We arrived back to Vancouver in December after six months working in China. There wasn’t much going on for ThoughtWorks in Vancouver when I got back, and so, after weighing my options, I decided to respectfully part ways with the company. My 5.5 years with ThoughtWorks were full of great opportunities, great people and great experiences; however, Vancouver is my home, and now with a family I wanted to travel less than ever. My last day at TW coincided with the annual ThoughtBoarder ski trip, and the company graciously offered to cover my trip out to Calgary to wrap up my contract. 3 fantastic days of skiing in Fernie was a great conclusion to a chapter in my life.
Before leaving TW, I used my employee health care spending account to get laser eye surgery. It was something that I had been considering for years, but finally had the opportunity and excuse to do. The surgery was quick and painless, and after two days I was able to see pretty much as well as I could before with my glasses. Having the ability to see naturally again without glasses has been so incredibly liberating and worthwhile.
After ThoughtWorks, I considered doing some local agile consulting and working on my nascent product idea; however, I came across an opportunity with a local startup company that was exactly what I wanted to do. For years, I had been looking for an opportunity to apply my skills and experience building software systems to a cause that I am passionate about: namely, to address the threat of global climate change. The company, Small Energy Group, builds software to help organizations save money and reduce energy consumption by operating their facilities more efficiently. 1/3 of all energy consumed in North America goes to heating, lighting, cooling and ventilating buildings, so helping buildings use less energy has a large impact on our overall ecological footprint.
In February, I launched Agile Vancouver tech talks. For a while I had been feeling that the content of the regular Agile Vancouver monthly meetings had become targeted at project management and were neglecting the technical practices in the agile canon, despite the fact that the majority of our members are developers. The tech talks are an attempt to re-engage this part of the community, with more of an emphasis on discussion (fishbowls or Q&A) and hands-on tutorials than on talking heads.
My first major launch with Small Energy Group was a site for Earth Hour. We partnered with various local organizations to help them track their energy consumption for the event to show and quantify the impact of their energy savings actions. The event proved to be great PR for the company and demonstrated our ability to respond quickly and out-maneuver larger players.
When I started at Small Energy Group, I was the third developer. During April and May, we doubled that number. Okay, one of the hires is a graphic designer, not a developer — but as I had been doing (poorly) some of the graphic design, his hire was a big relief.
I also zipped down to Seattle for alt.net. It was a good opportunity to catch up with former colleagues and to reacquaint myself with what was happening in the .NET space.
I also had been doing some local consulting on the side, mainly retrospectives, training and the like. After working for a larger company and being part of a broader community, working at a startup felt a bit insular. I found that the occasional consulting gig was a great way to stay in touch with what was happening in the local software community.
During the middle of May, I headed out to Toronto to speak at DevTeach. It was a bit of a push to get my three presentations ready in time, as I didn’t have much chance to work on them beforehand, but I managed. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to as many presentations as I would have liked. Being there, I did feel a bit like an impostor, however, not having done any active .NET development in several months. At least I was a member of the cool kid minority doing .NET on MacBooks.
In June, we had our first company retreat on beautiful Hornby Island. The company founder’s family has some beautiful property on the island and we spent our days in planning and brainstorming sessions, and our spare time exploring the island. The retreat formed the basis for planning the first productized release of the SEG software. The plan was to spend one week building up different core areas of the product with the full team devoted to a specific feature.
My family also spent a few weeks over on Gibsons. I was commuting back and forth by bike (and ferry); it was hot and strenuous but a beautiful to get to work.
July was quite disruptive as we were required to move from our apartment as it had been sold. After a bit of a disagreement with the new owner, we found a new place a couple of blocks down. Moving post-kids is definitely much more work than moving pre-kids when our stuff fit into 2 suitcases and 2 backpacks.
When we were able to take a break from packing, cleaning and moving, we had a number of wonderful weekend bike trips to the scenic Gulf Islands.
In August, I delivered a 3-hour tutorial on Continuous Monitoring at Agile 2008 in Toronto. I had originally requested to do a 30 minute product demo, but through various alterations somehow ended up with a three hour tutorial – ostensibly on Continuous Integration. The conference itself was a bit of a disappointment – much of it was rehash. It was a good to reconnect with friends from the Agile community, but I get the feeling that the interesting stuff is happening elsewhere.
September marked the our version 1 release for the product. In reality, the product had been around for quite a bit longer; however, this release marked the release of targeted feature set together with a marketing and sales vision.
In October, I took a trip with my family to San Francisco. Despite being a software guy, I had never been to Silicon Valley. The trip was a great chance to explore the area and to catch up with friends living there.
At the start of November, we hosted the 3rd annual Agile Vancouver conference. We had spent much of the year organizing the conference, securing speakers, building the programme and dealing with logistics, so it was great to have it come to fruition. This year’s conference was the largest yet, with 3 parallel tracks, one day of tutorials and over 20 invited speakers, including Sanjiv Augustine, David Hussmann, David Anderson, Ken Schwaber, Lisa Crispin and others.
We also had our second corporate retreat at Whistler. With the growth of the company, it was a great chance to review our goals, plans and targets.
With the company continuing to expand, we had a family Christmas party on the top of Grouse mountain (one of our clients). Things continue to grow apace with the product and the addition of new clients and colleagues alike.
80% technical, 20% social change. This blog is dedicated to finding ways to sustainably release software more frequently.