Year number 2, working for a start-up

Just like last year, I wanted to write a blog post about how the past 12 months went. But this year all of a sudden everything changed for me. But let’s start at the beginning…

 
Beginning of the year
The beginning of 2017 was pretty relaxed. After the really busy year I had (2016), I decided for myself that I needed to turn it down a notch. The immense amount of hours I spend in the office and working from home on the evenings and weekends, the stress and workload, it all became too much in December of 2016. For 2017 I was planning to work a bit smarter instead of harder, and that should give me the opportunity to take a step back and see the rainbow through the clouds.

In the first few months this actually worked for me. It was quite surprising to be honest, but my stress started to decrease, and I could focus on the stuff that needed my attention. For example, just a few of the things I did in Q1 of 2017: Worked on our ISO 27001 certification process with a team of people, had some security calls with HUGE corporates (which were really nice), made preparations for knowledge sessions, etc.

There are a few things that do deserve an honorary mention. One of the things that started last year was a quarterly hacklab with Deloitte. In this hacklab they tested our digital- and physical-security with different approaches. Just a few things they tried are: pen-tests (penetration tests of our software and infrastructure), phishing, social engineering, media-baiting, etc. This was really fun to make this happen together with them.

Another big project that started was our migration from a hybrid platform to Azure. This started in February, and this was a really cool project to discover new things in Azure, and a challenge to do this with the least possible amount of downtime.

We also started with knowledge sessions within the company. Together with a colleague (Pascal) we hosted the first session in March.

 
Q2: The dark times began
The second quarter of the year started out really good. Together with Pascal (not only my colleague, but also my best friend and parter-in-crime in most cases), his wife Aga and their beautiful baby girl Emily we went to Poland for a holiday, and the baptism of the little princess. Even though some things didn’t work out the way we planned, I did enjoy my stay there. Great people, great food, beautiful country. Oh yeah, and some drinks here and there…

But without knowing, my life would change all of a sudden right after I came back from holiday. Before my flight left Warschau I called home. My parents asked me to stop by on the way home, because they had something they wanted to tell me. This conversation over the phone felt somewhat uncomfortable, and I was soon to discover why. So as soon as I landed at Amsterdam Schiphol, I drove to my parents house.

The message wasn’t sugarcoated in any way. They told me my mom received the results of some tests from the hospital: terminal lung cancer. Even when I write this now, I immediately feel that sinking feeling again like I felt on the 19th of April. Just like it was yesterday.

In the weeks that followed she needed to go to the hospital over and over again. And every talk we had with doctors changed the situation. It went from inoperable to “we can slow it down with chemo en medicine”, to “we think it’s curable”, to terminal. The final diagnosis was somewhere between 8 weeks and 8 months to live. I was in the room when the doctor said that. And even though my world collapsed, I didn’t show that. I remained strong, for her.

I’ll skip some months, because it’s hard to talk about all the things I’ve seen and experienced. All I can say is that it left its marks on my soul forever.

Eventually she went to a hospice in the village we live in (which was really nice, since I could spend all my time there without losing any time on traveling somewhere). The reason for that was that she needed more care than we could give her at home, mainly because the care consisted of medical treatment and giving her shots for pain medication. But looking back now, it was only for a short period of time, not even a week…

Just 2 months and 20 days (or 80 days in total) after the first diagnosis, she passed away. That’s when the darkness began for me. It’s hard for me to describe how this feels, but I know the lyrics of a song come fairly close to that feeling:

 

There’s an emptiness tonight,
A hole that wasn’t there before.

And I keep reaching for the light,
But I can’t find it anymore.

There’s an emptiness tonight,
A heavy hand that pulls me down.

They say it’s gonna be alright,
But can’t begin to tell me how.

‘Cause I’m just sitting in the dark,
In disbelief that this is real.

 
It’s hard to express the feelings to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. That’s what I found out by talking to friends who experienced similar situations. Even after 4 months and 26 days, I still can’t find the words to describe it.

Another description I can relate to is: it’s “survival mode”. Nothing matters anymore, just the care for my mom mattered. And even now, it’s hard to see the true value of things, because sometimes I’m still on auto-pilot I think. It’s so much easier to see the negative side of things, when you just feel pain. I didn’t see the things that happened around me. All I could feel is emptiness, anger, feeling lost, feeling left alone, frustration, powerlessness, and I can go on. My heart was broken (and still is).

 
There were fun times though
But even though this was happening at home, I did have nice moments as well. In May I traveled with 2 friends to Seattle (my first time to the US!) and attended BUILD 2017. This was a really nice event, we saw a lot of great (new) things, and talked to a lot of interesting and smart people.

After BUILD, we stayed for a couple of days because we had some appointments at the Microsoft HQ in Redmond. Most of the appointments were arranged by Julie Koesmarno (Website | @mssqlgirl), and we talked to a number of people in the SQL Server building. We discusses some issues, ongoing development within Azure (for both Roadmap as well as Microsoft), we talked to the tools-team (and I can now FINALLY talk about Project Carbon!), etc. Great times!

 
From cloud-first to cloud-only company
Over the last few weeks, we spend time on migrating the last on-premise (or private-cloud) assets into Azure. This concluded a long-awaited change, that we’ve been planning since I joined Roadmap (which is 2 years already tomorrow). This means we’ve changed from cloud-first company in 2016 to a cloud-only, Azure-only company in 2017.

This was a long-term goal we set ourselves around 2 years ago, and I can’t express how happy I am that we made this happen this year. By doing this we went from a very busy on-call rotation (where you were called about every single night), to an on-call rotation where you get incidental calls (my last on-call was 1 phone call on a Saturday morning).

I can honestly state that this brought us and the company forward in an incredible way. So also kudo’s to you Julie, for helping us out when we needed it!

 
On to 2018
So I don’t know what 2018 will bring me, but hopefully it’s going to be a great year. A few goals are on the list again, and hopefully I can tick some of those boxes next year (presenting on SQL Saturday(s) and events (so public speaking), attending PASS Summit 2018, etc.).

Hopefully you had a wonderful year, and together we can make 2018 even better.

Cheers!

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