2015 is nearly at an end. Christmas is but a distant memory and in a few days it will be another year. I thought I would take some time just to reflect on the past year as it has certainly been very busy for me, but as busy as it has been, it has also been a lot of fun.


Even though I have done a lot of writing and course production, which I will cover in a moment, I am also still employed as a permanent member of staff at Boots UK, and my day job has certainly been busy with Me and my Team delivering a lot of functionality and value to our healthcare business. But Me being Me, I am never satisfied with just having a regular day  job and where I get my real career satisfaction is with my extra-curricular activities.  So what have I managed to achieve this year.

Pluralsight Courses

In 2014 I passed my audition with Pluralsight and managed to deliver my first course before the end of the year. This course was Developer to Manager. That was quite a milestone because developing your first course for Pluralsight is very tough and a lot of work, especially as it was the first time I had ever done anything like that before, but getting that first course out by Christmas set me up nicely for my 2nd course which was Agile Fundamentals.

Courses by Stephen Haunts at Pluralsight
Courses by Stephen Haunts at Pluralsight

Once I delivered this course by the end of January, I started work on my 3rd course. This time I wanted to do a technical course, so I signed up to deliver Practical Cryptography in .NET. This was fun to produce as it also required recording live coding demos and it was a subject that was very close to my heart. I delivered this course and immediately set about my next course. There were some gaps in the Pluralsight library around the careers and soft skills categories, so I decided to help plug that gap and started work on Conflict Resolution in the Workplace.

This was a much shorter course to produce and didn’t take too long to produce, although I did have the summer holidays in the middle which added to the production time. I delivered the conflict resolution course in September and then started on my next soft skills course which was How to Run Effective Meetings. Again, this was a fairly short course so didn’t take too long to produce and it was released in November.

I have now started work on my 6th course but at the time of writing this is still very early in the production cycle, and I aim to deliver this course towards the end of February or early March. This course is a natural sequel to my Agile Fundamentals course and will be about Lean Software Development.

Working for Pluralsight has been an amazing journey. I can hand on heart say they have been one of the best companies I have every worked with. The whole production team from your editor through to the course QA and technical reviewers all want to help you succeed and they make the journey very pleasant, so I am very grateful for the working relationships I have built up there over the last year and a half.

Syncfusion Books

Pluralsight isn’t the only company I have been freelancing for. I have also been writing some short eBooks for a company called Syncfusion in their Succinctly range. This has also been a great opportunity and a lot of fun as I really enjoy the writing process. These books are designed to be short and straight to the point with no unnecessary hand holding. The books are around 100 pages each on average and are design to be read and digested in a short space of time. In 2015 I have had 3 books published which are Cryptography in .NET Succinctly, Message Queueing with RabbitMQ Succinctly, and Agile Software Development Succinctly.

eBooks by Stephen Haunts at Syncfusion
eBooks by Stephen Haunts at Syncfusion

I have also turned in my first draft of my fourth manuscript for a book called Design Patterns Succinctly. This is currently going through the technical review process. Again, as with Pluralsight, I have been very fortunate that the Syncfusion team who produce these eBooks have been great to work with and made the process very enjoyable.

Public Speaking

2015 was also the first year that I had attempted to do any public speaking. This is always something that has made me very nervous, but I decided that it was a skill I was going to have to master. I did my first talk at a .NET user group in Nottingham called DotNet Notts. My first talk was about Cryptography and was to a group of around 60 developers. The talk went very well even though I was quite nervous and this gave me the confidence to do more talks.

Stephen Haunts Speaking at the Leeds Sharp User Group
Stephen Haunts Speaking at the Leeds Sharp User Group

So far I have done talks on Cryptography and Rabbit MQ. Since getting into more frequent public speaking I have had a dream to talk at a major software development conference. That dream is about to come true as I have been given the opportunity to speak at NDC London in January.  NDC London is a major conference and I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to speak there. I have my talk all prepared and am currently rehearsing. I must say I am really looking forward to it.

Running a User Group

As well as speaking at lots of user groups , I have also started being an organiser for a group called Derbyshire .NET. I can’t take credit for starting the group as it was by co-organizer Barry who initially setup the group, but running a user group by yourself is a lot of work, so around July I joined forces with Barry to help out and it has been a great experience. We are still a relatively young group , but over the course of the year we have grown our membership and have a number of great sponsors on board who provide the venue, refreshments and great giveaways each month.

In 2016 we are planning on moving to a larger venue and growing our membership as we host lots of really interesting talks.

2016 and Beyond

So, what next. 2015 has been a fantastic year, and I want to keep the momentum going next year. Currently I want to deliver another 4 courses for Pluralsight. This seems a sensible amount to create when I am still working a full time job. Whether a full time job still features in my working day towards the end of 2016 will have to be seen but I can say for sure that at some point in the future I will want to do all this full time, I just don’t know when yet.

I also plan on delivering another 3 Syncfusion books. They are great fun to write and I certainly want to continue writing them. I would also love to do a further 2 conference talks if my talk at NDC London goes well. This is all still an aspiration, so we will have to see how this pans out.

SafePad - The Encrypted Text Editor
SafePad – The Encrypted Text Editor

Software development wise I have a number of things I want to achieve. First, I am part way through an updated version of my encrypted text editor, SafePad. This is a very useful and secure tool that you can use to store very private information. I use SafePad every day. SafePad has proven to be quite popular and there are thousands of people currently using it.

I am also a good way through writing a simple game in WPF based on the retro computer game Number Munchers. I have been writing this game mainly as a tool to help my daughter Amy with her maths, but I want to release the game for anyone to play. I will open source the game and make it free.  The majority of the game mechanics are developed, I just need to add all the levels so that it balances well with a typical maths curriculum for children ages from 6 to 12.

My final software goal is to learn more about the Windows 10 Universal Application platform. I really like what Microsoft has done with this platform, and I intend to write something for it. I already have an app in mind, but you will have to wait and see what it is…

That just about covers my year in review. I am hopeful for 2016 and can’t wait to see where it takes me.

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