My year in review
Photo by Juan Rumimpunu
Many software development contractors I’ve worked with are poor at the business of it - not in their technical abilities, but because they’re individuals who care deeply about refining their craft and advancing software engineering. Admirable goals but ones that can be difficult to reconcile with roles where your throughput of code is (typically) the primary metric of interest to a temporary employer who wants a problem solved yesterday.
I found myself at a crossroads professionally with my level of dissatisfaction increasing as 2020 dragged interminably on. Working as a ‘senior’ software engineer on a rolling contract, I was performing my assigned role well but felt capable of contributing much more and eager for change.
In September an opportunity to manage an engineering team presented itself once again. I jumped at the chance to get back to a role to where I could affect change, evangelise the role of engineering in product design, and foster a quality-focused engineering culture.
For many years I specialised in frontend development and UX. Naturally, I failed to maintain a dedicated web presence of my own, it had felt too much of a busman’s holiday.
The impetus for this website was primarily to encourage me to write more - something I find enjoyable but rarely set aside time for. Having stepped away from frontend development a couple of years ago, it was also enjoyable to tentatively come back to it.
Another reason for this website is to give me a starting point for cultivating my personal brand (I apologise in advance). You should always own your own words.
I began a Certificate in Design Thinking third level course on a part-time basis in late 2019, and was awarded the accreditation in September 2020.
The techniques I learned on the course would have been incredibly useful when I was the CTO in a startup and trying to find that elusive product-market fit, but more on this another day.
Being fortunate enough to work from home most of the year afforded me with additional free time that is otherwise spent commuting. I decided to use some of this time to focus on improving my marketability should the need arise - something which felt proactive given the situation that was unfolding globally.
I remain sceptical of the value placed on certifications in the software industry and believe they are no substitute for actual experience or, indeed, aptitude and inquisitiveness. More problematically, certifications can involve significant financial outlay and may constitute yet another obstacle to a more inclusive industry.
However, given I earn my living primarily from consulting they can be undeniably useful to possess and structured learning can lay the groundwork for developing deeper understanding.
I set myself the goal of attaining two certifications by the end of the year.
In August I sat and passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam. As my daily work involves designing and developing serverless architectures on AWS it was the logical choice to complete first.
TOGAF certification was something I considered many times (more so when I was working in banking) but always deferred for one reason or another. In December after periodic and then concentrated study I sat and passed the TOGAF® 9 Certified exam.
Professionally, I intend to be less dark matter this year. How that will manifest I’m not fully sure yet although I have some ideas for interesting projects and other collaborative things.
On this website I intend to write more about topics of specific interest to me - revisiting my previous life in a startup, the characteristics of high-performing teams and individuals, the confluence between design and development, cloud, computing history, and so on.
Further certifications are likely, but as the mood takes me. I think rebalancing after-work hours in favour of other interests will be more conducive to maintaining positive mental health given everything happening in the world.