2021: Annual Review

It’s Annual Review time, starting where 2020 ended regarding what I was working toward:

So let me reflect on that list, as well as whatever else came up.

What went well in 2021?

Book Reading: Daily reading habits have been maintained all year. I’ve gone through several books on a great variety of topics. But most importantly, I believe I’m getting better value from my reading habits.I started the year thinking of re-reading at least one previous book every month. Looking at my notes I see that was too ambitious: one book every other month is what I did, and am happy with it.

Here’s a big highlight for me in this area: the internal AppDev community at Improving started book clubs this year and I love it!! I’ve joined 7 clubs and led 2. We’ve covered books both on Technical and Soft Skills, and I personally got a lot out of my reading habit through this experience.

Sharpening technical skills: I started the year thinking of taking one pluralsight course a month. I did take a few, but then decided to change my approach to consume whatever resource I found to be directly related to technical things I was currently doing (or planning to in the near future). So I’ve joined two technical book clubs with my fellow Improvers, watched videos on YouTube and Udemy, and read blog posts. Most importantly, I’ve put the acquired knowledge into practice and discussed it with my team and co-workers

Blogging: I haven’t put out as many blog posts as I had planned, but I’m happy with many of the posts I’ve put out on this blog, the favorite ones are…

Another highlight for me is my “Context-based testing in the life of Don Testa’Lot Moore” post to the Improving Thoughts blog. Not only is that a topic I’ve been coaching many developers on for several years, but I also like the whimsical tone I came up with to have a slightly different voice to that I use in my personal blog.

Also, I’ve been looking forward to seeing my fellow Improvers put out their great thoughts in our company’s blog and we’re now seeing a ton of content delivered through that channel.

Publishing my book: That didn’t happen, but the first draft is almost done. What did go well, though, is that for the last 18 months or so I’ve been putting into practice on a daily basis the things that are going on the book, and will enable me to refine the content. I’ve also spent 3 months going through a deliberate writing practice to sharpen my chops.

Growing Beyond the Track: I’ve grown both as a rider as well as my Beyond the Track efforts.

  • We’ve put together a BTT Endurance Team, did a few races, had a lot of fun,  learned a lot together, and every rider on the team got better throughout the year
  • We have custom-made under-suit shirts with the BTT logo on the front, and our names on the back
  • I finally rode with world renowned California Superbike School, and it was everything I had been hoping for since 2016
  • I got a LOT of seat time
  • I cranked up my data analysis skills and used it both to improve my own riding as well as to coach other riders

Our endurance team after our 1st race (we finished 3rd place in our class!)

Riding with California Superbike School

A lot of things I’ve been doing with Beyond the Track since 2018 has been inspired by California Superbike School

…and I got to meet Keith Code, the founder of CSS, and a huge inspiration for me.

A few other great things…

  • I got an Elliptical machine so I can exercise at home while watching things. Also started playing tennis weekly again
  • Got more serious with my journalling habit.
  • Started going back to the office for the main team meetings. 
  • Got into the habit of updating my Now page somewhat frequently.
  • Achieved one of my 2020 goals that had to be postponed due to the pandemic: traveling to a Spanish-speaking country and making the effort to speak mostly Spanish while I was there. The trip is currently ranked as my best vacation ever!

What didn’t go well?

Blogging: What was I thinking when I said I was planning on putting out “at least one blog post every week”?! In 2020, I’ve averaged 1.5 posts/week, so that’s what was in my mind at the time. In 2021, I’ve average 1 post/month! As I come to think of it, I probably did as much writing, except that I’ve kept most of it to myself (through my journalling habit).

Publishing my book: Yeah, so that didn’t happen. But, I’m fine with that, as I mentioned earlier. Some of my priorities had to shift during the year and the book project was affected by that.

What am I working toward?

Continuous Learning and Applying: I’ll keep re-reading books. Maybe one per quarter. As I say that, I’m just starting two book clubs at Improving to go over two books that I’m re-reading. I don’t want to only quickly chug through books; I want to put some of the learnings into practice, and I want to make it a collaborative effort with my friends and co-workers.

Improving: our company and our Improvers keep helping me have a balanced life, and I’m working on expanding this experience to our stakeholders. It sounds broad, but my private notes are more detailed. For my readers, suffice it to say that I enjoy my job a lot and am dedicated to make it even better.

My book: I’m working on having elements of the book released this year for readers to start consuming it.

Riding: I’m always working on that! This year I’ll keep improving my riding as well as my Beyond the Track, continuing our monthly meetings, the endurance racing team, and a few more things the group has discussed for the short, mid, and long term.

Technical Communities: The Virtual Brown Bag continues, and I hope to make it better so we can grow our attendance. I’m also bringing back the Improving Code user group as a hybrid (in-person and virtual) offering.

Music: I’d like to put out at least 2 or 3 new original songs.

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New Year’s Resolution? Have a 365-day resolution, instead!

January 1st is the official first day of far too many unreached goals.

Why wait? If something is important to you, start now! Start where you are, with what you know, and with what you have. Find the tiniest action to get started, and by all means, do it.

I decided to write this post this morning. On this same day last year, I’ve run into a 365-day program that I was interested in. At first I thought, “well, I’ll wait about a week so I start it on January 1st”. Fortunately, I had the clarity of telling myself “why wait? Just start now!” Well, I did, and I completed the 365th day today.

 

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Speaking at the HDNUG on Sep 9, 2021

At 6:30pm CDT on September 9, I’ll be giving for the Houston .NET User Group. It’ll be hybrid (online and in-person for those who can make it to the Improving office), and I’m looking forward to seeing some faces I haven’t seen in a while!

The topic will be “Improving Development with Context-Based Testing”. Click here to register and get more information.

The talk was created as an expansion to this blog post I wrote a few months ago: Context-based testing in the life of Don Testa’lot Moore

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Refactoring Test Code – Free Virtual Lunch and Learn

I’m giving my “Refactoring Test Code” talk as a Free Virtual Lunch and Learn this Friday, March 12, 12-1pm CDT, as part of the Improving Virtual Events. Register here!

Here’s the talk’s description:

Most developers hear about “Red->Green->Refactor” as part of the TDD process. Some never get to the “refactor” part. Some only refactor the “production” code, but not the test code, after all, that’s “just test code”. Tests become cluttered, hard to maintain, and are abandoned.

In this talk, let’s have a look at some ways to refactor “test” code (C#, JavaScript/TypeScript, unit/integration/end-to-end…), so that they become easier to read and even create opportunities for better collaboration with non-technical people.

Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay

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Virtual Brown Bag: February 2021 Summary

Time flies, but the weekly Virtual Brown Bag meetings stay strong. Many great conversations have been had in February.

  1. February 25th, 2021

    Troy Hunt’s “Everything you ever wanted to know” post about password reset feature, authentication systems and identity frameworks, JamStackAttack.com, Python

  2. February 18th, 2021

    Rocketbook, ReMarkable, writing cover letters for resume, working for free, junior vs senior devs, using LinkedIn.

  3. February 11th, 2021

    TypeScript: Why?, React Admin

  4. February 4th, 2021

    Form builders, TypeScript

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How to Lead When You’re NOT in Charge – Identity

We have just started a Book Club at Improving to discuss the book How to Lead When you’re NOT in Charge. I’ll be posting some of my main thoughts here as we cover two chapters per week.

“Great leaders leverage influence and relationships over title and position. Influence has always been, and will always be, the currency of leadership. Influence always outpaces authority.

Those bits got me thinking back to when I was 16 or so. For whatever reason, at least at the time, Brazilians used to use the “Dr.” prefix for the bosses (usually directors and such), regardless as to whether the person had a doctorate or not. That to me was a sign of title and authority over leadership (I’ll just say the person didn’t act as a leader).

“Once you become aware of something, you start seeing it everywhere”

 

That one comes up often. Keep an open mind, increase awareness, increase the potential of influencing others.

“Take responsibility to make great what you can make great. And let others do it in the areas that they can make great.” – Jim Collins

 

That bit makes me think of the disservice it is to not let others perform what they’re great at. For example, instead of doing something myself, even though I don’t know how to do it, just for the sake of saving some bucks, is a disservice to those who do that for a living.

“Leading without authority means you need to have a clear understanding of your identity – who you are as a leader, apart from any titles.”

That one had me thinking that many times I have not even put myself as a leader, but ended up being followed, mostly because people know what I stand for and look up to me for guidance.

In speaking of leaders and followers, I always think of one of my favorite TED talks, “How to start a movement, by Derek Sivers”.

“The most important ongoing conversation you have in your life is the one you have with yourself every day.”

This is another point that comes up in many places; this idea of “the story we tell ourselves”.

“The more you understand the makeup of your personality, the better you can understand how your identity shapes your thoughts, desires, and decisions, and the better you’ll be able to work with others.”

I’ve had conversations over the last couple of years that have helped me understand that thought better. There are traits I have that I wasn’t quite aware of, until someone else pointed it out to me. I then started being more deliberate about it; if it’s something people relate to, I might as well leverage it as a “super power”.

“Architecture of Identity: Past, People, Personality, Purpose, Priorities”

James Clear’s post on Identity-based Habits got me thinking a lot about this many years ago and I’ve been often reviewing my habits and how they line up with my desired identity.

“The clearer you are about who you are…
– The more consistent you’ll be with others
– The more confident you’ll be about what you do
– The less concerned you’ll be with the opinion of others
– The less confused you’ll be by your emotions”

I have worked with a number of clients as a consultant, where I didn’t have the authority to be a formal leader, and yet, consultants were expected to demonstrate informal leadership behavior.

And a point in the book that really hit home: “Think about Martin Luther King, Jr. What was his title again?

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Obviously, everybody knows that, of course!

Whenever we say things like “obviously” and “of course”, we risk shutting the doors of communication.

What may be obvious for us today, wasn’t so obvious when we didn’t know it. Once we’ve known it for a while, we take it for granted, and it becomes obvious to us, but it’s still NOT obvious to those who don’t know it.

People who hear “obviously, eveybody knows that” may feel stupid asking for clarification. I know I’ve refrained myself from asking questions because of that, having to take note and then do some research afterward, missing important information through the end of a meeting due to my temporary ignorance.

Crystal clear to some, blurry to others.

Different people learn at different pace. We see things through different lenses. The image in front of us maybe be opaque due to life’s experiences or inexperiences, opportunities or lack of. We travel different roads to enlightenment and hit different bumps along the way.

I can’t remember when and where I first heard of the issues with using those words, but ever since I did, I’ve been watching my words.

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Virtual Brown Bag: January 2021 Summary

The year has started with a full run of weekly Virtual Brown Bag meetings. See what we’ve been up to and join us when you like. Every Thursday, 12pm CDT!

January 28th, 2021

Networks, hardware, Cypress.io, E2E tests, TDD, BDD, Roam, Notion, Evernote.

January 21th, 2021

Challenges with WinForms project, Uno Platform for Xamarin, Accessibility, Skia, Comet.

January 14th, 2021

Coding test interviews, interview scripts, TripleByte.com assessments… and, Linux.

January 7th, 2021

JavaScript’s Symbol properties for secret data, Immer, Orgmode, AWS Certification

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New Talk – “Improving Code: Refactoring Test Code”

After a short hiatus, the Improving Code user group is back. The first talk of the year happens online next week, Feb 3, 6:30pm CDT. RSVP here, will ya?

Refactoring Test Code

Every developer hears about the TDD process as “Red->Green->Refactor”. Some never get to the “refactor” part. Some only refactor the “production” code, but not the test code, after all, that’s “just test code”. Tests become cluttered, hard to maintain, and are abandoned.

In this talk, let’s have a look at some ways to refactor “test” code (C#, JavaScript/TypeScript, unit/integration/end-to-end…).

Refactoring Test Code

Wednesday, Feb 3, 2021, 6:30 PM

Online event
,

1 Members Attending

Every developer hears about the TDD process as “Red->Green->Refactor”. Some never get to the “refactor” part. Some only refactor the “production” code, but not the test code, after all, that’s “just test code”. Tests become cluttered, hard to maintain, and are abandoned. In this talk, let’s have a look at some ways to refactor “test” code (C#, Ja…

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Favorite Books I’ve Read in 2020

Here are some of my favorites books read in 2020, in no particular order.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

Derek Sivers has a great summary of that book. I’ve read the book around the same time when I finished watching The Good Place (which I loved!). Both the book and the series touch on topics I catch myself thinking about often.

The Phoenix Project / The Unicorn Project

I enjoyed both books a lot. I like the novel approach (inspired by The Goal, which is another book I like).

Badass: Making Users Awesome

I absolutely loved this book!! Watch this 2-minute long video. I’ve enjoyed this book so much that it’s one of the books I have on my list to re-read this year.

Total Recall / Losing My Virginity

Those are the autobiographies of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Richard Branson, respectively. Two remarkable individuals.

Hell Yeah or No / Your Music and People

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed I mention Derek Sivers quite often. I’ve been following his writings for several years and will continue to do so; he keeps putting out great stuff in a very simple, distilled manner.

The Obstacle is the Way

I’ve been hearing and reading people talk about stoicism a lot over the years, but never really sat down to look more into it, until last year. I’ve enjoyed The Obstacle is the Way, and even gifted a copy to a friend, with page markers on passages that I believe can help him accomplish the dream he’s chasing.

Image by Linus Schütz

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