2019 year in review

Ned Bellavance
12 min read


In December of 2018, I wrote a post about my goals for 2019. I’d like to reflect on those goals and take a look at what I actually accomplished in 2019. My goals for 2020 will be part of a separate post coming next week.

2019 was a heck of a year for me professionally. I started my own business, and that had an outsize impact on the goals I had made in the beginning of the year. At the beginning of 2019 I already knew that I was planning to quit my current job as Director of Cloud Solutions at a local VAR and go into business for myself. But I wasn’t ready to make that information public, since I thought I wouldn’t be ready to quit until June at the earliest - it turned out to be May. The necessity of keeping such a large goal quiet meant that I couldn’t be entirely straightforward in my goals list, lest I tip my hand. With that in mind, let’s take a look at my goals for 2019:

  • Try and stay positive
  • Be kinder
  • Mentoring someone
  • Produce five new courses for Pluralsight
  • Start a new podcast
  • Blog every week
  • Get the Microsoft MVP Award again
  • Speak at more events
  • Learn Go for real

That’s a solid list of goals, some of which are well-defined and others which are somewhat nebulous. Let’s see how I did.

Try and stay positive

While this does seem like a poorly-defined goal, I did have a list of specific things I wanted to work on.

  • Whenever I want to make a negative comment, find a positive one as well
  • When a new idea is posed, look for ways to improve the idea (don’t tear it down)
  • When something goes wrong, look for ways to make it right (don’t just complain)
  • Start with the premise that people are usually trying to do good, and wait for compelling evidence to the contrary
  • Be encouraging to anyone who is starting a new project, business, etc. (They’ll be plenty of detractors, be a supporter instead)

My major concern was that the world of Tech Twitter can be sarcastic and snarky to a point where it’s just a constant stream of negativity. I don’t want to be one of those voices. It’s okay to be snarky and skeptical, but there are limits. Corey Quinn has talked about this on his Screaming in the Cloud podcast, and essentially it comes down to this. When you are being snarky, it’s okay to punch up. Meaning that it’s okay to snark about big companies and extremely public figures that have far more money and influence than you. It is NOT okay to make it personal (except for Oracle apparently). The snark and commentary should directed at companies, ideas, and products not at individuals. It is also NOT okay to punch down, meaning snarking at those who have less influence or are not in a privileged position. That is the rule I have tried to follow, in addition to being supportive of people trying to build cool new things. I even championed a special episode of Buffer Overflow where each of the hosts brought their favorite, positive things to the table.

2019 was a year that needed a lot of positive people to drown out the torrent of bad news and bad actors. I think I helped in that regard and I would like to continue this stance moving into 2020. I’d give myself a B+ for this goal.

Be kinder

Just like staying positive, this was also a nebulous goal that needed some well-defined metrics.

  • Be honest about what people have done, but don’t speak ill of them
  • Try to help someone out everyday in some small way
  • Look for opportunities to promote other people (at least once a week)
  • No personal attacks (criticize the action, not the person)
  • Practice focused acts of kindness (I don’t believe in the random thing, which is a whole other post on its own)
  • Volunteer or raise money for at least one charity (in addition to making contributions)

The impetus behind this goal was the fact that I had become increasingly negative in regards to other people. I think I can attribute this to staying at a job I no longer enjoyed for too long. I was dealing with people I didn’t like on a daily basis and watching individuals do things I found reprehensible. Quitting my job and working for myself has massively improved the caliber of people that I interact with on a daily basis. All of my coworkers are selected by me. If I encounter someone I don’t want to do business with, I don’t. It’s really that simple.

I’ve also been trying to promote the efforts of others when on Twitter or LinkedIn, as well as in real life. If someone is doing something cool, I try and let the world know. Not sure if I managed to do that every week, but I have been trying. I don’t think I’ve personally attacked anyone in private or public since leaving my old job. Once I was gone, all the petty nonsense became just that - petty nonsense. None of it was important to me, and whatever malice I felt towards certain individuals evaporated. I simply don’t need to talk shit about other people. If I don’t like them, I don’t interact with them. If someone else asks me about that person, I will be factual not malicious.

I did not raise money for a charity, so that needs to be a goal for next year. I’m a big fan of St. Jude’s, and I have raised money for them before. Maybe I will do a fundraiser through Day Two Cloud, we’ve got some sweet t-shirts coming soon.

I’d give myself a solid B for this goal.

Mentoring someone

Part of the process of growing and maturing as a person is to share what you have learned with others. Someone did reach out to me at the end of 2018 looking for guidance. We had a number of lunches over the first half of 2019 as he searched for a direction about what to do next. There were also several people who I spent some time with after I quit my job, who wanted to know more about what I was doing and what direction they might want to head in their career. Hopefully I helped each of those people in some small way. I’d love to do something a bit more formal this coming year.

Even though I started strong in 2019, the mentoring thing fell by the wayside as my new business took off. I didn’t make mentoring a priority. I’d have to give myself a middling C for this goal.

Produce five new courses for Pluralsight

Ha! I knew I was going to publish a lot of courses for Pluralsight in 2019. I ended up publishing eight, yes eight! One of them was a revision of my Terraform - Getting Started course. I would count that since it was a full rewrite with all new video and examples. So wow, eight courses in twelve months. I expect that next year will be more of the same. Pluralsight continues to be the lion’s share of my income, and making more courses is one of the best uses of my time. I’d have to give myself an A+ for this goal.

Start a new podcast

In late 2018, Ethan Banks approached me about doing a podcast for Packet Pushers that was focused on the cloud, and thus Day Two Cloud was born. The first episode was published on January 23rd, and it was publishing on a fortnightly basis until November. At that time Ethan joined me as a cohost and we switched to a weekly production schedule. You can hear more about that on episode 22.

I’m happy to say that Day Two Cloud (D2C) has been a resounding success! Thanks in no small part to the existing audience at Packet Pushers. They were able to provide a solid group of initial subscribers by adding D2C to their Full Feed, and now it’s up to me and Ethan to attract additional subscribers by providing informative and entertaining content every week. If you’ve got a topic or story to tell, please reach out!

I’m happy to give myself an A on this goal.

Blog every week

Er. So I was kinda busy in 2019 building a business and writing for others, which had the net effect of me writing less for myself. I did manage to crank out 40 posts, including this post, but that falls far short of the 52 posts that would be required. That’s not to say I wasn’t busy creating content. In the last year I created eight courses for Pluralsight, wrote original content for four different vendors, wrote a book on the Azure Kubernetes Service, published a weekly podcast with Buffer Overflow, published 29 episodes of Day Two Cloud, and started writing technical documentation two days a week for a startup. I am writing a lot, just not on this site.

I’d like to say I’ll do better in 2020, but I don’t know that I will. I’ve already got six courses planned for Pluralsight, another book in the works, D2C and Buffer Overflow publishing weekly, and my writing gig for the startup. That just doesn’t leave a whole lot of time. Probably the best thing I could do is create a blog post based off the D2C or Buffer Overflow episode that publishes each week.

The impetus behind this goal was to become a better writer by writing more. While I accomplished that goal, I did not meet the metric I laid out for myself. Based on my complete failure to publish weekly, I’m afraid I must give myself an F.

Get the Microsoft MVP Award again

Mission accomplished! I was re-awarded the Microsoft MVP award for Azure/Azure Stack in July of this year. This was a pass/fail type grading, and I passed!

Speak at more events

Here’s the quote from my original post:

In 2019, I am going to submit more, submit better, and get rejected more as well.

And boy did I get rejected! I submitted talks for about eight conferences and had two accepted. I got to go speak at the MMS Mall of America conference, and it was a great event with ton of awesome speakers and attendees. None of the sessions are recorded at the event, so I’m afraid you can’t go watch any of them. The demos for the Terraform talk are available on my GitHub. I also submitted a talk for the HashiTalks event, which was 24 hours of talks about HashiCorp products. That talk is available on their website.

I participated in Cloud Field Day 5 and 6 as a delegate, which is not a speaking gig per se, but you do end up doing a bit of talking.

I presented at the Azure Philly group on using AKS, and then was invited to present remotely to the Austin Azure meetup for the same topic.

I also participated in a bunch of webinars, panel discussions, and podcasts. It was a pretty good year for me and my public persona.

When I decided to start my own business, I wasn’t exactly sure where the money would come from, so I had a lot of irons in the fire. One of those irons was becoming a public speaker who is paid to speak at conferences and events. Ultimately, I ended up not pursuing that possibility. Being a professional speaker at events requires a lot of travel. Those who do it are constantly going to new conferences across the globe, and traveling 50% or more of the time. That was not for me. I max out at about four events per year, in part because I have three small children that I like seeing, and in part because I am a bit of a homebody.

I have to give myself a B- for this goal, which is a grade I am completely okay with. My priorities shifted through the year and this became less of an important goal for me.

Learn Go for real

Nope. Wanted to do this in 2018 and I didn’t. Wanted to do this in 2019 and I didn’t. Learning Go will probably remain one of those low priority goals that keeps getting overridden by more important things. The only way I will ever learn Go is if there is a financial driver behind it.

When you are self-employed, every project you undertake needs to be evaluated on it’s monetary implications. Learning to write better has a direct impact on how often I am paid to write, so that is a worthwhile endeavor. Learning about Kubernetes administration makes me a better host for Day Two Cloud, where so many of the conversations include something about K8s. Likewise, learning about GCP or other cloud related technologies. And being a better host of D2C means more subscribers and downloads, which means more interest from sponsors, which means more money in my pocket. But learning Go? So far I don’t see a direct path from learning Go to making more money as Ned in the Cloud LLC. Until I see that path, this will remain an item of vague interest for me.

I give myself an F for this goal, and that is fine by me.

That’s it for my goals in review. As I alluded to earlier, my goals and priorities shifted over the course of the year. There was no way to predict that D2C would take off like it did, that I would end up writing a book, or that I’d get a gig writing technical docs part-time. The thing about goals is they need to align with your overall strategy, and each time you revise your strategy you also have to revise your goals. As 2020 starts, I need to make sure I have a viable strategy for Ned in the Cloud, and make sure my personal and business goals align with that strategy. That is the topic of my next post.