2013: A year in review

27th December, from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect over 2013…I’ve changed and come so far from where I was 12 months ago. It’s scary but it’s been a lot of fun. So let’s review what stuff I’ve done:

4 pi events attended: These have definitely been the biggest change, I’ve learned so much more about electronics and programming for them and whilst it’s mainly been for raspi, it’s also got me thinking about smaller applications and stuff that’s not so user friendly, aka microcontrollers. It’s quite nice now looking at my “airbou” A380 and knowing what I have to think about to get it to fly, and having that desire to crack it open and change the program on whatever the current microcontroller does. I’ve met some of the nicest people from travelling around to attend pi jams, people who’ll happily drive you back to Bristol when you’re stuck in London and give you a bed for the night even when it’s not for a pi event or to help them out with anything. And then there’s the people who donate electronics and their own merchandise just because you write and blog and help other people out with cool stuff. The hacker community, akin to my department and coursemates, is such a lovely community to be part of and I’m so glad I took the opportunities I was poked into doing by Alan and various other people, even if my demos might never ever go as planned…

My first real job in industry: 12 months ago did I think “heh this time next year I’ll have moved to Bristol and started working for a major plane manufacturer”? No. No I did not. But it’s so much better this way and it’s been an exposure to an industry that’s not all about manipulating a database, and really has made me realise fully that I could end up in any job, any sector and any country I wanted to, because you do a google of almost any company and there’s something there to do with computers. Airbus has been a really great confidence, skill and personal growth boost and while moving hasn’t been plain (heheh plain…) sailing, I can’t imagine having done third year and skipped it, and there’s certainly no way I would have been thinking “you know what, I’ll apply for the Airbus graduate scheme”. It’s also been an awesome opportunity to discover a new city, and an easy way to get used to industry as there’s around 60 or so interns working for Airbus who are my age, and more in Rolls-Royce next door. Bristol’s got so much opportunity for engineers and artists alike and it’s definitely on my list of places I’d settle down in given the chance after uni.

On top of that, I’ve learned python thoroughly and feel confident enough that it’s on my CV. Anyone thinking “maybe I’ll learn python” should definitely go for it, because akin to C#, it’s growing in popularity.

4 women in IT events attended: I’m aiming to try and make sure I keep the right balance between girls events and regular IT events, but these have been a really great way to meet some new people who are like me, and made some new twitter friends, and why the hell shouldn’t I take opportunities I’m meant to go for? These have taken me to Microsoft’s HQ (could have gone to Vodafone’s in the new year but I fancied a little break) in Reading, Nottingham Uni CS dept where I got to hear various career talks and talks about what the academics do in research, and more recently to Queen Mary University of London to hear some IoT talks. They’ve all been so inspiring and I’ve met someone awesome or several awesome people at every event.

Became a STEM ambassador and done my first event: It’s quite weird being looked up to by high school students as a 20 year old, I barely feel like I’m out of there, but the event at Stevenage was a really great day and I do really love teaching people something new and seeing them pleased with their handy work. STEM ambassadoring gives you the ability to do that without being a teacher which would be far too stressful for me. I’m hoping in the new year to go and talk to some guides about what I do, which is particularly inspiring to me because I was a brownie and I think had my pack requested STEM ambassadors it’d be far more fun, and I’m also going to run a workshop using wearable tech because I know we used to love making stuff in brownies. So I’m hoping it’ll be lots of fun and a few of them will choose to follow my lead and join the ranks of awesome Computer Scientists.

Aaaand the less technical stuff

Met my penfriend in person in Wisconsin: I traveled over to visit my friend Ellen who I’d met on neopets and remained friends with for several years through letters, got to travel around Wisconsin and meet some really great Americans (and see a real Independence day parade!). This next year she’s hopefully coming back over to Europe and making a stop to see me up in England before touring the continent. I really do love meeting people from the tinternet and being able to stay with someone who actually lives in the country you’re visiting is so much more fun and realistic to what it’s like than being a regular tourist…the only downside is, like my trip to Paraguay a few years ago, it hurts so much more to leave and dragging myself through Chicago airport alone was pretty painful.

Went to the Game of Thrones exhibit in Belfast: Belfast’s a nice city to visit, though a lot smaller than I was expecting, and the exhibit was a lot of fun with my friends. Aaaand it only cost around £100 travel and hostel included.

Saw the Gromit Exhibition and a bunch of other cool shit in Bristol: Reason #1 to live in Bristol: we have Aardman. If you haven’t seen my photos, living down in the west country meant that I got to see all 81 gromits which were for the Grand Appeal which raises money for Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Stuff I hope to get better at next year

Sticking to 1 thing at a time: Pimoroni recently said on twitter about a project “we’re makers. It’ll always be 90% finished”. This is a really bad habit I need to get out of, and I intend to do that by first finishing my Java app for my phone, and then moving on to other stuff. With having less time I seem to have grasped this easier, but I do need to go back and tie up loose ends with everything ranging from doing a proper video of my ranger project working, to my twitter LCD getting tidied up and parts of it re-coded as I lost most of the thread code (which I hadn’t yet blogged about properly…), to waywayway back, the games I produced with Adam, Ryan and Josh being cleaned up and completed so I have stuff that says I can finish something and we have actual stuff to download on betajester. I said last year I’ll “finish what I start”…I’ve not really managed that this year…

Confidence and networking: Confidence is kind of a hard one to crack…I don’t actually know how confident I seem, once I get talking to someone about something I’m passionate about I can go for hours, but with networking I think I need to apply Dr. Sue Black’s rule: “speak to one person at every event”. Normally this happens naturally with folks starting to talk to me (I have no idea why…), but there’s occasions where I’ve been too intimidated by speakers to actually go up and say “I found this interesting, could you give me tips how to get to x?”. I also need to get used to handing out business cards because I have around 245 I need to get rid of…

Asking for help: I hate asking for help in person. Part of it is fear of confrontation and part of it is pride. Ok, most of it’s the first one. I do this at work, I do this at conferences, and it’s really silly. If you see me at a jam or a hackspace looking stressed and looking around, it probably means I need help, but I’m scared to ask anyone even though I know most people in the room would jump over a desk to fix things for other people (I would. Maybe. if the desk didn’t have stuff on it…). So I want to get rid of this and get impulsive to say “I need help” the minute I realise it, rather than sitting there over-thinking it.


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