2016: Annual Review

As I did last year, here goes my 2016 Annual Review!

1. What went well in 2016?

Meditation: I’ve blogged about this last year. In summary, mindful meditation has been working well for me. It has helped me a lot through situations where I’d handle badly in the past.

Professional blog: I wanted to make this blog you’re reading more active (write more posts), and I’ve succeeded on it. In 2015 I had only posted twice, whereas in 2016 I posted 23 times.

Personal project related to my experiences living in the US: This was one of the things that didn’t go well in 2015. It almost slipped through the cracks again in 2016, but I finally got the ball rolling, and the Brazuca nos Uessei channel on YouTube was finally born! The first video came out late last year, but I’ve been posting new videos frequently ever since. I already have many videos recorded and am working on editing them.

Stop thinking about it and just do it: on my last year’s review I said I was working toward “less ideas, more action”. It’s very fulfilling following that approach and seeing a new project going from idea to production within 4 months. Even more so when the clients are still so happy almost a year later.

Back to doing presentations: I had been missing going out to speak at conferences, meeting old buddies, networking. It was great speaking again at Houston Tech Fest 2016. Even though I felt rusty and off-paced, I needed the action to get the ball rolling in this area.

Joining Improving: This was something that was bound to happen, and for me it was one of the highlights of last year.

Best for last… Relocating to the USA!: my yearly review last year mentioned a “Personal/Professional secret project” that didn’t go so well. This was it; my relocation back to the US. As I mentioned back then, I had done everything I could do, but the holdup wasn’t on my end. I’ve even set a Plan B in motion, and shortly after I did that, Plan A actually came through. Long story short, I’m permanently back to the USA.

2. What didn’t go so well?

Project I had to drop: early last year I was working on a side project that I though had potential (I still do). However, a good friend who was working with me on it faced personal problems and couldn’t continue, while I had so much going on with my relocation to the US that I just had to put that one project aside. I’m fine with it, though, because I did learn things while I worked on it, and maybe one day I can go back to it.

3. What am I working toward?

Playing catch up professionaly: in the last 5 years or so I’ve been focused on delivering the projects I was working on, and didn’t spend much time on keeping up with what was going on out there, as far as technologies are concerned. That was great, don’t get me wrong; delivering working software AND seeing the businesses grow on top of it, for me, is WAY more fulfilling then staying up to date with bleeding-edge technologies that may just die within a version or two. That said, I do want to spend more time this year revisiting some things I should know more, while learning new things that have been proven solid options.

Serious Hobbies: I have a couple of hobbies that I take seriously, and I’m making sure I put time and effort into them this year.

Continous Improvement: I am making an effort to improve both both as a person as well as a professional on a daily basis. Some days are harder than the others, but I’m surrounding myself with an environment that keeps me on track.

Conclusion

The year of 2016 was great. Obviously, there were ups and downs. However, for years I’ve been keeping a lot of things I’m grateful for, and my 2016 list looks great and inspires me to an even better year.

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Houston Tech Fest 2016: Feedback Requested!

To those of you who’ll attend to my sessions at Houston Tech Fest 2016 this Saturday, September 24, please make sure to let me know how you liked it by going to the following links:

Software Development is a Joke

Want to Build Software? Get Your Act Together First!

These are two of my favorite sessions, and I’d love to receive feedback so I can keep improving them.

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Speaking at the Houston Tech Fest 2016 on Saturday

I’ll be speaking at the Houston Tech Fest 2016 this Saturday. If you haven’t heard of this event, it’s a huge 1-day conference, free of charge, with tons of sessions (11 tracks!).

I’ve presented sessions there for at least 5 editions of the conference, and after a 3-year hiatus, I’m happy to be back, as I’ve known so many people there and have always had a great time.

Below you find information about the sessions I’ll be delivering and the panel I’ll participate, so make sure to come by and say hi. 🙂

Oh, also, if you come attend to my sessions and enjoy it, you can also contact Improving and request I come to your company for a Lunch and Learn! Check out the list of sessions available and spread the word out: Free Improving Lunch and Learns.

Software Development is a Joke!

Room 305 (SoftDev) at 1pm

Several of my technical presentations introduce some kind of humor, but sometimes people end up learning the joke and not the concept. So I decided to do a humor presentation based on software development, introduce some technical stuff, and maybe people won’t laugh, but rather learn the technical stuff!

After so many years writing software, I can’t help but laugh at so many (good and bad!) experiences myself and other developers have had. Not to mention things that just can’t make sense to normal people: how can this ˆ[A-Z0-9._%+-]+@[A-Z0-9.-]+\.[A-Z]{2,4}$ be called a regular expression? (If you know by heart what that expression means, you are probably the kind of people who’ll try to explain to me why zerobased arrays are kinda cool…just don’t!).

The Business of Software (Panel)

Room 306 (Mobile)

Want to build software? Get your act together first!

Room 300 (Mixed) at 4:10pm

Software developers are supposed to create applications that make people’s life easier, automating tedious tasks, encouraging users to get their work done, organizing complex workflows into digestible information and actions, helping them separate the most important information from the least important.
But still, most developers forget to automate their own boring tasks. We forget to organize our information. We sometimes use tools that do not help us get our work done. So how can we build software that fits our client needs, if we don’t understand those needs ourselves?
This session is not only about software development; this session is about things we can do and tools we can use to organize ourselves, so we can free up our minds to more important things. Tools covered in this session include (but not limited to): Evernote, application launchers, screen capture tools, tablets, smartphones, etc.

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Time for me to improve

From time to time I like to embrace new challenges in my professional life and it’s happening again now, as I start a new full-time job at Improving!

I’ve known several folks at the company for many years now from speaking at conferences and user groups. In the last two years I’ve done some gigs with them as a contractor at clients in Brazil and Argentina. I’ve had a lot of fun and was very fortunate as they offered me a full-time job as I move back to the US.

I’m looking forward to working with several like-minded guys I’ve known for years, taking on new challenges, and as it is bound to happen, Improving myself as a professional and a person (yes, pun intended!).

Full-time <-> Independent cycles

I started my first full-time job 26 years ago. Since then, I’ve alternated between full-time and independent jobs, but always staying at least a couple of years on each. Doing so has helped me both working on my own as well as working with others. As a hobbyist musician, I can relate this with making music in a band or as a solo artist (but I’ll save this to another post…).

Five years ago I’ve blogged about the fact I was going to work on my own, after solid 9 years on a full-time job. At the time I really needed that change both from professional and personal points-of-view. Now, five years later, I feel I’ve succeeded on that change and am ready to do it again. Working on my own during this time was great as I managed to be involved in some great projects, and it has also allowed me to go on with some big changes in my personal life.

Back to speaking…

I’m also going back to doing presentations at user groups and conferences. I’ve been missing those things, so I did a presentation last month in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will be doing two presentation at the Houston Tech Fest 2016. I’m looking forward to hanging out with a bunch of my old buddies out there.

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My brain does work better later in the day after all

I’ve been playing Lumosity’s brain games daily for several months now. I’ve read about people swearing by it, so I decided to try it myself.

For many months, my morning routine included meditation, and then the brain games. I thought that’d be when my brain would perform at its best: early in the morning, before reading emails or anything like that, and right after meditating. Well, I was wrong.

There was one week where I had time to meditate in the morning, but didn’t have time for the brain games, so I was doing them later in the day, around 9pm or so. I thought my scores that week would drop noticibly, given I was very busy working all day and would be tired in the evening. That’s not what happened: all my scores went up that week, despite the fact that I was feeling very tired!

I then decided to change my brain games time to my evenings, and my scores have been consistently better than when I was doing it early in the morning.

I’ve been experimenting with finding the best time of the day for me to perform certain tasks. I’ve always had this feeling that my brain works much better from mid afternoon into the evening, so it seems these brain games are confirming that.

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Meditation is finally paying off

I feel like meditation is finally paying off for me!

I remember I was a kid (maybe 10 years old or so) when I first tried any sort of meditation. No idea what motivated me to do so at the time. Maybe it’s because I was into watching martial arts movies and saw the characters meditating?

I used to close the doors and windows to keep my bedroom dark, put on Vangelis’ Alpha song (my brother had a small LP that had that song), sat on the floor, and went like “ommmmmmmm” for a while. Go figure.

A little over year ago I heard of Headspace’s app for guided meditation and decided to give it a go. I tried their free 10-day program, enjoyed it, and ended up getting the yearly subscription.

As of today, I have had 243 medication sessions, totalling 44 hours, averaging 11 minutes per session. I first started doing 10-minute daily sessions, and only about two months ago I’ve increased it to 15-minute sessions.

It’s definitely not easy sitting through those sessions trying not to get distracted by everything going on in my head. For a long time I kept asking myself whether that thing was actually working, since I couldn’t tell difference. But I decided to insist on it.

Now I think it’s finally paying off!

I’ve been noticing how smoothly I’m handling some stressful situations, such as cases where in the past I’d lose my temper and end up regretting how I handled it.

I’ve also been noticing that I’m detecting my distractions a lot quicker and more frequently and bringing my mind back to whatever it is that I need to be focused on.

Many times those distractions come in the shape of thoughts that bring me down, and most of the times those are things either sitting in the past (which I cannot change) or future (which I may or may not be able to change). I’m noticing I’m doing a lot better at recognizing those thoughts and letting them go as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Overall, I’m feeling happier and more focused, which are things I had been really in need of, and I believe meditation is one of the things helping me with that.

Due to my consistency following my daily sessions, Headspace has been giving me vouchers that I can give out to people who would like to try their app for one month for free. Let me know if you’d like to get one voucher.

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Reading one book every day (well, sort of…)

A few months ago I mentioned how I’m Catching up with my Book Reading. There are so many books I want to read, but there’s never enough time. Usually, before deciding on whether I’ll read a book or not, I read reviews on Amazons or blog posts from people who have read it. A few days ago I’ve learned about a better way to do that: Blinkist.

I’ve learned about Blinkist a few days ago after reading this post in the Evernote blog. I tried their free trial and decided to subsribe.

They have 15-minute summaries of several books, including many books that have been on my reading list for a while. I can either read these summaries, or listen to it. These summaries contain the gist of the book, and it gives me chance to make a better decision as to whether I want to read the full book or not. Regardless, those 15 minutes should give me enough information which I might not get otherwise.

I had already put a “read for 15 minutes” item on my “building better habits” daily list, and now I have a great source of reading material to fulfil that daily habit. I’ve added a bunch of books to my library and will be going through each one of them, daily, 15 minutes a day.

Let me know if you give Blinkist a shot. I’d like to know how you like it, and what your favorite books are, as I’m always looking for recommendations to add to my list.

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