2016 – My Year in Review

Before looking too far ahead to the future, it’s important to spend time to reflect over the past year’s events, identify successes and failures, and devise ways to improve. Describing my 2016 is a challenge for me to find the right words for. This post continues a habit I started last year with my 2015 Year in Review. One thing I discover nearly every day is that I’m always learning new things from various people and circumstances. Even though 2017 is already getting started, I want to reflect back on some of these experiences and opportunities of the past year.

Preface

When I started writing this in January, I read freenode‘s “Happy New Year!” announcement. Even though their recollection of the year began as a negative reflection, the freenode team did not fail to find some of the positives of this year as well. The attitude reflected in their blog post is reflective of the attitude of many others today. 2016 has brought more than its share of sadness, fear, and a bleak unknown, but the colors of radiance, happiness, and hope have not faded either. Even though some of us celebrated the end of 2016 and its tragedies, two thoughts stay in my mind.

One, it is fundamentally important for all of us to stay vigilant and aware of what is happening in the world around us. The changing political atmosphere of the world has brought a shroud of unknowing, and the changing of a number does not and will not signify the end of these doubts and fears. 2017 brings its own series of unexpected events. I don’t consider this a negative, but in order for it not to become a negative, we must constantly remain active and aware.

Secondly, despite the more bleak moments of this year, there has never been a more important time to embrace the positives of the past year. For every hardship faced, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Love is all around us and sometimes where we least expect it. Spend extra time this new year remembering the things that brought you happiness in the past year. Hold them close, but share that light of happiness with others too. You might not know how much it’s needed.

First year of university: complete!

Many things changed since I decided to pack up my life and go to a school a thousand miles away from my hometown. In May, I officially finished my first year at the Rochester Institute of Technology, finishing the full year on dean’s list. Even though it was only a single year, the changes from my decision to make the move are incomparable. Rochester exposed me to amazing, brilliant people. I’m connected to organizations and groups based on my interests like I never imagined. My courses are challenging, but interesting. If there is anything I am appreciative of in 2016, it is for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me in Rochester.

Adventures into [email protected]

On 2016 Dec. 10th, the "FOSS Family" went to dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate the semester

On 2016 Dec. 10th, the “FOSS Family” went to dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate the semester

My involvement with the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community at RIT has grown exponentially since I began participating in 2015. I took my first course in the FOSS minor, Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software Development in spring 2016. In the following fall 2016 semester, I became the teaching assistant for the course. I helped show our community’s projects at Imagine RIT. I helped carry the RIT FOSS flag in California (more on that later). The [email protected] initiative was an influencing factor for my decision to attend RIT and continues to play an impact in my life as a student.

I eagerly look forward to future opportunities for the FOSS projects and initiatives at RIT to grow and expand. Bringing open source into more students’ hands excites me!

I <3 WiC

With a new schedule, the fall 2016 semester marked the beginning of my active involvement with the Women in Computing (WiC) program at RIT, as part of the Allies committee. Together with other members of the RIT community, we work together to find issues in our community, discuss them and share experiences, and find ways to grow the WiC mission: to promote the success and advancement of women in their academic and professional careers.

WiCHacks 2016 Opening CeremonyIn spring 2016, I participated as a volunteer for WiCHacks, the annual all-female hackathon hosted at RIT. My first experience with WiCHacks left me impressed by all the hard work by the organizers and the entire atmosphere and environment of the event. After participating as a volunteer, I knew I wanted to become more involved with the organization. Fortunately, fall 2016 enabled me to become more active and engaged with the community. Even though I will be unable to attend WiCHacks 2017, I hope to help support the event in any way I can.

Also, hey! If you’re a female high school or university student in the Rochester area (or willing to do some travel), you should seriously check this out!

Google Summer of Code

Google Summer of Code, abbreviated to GSoC, is an annual program run by Google every year. Google works with open source projects to offer stipends for them to pay students to work on projects over the summer. In a last-minute decision to apply, I was accepted as a contributing student to the Fedora Project. My proposal was to work within the Fedora Infrastructure team to help automate the WordPress platforms with Ansible. My mentor, Patrick Uiterwijk, provided much of the motivation for the proposal and worked with me throughout the summer as I began learning Ansible for the first time. Over the course of the summer, my learned knowledge began to turn into practical experience.

It would be unfair for a reflection to count successes but not failures. GSoC was one of the most challenging and stressful activities I’ve ever participated in. It was a complete learning experience for me. One area I noted that I needed to improve on was communication. My failing point was not regularly communicating what I was working through or stuck on with my mentor and the rest of the Fedora GSoC community. GSoC taught me the value of asking questions often when you’re stuck, especially in an online contribution format.

On the positive side, GSoC helped formally introduce me to Ansible, and to a lesser extent, the value of automation in operations work. My work in GSoC helped enable me to become a sponsored sysadmin of Fedora, where I mostly focus my time contributing to the Badges site. Additionally, my experience in GSoC helped me when interviewing for summer internships (also more on this later).

Google Summer of Code came with many ups and downs. But I made it and passed the program. I’m happy and fortunate to have received this opportunity from the Fedora Project and Google. I learned several valuable lessons that have and will impact going forward into my career. I look forward to participating either as a mentor or organizer for GSoC 2017 with the Fedora Project this year.

Flock 2016

Group photo of all Flock 2016 attendees outside of the conference venue (Photo courtesy of Joe Brockmeier)

Group photo of all Flock 2016 attendees outside of the conference venue (Photo courtesy of Joe Brockmeier)

Towards the end of summer, in the beginning of August, I was accepted as a speaker to the annual Fedora Project contributor conference, Flock. As a speaker, my travel and accommodation were sponsored to the event venue in Kraków, Poland.

Months after Flock, I am still incredibly grateful for receiving the opportunity to attend the conference. I am appreciative and thankful to Red Hat for helping cover my costs to attend, which is something I would never be able to do on my own. Outside of the real work and productivity that happened during the conference, I am happy to have mapped names to faces. I met incredible people from all corners of the world and have made new lifelong friends (who I was fortunate to see again in 2017)! Flock introduced me in-person to the diverse and brilliant community behind the Fedora Project. It is an experience that will stay with me forever.

To read a more in-depth analysis of my time in Poland, you can read my full write-up of Flock 2016.

To Kraków for Flock with Bee, Amita, Jona, and Giannis

On a bus to the Kraków city center with Bee Padalkar, Amita Sharma, Jona Azizaj, and Giannis Konstantinidis (left to right).

Maryland (Bitcamp), Massachusetts (HackMIT), California (MINECON)

Bitcamp 2016: The Fedora Ambassadors of Bitcamp 2016

The Fedora Ambassadors at Bitcamp 2016. Left to right: Chaoyi Zha (cydrobolt), Justin W. Flory (jflory7), Mike DePaulo (mikedep333), Corey Sheldon (linuxmodder)

2016 provided me the opportunity to explore various parts of my country. Throughout the year, I attended various conferences to represent the Fedora Project, the SpigotMC project, and the RIT open source community.

There are three distinct events that stand out in my memory. For the first time, I visited the University of Maryland for Bitcamp as a Fedora Ambassador. It also provided me an opportunity to see my nation’s capitol for the first time. I also visited Boston for the first time this year as well for HackMIT, MIT’s annual hackathon event. I also participated as a Fedora Ambassador and met brilliant students from around the country (and even the world, with one student I met flying in from India for the weekend).

"Team Ubuntu" shows off their project to Charles Profitt before the project deadline for HackMIT 2016

“Team Ubuntu” shows off their project to Charles Profitt before the project deadline for HackMIT 2016

Lastly, I also took my first journey to the US west coast for MINECON 2016, the annual Minecraft convention. I attended as a staff member of the SpigotMC project and a representative of the open source community at RIT.

All three of these events have their own event reports to go with them. More info and plenty of pictures are in the full reports.

Vermont 2016 with Matt

Shortly after I arrived, Matt Coutu took me around to see the sights and find coffee

Shortly after I arrived, Matt took me around to see the sights and find coffee.

Some trips happen without prior arrangements and planning. Sometimes, the best memories are made by not saying no. I remember the phone call with one of my closest friends, Matt Coutu, at some point in October. On a sudden whim, we planned my first visit to Vermont to visit him. Some of the things he told me to expect made me excited to explore Vermont! And then in the pre-dawn hours of November 4th, I made the trek out to Vermont to see him.

50 feet up into the air atop Spruce Mountain was colder than we expected

50 feet up into the air atop Spruce Mountain was colder than we expected.

Instantly when crossing over the state border, I knew this was one of the most beautiful states I ever visited. During the weekend, the two of us did things that I think only the two of us would enjoy. We climbed a snowy mountain to reach an abandoned fire watchtower, where we endured a mini blizzard. We walked through a city without a specific destination in mind, but to go wherever the moment took us.

We visited a quiet dirt road that led to a meditation house and cavern maintained by monks, where we meditated and drank in the experience. I wouldn’t classify the trip has a high-energy or engaging trip, but for me, it was one of the most enjoyable trips I’ve embarked on yet. There are many things that I still hold on to from that weekend for remembering or reflecting back on.

A big shout-out to Matt for always supporting me with everything I do and always being there when we need each other.

Martin Bridge may not be one of your top places to visit in Vermont, but if you keep going, you'll find a one-of-a-kind view

Martin Bridge may not be one of your top places to visit in Vermont, but if you keep going, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind view.

Finally seeing NYC with Nolski

Mike Nolan and Justin W. Flory venture through New York City early on a Sunday evening

Mike Nolan and I venture through New York City early on a Sunday evening

In no short time after the Vermont trip, I purchased tickets for my favorite band, El Ten Eleven, in New York City on November 12th. What turned into a one-day trip to see the band turned into an all-weekend trip to see the band, see New York City, and spend some time catching up with two of my favorite people, Mike Nolan (nolski) and Remy DeCausemaker (decause). During the weekend, I saw the World Trade Center memorial site for the first time, tried some amazing bagels, explored virtual reality in Samsung’s HQ, and got an exclusive inside look at the Giphy office.

This was my third time in New York City, but my first time to explore the city. Another shout-out goes to Mike for letting me crash on his couch and stealing his Sunday to walk through his metaphorical backyard. Hopefully it isn’t my last time to visit the city either!

Finalizing study abroad

This may be cheating since it was taken in 2017, but this is one of my favorite photos from Dubrovnik, Croatia so far

This may be cheating since it was taken in 2017, but this is one of my favorite photos from Dubrovnik, Croatia so far. You can find more like this on my 500px gallery!

At the end of 2016, I finalized a plan that was more than a year in the making. I applied and was accepted to study abroad at the Rochester Institute of Technology campus in Dubrovnik, Croatia. RIT has a few satellite campuses across the world: two in Croatia (Zagreb and Dubrovnik) and one in Dubai, UAE. In addition to being accepted, the university provided me a grant to further my education abroad. I am fortunate to have received this opportunity and can’t wait to spend the next few months of my life in Croatia. I am currently studying in Dubrovnik since January until the end of May.

During my time here, I will be taking 12 credit hours of courses. I am taking ISTE-230 (Introduction to Database and Data Modeling), ENGL-361 (Technical Writing), ENVS-150 (Ecology of the Dalmatian Coast), and lastly, FOOD-161 (Wines of the World). The last one was a fun one that I took for myself to try broadening my experiences while abroad.

Additionally, one of my personal goals for 2017 is to practice my photography skills. During my time abroad, I have created a gallery on 500px where I upload my top photos from every week. I welcome feedback and opinions about my pictures, and if you have criticism for how I can improve, I’d love to hear about it!

Accepting my first co-op

The last big break that I had in 2016 was accepting my first co-op position. Starting in June, I will be a Production Engineering Intern at Jump Trading, LLC. I started interviewing with Jump Trading in October and even had an on-site interview that brought me to their headquarters in Chicago at the beginning of December. After meeting the people and understanding the culture of the company, I am happy to accept a place at the team. I look forward to learning from some of the best in the industry and hope to contribute to some of the fascinating projects going on there.

From June until late August, I will be starting full-time at their Chicago office. If you are in the area or ever want to say hello, let me know and I’d be happy to grab coffee, once I figure out where all the best coffee shops in Chicago are!

In summary

2015 felt like a difficult year to follow, but 2016 exceeded my expectations. I acknowledge and I’m grateful for the opportunities this year presented to me. Most importantly, I am thankful for the people who have touched my life in a unique way. I met many new people and strengthened my friendships and bonds with many old faces too. All of the great things from the past year would not be possible without the influence, mentorship, guidance, friendship, and comradery these people have given me. My mission is to always pay it forward to others in any way that I can, so that others are able to experience the same opportunities (or better).

2017 is starting off hot and moving quickly, so I hope I can keep up! I can’t wait to see what this year brings and hope that I have the chance to meet more amazing people, and also meet many of my old friends again, wherever that may be.

Keep the FOSS flag high.

1 Comment

  1. 💯💯💯

    Rooting for you always jflory7

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