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2013 was a transitional year for me. It was experimental and stress laden but a ton of fun was had along the way.

The major challenge was the experiment of trying to balance my family, work and community persona’s effectively.

My wife was very understanding of  “the experiment” and issued me a hallpass to give it a good old college try, and try I did.

So how did it all go?  Here are my thoughts about 2013:

1 – Juggling the amount of work and community I managed in 2013 with a young family is goddamn hard

Work engagements (excluding board or strategic activities), Microsoft community (SharePoint, SQL Server, PowerShell, Office 365, etc.), non-Microsoft community (top secret!) and other non-personal activities that resulted in some form of travel (plane, train, automobile) totalled 144 in 2013.  I have counted an “activity” as an individual engagement of some type, so in the work context each “project” (although I don’t really work like that) counts as 1 activity regardless of whether it lasted 1 hour or 6 months.

In 2013 (according to TripIt) I pushed the 300k miles in the air mark (my frequent flyer accounts reflect this) and spent 142 nights in hotels.

I deliberately planned some crazy short trips to keep my time away down as much as possible (I made 8 fly into NY at 12 noon and fly out again at 8am the following morning trips plus several “1 day in Tokyo” fly-backs) which helped keep my miles to nights away ratio skewed in favour of the family.

2013 was the first year (when I have been based in the UK) where my travel outside of Europe exceeded my travel within Europe.

All up, the amount of travel I did (although not excessive compared to some) took its toll.  I did not miss any important dates (birthdays, etc.) but even short trips make you miss out on the growth and development of a 1 year old.  The plus side (looking hard for one) was the delight shown by him on my return from each trip, but missing out on just being there more often chips away at you.

2 – I could have bought a house or paid for a college education with the amount of money spent on travel in 2013

Granted, a good chunk of it was expensed or subsidised in some way (thanks to those who know who they are!) but according to American Express I spent roughly £145,000 ($225,000) on business/community travel in 2013.

On the plus side, that translated to £1200 ($1800) worth of Amazon gift cards thanks to American Express Rewards which sure buys a shitload of Kindle ebooks to read on flights 🙂

The secondary plus side was the awesome family holiday we had in October in Florida – flying Virgin Atlantic upper class (with an 18th month old, priceless to watch the other passengers faces of sheer horror when we boarded) staying in huuge multi-room suites in 2 different Hilton hotels (one of them had 4 (yes, FOUR) entry doors) and enjoying a chunky, gas-guzzling Hertz Escalade – all “paid” for with loyalty programme miles/points.  Cash value? £14,000 ($22,000).  Nice.

3 – Some communities really appreciate you making an effort, others don’t

I’m not going to name and shame but suffice it to say that I was surprised at how varied the attitude of community members is across all of the communities (technical and non-technical) I was involved in throughout 2013.  I’m not just talking about individuals (that’s to be expected) but entire communities.  It’s almost as though some groups simply expect folks to travel, carry the cost and share their expertise & experience as if it is some sort of right rather than privilege.

I’m not grumpy about it, people are people, right?  It just struck me as odd.

4 – Jumping out of my comfort zone and actively participating in non-SharePoint and non-Microsoft communities was refreshing, educational and well worth the pain

2013 saw me get involved in a number of additional extra-curricular communities, mostly non-IT related (I need to maintain a certain air of mystery so won’t go into a stack of detail about what they were) and mostly non(ish)-technical.  I’m pretty comfortable speaking and generally being involved in the Microsoft communities I am part of, but stepping outside of these warm wombs was challenging (both intellectually and emotionally) yet rewarding.

For me the “best bit” was standing up in front of a few groups being “the customer” and speaking to the subject from the other side (the dark side).  It has provided some interesting insight into how I will present certain types of subject matter as I was able to witness the reactions of the experts based on what I (as the noob in a couple of cases) was saying.  Useful and I would recommend this to all folks that regularly deliver sessions, especially those that are more customer (user) centric as opposed to being demonstrative or deeply technical in nature.

5 – I’m not good at “doing nothing”

With the transition of AdeoServe and AdeoPoint I spent some parts of 2013 being partially “retired”.  I figured some downtime would be great.  Hang out with the family, shoot some clays, shoot some golf, renovate a house, yada-yada-yada.  I won’t be doing this again for a while.  It sucks.  The grooves in my noodle need to be used.  I have to be a “groovy user” or I go insane.  Funny that.

 So.  What what does this mean for 2014?

  • I’m doing less travel, which equates to fewer community events.  It’s a shame, but the cost (in every context) is high and the reward just isn’t worth the price of admission.
  • I’m focused more on a small number of strategic projects, I’m increasing my investment level (time, attention, money) in 4 key “projects” – 1 personal and 3 professional.
  • I’m focusing my community effort into a smaller number of communities and macro’ing my content (subject matter) out to a higher level.
  • I’m going to generate more armchair content in lieu of travel.  You can expect more blogging, webinars, a podcast or two and some other stuff.

I might add to this post or series link it as 2014 progresses, adding my thoughts along the way.

Who knows,  I might throw it all away and become a fisherman 🙂

more to follow…