Quarter way through my apprenticeship

Time is flying by, I’m already over a quarter way through the year developer apprenticeship program at work. It’s been fun, exhausting, and rewarding all at the same time.

Like all the teams I’ve been apart of so far at Automattic my new team is fantastic. All incredibly smart, dedicated, and willing to give their time and support to help me succeed. There is still a long way to go, but with their help I’ve already learned so much.

I’m working mainly on the web version of Simplenote. It is also used to build the Windows and Linux version of the app with Electron. It’s a React app and not something I’ve worked with before, but I feel like I’m coming along pretty well learning it.

There are so many parts to learn even beyond the code directly. Before this I hadn’t used version control very much, but now feel pretty comfortable using GitHub for most of the everyday use cases. I’ve also had the chance to dig into the build process that is used to build modern web applications like this. Things like Webpack and Electron which are fairly complex in their own way but essential for pulling everything together and making it work.

Recently I’ve started a new project within the web version of Simplenote that I’m the lead of. With help I’ve outlined what needs to be done and have started breaking it down into smaller pieces to work through. I’m looking forward to learning a lot through this process as well.

Though there are a lot of positives it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. I’ve had my share of self doubt and questioning if this is something I’m capable of. I’ve run into problems that I’ve tried hard and spent lots of time on trying to figure out but just couldn’t. Thankful again for my awesome team for helping me get unstuck in these cases.

I also still feel very slow at things. Even when I can figure them out and get things working it seems to take way longer than it should. Each thing seems to send me down a path where I have to learn or dig into to be able to do the task. I think this will get better as I build up experience, but it can still be hard when I close my computer at the end of a day and even though I was busy all day and feel exhausted, I don’t have a lot to show for my effort.

One of the great things about this program though is the group of people who are in it with me. On my team there is another apprentice which is great having someone else right here going through some of the same things I am. We’ve also had group coaching sessions which have been very helpful as well.

Those sessions have ended but I’ve continued on with one other apprentice, who I had a good working relationship with already, having regular peer coaching sessions. I look forward to each one. We have a lot of similarities in the way we work and think and can help call each other out on things that we may not do for ourselves.

Even though it’s still early in I’m so thankful for this program and all the support I’ve been given. This is a role I very much enjoy and hope that things can continue down the path as it is now so that I can do this as a permanent role.

A month of running

We’ve reached the end of 2020 and also the end of December which was the month long virtual 5k wwwp5k.

When I first decided to challenge myself to do not just one 5k during the month but try to run a 5k every day I wasn’t really sure I was going to make it. Even right down to today when I pulled something in my leg this morning while walking the dog.

A couple of my favourite moments were the midnight 10k run I did on where I started around 11:30pm on December 23rd and ran until about 12:30am on December 24th. Doing 5k on each day. There was also the Christmas day rainbow run.

In a round about way I also ended up with a new book to read thanks to an interaction made because of the social aspect of tagging the posts.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the charity donations end up and see how much with the matching from Automattic was raised.

Developer Apprenticeship

Recently I received some very exciting news at work. I’ve made it through the application process and accepted into a new developer apprenticeship program. This means starting in January I’ll be spending a year working with a development team and learning, with mentorship, to be a productive, contributing, developer.

This is a fairly new program and is meant as a path way for internal applicants to possibly become a full time developer. At the end of the year if I’ve grown and learned enough I could be looking at a career change. If not I will be able to go back to my current role as a Happiness Engineer.

There have been previous Happiness Engineers who have moved into a developer role but no formal path to do that. Until recently they had to apply as any other applicant and go through the application and Trial process. You already had to have all the skills to jump in and start. About a year ago this program started as a pilot and a few people successfully made it through and have been successful since then. The program has been tweaked now and has more room for support along the way.

Last year I applied for the program but didn’t make it in. I didn’t make it past the coding test which is a similar test that external applicants would get. This time however I was able to complete the test and into the apprenticeship.

December 1st was my six year anniversary with Automattic as a Happiness Engineer. This is by far the longest time I’ve been with a company. Though I’ve done different things in my role here and learned lots, I’ve been looking for a new challenge and change. In September I started helping with hiring new Happiness Engineers part time along with my other work. This has been a great experience, but still felt like I needed more.

This apprenticeship is going to be just what I need and possibly a career change altogether, if I can learn and prove myself over the year. Becoming a developer is something that I’ve always thought about as well though I wasn’t sure it would happen. At over 40 years old with lots of family and financial commitments it didn’t seem realistic anymore. This program could make it possible.

After I graduated with my Bachelors Degree in Computer Science I did a lot of freelance work on my own. I never ended up working with a software team and so never learned a lot of best practices or have team members to learn from or gain experience with. Once I started at Automattic I didn’t do much coding at all except for some little one off tools or browser user scripts to help with my role. So I’ve gotten rusty even with what I did know. I’ve always had a bit of regret that I didn’t go out and get that experience, while at the same time being very happy with my current career. This program will give me a chance to do those things I never did coming out of school.

Back when I first really heard about the Happiness Engineer of role it was on the Big Web Show podcast that Matt Mullenweg was a guest on. In it he was talking about the job title Happiness Engineer. As part of it he mentioned that many current Happiness Engineers could be Engineers at other companies. My plan is to put the work in and learn so much that I can be one of the people that makes that statement true, except not at another company.

When I found out the teams who would be participating in the program I was excited to see one in the App Division was looking for a web developer to help work on things like Simplenote and the WordPress.com Desktop app. I’m super excited that this is the team I was able to join.

The next year is going to be full of learning and hard work, but I’m very much looking forward to it and feeling really energized to get started.

WorldWide WordPress 5k 2020

Today starts a month long virtual event for the WorldWide WordPress 5k 2020, organized by some of my colleagues. On top of getting out active with others, virtually, there is also a cool charity aspect where you can donate and have a matching donation made. Checkout the post linked above for more details.

I’ve slacked off with my running lately, though have been getting out with Oakley some. This is a good push for me to get going again. To participate you only need to do it once during the month, but I’m going to see how many 5k’s I can get in and started today.

It wasn’t a great start. I’ve been up since 4am because of a wind and rain storm that has come through and knocked out our power. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep after that. Luckily the power came back on, but the weather still hasn’t been nice. The wind made it rough to run while going right into it, I had to take my hat off after the first lap so I didn’t lose it. The rain belted me in the face and made it hard to see. In the end I was soaked, but I got it done.

This likely won’t be the worst weather I face this month, so I guess it is good practice to start getting used to running in less than ideal circumstances.

Long exposure iPhone photos

This isn’t anything new, but it was new to me. In fact I believe it has been around since iOS11 which came out about three years ago.

Lately we’ve been doing lots of trails and that involve water of some sort and I’ve found myself wishing that I took our dSLR camera with us so that I could take some long exposures of them. That got me looking to see if there was a way I could do it from my phone.

Turns out there is a really easy built in way. There isn’t any real control so the photos are what they are but I’ve gotten some decent results and have been going a bit overboard with taking them.

All you need to do is turn on Live Photo in the regular camera app and take a picture. When you’re viewing the picture you can swipe up and you get a few effects you can add, one of them is long exposure.

Here’s some of the photos taken over the past while.

Meet Oakley

We added a new family member recently, meet Oakley!

Oakley is 9 weeks old and is a Golden Retriever / Yellow Lab mix. He is a very good boy.

I’ve been hesitant on getting a dog for many years. Caile has been steadfast for all these years wanting one. She never asks for anything but has been just this one thing.

The pandemic seemed like a logical time for us to finally get one. Caile sealed the deal though because of how she stepped up when the pandemic first happened. She was a huge help keeping our home and family running smooth. It proved to me that she could handle and help with a dog.

We set out to find a puppy to bring home but it seemed a lot of other people had the same idea we did during the pandemic. Caile really wants a chocolate lab, but all the breeders we could find didn’t have any litters coming available, and if they did there was a waiting list. We expanded to any Lab or Golden Retriever and that helped. Jen, through a friend, found a kennel who had just had a litter and we were able to get Oakley.

He’s been home for a week with us now and is fitting in well. He’s been coming with us in lots of adventures. We have a pretty good system with lots of taking turns to take him out at night. There have been a few accidents during the day but nothing at night.

As the main hold out from us getting a dog I started getting really excited about the idea. Oakley and I have become good buddies already now. We have a good routine going in the mornings. We’ve been going for pre sunrise walks then coming home and playing / snuggling on the floor.

Things are going really well, but having a puppy is still exhausting. It feels like you have to be constantly on. What’s he chewing on? Does that mean he needs to pee? Is he eating enough food? Ouch, those teeth are sharp! I think we’re all a little tired but I know things will keep getting better as he learns and settles in.

Now what you really want, lots of cute puppy pictures.

Staycation Scavenger Crawl

Like many people our original plans for this summer have drastically changed. We were going to use my Sabbatical from work to spend time in Alberta visiting family. As that couldn’t happen we decided we would see some of our local area that we don’t spend enough time in.

We had started going to places early on and exploring new spots, but recently a great initiative was started called the Nova Scotia Staycation Scavenger Crawl. It is a contest where teams can enter supporting the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, and then possibly win prizes by visiting a list of places across our beautiful province.

There are 20 places on the list, some close and that we’ve visited before, but others quite far that we’ve never been to. This was a good list and excuse to explore so we signed up and are off to a good start. We have 13 our of 20 and plans to get the rest.

There were a few items on Cape Breton Island which is about the furthest a way from us as you can get, so we planned a few day trip to visit. The kids have never been there, and I haven’t been since I was a kid. It is beautiful and we’re already planning our next visit.

The Skyline Trail in the Cape Breton Highlands was about my favourite place we’ve been yet. I could have sat at a point in the trail looking out over the water from the edge for hours admiring the beauty.

We also visited Fortress Louisbourg which is a National Historic site that takes you back in time and explore what life may have been like in the 1700s.

One of the other items on the list is the Big Fiddle.

We had family and friends with us for the trip which made it even more enjoyable. This was also our first time staying in a hotel for a long time. Things were different but seemed good. Things weren’t super busy, everything seemed cleaner than normal, and we could even book time at the pool where our group had it to ourselves.

Looking forward to visiting the rest of the spots on the crawl and visiting Cape Breton again.

Different type of book tour

Back in November I read a great book written by a local friend Laura Churchill Duke called Two Crows Sorrow. It’s a creative nonfiction about a murder which took place in a local community in 1904.

Before reading the book I had not heard of the story, but am glad I do now. The story hits home for me for a number of reasons and I recommend it even if you aren’t local and have some of the connections I do.

Though it took place long ago the stories of domestic abuse and unequal rights are still very relevant today.

Some scenes in the book take place in a home that is still standing today, though expanded and upgraded in many ways. This is the home I lived in when I first moved to the Annapolis Valley.

This morning Laura, the Author, took a group of us to hike to the main setting of the book, to the old farm stead and place of the murder. The path is through a now abandoned road, and the farm land is overgrown, but you can still see the rock foundation of the home and other remnants from the time.

The research Laura put in to write this book is impressive and getting to hear more about things along the way and in the place it took place was a really neat aspect and addition to the book.

It was also a beautiful day and a nice hike through the woods. The group of people we were with were really nice as well. I met a neighbour who lives just around the corner who I hadn’t met yet, even though they’ve lived here longer than us and we’ve been here for over 8 years now. Was able to make a new puppy friend, Little Anne, who is a very good dog.

Runner’s World Run Streak – AKA Senff’s Bootcamp

Runner’s World has a holiday run streak challenge that it does. This is heavily US based so it runs from their Memorial Day May 25th until July 4th. That’s 41 days where you commit to running at least 1 mile each day.

One of my co-workers, Senff, recruited a few of us to join him in this and he ran a tight ship. I wasn’t sure I’d really be able to do it, as I usually require some rest days and I planned on doing some other fairly heavy exercising as well. In the end 1 mile works out to be only about 1.6 km, so I decided I would do at least 2 km each day and joined in.

There were a few days where I found it really tough to go out, but being with friends kept me going. I didn’t always live up to Senff’s expectations, but I did at least 2 km every day. Total I ran 178 km over the 41 days for an average of 4.3 km a day.

This was a great way to build the habit of running again. It took a bit of planning, especially around days when doing a big bike ride or something like that. I had to plan out a few days of only 2 km runs and time them so I’d be good to do the rest of what I had planned.

In the past couple weeks Noah has started coming with me as well about 5 times a week. So far he’s running anywhere from 2 – 4 km with me. It’s fun to have him with me. On days he’s running he gets up and gets dressed for running right away, and as soon as I’m ready to go, so is he.

There was one weird aspect of this challenge that I allowed to get to me. Because I knew I had to run each day, I didn’t really push myself to run further, or faster. I did some, but never pushed it as far as I could. I was scared I’d hurt myself, or it would ruin the next days run, and never ran more than 7.5k.

During the whole challenge I never ran a 5k run in under 30 minutes. As today as the last day and I don’t feel the absolute need to run tomorrow, though I probably will, I pushed it. I managed to run a full 10k in under 1 hour.

Though a few times it felt like a real chore, I’m glad I was pushed to keep going and was able to complete this streak and fell good about running again.

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