It is once again the end of the year and my birthday (sigh, 39). I am slightly baffled as to how and why this year in particular went so fast, it literally feels like 10 minutes since the end of 2016. My blog has gone virtually untouched this year and I am determined that 2018 will not go the same way. This has been a bit of an intense year and so busy that I have not had chance to keep up. Must try harder next year as from where I am sitting right now, it does not look like it will be any less busy....
So what happened? Well, mainly, work did. By mid January it was clear that we had, by dint of some decisions much further up the corporate tree, been tasked to deliver what can only be described as a mammoth objective (a MicroMasters program in a crazy short timeframe) and had a huge, rapid incline ahead of us. I struggled with this on many levels and it is only in the last month or so - when we hit the finish line - that I was able to process and let go of the remaining anger and resentment that this situation (and how we arrived at it) had caused.
Basically, my work-life balance was sacrificed this year - but that was not the hard part, the stress and anxiety that delivering this beast caused were awful. Asking my colleagues to commit every ounce of their strength and sanity to obtaining this goal, when we did not have clear sight of, or information on, what the product was, took a huge amount of trust and loyalty - and it is in those elements that I found solace and positive vibes that got me, personally through it.
I think I should park it on the whole 'M Word' for now. I could literally fill a whole book with what this utter behemoth of a project taught me and taught us as a team. But I do not want to give it the air time. It is done. Let's move on.
On a personal level, there were some achievements and opportunities that were amazing and which almost compensated for the insanity of most of my working days between February and December. In addition, two of my amazing ex-colleagues (from UniSA and e3) joined us in April and made everything feel like at least we could have fun whilst drowning in the crazy. I will always be very thankful to both Alex and Dee for taking a punt on our project (and trusting me) and for the fact that they both brought exceptional talent and incredible teamwork skills to us when we needed them most.
One of the things I am proudest of this year (and in fact in my career to date) is that I got the incredible opportunity to attend Microsoft HQ in Seattle in late February and presented to them and a number of MOOC makers from other institutes (including Harvard, Berkeley, MIT and TU Delft) about what we do and how we do it at Adelaide. I was more nervous ahead of this presentation than I have ever been before - but I did it. It also made me realise after a year in the job at Uni Adelaide that I DO, in fact, know what I am talking about in this field. It was that moment of clarity and reassurance that I needed. I really do intend to stifle the self doubt in 2018 (new year resolution #1) I love working in HE and I started to feel like I had found my people at this point in the year.
Following on from this, I also had a week in September which I think will stick with me for a long time - on the Monday I got the chance to stand in for my manager at lunch with the VC. In the strange world of HE, this is kind of a big deal - and I felt very honoured, as part of a group of 10 colleagues who had contributed to Innovation within the Uni to sit down to a formal lunch in his (massive) office. I even got to chat with the man himself while we ate and he seemed like a genuinely down to earth and approachable man. One downside was that the lunch was a large, fancy piece of sea bass - and anyone that knows me knows I really do not like fish. Somehow I managed to eat the it (swallowing every bite was difficult) whilst smiling and making polite chat. I am SO EFFING BRITISH.
This same week continued in a crazy vane, with Wednesday being the day that all of the colleagues from the Microsoft event (now officially a 'Consortium') arriving at Adelaide for round 2 of our assessment symposium. At some point in Seattle (over dinner, with plentiful wine) my colleague Nick and I had flamboyantly volunteered to host the next leg following an agreement that this should be a 6 monthly event. I don't think we really thought everyone would be willing to fly to Adelaide (though the invite was very much genuine). We were absolutely thrilled when the decision was made.....and then I had to organise the biggest and most esteemed event I had ever even thought about, alongside the crazy MicroMasters delivery which was in full flow at this point.
I have to say, I have a whole new respect for event planners following this experience - but the 3 days went incredibly well and Nick proved an excellent co-pilot while everyone was in town. I was so shattered at the end of that week that I basically slept for 24 hours, straight through Saturday. Interestingly, I presented at the event too - but second time round, I was too preoccupied with the logistics to be nervous and now presenting to this fab group feels like a pleasure and nothing to be nervous about. For me, that personal growth is a real achievement.
The relationships that are developing out of this Symposium have been so amazing and valuable and are now spawning lots of very cool collaborative projects and conversations, the world feels like a very small place these days. Oh, and in the middle of the Adelaide event I was awarded higher duties and a new job title of Partnership and Portfolio Delivery Manager - which I was very pleased with. I have wanted 'partnership' or relationship manager officially in my role for some time as it is the area of my work that I enjoy the most, and thanks to some considerable effort and positioning by my manager it came to be.
I have been working on another project which took me to Hong Kong for a few days in November and then I got to go to Whistler in early December for the annual EdX Global Forum which was incredible - both for the networking opportunity and the absolutely stunning and very festive scenery. The travel is still feeling like a perk at this point - and it looks like next year will be more of the same. I feel excited by that and already have a trip to California (round 3 of the Symposium) planned for March.
Hong Kong in November
2018 has some amazing personal things going on too. Stu and I plan to apply for our Australian citizenship at some point in the new year and June 28th will be our 15 year wedding anniversary. We also both turn 40 next year so there will be some celebrations planned for that too. As far as other resolutions go, I have been toying with cutting out all meat except chicken/turkey and might well start by reducing everything else. I want to learn to cook tofu properly (so it does not taste like a soggy sponge) and I intend to improve my cake decorating skills.
And Fin. Always Fin. Through 2017 he has grown into a wonderful dog - no longer a puppy - and I am very proud of him. That we can now walk the whole length of the beach with him off the lead and know that he will stay with us and (mostly) behave has been a major achievement, he has also learned to chill out and behave in cafes and cellar doors - which for us means we can take him with us on our social events quite often, Adelaide is a pretty dog friendly place which suits us well. We already have some trips planned for 2018 which we will be doing with Fin too - he is family after all.
Fin looking majestic earlier this year
Stu surprised me mid-year 2017 with a difficult to beat anniversary present which was the trip to Laos we have just returned from. How lucky am I? And so, after we got the crazy MicroMasters across the December 1st finish line I knew I had a break coming. It was just what we needed, some QT together after a year of both being flat out and heaps of seperate travel. It also needs saying that Stu has been the most awesome support while my work life has been insane this year - he has made it easy for me to do all the travel, looked after Fin alone for big chunks and still makes me laugh in the downtime we do get together. For that alone, I know I am incredibly lucky.
Me in Laos last week
And so, onwards to 2018. Starting tonight, when our Glenelg gang of mates will help celebrate my birthday and see in the new year. It is a bit odd that for the first year of my entire life I have not seen my family in person over the Christmas break, but given we have lived in Australia for nearly 5 years now, it is actually pretty good going. I have missed them all of course, but social media and photos and skype have made it easier.
Enjoy your new year wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I shall raise a glass to everything 2017 was at midnight and for once be very excited about the year to come.