2019 - A Retrospective

It's now been a couple of years since I first started doing these (and I still have a half written one for 2018). But last time I took the time to sit down and reflect on the past 12 months, it was really interesting to remind myself of all the things I've forgotten, and the past 12 months have felt like a lifetime for me.

Speaking

When I started trying to get into speaking at events, my goal for 2019 was to submit to a bunch of conferences and hopefully get to speak at one of the smaller ones. But as the 1 Jan 2019 rolled in, I'd already given my first conference talk (as the closing keynote at Google Devfest Melbourne) and was already prepping to speak at my first international conference at the end of January (NDC London). And by the end of 2019, I'd spoken at 10 conferences in 4 different countries 😱 as well as speaking at meetups in Perth.

Screenshot of the presentations I've given this year

The past 12 months have been a little surreal for me, I'm not sure it's actually sunk in properly yet. It's been incredible to get the chance to share some of the things that I know, and meet some amazing people from all around the world. This hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows though, the conferences I've spoken at have given me a chance while I'm still relatively unknown and so I've been determined to prove myself, which has led to a lot of stress and some sleepless nights (most of which were my fault). It's well and truly paid off though, as not only did my speaking skills improve but most of the conferences I spoke at were giving the same talk, which I got to iterate over and improve throughout the year.

I've also had the chance to speak at several PubConfs (and then win one). This was a whole different kind of terrifying experience as I had to give a talk, entertain the audience and couldn't control my slides or use notes. Despite how terrifying it is though, I somehow keep agreeing to come back and do it all over again, I guess I'll never learn.

Collage of pictures of me speaking at various events this year

This year I've had the chance to tick several items off my speaking bucketlist, including giving another keynote, speaking at an international conference, give a live demo (which wasn't a complete failure) and be invited to speak at a conference. As I gave the same talk throughout most of the year, I have wondered whether I was just a "one hit wonder" though, whether this is something I can continue to do or if this year is all I've got. Thankfully as I head into 2020, I've been able to banish those doubts as I've already got 2 conferences lined up, returning to NDC London again this year then joining Ignite the Tour in Sydney in February.

It's not all sunshine and roses though, it's taken a while to get to where I am (and a lot of rejections).

Conferences

  • Submitted: 19
  • Accepted: 9
  • Rejected: 9
  • Declined: 1

Talks

  • Submitted: 50
  • Accepted: 8

But it's all been so work it, and I've loved every minute of it (although the rejections still cut a little).

Travel

While travel has sometimes peaked my interest, I love Australia and the idea of spending weeks or months away from home has never appealed to me. Thankfully this year I've had a chance to travel in short blocks, having a couple of days here and there around the various conferences I've attended. This has given me the chance to visit countries and places I never would have considered, and not have to spend too long away from home.

Several times throughout the year I've had people ask me if I travel a lot, and my response would always be "Not really", but around the middle of the year I realised that I couldn't really say that anymore πŸ˜‚. This year I've been travelling for 115 days, which comes to about 31.5% of the year, which is almost 4 whole months 😱. I've had the chance to visit 3 countries I'd never been to, see 5 cities I'd never been to and explore places I wouldn't normally have considered going to.

Community

This year I've become more involved in the community, starting by accidentally joining the committee for DDD Perth (my one job for the AGM was not to join the committee πŸ˜‚). While I've watched people organising conferences from afar, and have done some event organising myself, this was completely different. DDD Perth first started in Perth 5 years ago with around 100 attendees and in 2019 we had just over 800 attendees on the day, it was so much fun to be involved with the event and to see all our hard work pay off when the event was even more successful than the previous year.

I've also continued to be involved with Fenders, as this community group is what helped me get to where I am today. Without the support and help from the amazing members in Fenders, I wouldn't have had half the opportunities I've had this year. I've also continued helping and mentoring at various other community events this year, including several women who code workshops, one of which I got to run my first workshop, Intro to HTML, which was a huge success (1 hour to teach a group about HTML and every attendee had a live webpage at the end of the hour).

While I believe supporting the community is important, and I'll always continue to be involved where I can, this year I was lucky enough to be publicly acknowledged for the work I do with my community, several times. During 2019 I was nominated for the WiTWA Tech [+] 20 Awards and became a Twilio Champion and Microsoft MVP. All of these were a bit of a shock as I've never felt like I met any of the requirements, but it was exciting to have other people remind me of everything I do for my community (and definitely a reminder to have to write them all down πŸ˜‚).

This year I've also continued to feed my conference addiction, with most of the time being there as a speaker, organiser or manning a booth (sometimes all of the above). While I've had the chance to see some interesting talks at these events, I've also had the chance to meet lots of amazing people (while getting stuck in the hallway track), and build on my network.

Collection of my conference lanyards from 2019 events

People

During the past 12 months, I've had the chance to meet so many amazing people, and my life is definitely better for it. Throughout the year I've met people at various events (or on the internet) and have grown my circle of friends so that it now spans all across the world. These people have been the highlight of my year, I definitely couldn't have made it without you. Here's to another year of exploding kittens and silly antics!

Work

By the time 2019 finished, I'd officially been working for myself fulltime for 2 years, and somehow I'm still able to pay my rent (mostly) on time! This has been an incredible achievement to me, especially considering the fact that I've lost a third of the year to travel (and a bit more to plague after the travel). But this year hasn't just been about the boring work projects, this year I've also got to work on some cool side projects, including tinkering around with machine learning and image recognition and building my Quokkabot

A few months back, I had the chance to do a quick live demo at Twilio Superclass in Sydney, and decided to showcase their WhatsApp API and built a bot that would send you pictures of quokkas (if you asked for them). As with most side projects, this then escalated drastically and with lots of help from friends as I delved into the world of backend JavaScript, Machine Learning and image recognition I managed to get a working bot on WhatsApp that you can send an image to and it will tell you if it's a quokka (and is right most of the time). What was an idea for a short demo has now gone well and truly beyond that and it's been an adventure as I've had the chance to learn things I never would have considered.


2019 has been amazing, stressful, exciting and terrifying, and I can't believe it's over. This year I've continued to learn to prioritise myself (sometimes being forced to do so when I'm so exhausted I end up bedridden with the plague for a week), and have pushed myself beyond what I ever thought I could do. As we've come to the end of the year and the decade, I've been thinking about what I've done during the last 10 years as well. At the start of the decade, I lived in QLD, had barely been out of the state, had never been outside the country, wanted to be an engineer, was stuck in a bunch of toxic friendships and did everything I could to avoid having to present in front of people. Things are definitely different now.

This year has been trying, as I push myself to the limits on multiple occasions and by the end of the year I was barely holding on. But I would do it all over again (ok maybe I would start preparing for some things a little earlier πŸ˜‚). Because despite all that, this year has also given me some of the best moments I've ever had, it's showed me the person that I can be and what I can do when I put my mind to it.

So bring on 2020, because I'm ready to do this all over again! (but can I have a nap first? πŸ₯±)

Back to Article Feed