly encouraged to free up our calendars as much as we can and focus on that because a LOT of hours go into making it an amazing and high quality event for attendees.
So the majority of May was taken up with keynote prep, rehearsals (I was also giving 2 talks) and other activities. The biggest one being what we call study halls. Essentially our product teams will give us a preview (plus Q&A) for all the announcements that are coming out. This way we can give people accurate and helpful answers to their questions should it come up. It also helps us ensure any talks we deliver have up to date content and mention any new features that will excite people.
I did however make time for a couple of important events. The Microsoft Build: UK Spotlight event held at the Microsoft offices in Reading. I was moderating a session and was also interviewed live on camera by the incredible April Edwards. Someone I am determined to do more work with this year!
I also got to speak at the delayed NDC London which is one of my favourite events. I have been on the agenda committee in the past so this will always be a special event to me. While there I got to make some new friends and see old ones I hadn't seen since before the pandemic!
I also had another Learning with Luce stream for May, this time I had the great Layla Porter with me to learn about using MongoDB with Blazor.
This was MongoDB World month so this took up the first half of the month. I flew to New York on the 1st June to be there in person for rehearsals which went on for a good few days. Then we had World and I gave my demo successfully, as well as my talks on Productivity and how I created an app for tracking blood pressure. After that there was a lot of talking to customers, spending time in person with colleagues and even running a quiz at our community café stage.
As you can imagine, once I got back from New York, I needed some time to myself to decompress. I did continue to work when I got back (not a workaholic, honest), but it was scaled back and a lot less intense.
July was an interesting one for me. We ended up having to fly to Las Vegas for 4-days in the middle of July for a larger department offsite. It felt rather far for 4 days in a climate emergency and with outside temperatures of 40 Celsius so I wasn't totally convinced. But one thing that did make it worth it and while I still made sure to go, was the fact that one of my favourite people at work, Megan Grant, who copy edits all my written content and just generally improves my work life, lives in Vegas so I would finally get to meet her.
In fact, meeting her was such a blast that not only did it make the long trip worth it but I have every intention of going back on holiday this year to stay in her guest room and do Vegas/Nevada things away from the strip including hikes and kayaking!
Once I got home and all the big trips were out the way, I treated myself to 2 weeks off work. I hadn't really taken any time off all year yet so wanted to properly unwind. So I spent a week at my parent's house with their gorgeous dogs and countryside surroundings. Then I came home and just let myself chill out and not work. Your office being at home makes it harder to not blur the lines between work and life so it was nice to 'reclaim' my office as somewhere for video games and not just work all the time.
Conferences often don't happen as much in the summer because of school holidays and everything so August was fairly quiet. But I did have the honour of speaking at .NET Conf: Focus on MAUI event where I talked about Online/Offline Data Sync with MongoDB Atlas and Realm.
I also had another Learning with Luce live stream. August's topic was MongoDB Atlas and Google Cloud Run where I was joined by my friend and colleague Stanimira Vlaeva and Abirami Sukumaran from Google where we learned all about how to combine the two products together for awesome cloud powered data storage and compute.
September is the start of conference season so things tend to get a bit busier. In the first week of September, I flew out to Boston for the first time. What a city!
While there I spoke at DevReach, a huge conference organised by Telerik that is usually in Bulgaria but had to be moved due to Covid, and the shocking things happening in Ukraine. Boston also gave me the opportunity to meet old friends in person and make new ones. My personal highlight was finally meeting Maddy Montaquila and Alyssa Nicoll in person!!!
Maddy convinced me to become a 'Pat's Fan' (New England Patriots) and I even bought a jersey to commit! So every time I see that jersey now I am reminded of a city I love, great friends and happy memories. The best!
While in Boston, I stayed at two different hotels as I arrived early to adjust to the time difference so the speaker hotel wasn't ready yet. I was reminded of the benefits of packing an extension lead in hotels. You would be surprised how often plug sockets are nowhere near the bed. In fact, some hotels have settled on having USB sockets in lamps on the beside tables. Makes sense if you just want to charge your phone, but not ideal from an ADHD sufferer with a laptop and charger who watches things at night to focus their brain enough to fall asleep!
At the end of September, I went to Greece for a week with my mum. That was amazing with great food, great people, great beaches, interesting things to see and for me the best company possible! Going to Greece is something we want to try and do every year or so as a perfect way to relax, spend time together and for me to forget about work. But sadly we are in a cost of living crisis in many countries including here in the UK so who knows if that will be something we can keep up!
Techorama is a set of conferences (one in Belgium then one in the Netherlands later in the year) that I have admired for many years. It has a great reputation for the calibre of speakers they have and also the way they treat both attendees and speakers.
So when Gill Cleeran, one of the organisers I met at NDC London, reached out to ask if I wanted to deliver the same talk I gave in London at Techorama NL, I couldn't have said yes fast enough!! This event happened in October and was great fun! I got to see some good friends from the Xamarin/MAUI community including James Montemagno, Maddy, Sam Basu and Gerald Versluis which was epic. These are friends I have known, worked with and admired for many years so having us all in one place was great!
After World finishes, MongoDB starts to look ahead to organising events called .local which we have in different cities around the world. The idea being these are smaller (but still important), free events where we can share the messages from World and deliver more great content including from customers, to people who weren't able to attend New York.
One of these is .local London which I had the pleasure of speaking at again this year. In fact I was responsible for delivering a 101 session we call Jumpstart at 8.30am, even before the keynote so it is the first talk of the day! This one was extra special for me though. This year the event was being held in Tobacco Dock, not too far from Tower Bridge in London. My Dad happens to work not too far from there and was able to come and watch me! He was very proud of me and it is a talk I will never forget because he was there.
One of the things you learn early when working in a job like DevRel that involves travel, is to take advantage of loyalty schemes and build up points. So this trip involved me continuing my loyalty to Marriott Bonvoy. One thing I noticed is that Marriott hotel rooms seem to have one thing in common, lights in the entranceway but no overhead lighting in the rooms, just relying on lamps. Odd!
The following week, I then flew out to Stockholm where MongoDB in the Nordics organised a smaller event called MongoDB Day. This is smaller but still free and still with great content. Not for the first time this year, my job was to deliver content written by someone else who couldn't be there as they had other commitments. This is a common part of my job and I am definitely learning a lot from it. It's great to learn from others, really have to understand the content to deliver it well and have a chance to talk to the original talk creator to ask questions and ensure it is the best it can be.
Almost there! December started to quieten down a lot. It started off with a trip to DDD North in Hull. This is a great free, community organised and run event. It is a great platform for newer speakers as well as more experienced ones. If you know the UK, you might be aware that Hull is a bit out of the way and a bit random. But it is testament to the quality of the event and the wonderful people who organise it, that so many of us travel from different parts of the UK to attend or speak. I bumped into friends from Manchester on the train to Hull, saw friends from London, even friends from the South-West of England. Proof that people can find the time, energy and money for travel and expenses when you treat people well and put on a great event!
The following week, I then had the pleasure of speaking at a JetBrains Webinar. JetBrains are responsible for a lot of popular developer tools and IDE's and are well respected in the tech community. I gave my intro talk on MongoDB and .NET and it was very well received. In fact at time of writing, the recording on YouTube is at a staggering 3.6k views!!
I rounded off my professional year by delivering a webinar for MongoDB, introducing data modelling. This is one of of the most common questions we get from anyone considering moving to us from traditional relational databases. So these webinars are always well attended by people wanting to learn more about how to model their data.
I haven't discussed my non-professional life too much in this post or it would be far too long. But one thing I did learn in December is that I have an auto-immune thyroid disease which can cause a number of symptoms I suffer from, including fatigue and issues with focusing. So now I am on medication, am excited to see what I can achieve in 2023!