All my life I’ve been good but, now what the hell…..

…..What? What? What? What the hell?

What a weird year 2020 has been. There’s so much that has been experienced from just one seat in the home office.

I have a habit of not finishing those blog posts that I have in my drafts, and my good friend Bruce (the Legend) also has the same problem.

After they posted this, I suggested a follow up to their Self-Retrospective post ( – and they kindly suggested that we attempt some sort of collaborative self-retro post.

So what we have done is come up with the some questions via one of our favourite whiteboarding apps (hello Miro!), put them in order and we will each answer them and then publish at the same time.

Here’s Bruce’s post:

What is this and why did you agree to do a double self retro?

I’ve been advocating for personal retrospectives for quite a while now, and I posted about it earlier this year ( I find it useful to recalibrate.

Bruce had also been working on something similar in the year, and we have talked about how we have found it valuable.

As for doing it jointly….well, who doesn’t love an extra bit of impetus to get something done? I really believe in the importance of accountability and this will get done if I have someone else pushing for it to be done as well.

Plus who is going to turn down the chance to collab with Bruce?

What did you think your goals were when you started the year?

I flat-out failed on the snacking front, there’s nothing like a pandemic to encourage you to snack. I know that some people took the opportunity to get into shape, but that did not happen for me. The added anxiety of the pandemic increased general tension in my back, which has had troubles for over a decade.

As for calls for papers, I started well and was able to speak at an actual in-person conference, the wonderful Geordie Test Atelier. I covered that whole experience here (

I also got to give the same talk at a couple of international meetups, and I can highly recommend putting yourself out there and trying it out.

How did your goals change through the year?

My goals changed even before the pandemic hit our shores. I accepted an offer to move on from a comfortable family of a workplace to try something completely different….but starting at an airline as a pandemic takes hold made things suitably turbulent. I had big plans for the new role and I didn’t even get to start a single one.

So quite quickly and disappointingly, I sought an exit strategy.

I found a new role at a start-up and have been refreshed and now fully stimulated and looking forward again!

The only other goals for the year, beyond survival, were all related to the side project that has been a wonderfully fun highlight of the year, the Testing Peers podcast ( That definitely wasn’t something I anticipated taking off!!

How did you recalibrate in the year, when things changed?

It can be tough to try and take stock when you are in survival mode for so much of the year. I am lucky to have an incredibly supportive wife and hug-giving children, and along with that there is the little corner in the software testing community in which I have found my home.

No matter the problem, or how stupid anything I have to say, I know that there are people out there that I can talk to and I am ever so grateful.

Getting muddled thoughts out of my head and into something that can then turn into a plan, or just a clearer picture has really helped.

Highest point of the year

There is a post on Ministry of Testing’s forum that covers this, I highly recommend taking a look for some real good vibes (

Overall, the highest point in my year would be before the pandemic hit our shores, when I got to take my family to Disney World, which was a dream!

Lowest point of the year

I think this has to be when I realised that everything that I signed up for at the airline wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t established and I found myself performing a very different role to anything I had ever wanted to do.

I didn’t really know any of my colleagues or how things worked.

Each day I didn’t want to be there, and felt like I couldn’t have made a worse decision. Couple that with uncertainty around the future of the industry and fearing that I could lose my job at any point.

One day, Bruce asked how I was, this is what I sent.

Which item of clothing have you worn the most?

If we aren’t including my headset, then it is probably my slippers. My shoes think I have passed away, I only wear slippers now.

Have you discovered any new tools?

Before this year, I had used Zoom once and Teams only as a chat tool. So they aren’t new discoveries. I had been whiteboarding for a while on Google Jamboard, the improvements I see in Miro and MetroRetro are great as well.

But I think my favourite new tool is the online RiskStorming app ( So much kudos to Beren van Daele and the team.

It’s been the perfect tool for me in this new remote world. I have run RiskStorming sessions at my new job, for the Christmas episode recording of the Testing Peers podcast (coming very very soon!) and also at EuroSTAR 2020, where they made me a big banner and everything to look very official.

Best coping mechanisms

Talking about it, if I can. Lee Marshall made a Google Hangout that has been open all year that has been a place of salvation for me this year.

This may be the biggest salvation professionally.

Otherwise, I bought New Super Mario Bros. to play with my 6yo, this has been a wonderful escape, as well as the greatest pleasure to share my absolute favourite computer game franchise with my son.

My wife has been nothing but supportive this year. This year has been my most introspective ever and she has been able to draw me out and been a constant. Knowing what I was like before I met her, surviving this pandemic would have looked incredibly different.

Did any songs help you cope with the year?

One of my coping strategies early on in the year was to look back at the last 28 years of the Eurovision Song Contest, and I ran a thread building up to the date when this year’s grand final should have happened.

As I always do, I checked out this year’s entrants, that sadly weren’t able to actually compete, but undoubtedly the song Think about things by Daði Freyr has been a real highlight in helping me cope.

TV shows that helped you cope

I’m a sucker for routine, so the pandemic threw a lot of that out of the window this year. But in the summer I decided to watch Brooklyn 99 all the way through from scratch.

It was so much fun and Captain Holt is the best.

Who is your favourite new friend of 2020, and why is it Bruce?

I think while this may have been quite the tongue-in-cheek question from the legend, it is true that Bruce and I didn’t know each other before this year and it is an absolute pleasure to call them my friend.

Just look at why I nominated them for Ben Dowen‘s Tester of the Day:

What’re you hoping to Get Done next year, even if it’s another 2020?

The initial goals of snacking less and answering more conference CFPs still stand.

But on top of that, it is to ensure that no matter what, I continue to let my friends know that I am there for them and that I really appreciate them so much.

I hope to see my boys grow up more, and hopefully not in fear!

I would love to see the Testing Peers podcast continue and to hopefully be relevant and for us to always strive to improve and not stagnate.

At work, I hope 2021 is a year of exciting growth with so many exciting projects on the horizon.

Oh and probably blog more than seven times in a year!

What have you learnt about yourself this year?

I honestly thought that the past-me who used to put forward a version of himself that wasn’t so true to himself, was only in the past.

But, I still internally process things and sometimes struggle to articulate what I am going through, even to those closest to me.

Hopefully being away of that will help me going forwards.

Secondly, the art of positively building up others is free and insanely valuable. I cannot tell you how it has lifted me when I have received a positive shout out from someone. I love helping others and will strive to do so more in 2021.

Any regrets?

A bit of a continuation from the previous question here, I think simply that I wasn’t sharing quite how low I was with those closest to me.

Also, I have found myself pining for my commute time, simply so I can listen to all the awesome podcasts that I have loved over the years, I really haven’t found the time to do that since I’ve been working from home.

What have you enjoyed?

I have enjoyed so much.

Disney World was insanely fun. Spending so much more time with my family has been awesome. In the summer, I would go out on the trampoline with my boys every day after I finished work. I have had more time with my wife, taking a walk most lunchtimes with her.

I have been able to make some new wonderful friends on the Tester’s Hangout and I really enjoyed all the conferences I attended virtually (although I miss those in-person ones so much!).

The Testing Peers podcast taking off has been so much fun, and the other three who have gone on this journey with me are some of my favourite people.

Thank you David, Russell and Simon!!

What advice would you give to past you…January 2020?

Be open, be kind, be thankful, talk, share, and give back.

Don’t ignore the bad things, but do look to accentuate the positives.

Don’t forget to hug as many people as you can before mid-March.

Join that Tester Hangout and make some super tremendous and awesome friendships.

Blog post title lyrics from: What the hell– by Avril Lavigne.

Find all the songs from my blog posts at this Spotify playlist.

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