2012 My Year in Review

It’s hard to summarize an entire year in one blog, let alone one word. If I was going to do it, that word would be Derecho. It was a total whirlwind. The storms were constant and out of nowhere I dealt with a few severe thunderstorms and 90mph winds for a few seconds. Not only did my house get smacked by a Derecho, but work was like a Derecho from time to time.

From Wikipedia…so it must be true.

A derecho (pron.: /dəˈreɪtʃoʊ/, də-ray-choh, from Spanish: derecho deˈɾetʃo, “straight”) is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms. Generally, derechos are convection-induced and take on a bow echo form of squall line, forming in an area of wind divergence in the upper levels of the troposphere, within a region of low-level warm air advection and rich low-level moisture. They travel quickly in the direction of movement of their associated storms, similar to an outflow boundary (gust front), except that the wind is sustained and increases in strength behind the front, generally exceeding hurricane-force. A warm-weather phenomenon, derechos occur mostly in summer, especially during June and July in the Northern Hemisphere, within areas of moderately strong instability and moderately strong vertical wind shear. They may occur at any time of the year and occur as frequently at night as during the daylight hours.

Let’s Talk About January

January was all about employee reviews and starting the competitive benchmark. I was so busy with both those activities that it took me 11 days to write my first blog which was all about the hate from Canvas and the boldness of MoodleRooms. At the time of the post, I had no idea we were going to acquire MoodleRooms. I have to say, I was quite impressed with the sheer boldness of MoodleRooms to put their advertisement in front of Blackboard. I was very disappointed in the immaturity of Canvas.


February Made Shiver

I love February…not because it’s my birthday month or the month my 2nd daughter was born. It’s my favorite month because it’s the shortest month of the year and because I know when its over golf season begins.

I spent a lot of time in February working on a series of benchmarks, Fitnesse and then got a quick trip out to Phoenix to meet with the chief architect of dynaTrace at a customer product advisory board meeting. I remember writing two blogs (Ikea and Puzzle) about Fitnesse. Looking back at what we were doing with Fitnesse, specifically the regression tests, I think we may have been better served trashing all of the old test cases and starting over. That’s neither here nor there…

March Was Really Busy

I remember March was the month I met Baron Schwartz, formerly of Percona. Baron was their CTO and had written a couple editions of MySQL Performance books for O’Reilly. Baron is a smart guy. He actually left Percona half way through the benchmark. He came on-site and worked with me for 2 days in March. Those were two days crunch full of learning. It was also my first time back at Hotsos in 2 years. I got to see my hero and friend, Cary Millsap talking clearly about performance.


April and May were all about Living in the Performance Lab

April was the beginning of the benchmark projects I was working. We had 3 colleagues, come over from Hyderabad full-time to work on the project. It was an exciting month for me to get what I call “Back in Business” from a benchmarking and forensics perspective. 

It was also the month in which I really got hands on experience with a great SAAS monitoring tool called New Relic.

Getting Ready for BbWorld in June and July

I was hoping come June benchmark would slow down. The opposite in fact happened. The project doubled in goals and tests. While the tests provided some good data, it also guaranteed that we would not finish the project until the fall at the latest.

BbWorld was also just a few short weeks away.

Taking Over DIRE and the DBAs in July

In July we had a little bit of a re-org. I kept my performance, flex and security teams. I lost my (3) development teams. I gained back the team we used to call DIRE, now DevOps, as well as gained the DBAs. I remember writing this one blog about keeping things simple. At the time, I remember saying to each member of the DevOps team that I didn’t want to lose sleep at night over any outages and issues. I wanted this team to own and control their own destiny until we could find someone to run the group.

August Brought Expansion of Service to PerfEng

Well we didn’t necessarily make a change to our team, but we began discussing Performance Engineering services with Engage, Collaborate and MoodleRooms. It was a good start, from a discussion point perspective, but we didn’t get much going.

The month also was the start of sprints for DevOps. That last 1 and 1/2 months until the big outage of Perforce and Crucible.

The highlight of the month was the blog I put out there for PerfEng.

September was All About the Crash and Finding Mike

You can always tell how cerebral I am being by the volume of blogs I write. I posted 13 blogs this month, but several were real eye opener blogs. The SOS blog could be interpreted by any of my teams. It could also have been a sign of what was to come with the big crash of Perforce.

The big crash happened sometime on September 16th, but really wasn’t noticed until September 17th. The DevOps team wasn’t ready for this like they said they were ready for it. It was also an event that helped us come together as a team and realize that we were not ready. It also got others in the organization realizing how important it was to get a strong leader with vision in the DevOps space…

October was about Mike

Yes…I will say my focus for the month of October was about trying to convince Mike McGarr that Blackboard was his special home. While I had ideas, I knew from my chance introduction to Mike that he had vision.

November Was About Getting Back to Basics

We had 1 month left of the benchmark. The project was so large and so consuming, but we finished it by Thanksgiving. We also had Mike start, which was a blessing. Once we got him settled, I was able to get bac

This month was also the best progress we had in DIRE. We put Perforce in an HA configuration. We solved performance issues with remote offices and perforce as well. We brought in a vendor, the Go2Group to help us with the Atlassian Migration.

It was also a chance for me to get back and engaged with the Performance Engineering practice in a role beyond benchmarking. I put together a blog about our Performance Core which really helped me get focused on planning for 2013.

December was the Month of the Broken Leg and Learning About Stickies

I wrote a short blog about a cool way Mike McGarr was leading meetings with Sticky Notes. 

It was also the month in which my lovely wife broke her leg. Total downer to the New Year.

Parting Words for 2012

I went into 2012 with no expectations of what would come from July onward. While I had trepidation about the competitive benchmark, I knew that we would a) finish it and b) do a great job. I never expected it to consume my life. It was a tough project. It nearly burned me out. I had a lot of confidence in myself and my ability to coach up a team that wasn’t quite ready for such a challenging project.

I look back at 2012 and I wish I could have done more for Abhijit, Tim and Will, as well as their teams. I was able to give them some direction and focus, but I needed more time.

The DevOps and to a smaller degree, the DBA team, needed more of my attention. At the beginning of the year I had little passion toward DevOps and specifically Continuous Delivery. I didn’t know who Mike McGarr was, nor did I think he would be working with me.

In 2013, There are (4) Things I Want to Work On

Focus: I want all of my teams to be focused on their CORE and focused on maturing.

Transparency: I want to put more out there so others know what I’m thinking and can share their opinions. Let’s open our doors folks!

Innovation: I’ve got ideas and I want to share them. We have ideas and we need to share them. Most importantly we need to act on our ideas without the fear of failure.

Complacent: I don’t want to be complacent with who we are as a team and where we are going. We can never accept mediocrity.

Things I’m Proud About

  • I’m really proud of Stephanie Tan for finding, training and motivating the two talented team members (Matt and Franco) who joined our team in 2012.
  • I’m really proud that Stephanie is able to direct and lead her group as both a visionary and strategist. Her leadership let’s me focus on other parts of the organization that need my help.
  • I’m really proud that Patrick and Nori, as well as their teams were able to grow their respective teams with minimal distraction from me. I felt confident that I could step away for extended periods of time and the team would be able to survive and prosper.
  • I am real proud of all of my teams that worked with me this year on a great 2012. We had a lot of outstanding, individual performances, as well as team performances!

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