2017 Year in Review

I have a tradition of writing down my accomplishments from the past year and sticking them on the wall in my favorite depression zone-out corner to comfort me in the winter.

This year, I thought I would share the results. It’s a nice way for people to catch up with my recent shenanigans, as well as a chance for me to categorize and reflect on the parts I liked the most and would like to continue in the new year.

Perhaps adopting this tradition will help you, too.

Contents
Professional
Community
Personal
Things I Like

Professional

Brendan Gregg discussing my work at LISA17.
  • I got a new job! I left New Relic and joined GitHub as an SRE.
    • I’d had my eye on GitHub for a while, specifically the team that owns the custom load balancer (written in C). I was excited to start on this very team.
    • My job hunt included interviewing at Google, one of those career goals most tech people at least think about. I really enjoyed the troubleshooting and architecture interviews, but could do without the literally-no-sleep-the-night-before-constantly-feel-like-vomiting anxiety.
  • I shipped my first user-facing code!
    • Being an SRE means my work always has user-impact, but usually in background ways.
    • At GitHub, I shipped github-debug.com, a small tool to help users diagnose networking issues.
  • I wrote my first professional C code!
    • As part of my increased love for lower-level systems engineering, I started learning C at the end of 2016. Almost a year to that day, I had a PR merged into GitHub’s custom load balancer. Paid to write C!
  • I took a Data Structures class
    • I don’t have a formal CS education, and that’s never actually been a problem for me professionally. However, I wanted to take an actual DS course to help my systems engineering work.
    • I took this one through Coursera (and passed). The material wasn’t bad, but I found a distinct lack of support in the forums. Also paying $50 to submit homework assignments is ridiculous.
  • Oh yeah, I kinda innovated some kernel performance work.
    • My last team at New Relic ran Dockerized Cassandra clusters, and I wanted to dive into performance work on them using FlameGraphs. However, getting FlameGraphs out of containerized processes wasn’t a known path at the time.
    • So, I figured it out. And wrote up a blog post detailing how I did it.
    • I found out at LISA17 that Netflix adopted my work and runs it in production(!!). I’m honestly still shocked.

Community

My first professional technical publication.

This section was a bit gnarly, so I broke it down even further.

Talks

Organizing

  • I once again organized DevOpsDays Portland.
    • It took place during a record-breaking heat wave. Do not recommend,
    • Last year’s success meant we had a lot more funds this year to funnel back into the conference. It really showed!
  • I was a talks co-chair for LISA17.
    • I was really honored to be part of such a large and long-running event.
    • I was also very happy to flex my network and bring in a group of speakers not usually seen at this event. We had some amazing talks.
  • I continued to organize PDX DevOps.
    • I’ve been organizing this group for years, and I think we’ve finally hit our stride.
    • We have a new meeting space, new meeting night, an official sponsor, and average 50-80 attendees now. I love it!

Charity

  • I found my charity shirts a new home on Threadless, which has generously taken over the actual donations part.
  • I launched a new shirt this year, with proceeds going to Free Geek.
  • I donated $1500 to Hack the Hood and organized a Twitter donations challenge that resulted in over $18k donated to the org overall.

Publications

  • I wrote an article for Increment Magazine about best practices for staging environments!
    • I was so touched to be asked for technical content. I’m not used to it and I had a blast writing that article and would love to do it again.
    • Susan Fowler runs a good operation, just saying.
  • I’m now cited in the The Practice of Network and System Administration!
    • It’s just one line about documentation practices, but still.

Social Media

  • I started the hashtag #WITBragDay in the wake of the so-called Google Manifesto.
    • This hashtag encouraged women in tech to share their technical accomplishments, shouting back in the face of those who would push us out of the industry.
    • This event was featured in multiple publications.
    • I was so happy to bring women together after a horrid week of once again being told we don’t belong.
  • I also started the #unqualifiedfortech hashtag
    • This was in response to people critiquing the former CSO of Equifax having a music degree.
    • This hashtag was also covered by multiple publications.

Personal

From anime boy to anime boy.

You don’t actually have to read this section.

  • I cut my hair!
    • I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and took the plunge during a summer break from Twitter. Not being easily spotted in a crowd has definitely improved my public experience.
    • Highly recommended for decrease in maintenance and stalkers.
  • I went to Europe!
    • Thanks in large part to DockerCon EU, I visited mainland Europe for the first time.
    • Ate many pastries, drank lots of tea, rode many trains, saw the bust of Nefertiti, and visited the Jewish History Museum in Berlin.
  • I did more baking.
    • Baking is a soothing activity for when I’m sick of thinking.
    • This year I baked a cake, new cookies, and successfully made English scones for the first time.

Things I Like

ProZD is a delight.

When I do this exercise for myself, I always end with a list of activities that cheer me up (since this whole thing is a way to beat the winter blues). So, here’s a list of things you can try yourself:

  • Tea
    • I’ve been loving this teapot (pours nicely and you can easily reuse the leaves).
    • I like many teas, but a solid favorite is the English Breakfast blend from Jasmine Pearl Tea Co.
  • Lorde: Melodrama
    • I’m not usually an artist-focused fan, but I’ve really enjoyed Lorde’s work.
    • Her new album has a really good sound and lots of replay value.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    • This is my new Parks and Rec. Much like P&R, it takes a while to find its groove.
    • Features: black men in positions of power, a gay black man, multiple latina characters, a not-terrible white male protag, considerate humor.
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
    • You know those books you wish you could climb inside and live in forever? Yeah. That.
    • Features: genderblind society, endless social strategic warfare, mysteries, lots of tea drinking.
  • Dawn by Octavia Butler
    • Not actually a happy book. Not especially comforting. However, stays with you forever.
    • Features: black woman protagonist, extremely unique aliens, haunting decisions regarding sex and the human race.
  • Lisa Eldridge
    • Famous makeup artist who makes really nice tutorials and offers insight into the method behind the application.
    • Very soothing voice. I’ll put her videos on repeat just for her voice.
  • ProZD
    • Voice actor whose work ranges from hilarious short videos to snack reviews.
    • Another source of soothing videos, especially his food review ones.

In Conclusion

The professional work I am most proud of this year revolved around deeper systems thinking, whether writing C or tinkering with FlameGraphs. I am also very proud of my Increment article, because it allowed me to showcase my technical thoughts. I would like to do more work like this in 2018 and perhaps only give technical talks at conferences.

I’m happy with my charity work but always want to do more. I’m hoping the more Twitter followers I get, the more money I can funnel into excellent causes.

I’d like to read more books like Ancillary Justice and Dawn and continue to expand my interests outside of tech. And I really need to make a dent in my tea stash.

Happy 2017! May it never rise from the grave.

Alice Goldfuss

Alice Goldfuss
Alice Goldfuss is a systems sorceress. She’s consulted on some books (Docker: Up & Running, Effective DevOps), presented at some conferences (SREcon, Velocity, Container Summit), and runs some others (LISA17, DevOps Days Portland). You can follow her on Twitter (@alicegoldfuss), but you’ll probably regret it.

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