A Look Back at 2008 – Personally and Professionally

This year seemed to fly by.  I sat here in front of WordPress for a while trying to figure out just where to start with this post since this year was a blur.  Seems like just yesterday the calendar was rolling over to 2008 and now here we are in 2009 already.

Overall I am very pleased with 2008 both in my personal life and professional life.   Professionally I’m happier than I’ve ever been and I attribute that to the best working environment I’ve ever had. 

I attribute a great deal of this to my boss.  There are very few people that have that certain intangible quality that I like to refer to as the ‘it’ factor.   They know when to push, how to push and still have that great interpersonal quality that attributes to a really great environment to work in.  Everyone should be so lucky to work for someone like this at least once in their life.

Personally not much changed this year as anyone with small kids will understand.  You give up everything for your family, and especially your kids, and at the end of the day, the “daddy’s home!” war cry followed by both of them tackling me makes everything I do and sacrifice worthwhile.

What Went Well? I matured.  A lot. There was a time when I would let my emotions get the best of me, now thoughts seem to be much clearer in the face of high stress both in my professional and personal life.  I took the initiative to obtain Certified Scrum Master status and that was probably the single best thing that happened to me professionally. The wealth of knowledge and the contacts I gained as a result gave my confidence a huge boost and did wonders for my place of employment.  I look back at how our organization was running in January and there is a night and day difference as a result and I attribute that to the team sticking to our process despite the frustrations when we re-started our implementation of Scrum.  I am very pleased I was able to juggle so much work and inherit more responsibilities at Q4.  Working for start-ups for the last 6 or 7 years has really made it possible to context shift so often and I like to refer to myself as “the swiss army knife” every start-up needs.

I suppose this could be well and not well depending on who’s looking at it, but 2008 marks the first calendar year in 10 years that I didn’t buy a new car.  In my wife’s eyes, this went well but I’m pretty surprised I made it.  I simply get bored driving the same car for too long and trade far too often.  Maybe the addiction is kicked….or maybe I’ll by 2 this year to make up for it!

It took most of the year trying, but I started up the P90X workout program which is intense beyond belief.  After the first month I dropped 10 pounds and lost 7% body fat.  I wasn’t in bad shape to begin with but this program is a fantastic boot camp and it will kick your ass.  I highly recommend it but it takes a lot of time and dedication.

Finally, I managed to have a very good work/life balance.   I see folks posting on blogs or twitter about how tough it is to reach this balance but the bottom line to me is that nothing is more important than family.  Regardless of how much I complain about not having more time to read, blog, play music, exercise, work or play video games, I wouldn’t trade my family for anything.  I actually take great pride in the amount of stress I put on myself to maintain that balance.  If anything it makes me work smarter.

What Didn’t Go Well? 2008 went pretty well, I think the biggest thing that didn’t go well was relying far too much on email/twitter/IM instead of engaging in real conversations.   I think it’s just the nature of a digital world, but I need to rely more on phone and face-to-face conversation instead of IM, Twitter and email.  I find the more I use those tools, the less of a communicator I become in the sense of developing better interpersonal skills.

I got into a bit of a rut this year.  When you have small kids you tend to get into a routine which becomes hard to break at times.  We didn’t do anything exciting this year at all and I got a bit bored and frustrated.  This usually manifests itself in me thinking I need to go out and buy myself something to feel better; to give me a chance to ‘do something for myself since I deserve it’.

My P90X workouts fizzled after the first month.  First it was missing a day a week (it’s a 6-day per week program), then 2 days and finally I get in maybe one workout a week if I’m lucky.  It’s tough to find the time.

Not much didn’t go well.  2008 was a good year for me, I’m generally pleased with how it turned out.

What to Try Next Year? I’m not the New Year’s resolution type, why wait a whole year to try something different or improve yourself?  From a personal point of view, all I’m going to do is find more things to do with the family.  It’s such a pain to pack up 2 kids under 4 and go anywhere but kids are amazed by just about anything and it’s a blast to enjoy their discovery of anything new.

I’m going to take more time to play music and read as well.  The only thing I’ll be giving up is a few hockey games on TV per week which is doable.

Professionally, I’m going to continue to post frequently on Linked In, it’s a great place to network and a great way to keep my skills sharp.  I’m also going to attend more Agile/Scrum meetings or try to startup a local Scrum group on the west end of Toronto.  Q4 will continue to challenge me and I plan to spend more effort on making sure the team (or myself) doesn’t get into a rut.   More coaching through lunch and learns, more improvement by really focusing on business value and what can be done to improve processes and really live the 4 Scrum values.  Sometimes we worry about breaking a “rule” with the concern being that we have rules for a reason, but if those rules are the impediments they need to be changed.

I’m also looking forward to blogging more to share my experiences and contribute more to the Agile community.  It’s going to be a great year!