Every business owner around the world has to address the GDPR ( General Data Protection Regulation ) which becomes active on 25th May 2018. If your business is based in the EU or provides services to EU citizens ( even if your business is based outside of the EU ), then you have steps to take with your business to ensure every piece of customer data you hold and your processes in dealing with that data are compliant with GDPR.
The ICO website contains a wide range of extensive guides and documentation that distills this new Regulation into achievable and understandable actions that are required by every business that has to adhere to this new Regulation. To that end, I share a great 12 step guide to GDPR and links to relevant and useful resources.
It will be interesting to see how the landscape will look post 25th May 2018 and GDPR. I can only imagine the immense work and investment that has been required by corporations to adhere to this programme. Will they all do it correctly? Let’s see.
Moreover, let’s see how quickly we see claims being placed against businesses out there for non-GDPR compliance. I can imagine there are consumers out there as I write, sat in their ivory towers, poised, ready to lunge at the chance to claim what is reported to be potentially millions of pounds in compensation.
I am supporting my customers and helping them protect themselves from the acts of consumers trying to make a quick buck.
Public speaking is something that most of us dread and we’ve all heard that the fear of public speaking is placed higher than the fear of death. Somehow I wonder how public speaking can be worse than death, but I was certainly not one of the great people on our planet that have mastered the art. It is an art. So, I had a fear but I wanted to beat that. I had taken part in numerous elevator pitches over the years at networking events, but they are normally limited to a minute or two, so the challenge there is simply to condense your business description into a sentence or two.
Standing up and delivering a talk about a specific subject for 30+ minutes was something I always wanted to tackle and not just tackle but master. I have witnessed many fantastic talks and been in awe at times. I’ve also witnessed many terrible talks and sadly watched people fall apart ( which I wouldn’t wish on anyone ). Any person that has the courage to attempt to talk to an audience is a winner before they begin in my book.
There were decisions to be made, on what subject would I talk about, who to, when and how would I approach this?
What subject would I talk about then?
Now, there is public speaking to an audience and public speaking to an audience of peers. I’ve always disliked that word ‘peer’ but it’s relevant. Also dislike the word ‘eclectic’ as well but hey ho… no idea why just do!
I’m always up for a challenge, and I have faced a few in my life. I was challenged in my past by an ex, many times. They are ‘ex’, not for the reasons of the challenges ( ironically ), but I am sure the fact I faced them all and achieved them all wripped their narcissistic control apart and built up huge resentment. I was strong and faced my fears and didn’t fail. That must be torture for a control freak eh? Especially when one of the challenges was passing the PADI Open Water Scuba Diving qualification and completing a 30metre scuba dive. Yes, a huge challenge when I grew up with a fear of water, not helped by my Dad who used to leave me hanging onto the side of a swimming pool freezing to death ( there’s the death word again ). As a baby apparently I made it clear with my screaming that I hated the water, especially the sea and sand…but that didn’t matter, I wasn’t nurtured through it, just expected to deal with it and if I didn’t I was left to fend for myself. So I faced the PADI Scuba Diving challenge and won! Not easy, far from easy, in fact it was petrifying, but I beat it… maybe I will write another post about this very subject as their was a huge triumph in the achievement and the results of facing my fear saw me scuba dive in the Maldives… what a reward that was…
Then the next challenge was a sky dive… from 14,000ft… Yep, you guessed it, sorted that as well! Boom. Down I dropped… Here’s the photo to prove it.
Challenges are good… 3 Marathons under my belt as well… Paris, London and New York! Sorted. Boom. Numerous half marathons, 100 mile cycling sportives, 80 mile Exmoor Beast cycling challenges, 60 mile Dartmoor Classic and on the list goes… I am proud of the achievements and the medals that have come with it.
This challenge was equally as important, even though self inflicted! Well so were the Marathons to be honest, something I had always wanted to achieve…at least one marathon anyway. Public speaking, proper public speaking, not a networking elevator pitch! That doesn’t count in this challenge.
The first decision had to made and that was on the subject of the talk…
What could I talk about that I had enough knowledge and confidence in? I thought long and hard and whilst I know a lot about web development and WordPress, I felt I needed to ease into this, so a softer approach was going to be business related, I thought. Yes, that felt right.
Further thought brought me onto my business model and thinking that this subject would be perfect. It was a story after all, a story that had a good start, middle and end and one I knew a lot about and the reason for that was it was a result of another challenge… saving my business from going under. Simple as! I saved my business by creating a subscription business model for creating WordPress websites for customers. This all came about as a result of business changes and ‘emergencies’ as it were. That decision was made then… I will talk about my subscription business model and how it saved my business. This tied in beautifully with WordPress, after all WordPress was at the core ( pun intended ) of the subscription model. That then moved me onto…
Who would I talk to?
You know I like challenges yes? Yes, I made that clear for sure…With that in mind if the connection is WordPress and I need a challenge who would I talk to? Only a flippin’ WordPress Meetup, in London of all places! Why, would I do that? I live in Bristol and I haven’t ever give a ‘proper talk’ to anyone, let alone a room full of WordPress gurus! In London!
Bring in the awesome Gary Jones of Gamajo. Gary is a WordPress ninja, PHP ninja, in fact ninja of pretty much everything, with that there is a wonderful personality and zero ego. I first came across Gary when I bought his book on the Genesis framework. Then I became a WordCamp London Organiser and this guru is suddenly there in the same room. Then Gary becomes a friend, we all become friends in the WordPress community ( that’s why contributing, organising and volunteering in the Community is so rewarding ).
What happens? Gary calls me to ask “Mate, would you be up for speaking at the WordPress London Meetup?”… “Uh, uh, uh, uh” ( cough, splutter, choke, catch my breath ) “Yeah OK Gary, count me in” ( My knees were knocking right there and then I can tell you ).
Where would I begin. I knew this was going to be a challenge and I had to attack as I have everything else… with courage ( even with the fear ) and do my best to prepare. Preparation is absolutely the most important aspect of any challenge. You don’t have to be good at something, but if you haven’t prepared you will not only fail, but your fear is increased as a result. Fear lessens the more familiar you are with something.
Saying that, how do you prepare for a 14,000ft skydive or scuba diving to 30metres? Well they still prepare you to a degree. In the skydive we had classroom tuition on at least how your body is supposed to be positioned as you drop and how to lift your feet for landing so that you don’t break your legs. Scuba diving is prepared for initially in the shallow end of a swimming pool and then into the deep end, then out to a quarry and then into the opening of the Cornish Sea, before you qualify and are let loose in the ocean. It makes sense eh? No wonder the limited amount of preparation for a skydive adds to the fear and tension. I have never attempted a bunji jump ( my gorgeous Fiance has ) but that has to be even worse, no preparation at all right? Just jump!
At least with public speaking you have the chance to prepare, prepare, prepare… there is no excuse not to prepare. So that’s what I began with. The preparation.
I now knew what I was talking about and who to. The first part of my preparation was to plan out the talk, with a beginning, middle and end. I knew I had 35 minutes to talk ( how was I going to fill that up? ), that put fear in me alone. But here was the first lesson in preparation and planning… I wrote out what I felt would be a good start, covering the major points and then ran through it to get a rough time count… which came in at 40 minutes and still had a tonne to get through. Wow. Major editing and thought required.
Had I not prepared with planning the content I would have fallen flat on my face as the message wouldn’t have been delivered, but not only that, the anxiety of realising I had too much content as I was speaking would have rammed my face into the ground even harder!
Major editing done I was already feeling more confident, so the preparation continued, into creating the presentation itself. I’d read some books on the subject and with my design expertise made sure the slides created were interesting and legible… job done.
With a smart looking deck of slides it was now time for the weird part, well it felt weird to me… as they say in Dragon’s Den… “Talk to the wall”. Which is what I did. Keynote has a great ‘rehearsal’ mode which I tried, but it was really odd! The whole thing weird. But I knew it had to be done. It get’s you used to the sound of your own voice, work on the pitch of your voice and removing the monotoneness ( is that a word? ) ;-)… the last thing I wanted to do was give a boring delivery that puts people to sleep.
I am used to rehearsal being a drummer but also used to drumming with bands without rehearsal, but that confidence only comes with years of practice, or in other words, preparation. Rehearsing was an odd experience and I restarted many times, tripped myself up many times, but allowed me to make mistakes in the privacy of my house, not in front of a room full of WordPress friends. Each rehearsal became easier and I started to feel more confident and felt the benefit of the preparation. I got to a point where I was as ready as I will ever be… then I tapered! What is that you ask? Well if you are a runner you will know exactly what that is, especially a long distance runner. You can overtrain and over practice, I have known people to do both! So I got to a point where I felt confident enough and gave myself a rest from the stress and decided I would perform one rehearsal on the morning of the talk.
Like running, you can complete a short run the morning of the race to warm up, just enough!
The big day
So we were there, the day of reckoning. I travelled to London to meet my partner in crime and great friend Paul Smart ( whom is part of the WordCamp London Design Team ). Paul is a regular at the WordPress London meetup, so was great to see a familiar face. We grabbed a beer and a burger across the road from the venue, but I kept it to one! Calm the nerves yes, but not affect my performance ( oooh err Mrs )… needed my wits about me of course.
It didn’t help that I was speaking last, but I sat and tried to relax and just get myself into the zone.
The time came, break finished and I am there, standing, ready to perform. Just like with my drumming I get into the zone and give my best when behind the kit. With my running, I listen to music when I train ( to relieve the boredom ) but for the race I leave the music behind. That puts me into ‘performance mode’. So here I was and running through the start of the presentation in my head and remembering to swallow, pause and not begin speaking faster… plus work on my monotoness ( there’s that non-word again )…
So how did it go? I am pleased to say it was as good as it could have been. There was some ‘cotton mouth’ a few minutes in, but with a swig of my beer ‘what a great meetup having beers on tap’ and a ‘Cheers’ I seemed to settle into it and it flowed as well as it could. I performed as well as I could for the first major talk given. I ended my talk pretty much bang on time and then received an unexpected amount of questions, so that really pleased me, as technically I had come across OK and the audience took in my message and were interested enough to want to know more. I was really pleased with the result.
All my preparation had worked for me. That was a proud moment. We all visited the local pub after the event for a few drinks ( their meetup ritual ) and I did stand there and give myself a hypothetical pat on the back. Another fear had been faced, challenged and beaten. Well, I knew I could have done better and there are bigger public speaking challenges ahead. But, to have delivered over 35 minutes to a room full of WordPress friends was the first challenge met, in my book.
Then, it will be into planning another subject for a different talk, different audience maybe, different place for sure. I have one major goal though and that is to speak at a WordCamp somewhere…Watch this space.
So for all of my friends out there who fancy giving public speaking a go, please do! It’s a challenge yes, nerve wracking yes, takes time to prepare for, yes, raises your confidence, yes and inspires others to do the same? I do hope so.
It’s been a struggle at times, not for the want of trying though. As a self taught coder of XHTML and CSS way back in the good ol’ days of WYSIWYG Dreamweaver the bug and excitement for learning more has grown exponentially ever since.
Even though I come from a graphic design background ( way before tech ( I am not just pre-tech I am pre-historic clearly ) my day to day activity involved marker pens / paper and print. The move to coding was and is unbeatable. Part of that attraction I am sure is the difficulty and challenge it brings to learn this wonderful world of web development, with so many choices of language, frameworks, front-end, back-end, devops, UX and on and on.
The journey so far
I saw something and couldn’t wait for it to launch
WordPress began to move in all the right directions towards becoming more than a simple blogging platform. All of a sudden we saw development roadmaps that were decoupling the component of WordPress and allowing for incredible functionality into the future. It was becoming even more attractive and even more exciting.
If there was ever going to be a frustration, it was the fact I was moving through the course quicker than Zac could publish his new content. Being such a sought after educator and developer it was clear that Zac’s ambitious road map for the course had to deviate a little, but all for good reason. Success breeds success eh?
I wish my cashflow had been healthier at the time …
…as I would have taken part in Human Made’s ‘A Week Of REST’ last year. Knowing Zac was there as a tutor made the event for me but nah, just couldn’t afford it sadly.
But the best was yet to come!
I mustn’t ever forget I am a designer first and foremost and classed myself as a frustrated developer in the past whilst Imposter Syndrome had fun with me. Those days are gone ( there’s another blog post in there somewhere ) so I am now a fully fledged ‘Developer with design skills’. I like that. It feels and sounds good. I am qualified!
Now I will make this perfectly clear, I am in absolutely no way affiliated with Zac, I am not receiving any type of commission of incentive for this review / post about Zac and his teachings / courses. I am purely wanting to ‘big up’ this great man who has an incredibly natural way of teaching. Zac has a natural and accessible way of making you feel valued and capable in what you are learning and achieving. I believe in credit where it is due, Zac deserves the credit and I also believe there are many many ‘designers’ out there that may feel overwhelmed or not worthy of moving into the world of web development and could benefit from reading this summary.
So where now?
My next stop is the next check in with Zac and our Cohort next Monday, as much time as I can manage ( around my business, life and my commitment to being Design Lead for WordCamp London 2018 ) working through the rest of the course. I really look forward to the next video session and discussing progress as a group. Hearing my fellow JS students also making progress spurs me on further. We are all in this together.
As I gain more confidence in my JS ability I will share more technical views and findings in my website. The ultimate goal here is to develop a Weblake JS app of some kind and that will happen I know, because I have the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm there in buckets.
I believe Zac has another enrollment coming soon for a Master Course Cohort. Absolutely do yourself a favour and invest in this fantastic programme. Please do reach out on this website or via Twitter if you want to ask me more privately. No strings. No commission, just thanks and admiration to Zac and his ‘infectious way’. All JS credit where it’s due. Thank you Zac for making this journey so damn exciting and enjoyable. So much learning and hunger for more!
I had been using Sage for a few years, preceeding this with the manual spreadsheet route. The benefits of using a professional ‘grown up’ product were evident. The setup and learning curve took some time but it helped me keep an eye on the business finances, until…
The disaster of wanting to move to the cloud
I am still to this day flabbergasted at the response I received when I called Sage to enquire about moving the business accounts from the desktop version of Sage Instant Accounts to the ‘cloud’ equivelant. I naturally questioned ( to be safe ) that I could easily migrate my years of accounts data to the new ‘cloud’ platform. After all I had received numerous direct mail campaigns and email campaigns with incentives to drop my desktop software for their new all bells and whistle ‘cloud’ solution.
So I called the sales team provided by Sage and asked the very question. “So I presume that I can migrate my Instant Accounts data from my desktop database to a new cloud install?”.
The answer from the Sage sales agent was… are you sitting down?
“I am afraid that isn’t possible!”
I won’t put into words my verbal response at that time or will I be able to recall the milliseconds it took to put the phone down and never ever give Sage a second of my attention again. I’m still in shock that a business selling the ‘so-called’ benefits of moving from a desktop software product to the same company’s ‘cloud’ equivilent had no process in place or any ability to provide the customer with a seamless and efficient shift from one to the other. Instead Sage fell over, never to stand in frof of me again, especially because…
A competitor of Sage to the rescue
It is really impressive when a competitor of the software you have been using, the same business that had no method of migrating my desktop data to their ‘cloud’ product can actually do the very migration you wanted, but into their product.
Xero is a new kid on the block in the ‘cloud’ accounting world, but wow, have they got it right. I was actually able to use the database from my Sage Instant Accounts install and process this through a migration tool and have my new Xero online account setup with the last 2 years of accounting. Now that is slick. What was even more slick was that it worked beautifully, just like the product in general does.
What a product. Xero is the business!
No more manual entering of transaction after transaction into the software, saving hours and hours and hours. Xero provides a live bank feed which is a sinch to update and provides the software with all the business transactions, ready for reconciling and reporting.
If you are looking for an accounting system or considering Xero I cannot recommend this software highly enough. Everything about it is superb, even down to the payroll.
Keeping on top of the business finances has become enjoyable thanks to Xero. Now who would have thought?
I had only ever worked with Windows when I moved Weblake into specialising in WordPress. This was a move that had transpired from my hitting rock bottom. The business was failing due to historical customers either going out of business or being acquired. The worst case scenario though was Weblake’s largest customer ( an agency who had become around 80% of the business revenue ( yes, yes, yes a bad place to be I knew that )) were also on the way out. They employed a ‘Digital Producer’ and I knew my days were numbered. It was the kick up the rear I needed really but it’s frightening I can tell you. But it also hurts ( a lot ) when that company that you pretty much were a permanent part of, moved mountains for and other customers projects aside for, don’t so much as give you a second of explanation or warning. Nothing, no compassion or any type of loyalty, thanks or forewarning. It taught me a huge lesson and one never to be repeated.
The first WordPress project
The first development project for me using WordPress was for a brand new customer and a customer that knew exactly what they wanted. And being in tech themselves knew a good performing website, more than the average user.
Something wasn’t working on Windows though. This was like watching paint dry, even though FastCGI was being implemented. "I wonder about Linux. Everyone in open source seems to use Linux but I know nothing about it. It might be time to learn".
So that’s what I did. Set out to self learn this new technology ( to me anyway ) and spent the next week dedicated to learning Ubuntu, command line and bash scripting. It didn’t take me long to realise I was working with something that left Windows in the dark for WordPress performance. It was one of those "…damn, I wish I had looked into this years ago". It’s never too late though eh?
I really can’t see myself working with Windows technology again. The beauty of Linux and the command line, the control, the solidity, the community and the sheer performance of the Linux OS is just wonderful.
If you are reading this and have never tried the open source Linux OS take my word for it, you will never look back. It’s a little steep in terms of learning but once you begin to understand the mechanics it’s a joy to use and administer.
So where now?
Whilst my initial move into Linux was based around Ubuntu and Apache, my next move will be into the world of Nginx. My research suggests that Nginx leaves Apache standing. For web performance Nginx seems to be light years ahead of Apache, so that is where I am heading…