My 2017 year in review(so I can remember what I did this year)

This was the year of doing things I’ve never done before.  Normally my review is a “I learned this technology or wrote something in this programming language” but this year was different.  Both at work and outside of work I was forced to leave the comfort of my introvert lifestyle and branch out to take on some leadership roles I wasn’t sure I could do.

Scout related stuff

First off lets talk about Scouting.  In 2016 I took on the role of Committee Chair at my sons Cub Scout Pack.  I knew what I was getting into.  We had about 60 scouts and an active group of volunteers.  Well in the fall of 2016 the pack near us dissolved so we took on another 35 scouts so we now had 95 scouts.  It wouldn’t have been a big deal except I also had taken on the responsibility of handling the fall camping at the district level along with 2 other people.  It seemed to be a fall of record numbers because we had 1500 people sign up to camp as well.  

So I was way over my head having never done much people managing.  So the first thing I learned from all this was to ask for help.  You may not always get the help you need but sometimes you do and it’s always a good first step when you know you don’t have the expertise or experience to do something.  

I was able to get volunteers to help run the pack activities as well as many of the camping activities so I could focus of managing the large group going camping.  We ended up having a successful fall camping event and I learned a great deal about managing people.  Since then I’ve helped to run two more large scout camping events using the knowledge I gained from running that event.  My next challenge is to help the pack that dissolved in 2016 to re-build itself and become once again self sufficient.  We also have the new challenge of possibly adding another 20 girls to our pack next year so it should be an interesting 2018 in scouts.

Work related stuff

At work I started off 2017 by trying to digest all the technologies that came out of AWS ReInvent.  AWS ReInvent is a big conference in Las Vegas where Amazon Web Services discusses all their new products.  There were a substantial number of new AWS products released in 2016 and I wanted to make sure I understood where I could use each one of them since my job depends on me knowing this kind of stuff.  I went back and counted nearly 30 new products and I went through each one making notes and trying to test out those products that were GA(generally available). 

After reviewing these products in December and January, I was pulled in to do a presentation on Redshift using Kinesis Firehose.  We used Redshift at Yik Yak but I hadn’t used it at my current job so I spent a week or two making sure I understood those products well and that I could create a Redshift stack using Terraform.  During this time I realized that I didn’t know as much as I’d like to know about all the “big data” offerings from AWS so I spent another week or two trying to understand EMR, Athena and Data Pipeline as well.  

I was then asked to help out with a couple of analytics projects using Redshift so the time I spent researching Redshift came to good use(although now that I know more about the actual amount of data going into those Redshift clusters, I would have probably been better off cost-wise to use Postgres).  During this time I met with many of the big data teams and learned about many of the challenges they were having.  I also learned a great deal about all the offerings from third parties as well as the big 3 cloud providers.  I feel much more confident discussing big data architectures now than I did this time last year.

Another item that I was tasked with in 2017 was managing the architectural reviews of all the applications being migrated to the cloud.  We came up with 3 required artifacts for every review(high level doc, architectural diagram, monthly / yearly costs, etc) and I came up with a checklist for those reviewing each architecture.  So far we’ve had about 10 applications reviewed and they have ranged from AWS Lambda stacks to AWS ECS clusters to GCP Cloud Functions to GCP App Engine stacks to Azure App Services.  It’s been pretty exciting to see what some of the teams have come up with and I think the teams are getting more accurate with their cost estimates as they are reviewed more.

Looking ahead

Overall, 2017 was a year of learning and iterating.  I think 2018 will be similar.  In 2018 I would like to strengthen my knowledge in the data science area and start to understand all the machine learning options available in all of the big 3 cloud providers.  I’ve played around with all the managed services(Vision and Image API’s, etc) but I’d like to learn more about Tensor Flow, Keras, and things in that realm.  

I also need to spend more time understanding Blockchain and how we can use it at work.  I think 2018 will be the year companies will start to take a more serious look at this technology as something more than just something for mining crypto currency.

In 2018 I’d also like to do some more side projects in the IOT realm.  I have a slew of raspberry pi’s(and other IOT devices as well) collecting data around my house and I’d like to surface more of this data using some of the new tools just announced at ReInvent this year.

I’m also going to try and stick to these 5 “difficult” items. .  Number 2 and number 3 are the tough ones for me.