2018 was a really big year for me. For the last few years I have been recovering from a burnout and operation in 2015. However its a really been the last year where things have started to come together.
With that in mind, here are some highlights from the last year. Things which have changed or happened which I am grateful for.
Although it happened late in the year, the single biggest change in 2018 was my new home. I brought my flat in June and moved in August. This was my first big building project and over the course of 2 months the flat was renovated and decorated. Major changes being new flooring and throughout and a new on suite wet room.
With the new home came new challenges and opportunities. I ended up making a home within a home. One end of the flat (my bedroom and office) acts as a sort of private hide away. It’s where I have my own sofa and TV. The other end of the flat is the public shared area where friends and carers visit.
Another decision which has paid off was the decision to have a small and affordable flat and then some external storage. The storage space works like a small library and workshop. It holds my collections and frees my home up to be clear and simple. It provides fantastic value.
The new approach to housing will be a great foundation for 2019 and beyond.
Talking of strong foundations, in 2018 my support structure and routines really found a good groove.
Both my day to day support and access to work support have developed Into really robust and productive arrangements. I wouldn’t have achieved much this year without the support structure. It has been difficult to develop, but the combination of a morning and evening routine, plus support for trips has worked extremely well.
We also worked out better furniture. It’s a small thing, but the second version of my bed, picking a different sofa and fitting better black out blinds have all been positive and impactful this year.
There are still many challenges to work on but what we have is working very well and is proving to be sustainable.
One of my side projects (a transaction monitoring tool called ERMI) has grown to be a very neat little business. It’s a long term collaboration with a freind. We’re never going to be a huge company but we are helping people. Our approach of keeping things simple has been well received and were growing at a sustainable rate around our other commitments and work.
The project had a big milestone this year when it became profitable enough to support my living costs. I don’t have any plans to leave my BBC job, but it’s good to have options!
The approach we have taken with ERMI is quite unusual. It’s led to a few different invitations to talk about the project at various locations. We visited the US this year to talk about ERMI at DevOpsDay Atlanta and along the way had a 3 day weekend exploring New York.
A very surreal trip! However the most surreal trip of the year was to the UN in Austria to participate in an ITU event. It was challenging, but extremely worthwhile.
Another worthwhile event was GAconf EU in Paris. I met with people I have admired for a long time and learnt lots of practical things to take onboard for my day to day work.
Alongside The big trips I also made over 30 trips around the UK to speak at or attend various events. I think 2018 was one of the busiest years I have ever had.
Many of the trips where to the BBC studios at new broadcasting house where I co hosted a new BBC podcast series with Robyn Steward called “1800 seconds on autism.” We made 6 episodes over a 5 month period and the podcast has been well received.
This is my first time producing content for the BBC and it was a pleasure to contribute to something new and exciting. I look forward to making more in the future!
I also contributed to a few different books, magazines and online publications in 2018. I think the most prominent was “Autism: how to raise a happy autistic child.” I am also featured in a few different autism employment books and case studies. My biggest online article this year was something I wrote for Network Autism about how I approach support and autonomy.
Alongside the various written work, I have also presented at lots of different events. A few for the NAS as well as lots of schools, autism conferences and charities.
Alongside my side projects and home life, my day to day work has also gone well in 2018. My job role evolved a little to focus more on research and I became a senior research engineer.
Focusing more of my time on research has enabled me to explore a new skill set and start doing some of the ‘emerging tech’ work we need to know about for the years ahead. My focus has been on VR and it has been extremely challenging. However it is a lot of fun to blend technical, user research and logistical skills into one activity. Intense and draining, but extremely productive.
In 2018 I also built myself a new mountain bike and completed work on a kit car build with a freind.
The bike project was the realisation of a dream. The right frame happened to become available for the right price and I was lucky enough to be able to get it to the UK. The aim is for the bike to last 5-10 years with lots of little updates as I go. As with any self built bike it’s never really going to be finished! I look forward to tweaking it over the next few years.
Likewise, the kit car I have been working on with a freind finally got its IVA certification and license plates. I didn’t manage to contribute as much as I hoped this year, but now the car is roadworthy we can start ‘the long fettle’ and work on all the details.
I’ve always wanted to build bikes and cars and this year I had to chance to do so. The kit car getting finished was a big achievement. It’s also been a chance for me to start learning to drive. I don’t think I’ll get a license, but being able to drive around at the local car centre is a lot of fun.
The final thing I built in 2018 was a Virtual Reality test enviroment to support the VR accessibility project I have been working on as part of my BBC day job.
This was my first time developing video games and it took a while to find my feet. However, much like with my home life, the new environment is a strong foundation for future projects. It’s already proved useful when we build a switch accessible VR environment with it using the Xbox Adaptive Controller. It enabkes us too broaden our research with physically impaired users
During 2018 my tech setup has also changed. For the last few years I have been mostly desktop based. However in 2018 I switched back to using a MacBook and external display. This makes my work more portable with no performance loss. The launch of the quad core 13” MacBook Pro made this all possible.
This approach also supports my work as I can share the same screen between BBC work side projects and my own personal computing. For when I want to get away from work, I also have a little iPad. It’s where I do all my research for my personal projects and read social media.
2018 has been an amazing year with lots of foundations to build on in 2019.
This would not have been possible without the amazing support of my friends and carers. They help me to keep everything running and provide the structure i need too thrive. Three years ago when everything was so bleak I never would have imagined how well things could turn out if i embraced autistic life and focused on making something sustainable and productive.
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me and I wish everyone a very happy new year.