Monday, 31 December 2012

Adiós 2012

I'm just about to go to a "Maskarade" party in Sydney for New Years eve and thought it would be a nice time to reflect on the year that's been and maybe look ahead to 2013.

2012 has been a big year of change for me; my first year of full time employment is now behind me. I was a young man fresh out of university keen to take on the world, I felt driven and highly motivated. I thought that given the opportunity I could jump into most any field and do impressive things. I thought money wasn't very important, just an essential by-product of the working world today. In engineering I thought there was the correct way to do something and the wrong way and never any middle ground.

The most exciting change would have to be Sarah moved in with me. We have been most happy together doing all sorts of trips throughout the year. I'm currently writing this from Sydney where I've spent Christmas with her family. Flatting in Christchurch has continued to be a great experience, have meet more neighbours this year and have had great initiatives such as themed meal weeks - "Mexican week" will have to be repeated next year!

Adventure wise 2012 couldn't have started better, for new years I was on the summit of Mount Aspiring, a mountain I'd wanted to climb for a very long time. A far cry different from tonight which promises to be one of the most spectacular new year fireworks shows in the world. Over the last year I climbed other mountains with friends including Mount Philistine and Mount Rolleston. I went on just a few tramps this last year, Mount Lyford, Griffen Creek on the west coast, Twalk, a bush ball (featuring cray fish and guitars), another trip up Castle Hill Peak along to the gap. 

Had a few more relaxed holidays with Sarah out to Hanmer Springs and Castle Hill Village. I still did some mountain running through the year including half of the St James while two friends were training for the Kepler Challenge, and running through the Routeburn (again). I went downhill skiing more times than I can remember, but not enough back country touring. 

Kayaking still took up many weekends - both going out paddling myself and teaching whitewater kayaking (that was how I met Sarah in 2011). My time as President of the University of Canterbury Canoe Club came to an end after three years. My favourite kayaking trip for the year was flying in to the Taipo with about 20 others and the club raft. I may have broken my boat a little on the top section but it was a really great day! To replace the void from leaving the kayak club committee I've joined the Canterbury Land Search & Rescue group and have attended a few very good training sessions thus far.

This last year has transformed me from idealistic youth to pragmatic adult. I think more about the future and value my friends and family all the more. My interests haven't been purely technical or outdoors. My adventures are becoming more thought-out and safer as a consequence.

I was especially happy to receive positive feedback on my technical ability; having been promoted to a Tier 2 - Systems Engineer at Dynamic Controls; and having source code committed into the Python source tree was another big technical milestone for me. My major technical learnings this year would in javascript, I've really embraced Data Driven Documentation with the D3 library. I've been learning very basic Spanish online at duolingo and took a cryptography course from Udacity.

I've learnt that my own time management is pretty ad hoc. As my responsibilities at work increase I need to become better at estimating how much effort a task will take me - and then deliver to that schedule! I started out working really long hours and then burning out or losing interest. I've learnt to break the uni habit of extremely long nights working on a problem; rather to put the problem aside, cycle home, have a nice evening and come back refreshed and with fresh ideas in the morning.

I've learnt more about teaching in this last year having taught another two Introduction to Python courses. More people who learn in different styles and have different needs when learning. I continue to think that "one day" I'll take up teaching full time - whether that is at the university level or late high school I don't know. I've learnt that absolutely everybody makes mistakes, goals always change, and communication is the key to avoiding and overcoming problems.

My people skills have always been strong but I'm still hesitant to put myself out there in front of my peers. I spoke publicly at the New Zealand Python Conference but didn't present at either of our company's engineering symposiums. That said I differentiated myself more behind the scenes by really promoting innovation within Dynamic. I pushed hard for a "Hackathon" similar to what Yahoo, Google, and Facebook do, I pitched this to the engineering boss and the CEO and it evolved into an "Innovation Day". The day came together towards the end of the year and was a real success with brand new prototypes and ideas.

It has been interesting working with such a diverse range of people, I'm lucky enough to have people helping me on a few projects and I'm really embracing the guidance role with some new graduates. I plan to work more closely with my mentor at work to ensure I'm not too distant or too hands on.

Yesterday I went sailing on a prototype 18 foot skiff in Sydney Harbour which left me bleeding from six places. Today I drove a 2012 Audi TT RS in sports mode including testing out the very aggressive launch control. Actually looking ahead can wait for another day, I'm still too busy living in the moment.