2014 retrospective and 2015 goals

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote an entry in this blog. What the hell, I haven’t written a single blog post in 2014! And this is a shame. A clear resolution for 2015 is to try to write a bit more here.

Anyway, sorry for another (hopefully not) boring retrospective post. But it’s been a very complex and intense year for me and I really want to write about it.

I started the year still at Hailo. Nice project, lots of potential, but I always felt like an outsider in there. Yes, I made some friends, I had some highlights fixing things here and there but I never really had the chance to make a difference. I even got promoted to Technical Lead but it really never felt a promotion so it was time for me to let the project go and so I did at the beginning of the summer.

Decision made, it was interviews time. And I realised 2 very important and depressing things:

– There are lots of interesting projects in London but a good amount of them are in early stages and unfortunately don’t have much budget / stability. The startup scene is relatively young and the situation is improving every day but sometimes you have to discard nice projects and teams.

– PHP is not used in many new projects in London, specially if they are or aim to be significantly big. We could talk a lot about the reasons, I honestly feel that most of the projects can have a big % of code written in nice PHP and still be successful but the situation is what it is.

Plus, I wanted to do a bit of a career shift in 2 aspects.

I think I have been doing some sort of devops forever, I honestly think I am not so bad at it and it is definitely something I want to do on my daily basis.

And I must confess I am a bit tired of PHP. Tired of stupid discussions in the community and internals, tired of ugly legacy projects and tired of the limitations of the language (which is part of its beauty at the same time). Yes, there are legacy projects and crappy code in all languages, there are nice projects written in PHP but the reality is that the PHP community is on average sometimes several years behind others. PHP is catching up, it has improved a lot thanks to Symfony2 and the Facebook guys releasing HHVM and Hack (making Zend finally care about performance) but it will take years for everybody to catch up.

And of course, these 2 things made it difficult to find something appealing. Plus, bad timing on my side, lesson learnt, never change jobs in June guys!

Anyway, after MANY interviews and doubts I decided to join Busuu because it is a nice platform to work on with lots of potential. Unfortunately, the expectations were never met, and I soon started looking for a B plan.

At the same time, my wife was struggling to find a job, I was not particularly happy at work, it started affecting our relationship so we started to think about the possibility of going back to Spain in 2015.

And then I got contacted by Guillaume, the CTO of Another Place Productions. We met in Old St, had some pints and he explained me their plans for the video games studio. It took me a while to decide, specially because I did not want to choose wrong again. But I finally accepted their offer and I must say I cannot be happier about it. I am building the platform from scratch, doing some devops work (Ansible and the AWS tools, my new best friends) and backend code (mainly with Play Framework so far).

I have learnt many things this year but the most important ones would be (and of course, as any advice, take them with a pinch of salt):

– Try to work in an industry that really excites you (in my case, video games). It will help a lot.
– Think about what you really want to do and fight for it. Sounds simple, but it is not.
– Life is too short to stay in a place where you feel you are not learning or you cannot make a difference. And it is never totally your or their fault, but it is unlikely to change in the long term.
– If something smells in the interviews, it will become very fishy after a couple of weeks. Always be honest and transparent. Both when you are the candidate and when you are the interviewer.

It has been also an intense years when it comes to speaking at conferences / events.

The year started with the classic lightning talks in the PHP London Meetup. No slides, 5 minutes, a new format for me so I gave it a try. The title was “Don’t use PHP” and it was basically a list of things you should never do with PHP with a bit of humour. People seemed to enjoy it, even the pub waiter!

I had 2 big highlights in February, I got the chance to speak at SunshinePHP in Miami and at PHPUk in London.

SunshinePHP was a very nice experience for me. Think about it, a little catalan guy taking a plane from London to the US because they accepted his talk about Redis! A very well organised conference, lots of international speakers I did not know and a very good atmosphere throughout the days I stayed there. Thank you Pablo, Álvaro and Raúl for all your help and the nice sightseeing! The talk went fine, but apparently I started assuming that everybody knew what Redis was about so perhaps I should have started with more introductory slides. Another lesson learnt!

And PHPUk was also a blast. The best organisation I have ever seen and again, lots of big names in the schedule. I got the chance to talk about Scaling with Symfony and people seemed to like it. Things to improve, speak a bit slower!

In May, I got a very interesting proposal by @jablanco from WeDevelopers inviting me to participate in their next podcast, talking about Redis. Thank you José for inviting me, I really enjoyed it.

I did another talk about Redis in the Symfony London meetup. It was the third time I showed most of the slides so I did not have to prepare it too much. Again, people liked it but again I spoke too fast :(.

And finally, in November I got the opportunity to talk about “Big Data, Great! Now what?” at SymfonyCon in Madrid. A very good opportunity to meet with lots of people and catch up! The talk went fine and hopefully this time I spoke a bit slower! 🙂

I have been accepted again to PHPUk and this edition is a very important one, their 10th anniversary. I feel very honoured to be in the schedule and I hope to deliver a good talk about “Modern Software Architectures”. And will do my best to speak slow!

This post is already too long, so let’s review my goals for 2014 and establish new ones for 2015:

– Launch my personal project. Done! We finally launch Video Games Quiz and Movies Quiz in Facebook with my friends at Undercoders. And we are launching a third one early 2015

– Give a talk in a non-PHP event. Fail! In my defense, I have not submitted any talks, but this is not an excuse. I will try to start with some London meetup group and take it from there!

– Improve my knowledge in Cassandra, Go, Erlang, RabbitMQ, NSQ. Meh! I have definitely improved in some of them, learnt new things like Ansible and Play Framework and will possibly not use some of them in the near future, like NSQ.

– Study Algorithms and other Coursera stuff. I completed Algorithms I with all exercises and did the first couple of weeks of Algorithms II. I also took courses in Machine Learning with Octave and R and started but had to un-enroll from Scala and Cryptography. Coursera is a very nice platform and I strongly recommend everybody having a look to it.

– Take things easier. Miserably failed! Although by the end of the year I have started to embrace this philosophy

Goals for 2015:

– Give a talk in some non-PHP meetup / event
– Keep improving my technical skills
– 3M DAU in our incoming game in Another Place Productions
– Take things easy 🙂

And a final question. I will possibly not post much more about PHP / Symfony2, would you be interested in blog posts about Ansible, AWS, Devops, Play Framework, Golang?

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5 Responses

  1. Nice write-up Ricard!

    Your talks are already very good, i’ll recommend to try to “stare” more to the audience and try to do some interaction, maybe a hand raising question or something.

    I didn’t know about NSQ, i’ll check it out.

    And about blogging, what i want to read about is not just a certain language or framework, but many other things that are around and they are not tied to any language, like tools, processes, 3rd party libraries, design patterns, tips and tricks, server configuration tweaks, dark aws services… there are zillions of interesting things to talk about.

    Also, in my case, i’ll try to blog short articles more often about many things instead of doing a medium/big article which would require hours of work because in the end i just won’t do it.

    ps. change your favicon 😛

  2. Ricard Clau says:

    Forgot about the favicon! LOL!

    Interacting with the audience is always tricky but you are totally right. I am not a professional speaker like some others, but I definitely need to improve!

    Thanks for your comments and please write more, you also have lots of things to share with us. You can easily have a VERY LONG series with just your console and vim tricks

  3. For me it would be interesting to know more about Golang achievements and discover a new promised land 🙂

    I’m talking about how to find a very good, strong, robust and reliable web framework (like Symfony) with a better programming language than PHP (compiled if it is possible).

  4. Ricard Clau says:

    Golang is definitely not a promised land (yet) but a very interesting technology to look at.

    The Go community is not very keen on frameworks (they believe in building your own framework on top of several libraries and interfaces) but I found BeeGo very complete http://beego.me/docs/intro/

  5. Pleasure to read and best of luck going forward with APP – I hope you’ll still be doing Redis though? 😉