On looking back on 2017 and looking forward to 2018

As I like to do every year, now that 2017 has almost come to an end, I’m carving out some time to reflect on all that I’ve been working on this year. What has been successful? What needs working on? And most importantly, what are the things I’ll put my energy towards in 2018?

The start of On Test Automation – the sole proprietorship
Perhaps the most significant change I made this year was to quit working with The Future Group to venture out on my own under the On Test Automation name. On the other hand, nothing much has changed at all since then. I’m still working as a freelancer, I’m still doing a bit of consulting, some teaching, some writing, pretty much what I’ve been doing before I made this move. The only thing that has changed is the financial side of things, and the fact that I’m now really working for myself instead of mostly for myself. It’s just that little extra bit of freedom, albeit only psychologically. I would be very surprised if, at the end of 2018, I won’t still be freelancing like this. It has proven to be the optimal way of working for me, with total freedom over what I’m working on at what time and with whom. I’d like to further reduce the time I spend commuting a little more in 2018, though.

Consulting
On the consulting side of things, it has been a pretty strong year. I’ve been working on projects for 5 or 6 different clients, mostly as the person responsible for developing automation solutions, but also sometimes acting more like an automation coach of sorts. I’ve been lucky enough never to have to look for a new project for long. The job market for experienced automation engineers and consultants is so good over here I’ve had to turn down more projects than I’ve been able to accept. I’m considering myself a very lucky person in this respect, although I do like to think that the time I invest in learning, spreading my knowledge and networking has at least partly brought me to where I am now.

Where 80-90% of my working hours in 2017 was spent on consulting work, however, in 2018, I would like to slowly bring that down to around 50% to free up time for other activities.

Teaching
This year, I’ve written a couple of blog posts, most notably this one, about what I’d like to see changed in education around test automation and what I think good test automation training should look like. As you might have seen elsewhere on this site, I currently offer a couple of courses, and I am looking to expand my offerings in 2018. More importantly, I’d like to deliver significantly more training next year. Counting quickly, I’ve delivered about 10 days of training in 2017, mostly with clients, but I also did a very enjoyable workshop at the Romanian Testing Conference.

For 2018, I’d like to work towards teaching 5 or more days each month. This will require significant effort from my side, not only in actual teaching, but more importanty in marketing and promotion to make sure that I can deliver them in the first place. I’ve front-loaded some of that work by closing partnerships with a couple of other players in the field, and I’ve landed a couple of teaching gigs already (more on that in a future blog post, undoubtedly), but there’s much more work to be done if I want to achieve the ‘5 days of teaching per month’ goal.

Conferences
2017 was a relatively quiet year for me with regards to conferences. In the Netherlands, I only attended 2 (both organized by TestNet). Abroad, there was the previously mentioned Romanian Testing Conference in May as well as the splendid TestBash Manchester in October, making for a grand total of 4 conferences.

I expect 2018 to be busier on the conference front. In fact, I’ve got my agenda for the spring conference season pretty much filled up already with TestBash Netherlands (where I’ll be doing a workshop together with Ard Kramer), the TestNet spring conference (where I probably won’t be speaking or hosting a workshop for the first time in a while), my second Romanian Testing Conference (where I’ll be doing both a workshop and a talk this time) and the Test Automation Day (which I missed this year due to being on holiday and where I hope to be accepted as a speaker for the first time this coming year). So that’s four conferences before the summer. And that’s not counting the Agile Tour Vienna meetup in March, to which I’m invited to do a talk / live coding session as well. And I haven’t even started to think about the fall conference season yet (that’s a lie, some negotiations are underway).

Writing
Including this one, I’ve published 46 blog posts on this site in 2017. I started out with the promise of publishing a blog post every week, and I’ve kept true to my word for most of the year, but last month I came to the conclusion that I’ve been spreading myself a little thin on the writing front. Apart from these blog posts, I also wrote and published 15 articles on other websites, including TechBeacon, StickyMinds and LinkedIn. That’s a lot of writing, I can tell you.

Next year, I’ll probably be blogging less, in an effort to create higher quality output. I’ll also still be doing articles for other websites (I’m working on two of those as we speak). I’m aiming to publish at least one quality blog post on here each month, plus some reviews of conferences, books and other resources whenever I feel like it. That should free up some time to invest in other interesting things that I encounter.

All in all, 2017 has been a great year for me, I’ve met many interesting people and worked on a lot of interesting stuff. 2018 will hopefully be a year of spreading myself a little less thin, instead focusing more on the good stuff. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

2016: My year in numbers

Now that the year is almost over, I thought it might be nice to jump on the end-of-year bandwagon and look back on 2016 a bit, and at the same time look ahead to what 2017 hopefully has in store for me. And since I deal with facts, let’s have a look at some numbers:

Number of conferences attended: 5
Conferences are a wonderful opportunity for learning, sharing, catching up with people and getting to know your peers and other people in the field. That’s why I actively try and attend or contribute to as many useful conferences as possible. This year, I’ve attended TestWorksConf, the Test Automation Day, the TestNet conference (twice) and I had my first international conference experience at TestCon in Vilnius, Lithuania. I’ve heard many useful things and met many great people, so I’ll definitely try and attend at least as many conferences next year. Three of them are already in my agenda (TestWorksConf, Test Automation Day and Romania Testing Conference), so there’s two more to go. One more, if you count Automation Guild (more on that later). Hopefully 2017 will include another adventure abroad, but I’m already quite thrilled to be in Romania next May!

Number of presentations given (not counting in house as part of consulting work): 4
Last year, I gave two presentations at different conferences: one at TestWorksConf, one at TestCon. Apart from that, I hosted (on invitation) two evening sessions for service providers in the testing field in the Netherlands. As it’s a personal goal of mine to become a better public speaker, I’m actively looking to increase this number in the next year. Even though I like hosting workshops even better than delivering talks (more on those below), public speaking is something I like to do and I’m looking forward to doing more of it. One talk has already been scheduled: my Automation Guild session on January 13th. I’ve also submitted a couple of conference proposals for 2017, so let’s hope they’ll be selected.

Number of workshops hosted: 3
I’ve hosted three technical workshops last year, twice on REST Assured and one on WireMock. All of these have been hosted at conferences. For next year, I am actively looking for more opportunities to host workshops and other training sessions, both at conferences as well as in house. I’m starting a partnership with my former employer, in which I’ll be responsible for delivering training on several topics related to test automation, so that’s a very good start! Some other announcements with regards to training offers might be made very soon as well..

Number of articles written: 7 (including an ebook)
Another thing I like doing is writing articles about things related to test automation and service virtualization that interest me. Last year, I’ve published six articles through various media (LinkedIn, O’Reilly, and a couple of magazines). Also, my very first (short) ebook saw the light, something I’m still pretty proud of. The first article for 2017 is already on its way, and we’re discussing a follow-up, so in this area too, 2017 is looking to be another great year. Of course, I’m keeping my eyes open for even more opportunities.

Number of clients served: 6
For IT consultancy, this is a pretty high number. This is partly because I had a couple of projects that ended prematurely (for several different reasons), but the shift I’ve been starting to make this year, moving away from 40-hour weeks at a single client, has had an effect on this number as well. Currently, I’m working for two different clients simultaneously, and I’m loving the flexibility and freedom this gives me in terms of time and attention. It’s also a shift away from being IN a development team (as a tester / an automation engineer) to a consultant supporting and serving development teams. 2017 might not see such a high number of clients, but one thing’s for sure: I won’t be working for a single client full-time if it can be helped. If only because there are so many other interesting things to do..

So, that’s 2016 almost done. To wrap things up, here are a couple of numbers related to this blog:

Number of posts published (including this one): 48
Somewhere in the first half of this year I committed myself to publishing a post every week, on the same day and the same time. No excuses. That publishing day and time is Wednesday at 08:00 GMT, for those who hadn’t noticed (which is probably most of you). Sticking to this schedule hasn’t always been easy, but it’s helped me enormously to keep thinking about things to write about and about the test automation and service virtualization fields in general. Therefore, for next year, the target will be 52. Again, one post, every Wednesday, 8 AM GMT, no excuses.

Number of comments received and sent (up to now): 802
I think WordPress counts all pingbacks as comments as well, and of course, my own comments don’t count, but that would still leave at least 300-400 solid responses and questions to the posts I’ve written. Wow. All I can say is keep them coming! I love feedback, both positive and negative, on the stuff I ramble about here.

Number of page views (up to now): 238.156
Again: wow. That’s a lot! Hopefully you’ll keep visiting this blog next year!