In an attempt to revive a tradition I’ve long abandoned, this post is a personal reflection on the year that was: 2013.
Thinking on the past and expressing gratitude for good things that have happened makes you happier, according to research summarised in Professor Richard Wiseman’s book 59 seconds. It’s also easy to forget things that happened a while ago and focus on more recent events (good old recency/availability bias).
I am inspired in part by my friend (I flatter myself to call him a friend, rather than a mere acquaintance) Stilgherrian and his regular Weekly Wrap posts. To emulate him would require a level of dedication and practice that I’m not sure I’m up for, so I shall instead admire him as my better.
But I digress. To the reflections!
The first three months of 2013 were focussed on doing what I’d been doing for the past couple of years: finishing my MBA while consulting full time. The MBA was far more interesting than the consulting, mostly because of my choice of clients.
I wrote a couple of things for iTNews, including an update to an old piece on availability in the cloud from 2011, which explains why it feels like I wrote it a long ago; I did. That means it’s been nearly three years since my first ‘published’ writing in iTNews. Wow.
Dell announced they were going private, which has now finally happened.
I spoke at the Melbourne VMUG in February, which was fun and I’m planning to speak again next year. Practice hones the craft.
In March I got a 4G dongle for my laptop, and my post on getting it to work has been one of the more consistently popular ones on this blog this year.
Act II was a transition period. Specifically, completing my MBA, graduating, and taking a break from consulting to do other things.
I haven’t written nearly enough about the MBA, given that it occupied so much of my time for an extended period. It’s very much a story about finishing something for once, and there’s a kernel of a good idea in there somewhere, but it’s such a melange of thoughts and emotions for me that it’s going to take a little while longer to figure out how to write about it well. Partly it’s been hard for me to accept that it’s actually kindof a big deal, because, well, if I did it, it’s not that hard really, is it? Well, yes, actually, it is. I made the Dean’s List and a couple of professors gave me awards, which isn’t a small thing. I didn’t win a Nobel Prize or cure cancer or anything, so let’s keep some perspective, but it’s not nothing either.
There’s also a story in what ended up being a 9 month sabbatical from consulting. The short version is that I was sick of what I was doing as a job, so I stopped and did other things for a bit to refresh and recharge. It wasn’t totally on purpose, but next time it definitely will be. I go into 2014 far more energised than the way I entered 2013, with a greater sense of self and purpose than I’ve had in years, and I put a lot of it down to taking time to reflect.
So what did I do? Well, I tried a startup idea that I’d been toying with for years, which was ultimately a commercial failure, but I learned a lot in the process of market testing the concept, about the idea, the world of tech startups, and also about myself. The core of the idea lives on at ilkemy.com and in the rating widget on this blog, but it’s no longer my main focus.
I also invested in another startup that has been considerably more successful (so far): MooresCloud. We shipped actual product to real, live, paying customers, and got it to them in time for Christmas. I had very little to do with any of that other than providing capital and occasional advice, so credit goes to the team. I’ve been playing with mine quite a lot, and it’s super fun. You should buy one!
I also went to Tech Field Day 9 in June, which capped off Act II with an exhausting but very fun visit to Austin, TX, and a lot of time spent learning about a bunch of tech companies.
Act III was tough. About 6 months of work on ilkemy.com culminated in an Alpha launch and testing with real people of what had been a theoretical concept. Essentially Amazon Recommends/IMdB ratings, but for everything, because there’s a difference between average taste and personal taste. A movie rating of 7.3 doesn’t tell me if I’ll like it. Critics love some movies that most people hate, and some books make tons of money even though I think they’re pretty shit. Conceptually people liked the idea, and it tested well in focus groups, but when it came to actually using it, people were too confused and wanted categories. The market had spoken.
I also did the hard analysis and decided that the requirements for investment were beyond what I could make available on my own, the path to external funding would be long and difficult, and there wasn’t enough commercial there there to make it worthwhile given all the downsides. Then I did the really tough thing and listened to my own advice and killed the project. Which I am still sure was the right thing to do, even though it was crushing at the time.
The startup succeeded on every part of the plan, budget, and scheduled, but failed commercially and with customers. That’s what the test was for, and it didn’t pass the test. It had to die.
So with the startup dead, what to do now? There was always going back to infrastructure consulting, but just doing what I’d always done had already become tiresome. No. Instead, I needed to plot a new path, to start a new adventure.
I went to Dell Enterprise Forum, and to Dell World again, and had an excellent time meeting and chatting with far-flung colleagues. And, this time, many conversations turned to the intersection of business and IT. There’s been a perceptible shift in attitudes from a critical mass of people. The tide is moving again after a lull, and I’m extremely well positioned for the coming changes. And, I think, while not unique, my specific combination of skills and experience is quite rare. Valuably so.
And so I go into 2014 with clear ideas about what I want to do, and several options of how to do it. Some initial explorations are looking very encouraging indeed.
2014 is shaping up to be a very busy year, but one full of purpose and optimism. I find myself fully aware of the hard work that will be involved, and of the discipline required to see it through, but I feel strangely calm and accepting of these burdens. Perhaps 2014 is the year I finally hit my stride.
I’m looking forward to it.