2017 Year in Review



At the start of 2018, Annie and I feel like we’re at the start of a brand new journey. We’ve decided to move to Boulder, Colorado in the coming months. Our jobs are going great, so we plan on working remotely with our companies after making the move. We’re both very excited about what’s in store; every time I go to the mountains I come alive in a way that no other place can match.

Before moving onto this next chapter, I wanted to write about some of the great things that have happened in 2017.

On the automation front, we’ve settled on an automation stack that works for us using Chef, RunDeck, ARM Templates, Hashicorp Vault, Artifactory, and Salt. I abandoned my experimental Cafe project when I realized Chef was going in another direction. While that was painful to give up, I got to scratch a coding itch and realize that it was really up to me (and not a single vendor) to build the stack that solved our problems. After finalizing this approach to automation, I was able to build alignment with our central IT partners within NCR and make this our reference architecture going forward as we migrate some workloads to the cloud. It’s all very exciting and really a culmination of years of work and lots of great partnership with Chef, Inc. especially.

At work in July I took on a new challenge to migrate our critical applications to a new hardware platform that would help us grow our business. It was a unique challenge for me because we wanted to move our critical applications to this platform before our peak season which started mid-November. So much of the second half of the year I became obsessed with delivering this project. It had no “devops” associated with it, or code, or any of that. However, I loved it. I enjoyed rising to the challenge, bringing a lot of different departments together and delivering the project. Our peak season has been one of the most stable and successful yet for the critical applications we migrated, and that’s thanks to our efforts.

In August we had a successful DevOps Days in Dallas. I was really proud of two things: first, we put together a leadership summit that attracted forty of Dallas’ devops-minded IT leaders. I really enjoyed being in that group and thinking about DevOps from a strategic/leadership perspective. I was also proud of how well my friend Megan Bohl did as a sponsor liason and that we were able to get her a scholarship to Tech Talent South. Stay tuned with Megan; she’s going to be a star.

This past year I was also impressed with Annie’s growth. She started the year only a few months into the job and very much struggling to put it all together and get herself on billable jobs. It felt at the beginning of the year like she was battling uphill for success in the industry. And along the way there were lots of people (don’t worry, we’re not mad at you) who suggested that Annie should be in a non-technical role.

Instead of giving up, Annie dug in and studied hard. When the opportunities came, she worked extra and I watched the kids. She got help wherever she could get it. In May she got a particularly challenging make-it-or-break-it project, and her colleague Scott Nowicki spent time after hours walking her through the challenges she was having so she could deliver. That was a huge turning point for her.

Another huge turning point was when her CEO helped her realize that if she wanted to be technical, she needed to focus on that and stop speaking, blogging, marketing so much. That was the absolute right advice she needed right then. A lot of people would see her talents and say “you should be blogging!” but then ignore the technical skills that were growing so rapidly.

Which reminds me of a third turning point for me personally. At DevOps Days, after our speaker dinner, Adam Jacob and John Willis heard our story and they both remarked at how unusually talented Annie is as a technologist. I must admit I had become blind to that reality because I had spent the last year working with her at the edge of her abilities. But the truth was evident: it’s not normal going from nothing to knowing InSpec in two weeks enough to write tutorials on it. It’s not normal to accomplish what she has accomplished, because, frankly, she’s good at it. She’s abnormally good. She has the potential to be a technical game changer for a valuable business. That makes me so glad she’s stayed on the path she’s on as a technologist.

Late in the year Annie started working on a long-term contract with a company to help them with their Chef and Azure workloads. She’s integrated InSpec into their workflow and has done so much more than that. She loves finding the “right” way that aligns with the business objectives and challenges. I can’t wait to see how much she’s able to accomplish there in the coming months.

It has been an amazing journey to see Annie transform like this. Years ago I’d come home from work and she would be taking wood from the side of the road and turn it into something beautiful and useful. It’s amazing to see her be able to transform those skills and that work ethic into a fantastic technical engineering position. And this is only the beginning!

Next year I’m going to focus on two things:

First I’m going to move to Boulder and find my place in that community. There are a lot of differences between Dallas and Boulder and I’m hopeful that I can fit in. I’m there for more personal reasons: I want to bike everywhere, I want to live in a smaller place, and I want to hike up mountains. I would also love to snow ski for the first time. Moving to Boulder really is a dream come true!

Second, next year I’ll be focusing more on the broader elements of our DevOps transformation journey at NCR. I am looking forward to influencing our growth and transformation beyond just code and automation improvements. I want to dramatically improve what we do and what we can do. I’m more excited than ever about the new challenges before me.

I don’t think there will ever be another 2017 for Annie and me. It was a year of dramatic growth for both of us. We started the year both not quite sure about our futures, but finish off as valuable contributors of our companies and so happy about how we are both growing. My mantra has always been to go for growth first and everything else will follow. That’s where I feel we both are at, and I’m thrilled to see where this takes us.

And finally, thanks to everyone who have supported us along the way. We couldn’t have done what we did without you. You know who you are, and believe us, we are so incredibly grateful for your support, friendship, and love.

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