2011 Year-in-review and Personal Progress

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2011 has ended and 2012 begins. I sure hope I'm not the same person that I was 1 year ago. So how have I changed? Where have I improved? What new skill have I learned? What is my living situation and happiness level?

I've learned a lot in the last year. I'd like to document a few of the things here, so I can fondly look on it at a later time.

Separating presentation from data on a web page.
   I spent a few weeks this year lightly researching client-side web applications, even creating a prototype web application that is highly responsive using Backbone.js. This is one part of software that I thought I would never understand because of Javascript, Ajax, and talking across the network, so I'm pretty proud of this one.

MVC and other presentation patterns.
   While I'm still not an expert in this area, I think my knowledge is now greater than a large percentage of my peers. I don't have a single piece of software to demonstrate my new-found knowledge, which is true for much of what I learn, this knowledge will make itself evident in other software I write moving forward. Varieties of MVC are present in most areas of software engineering now, iOS, Android, web pages, and desktop applications, they all use a variety of MVC to keep their applications clean.

Salesforce development.
   Knowledge of writing applications for Salesforce is not directly transferable to other disciplines, it still allowed me to learn and practice methods of controlling complexity, updating legacy (to me) code, and querying information from and persisting information to a database. Also, while in Salesforce land, I was able to practice object-oriented programming, which was a roller-coaster ride of "Yes, I totally get it!" and "I understand nothing!" feelings.

Version control systems.
   I did quite a bit of research and reading on various version control systems. I researched not only the version control software tools themselves, but also the software project management practices that release processes that rely on these software tools. It's a complex topic that spans technical areas, human management, and gray-area decisions. While I learned about the comprehensive basics, I feel that there is still more practical stuff to learn.

Professional recognition.
   I was invited to join the experts program, which places me as a bust on the masthead of my company's ship. I write well-crafted blog entries a few times a month, which give me an outlet for the technical thoughts in my head. I also set up a tech talk at work, for which I created a slideshow and practiced a talk that introduces the technical basics of Git. I presented the tool to the entire software team in a factual manner, and intend to give a follow-up presentation to discuss the release-management styles that are used with distributed version control systems. I am making it my goal to give more tech talks this year - a solid topic once per month.

Non-work related hobbies.
   Besides work, I've decided to learn Mandarin Chinese. It's a challenging language, but I am enjoying studying it. It's far easier than Japanese grammatically, but I think that proper pronunciation will elude me for quite some time. It hasn't been my number one priority, which is software, so it only received ~10 hours per week, which I worry is not enough. I took a vacation to Taiwan in September to test my knowledge. I found that I can speak very little after just 2 months of studying, but it was enough for me to ask "Which way?" questions and "Please help me." phrases. I have learned a number of words now, enough so that I may be able to start chatting with Mandarin-speakers on the internet to learn more. Conversation flow and phrases is pretty difficult.

I hope 2012 brings me as far as 2011 brought me. As long as I keep improving and I'm recognized for it, I'll be happy working with my current company.

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