2023 in Review

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For me, 2023 turned out to be a year of learning, growth, adventure, and gratitude. And since there’s plenty for me to talk about, I’ve divided my review into two sections: one that summarizes my professional pursuits, and one that summarizes everything else.

The professional stuff:

On the college front, the new technology programs I’ve been pushing since 2020 finally got to market! My favourite one is Mobile Web Developer, as it’s a radical departure from what we did previously. The whole program is taught exclusively on macOS, has two interlaced capstones, and is carefully crafted to allow students to build solid developer skills using modern industry tooling and processes with zero tests/quizzes (students instead perform weekly assignments). These weekly assignments allow instructors to assess and guide skills development for individual students throughout each course, as well as echo the sprint cadence used within industry that students must become accustomed to. We also have a new IT Professional (Infrastructure, Cloud & Cybersecurity) program that restructures and augments many of the topics in our previous IT Professional program to allow for expansion into the areas of cloud and cybersecurity (both of which are key industry focal points today).

In April, I had to return to the physical classroom in our beautiful new Kitchener campus to teach a small class for a few months before transitioning back to remote classes. For technology programs, remote learning is far more popular and better for students as it echoes what we do in the industry. After all, most IT and software development jobs have been partially or wholly remote since long before the pandemic. Consequently, all technology classes are now offered as a remote learning option only. I will miss my epic podium though…

Classroom

Because the Kitchener campus also has a Pearson VUE testing center, I took advantage of that time to write some CompTIA certification exams, including the latest versions of the A+ and Pentest+ certifications, as well as the newly-released Data+ certification. Since many of our IT courses map to industry certification, writing these exams keeps me sharp while teaching related coursees, and also helps me align topics in a way that makes it easier for students to prepare for the same certifications.

And speaking of teaching, this year also marked my 25th anniversary at triOS College! Yes, there was cake.

25th Anniversary

On the authoring front, the Linux textbook that I wrote last year for Cengage completed post production and copies of it arrived earlier this year. The new, larger layout is visually stunning and also makes the content look much better than the previous edition. My favourite aspect of this edition is that it finally contains everything I ever wanted to put in a Linux textbook! It covers all of the foundational Linux topics needed for any tech-related career (systems and network administration, cybersecurity, and software development), and was the star of my Positioning Linux as a Foundational IT Skill presentation at the Cengage CCE conference this year. Plus, it contains my favourite dedication.

Linux 6th Edition Linux 6th Edition Dedication

I also kicked off the next edition of my Windows Server textbook for Cengage this year, which will make it to market in 2024. It’s a great update to the previous edition and will include a streamlined set of step-by-step lab exercises that will make Windows Server concepts easier to understand.

Mac Studio

Outside of academia, my professional pursuits continued on from last year. The AWS/Kioxia project I started in 2022 concluded earlier this year successfully but ended up going absolutely nowhere, which sometimes happens in this industry. I had a lot of fun on that project while growing both my high-level and low-level cloud architecture and microservice design skills, as well as my development skills in many different areas.

I also spent several weekends during 2023 building developer teams and cloud workflows (both are interdependent today) for two different tech startups in the region before handing off those duties to others. I learned a great deal refining that skillset and it was an experience I enjoyed tremendously. Plus, my new Mac Studio Linux workstation allowed me to build and test the whole infrastructure locally before turning it into AWS bills ;-)

And while I’m on the topic of Linux, I managed to give a few talks at the local Kitchener-Waterloo Linux Users Group (KW-LUG) this year to fill in for other presenters that had to cancel at the last minute (something I’m comfortable doing because of my teaching background). One presentation was on the UNIX Philosophy in 2023, and the other was a fun Linux trivia session. Both were well received by the group.

Someone on my tech Slack also cut me a GitHub Invertocat out of birch wood using a Glowforge laser cutter and stained it. I then glued it to some high-quality birch plywood and hung it on my wall to remind me to regularly commit and push my code:

Invertocat Birch Wood Wall Art

When it comes to tech conferences, 2023 wasn’t spectacular by any means. While there was some excellent content, the vendor- and expert-driven momentum of prior years seems to have fizzled out and there were fewer learning opportunities (and swag ;-). Consequently, I didn’t attend as many of them this year, and instead focused on those with specific developer, cloud, or security content I was interested in:

  • KubeCon
  • ScyllaDB Summit
  • Chaos Carnival
  • LibrePlanet
  • Build and Deploy ‘23
  • Zendesk Relate
  • ONUG
  • PulumiUP
  • Upstream
  • SUSECon
  • Unpacked
  • Techstrong Predict/Con
  • AppSecCon
  • Cloud Native Now
  • P99 Conf
  • HasuraCon
  • All Day DevOps
  • GitHub Universe

The other stuff:

This year we had a warmer winter and spring than usual, a beautiful summer with enough rain to keep everything green, and a spectacular fall with many cool, dry days. And this meant that I spent a lot more time outside with my dog Pepper. In addition to walking through the neighborhood and sports park my house backs onto, we frequented several hiking trails we visited in previous years, as well as many new ones that were simply amazing! Following is a list of the ones we hiked (several times each) this year:

  • Rockwood Conservation Area
  • Elora Gorge Conservation Area
  • Hilton Falls Conservation Area
  • Crawford Lake Conservation Area
  • Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area
  • Mount Nemo Conservation Area
  • Kelso Conservation Area
  • Shade’s Mills Conservation Area
  • Dundas Valley Conservation Area
  • Snyder’s Flats Conservation Area
  • Starkey Hill Conservation Area
  • Puslinch Tract Conservation Area
  • Fletcher Creek Nature Preserve
  • F.W.R Dickson Wilerness Area
  • Dryden Tract
  • Drynan Tract (yes, it’s different than the Dryden Tract)
  • Sudden Tract
  • Little Tract
  • Chesney Wilderness Area Trail
  • Cambridge-to-Paris Rail Trail (many different sections)
  • Cottontail Road Trail
  • Health Valley Trail
  • Schmidt Woods Trail
  • Bob McMullen Linear Trail
  • Mill Race Trail
  • Baden Hills Regional Forest
  • The Hydrocut (Petersburg Regional Forest)
  • Petersburg Crown Lands
  • Sandy Hills Pinery
  • Riverside Park
  • Huron Park

Outdoors1 Outdoors2 Outdoors3

This year’s great spring and summer weather also meant that you could find raspberries along almost all trails from mid July to early August, and apples from August to October. I’ve always loved the look of the Staghorn Sumac trees that are common across Southern Ontario, and this year there were plenty of Sumac berries available for making lemonade. Sumac lemonade is delicious (tangy/zingy) and very easy to make if you have an AeroPress. Winter hikes were a breeze this year because I got a pair of ice cleats that allowed me to navigate the slippery trails with ease.

I didn’t partake in disc golf as much this year, mainly because - much like regular golf - it’s somewhat boring after a while. Plus, most of my outdoors time was spent hiking or taking daily walks through my neighborhood. But I did try an escape room for the first time and everyone had a blast (even though it only had a 10% success rate, we completed it because tech industry workers are generally more apt at solving challenges):

Escape room

Of course, the highlight of my year was when my daughter, her partner, and my grandson visited in September from Australia. I spent time throughout the spring and summer getting the necessary toddler equipment, as well as the house prepared for their visit, but I loved every minute of it from the moment I picked them up from the airport. I’m a proud dad and papa!

Visit1 Visit2 Visit3

Oh, and the cardboard cutout of Danny DeVito at Jersey Mike’s was a nice touch:

Visit4

As with everything in life, not everything this year was rainbows and unicorns. Shortly after my daughter’s small family returned to Australia, a colleague and friend of mine for 25 years passed away after a 2-year battle with cancer. During his final 8 months, we had many lengthy discussions through which we both gained a healthy view of mortality and what it means to live a life well-lived. I’m grateful for his friendship and wisdom, and the parting words he emailed me before his passing will stay with me always.

Overall, 2023 was an amazing ride, and a year with plenty of personal and professional growth. The pandemic is now a distant memory, and the entire year was chalked full of incredible experiences, places, and people - all of which I am tremendously grateful for. I look forward to 2024 with immense optimism, and can’t wait to see what transpires (I have a feeling it’s going to be awesome). Cheers!