2018 was a pretty eventful year for me, I changed roles at work, changed the industry and team I was working in, got some travel in and some pretty crappy stuff happened too, so I thought it’d be good to do a write up.

Early on into the year I stopped working on Open-eObs, an open source electronic patient observation and patient acuity app that I’d worked on for the past four and a bit years, and started working at a major Gambling company.

It was a bit of a shock for me. Having spent the previous years working closely with clinical staff and in a very small team I found myself starting during a ‘hot-house’ where all the major staff from the client’s international offices were all crammed into an office for two weeks to solve the initial issues with launching the company’s New Jersey platform.

After the hot-house, the pass relaxed a little but we were still pushing aggressively for a set launch date. The tech stack was different too, I’d spent the last three years mostly writing Python but everything in my new gig was JavaScript.

The last time I’d worked with JavaScript properly was when I was writing Open-eObs’ frontend and while I’d done the odd React project outside of work this was my first proper JavaScript experience. I have to say that while I’ll always hold Python above JavaScript as a language, the tooling and ecosystem in JavaScript is far more interesting (but only really if you like fast evolving solutions).

Working with my new client and their team I started to realise that in the grand scheme of things my heart wasn’t in development anymore. I’ve never been a ‘Developer’s Developer’, preferring to stay big picture and talk about the value the code I’m writing will give the end user instead of discussing syntactical sugar and algorithms.

After doing a bit of soul searching I decided to ask to move to test, I’ve always been interested in test automation, having built a number of frameworks for Open-eObs and other projects, so having cleared the move with the client (who I’d been helping with the development of their automation framework) I jumped ship.

The move to test has worked out well. I’m able to bring my big picture-thinking to help validate the work being done by the development team and bring my previous development experience to help raise the quality of the test code being written.

The test community in Leeds is also easier to approach than the development one. I find with developer meet up and communities there’s grouping around technologies or industries but never just ‘I’m a developer and I want to meet other developers to learn from each other’s experiences’. With test communities and meet ups I’ve found it to be the other way round, which is refreshing for me.

Since joining the test community I’ve been able to give two talks at BJSS as part of our Lunch and Learn programme. These covered HipTest, a really useful tool for working with BDD and Storybook, a tool that while used mostly for demoing web components I think has a lot of value in helping communication while building a product.

I got around a bit in 2018. I ticked off another continent on the list, got to experience business class for the first time in my life and had a proper trip to Scotland finally.

As part of the work I’ve been doing with my new client we found ourselves with a bit of a blocker so I got flown out with very short notice to Las Vegas to go write some PHP to resolve it for about 10 days.

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The trip to Vegas was great, I was flown out business class (which if you ever get the chance to you should definitely do) and put up in a hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Aside from working 10 hours a day, we managed to get out and experience some of what was on offer, while out there I managed to:

  • Eat at Wendy’s
  • Eat at the Heart Attack Grill
  • Visit Walmart (it really is like what you imagine, there was a McDonald’s instore!)
  • Go to the Hard Rock Cafe
  • See the Beluggio Fountains
  • Visited many of the different casinoes on the strip
  • Had Taco Bell in America (which I have to say I was disappointed in but they did have MUG root beer on tap so that balances things out)
  • I caught 8 wild Tauros in Pokemon Go (one of which involved me running across a 8 lane highway in 45C heat)
  • Met up with some great people and traded Unown with them to help me fill out my Unown Dex

After the trip to Vegas I had one day to rest before jumping on a RyanAir flight (coming from Virgin Atlantic Business Class it was doubly shite) to Dortmund to go to the Pokemon Go Safari Zone event.

Dortmund is a great city, it reminded me very much of Kingston-Upon-Thames which is where I spent most of my Uni and College days. Dortmund is twinned with Leeds which meant there were a number of landmarks and names that were all too familiar.

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The event I went there to participate in was pretty crap for me but it was made better by the city and the people I met while out there. If you find yourself in the area I’d highly recommend WestFallen Park if you fancy some greenery.

Towards the start of the year my mate Garry got married up in Edinburgh so I was finally given an excuse to have a proper trip to Scotland. The last / first time I’d been there was to take part in a hack day so it was good to explore.

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The wedding took place at Edinburgh Zoo so we were able to go have a look around the animals before hitting the reception bar and catching up with all my old school friends. The next day we were up at 8 to get in a minivan for a tour of the highlands and Loch Ness which was breathtaking and full of history.

Unfortunately this year my girlfriend lost both her parents to cancer, a massive loss to everyone. It’s been a stressful time with many trips up and down the country, heartbreak and being emotionally supportive while not being overly logical about it all(which as an ENTJ is not something that comes naturally to me).

For me the hardest parts were the ‘what ifs’ being posed. As someone goes through their battle with cancer there’s many options they are given, they could be offered a more intense treatment or even some experimental treatments and at the end of it all it can feel like you’ve made the wrong choices.

When you’re in that situation you’re operating on information as it comes in, you don’t have much time to wait things out so you go with what you feel is best. Looking back at the decisions you made having just seen the outcome is a pointless exercise, which unfortunately we’re drawn to do if we’ve just suffered a major loss. There are no wrong choices just bad outcomes.

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I help run the Pokemon Go community in Leeds along with some really great people who have really helped the community grow massively. This year we were able to nab the number 1 UK community spot (going off of Silph Road Community Day check-ins) from Edinburgh and we’ve doubled our Facebook and Discord membership.

2018 was the first year that Niantic held Community Days in Pokemon Go, these are 3 hour events where a particular Pokemon will spawn with a particular move (or it’s evolution gains a move) and there’s a chance to get a shiny version. They’ve also introduced raid days where the same rules apply but you have to defeat the Pokemon in a raid before you catch it.

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It took us a couple of months to standardise the plan which was mostly around figuring out where the most spawns were and getting a spot for people to meet. Once we got a set spot to meet it was a lot easier to manage the check-ins that we use to track our performance.

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One of the ideas I’m most proud of implementing is the badges we hand out. We started this in May and since introducing it we’ve grown massively. Luring people into checking-in with the offer of a free badge has driven Silph Card adoption in the Leeds community (although there’s still a number of people who refuse to sign up) and I’ve seen people who have the badges refer to our community when asked what it is so this has helped spread the word.

We’ve also started to produce our own badge art, the Silph Road while an amazing community run organisation tends to produce their artwork quite late so Lowry, our community leader started to make his own art so we could get the badges made in time. In all honesty the art he’s making is much better than the art that the Silph Road puts out, mostly because it encompasses the entire evolutionary chain.

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Aside from the community aspect, this year saw the launch of trading in Pokemon Go which since it’s rolled out I’ve been able to:

  • Complete my Unown Dex
  • Get every Regional Pokemon (I’ve caught Mr Mime, Farfetch’d and Tauros myself in their respective countries, Corsola I caught in Dortmund)
  • Get 334/443 Lucky Pokemon
  • Finally get a Shiny Kyogre having not seen one, despite doing 30 off raids while available

PvP also launched towards the end of the year and at the time of writing we’ve recently held our first tournament in Leeds, which I won (although I still think that was a glitch in the matrix).

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In Leeds we’ve made the admins into Gym Leaders and players can challenge us to gain our Gym Leader badge. Once all 9 badges have been gained then that player will get a special prize. I decided early on to build a Ghost team as it’s my favourite type and while I’m getting wrecked by those who know my team I’ve been getting some really good tips from my fellow players.

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My AR shots were featured in Pokemon Go Hub’s AR picture galleries twice in 2018. The first image was of Moltres soaring through the sky in Park Square which I thought blended into the scenery quite well, the second was of a shiny Gengar I took while doing the Gengar Raid Day.

On the flip side of all this great stuff however, my interest in building a tool to help the player base either locally or globally has waned.

I started 2018 by building a tool to help people get EX Raid passes which due to a lack of proper APIs meant it was a technical nightmare to run with the 3rd party mapping tool changing it’s API contract every day and half way through development the rules for EX Raids being changed.

As I started to get into AR shots I started to build my own Instagram-like app to allow AR Photographers to create a Pokedex full of the images they thought best captured the Pokemon. I ended up canning this though as it was hard to get input about if what I was building was of any use, I may revisit it at a later point but for now I’d rather play the game, it’s made me really respect the work that The Silph Road does to enhance the core game with it’s community programmes and apps.

All in all 2018 probably had the most change in it, I think if we had also done the move to Leeds in 2018 I think it’d be hands down the most turbulent year.

Changing project, industry and role has been a really good growing experience and I’m keen to grow even more in 2019 by attending more meet ups, getting to know the Leeds testing community and really getting into the nitty gritty of what it means to be a tester as well as an automation tester.

While the loss of my girlfriend’s parents has been absolutely horrible I think it’s also made our relationship stronger as she knows I’ve got her back and it’s helped me to identify what I can bring to the table emotionally when dealing with that type of situation.

Pokemon Go was probably the one constant in my life in 2018. While new features were added, there was always something to do in the game which meant that I never grew tired of it and helping build the Leeds community made this even more prominent. It’ll be interesting to see how 2019 goes, I personally would like to see Niantic finally start letting 3rd parties have access to an API and build an ecosystem to help the game grow.

Written by

Technical Lead at BJSS. Interested in Automated Testing, Dev practises, Metal, Chiptune. All views my own.

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