2017 in review
31 Dec 2017
At the end of the year it’s time to do a review of what I’ve been through this year! It’s been a challenging year: switching teams at Shopify, leaving Canada, moving to the UK and a lot of travel in the meanwhile.
My team at Shopify shipped a year-long project, and I started thinking about new challenges. I spent most of my career working with Rails, and I realized that I want to explore more areas of Site Reliability Engineering. So-called “Pods” team was one of the teams at Shopify that worked on the edge of SRE (scaling Shopify horizontally across multiple datacenters), but at the same time, that kind of work still required deep knowledge of Ruby and Rails. In middle January I joined the team.
Around the same time, I was invited to speak at RubyFuza, the South African Ruby conference. Cape Town sounded like a far and exciting destination, and I decided to go. I bet there are not too many Russians who apply for a South African visa in Canada, but we sorted it out, and a week before the trip I got my passport back with the visa. It takes 8 + 12hrs flights to get to Cape Town from Montreal, but those 20 hours spent in Economy seat were worth it.
Cape Town turned out to be the most beautiful destinations in my life. It’s a hip city on the ocean with Table Mountain in the middle of the city, which you can hike any time you want (preferable in the early morning because of the heat). The food is delicious, and there’s lots of local wine. I only spent four days there, but I’m already looking forward to the next trip to South Africa. It also became visa-free for Russian citizens this year.
A chilly -28°C winter in Ottawa pushed me book a trip to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. My partner has a good friend who lives there and who kindly invited us to stay with him.
Puerto Vallarta appeared to be packed with retirees from the US and Canada. The first question to be asked is “So, what part of Canada are you from, eh?”. As someone told us, a couple may only go there either for a honeymoon or to retire. The central part of the town is more American than Mexican, because of all those people who moved there for retirement.
In contrast, as soon as you leave the town and explore the area on your own, you’ll find the most authentic tacos on the planet. It’s hot, delicious and full of onions. When we went to those local places, we could easily get lunch for four people for $7.
At the same time Mexico can be dangerous. We were lucky to get safety tip from our friends who live there. I wouldn’t go there again (except maybe Mexico City), but it was a fun trip.
After I came back from Mexico, it was time to go to the University of Illinois where I was a mentor at the HackIllinois hackathon. On the way there I couldn’t resist enjoying a windy day in Chicago. Frontera Grill by Rick Bayless and Blue Chicago are still the best.
In February and March, I was part of a team at Shopify who pioneered running the platform in Kubernetes. We explored a lot of unknowns, found some bugs in Kubernetes and worked on making the platform more cloud-ready.
The key outcome of working in this team for me was the birth of Iteration API. It’s an API in Ruby for writing Background Jobs, that allows the job to be paused at any point in time. This is great deploys and for cloud infrastructure, where a node can be identified as unhealthy and shut down at any moment of time. Iteration API helps to safely interrupt the job and resume it later when it’s rescheduled to run on the different node. Making Iteration API available for everyone, not just for Shopify, is one of my goals for 2018.
At the end of March I went to New York City to see friends and eat the real bagels.
This was the third year in a row when I visit New York in April! I spent a great time with friends and I even had a chance to visit Ivan Ramen, a restaurant from a Chef’s Table episode.
I was invited to give a talk at GitHub Satellite in London so that’s where I went in May. This was my first time in the UK.
I spent that week exploring London by foot and by bike, trying the food at street markets and watching sunsets from the Primrose Hill.
I enjoyed speaking at the GitHub Satellite. It was probably the best organized medium-size conference that I’ve ever seen. The organizers took care of anything that I could imagine, and even booked a boutique hotel for speakers.
Our lease in Ottawa was ending, and we decided that it’s time to say goodbyes. Ottawa is a nice town, but it wasn’t the right fit for me as for someone who grew up in an urban city with 20M population. I imagined that a perfect place for me would be more like Moscow, Berlin, New York or London.
To enjoy Canada at the last, me and friends went to Banff National park in the Rocky mountains in Alberta. The nature in that part of Canada is simply incredible. We rented at car and stayed in campings for a week, hiking around mountains and lakes every day. Everywhere there we were kindly reminded to beware of bears.
To celebrate departure from Ottawa, I booked a flight in the Business class. This was the first time I was taking Business and I can say that it’s totally worth it. It’s probably the best experience that you can buy for $1200 when you’re taking a long flight. I could even convert my seat into a real bed and sleep like at home.
July has been surprisingly calm. I stayed in Russia, worked and thought what could be the best place for me to live, after Canada.
It was time for a break. Helsinki, the place where I lived when I was student, is a great place to visit in the summer. We stayed in Espoo for a week, having long walks and enjoying salmiakki. I was happy to see my old friends from the university. Cafe Regatta is still the best place you can go in summer.
I flew to London and then to Dublin for SREcon. SREcon is a conference around Site Reliability Engineering, focused on talks about methodologies and best practices in DevOps. I wrote a post about the conference.
I was lucky to have a friend in Dublin who showed me the town. I didn’t expect Dublin to be so small and calm, and at the same time full of tech companies. Standing on Grand Canal Square I could see Airbnb, Facebook and Google offices all at the same time.
I went to Ottawa for meetings and to Montreal for an offsite. Our team rented a large apartment in Plateau Mont-Royal where all of us cooked a dinner together. It was the second time when our team did cooking together, and I can say that it’s the best possible team activity. I’d recommend doing the same to other teams instead of going to just another escape game.
Montreal is so good in the fall.
After Montreal I went back to Russia where I enjoyed Russian banya (sauna) with friends.
In the very beginning of November, we moved to London! It wasn’t easy to decide where next I want to live. A year in Ottawa made me realize that I’m made to live in a large city and not in a suburbia. If there could be a capital of the world, it would be London or New York. NYC is great but moving to the US was not an option. At the same time I went to London twice this year, and I could see how it could be a perfect place to live. It’s vibrant and full of legacy, and an event or performance is happening every day. At the same time, it’s very local. It’s full of cozy spots like hidden gardens where people come to have lunch on the lawn. The future of the UK and Brexit is cloudy, but I’m sure this won’t make London less cozy and hip.
I spent all of November setting up the new life: registering at the police, opening bank account, moving between temporary Airbnbs while looking for a flat. There was a weekend when all Airbnbs in London were booked, and we had no idea where to stay. In the end, we went for a weekend trip to Oxford.
Oxford is perfect for a two days trip. I even visited the Dinning Hall where Harry Potter was filmed.
The agency finally completed all reference checks and we could move in to the London flat. No more Airbnbs. Now it was time for IKEA.
December is also the time when our team meets for plannings and roadmapping for the next year. I went to Canada again, this time to Toronto and Ottawa. It’s been a tough week: two days full of meetings, then an internal talk for Production Engineering and then my girlfriend’s birthday party.
It was lovely see all our friends in Canada. They even organized a birthday dinner as a surprise!
In 2017 I became a huge user of GoodReads (you should add me as a friend!). According to Goodreads I’ve read 15 books, though it doesn’t count tech literature. Anna Karenina and War and Peace were those must-read pieces of the classical literature that I finally read. As for the rest, here are the five books that I enjoyed the most:
- Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
- The European Dream: How Europe’s Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream
- Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley
- Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
Born a Crime was especially interesting to read before going to South Africa. A couple chapters pushed tears out of me.
The European Dream is a must read for someone who moved to North America from Europe as it compares the difference in lifestyles between continents. The last two books in the list could open your eyes on the startup culture in the Silicon Valley.
This year has been intense in work, life and travel. I learned so many things in my new team and worked with a lot of technologies that I haven’t touched before, like Kubernetes and LuaJIT. We planned an exciting project for 2018 which I’m looking forward to.
Surprisingly, the programming language of the year for me was Lua. I would never imagine what sorts of things you could create with LuaJIT embedded into NGINX.
As for travel, I have visited 9 countries this year (except Canada where I lived). I have taken about 26 flights (36 if you could all legs). At least 6 of them were screwed up in some sort of way, by being cancelled or by a lost luggage. Once I stayed in “all inclusive” resort just because Air Canada rescheduled the flight to the next day. Couple of times I went to the airport and then back to home because the flight turned out to be rescheduled for tomorrow.
What I could do more in 2017 is meditation, writing, and cycling. In 2015 my friend and I camped and cycled for 1000km in Germany and Denmark, which was the best time that I ever spent outdoors. I wish I did something similar last summer.
As for writing, I spent a lot of time writing this year, but most of that was internal RFCs and write-ups at work. I wrote only six blog posts, and all of them were about software. I wish I could write more outside of work. Something like the National Novel Writing Month sounds like an interesting challenge.
Let’s see what 2018 brings.