New York

Working at The Mill (VFX House) has been an interesting experience over the years. When I first joined the team, I was tasked with introducing DevOps practices within the development team, and later rose through the ranks in the Engineering team to look after significant parts of the global infrastructure. While I do enjoy the work, and the people I work with, the tech has often felt a little backwards, as more emphasis was put on traditional IT approaches and systems, than Cloud or automation technology.

That doesn’t make it a bad place to be, it just meant a harder challenge sometimes to introduce the right technology such as getting us started using containerisation.

One thing that has never changed, was the shear amount of work left to do. Several times over the years, I’ve tried to put together a full todo/task list, using tools like Trello, Jira, Email, Notepads and the like. The lists always grew to be excessively long, that I knew I’d never get to half the things on the list and while the experience is often cathartic, they’ve never lasted through the daily change in priorities, this weeks’ latest fire.

For the first time however, a fire grew so large, that it was decided, we were going to fly in senior engineers from around the globe, to the New York office, to do a spot of re-networking to hit a deadline.

Despite the stress, and long days (at one point I passed out on a couch in the office for a few hours, after working for a silly amount of hours straight), the experience was great. I got to see how one of our international offices worked, meet people I worked with in person (some I’d only heard their voice), and break down some barriers.

At the end of my stay, I took a few days off work as holiday before flying back to London, to get out and explore the city. I can see why people compare it to London, it does have a lot of the same feel, and much more metropolitan than my experience of Florida.

I hope to get the chance to explore a little more, and it would be great to visit our LA office, and see what goes on there. There was something very ‘Mill’ that the NY and London offices share, but also a unique cultural feel that represents the city they live in.

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Apparently Barcelona is a popular place for container based conferences.

Since starting this blog, technology has changed and evolved. The first posts on here, talked about MySpace, Digg, Google/IG, and homework, which is somewhat jarring, in that it’s not awfully different (Facebook, Reddit, Google’s Discover Feed, and work), but also a different world.

These days after spending years learning about cloud technologies, devops practices, and linux init systems, the current technology everyone is chasing is either IoT, or containers (sometimes both).

I’m shortly heading off to Barcelona for the second time in 6 months, this time for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon. I recently attended DockerCon, and after the experience I gained there, it just made sense to jump at the chance to do something similar again.

While I can say I prefer the experience of being behind the scenes, running around trying to solve problems, like I did at Insomnia Gaming festivals, or the Minecons, attending such big events as a attending professional is worth the visit.

I’ve talked before about the experience attending meetups, and trading war stories, but the experience of being at a full conference, surrounded by peers for a few days, is something I hope every IT professional can get the chance to do.

As it happens, this time around my employer wasn’t able to help out with the costs, but I decided to pay my own way, and attend the event anyway. Between the sessions, and the socials, I’m expecting to more than make back my investment.

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Meet the parents

I recently spent just over week in The Netherlands, on a whirlwind tour, visiting my partners old haunts. I’ve been dating Dominique Top for over 6 months, and I was dragged, not quite kicking and screaming, to visit the places she considers to be home.

I was somewhat apprehensive of the trip, for the first time, in a long time, I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. Domi had booked the flights, tickets, dinner dates, and accommodation. The latter of which began with sleeping on a small boat in a marina, just next door to the boat where her father hangs his (pirate) hat.

My first meeting with her father, a self styled pirate, seemed to go well, possibly due to the bottle of rum I brought along as a gift. Not that there was much of it left, as we staggered back to the boat we were sleeping in. Despite not feeling fresh the next morning, the exploration began there, and involved a trip to see her mothers family, celebrating a birthday, meeting childhood friends, and a bit of cultural exchange(the best bit being a tour in a small boat around Amsterdam’s waterways).

For reasons that still escape me, I must have been judged be a good enough catch to get the blessings of Domi’s friends and family, for I made it through that piece of our trip in one piece, rather than being discovered a few weeks later washed up on the banks in Loosdrecht.

As we were nearing the end of my stay, it was time for the penultimate challenge, attending Awakenings techno festival. Going into it, I mostly saw it ending in disaster due to: The language barrier, getting inebriated, getting separated from Domi and struggling to make it home, or a mixture of all 4. Or perhaps worst of all, I’d spend the entire event, overflowing with with anxieties about those things. As it turns out, there was very little to be concerned about. In the first place, there was probably more English on display than Dutch, and being mostly sensible adults, we were able to avoid getting into situations where we couldn’t find each other. I do feel like the need to congratulate the organisers for a very well run event, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive, safe, well thought out and aggro free. Awakenings I will return.

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I recently got the chance to visit a friend who was living in Munich (over there for a year for a job), and it reminded me that there is a lot of Europe, and indeed the rest of the world left to explore. Growing up my parents took me to Greece on holiday a handful of times, and I loved exploring each island, and discovering the local history, especially as many of the Greek islands changed hands a number of times during their history.

When I was still in school, I got the chance to go on a “World War 2 history trip”, which toured around Belgium, Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic for 11 days on a bus. This was a world wind tour, but I got the chance to see Auschwitz-Birkenau, preserved trenches, and a number of historical monuments and museums. I was very lucky to go on this trip, because it was supposed to be only open to History students, but they were slightly below numbers and opened it up to others.

As an adult, I think I want to look closer at the history of Europe, and make sure I take in the sights and sounds of the countries within, before exploring the wider world.

The furthest I’ve traveled so far as to Florida, which was for a Minecraft Conference, so I didn’t get a huge chance to explore, but I’d certainly like to explore eastwards, see what places like Japan or New Zealand have to offer.

It’s easy to get absorbed in the immediate world, especially when surrounded by work, TV, games. Living in London it feels like new experiences are all around, but I need to make sure I take a chance to step outside of that bubble.

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Conference Season and Meetups

As I’ve become more entrenched at The Mill (VFX House) now and then I get the chance to escape into the world, to visit events like AWS Summit London, Google Cloud Next, IP Expo and the like.

When I talk to people at these events, and also at the smaller ‘mini-conferences’ you find posted on, the message I always share is that there is a lot of value to be found at the events, and not all of it is being shared by PowerPoint.

The biggest value I always find is when people tell their ‘war stories’, things that went horribly wrong, how they fought through issues and came out victorious. While it might take some people a bit of alcohol to loosen tongues, the experience of people in the trenches is of better value to me than something I could read by browsing a products online documentation.

I sometimes get asked to draw up a small report of what I’ve learned going to these conferences, or what their value is, and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of these stories. The presentations are also often worth breaking into a few bullet points, especially anything that can get people talking internally about new technology or how we can adopt new things to better the business.

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Shortly after getting my degree (BSc Network Computing), I was given the chance to move to London. This was a bit of a surprise, and happened almost out of the blue when Seiji Okamoto (Friend from University and contributor to Essentials) got a job in London, and was looking for someone to help pay rent.

The first year in London was somewhat tame, as I spent a good chunk of my time still working on Essentials (which didn’t provide an income), and a bit of Job searching. This meant I was somewhat limited in what I could do, as exploring would have quickly ate into my savings.

After getting a permanent job or two I’ve had the chance to spread my wings a bit and get to know more of the city. I had a friend visit last year, who was asking about what they could do as a tourist. This didn’t really go very well as the only time I’ve visited tourist attractions was on the couple of times my parents popped down to visit me.

Seemed silly that I’d been living permanently in London since 2012, and hadn’t done half of the 10 top things on a “Tourist’s guide to London”.

While not exactly London, I’ve made a commitment to see more of the south, and booked a trip to see Bath and Stonehenge next month. I’m missing the education in what exactly is worth seeing down here. But I figure I should at least visit, Kew, Cornwall and Dover.

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