2021 All Wrapped Up

Well, here we are again. 2021 is almost over, and as usual, I have no idea where it went. I know I’ve worked hard and achieved a lot, but time seems to go very fast lately.

I read a lot of books

First up, books! I got through a fair number of books in 2021. Here’s the list, along with why you should read them too.

  • The Timeless Way of Building was arguably one of my favourite books this year. It was one of those books that managed to take my gut feeling about several “house-y things” and tell me why I felt the way I did. This book is for you, even if you’re not particularly interested in architecture. It might ignite a passion in you, as it did me, and give you a whole new way of viewing your house and home.
  • Predictably Irrational is the perfect book if you’re looking for an insight into your brain. You might not like what you find out, however. It’s changed how I view my behaviours, and I’d like to think it made me more self-aware. Then again.
  • A Mind of its Own is a fascinating read about our self-delusions. It’s not entirely comfortable, especially when you realise you’ve been kidding yourself all these years (and probably will continue to do so).
  • Yes please was a delightful read. I often think it’s easy to look at famous people and miss all the hard work that went in before seeing them on stage/tv. This book is brutally honest and open; it made me laugh and cry in the same sitting.
  • Woman & Power is for you if you’ve ever wondered (and frankly you should) about the roots of misogyny; this book is a must-read. It’s enlightening and depressing all in one. Read this book, then ask yourself how much longer must we wait?
  • Show Your Work is about learning to step out from the shadows. Also, since we’re here, please remember that good work does not speak for itself. You’ve been lied to. This book is an excellent read for everyone who wants to show their work professionally or personally.
  • Everybody Writes was such a good book. We’re not born good at writing, but we can learn and improve. So read this book if you do any writing and embrace TUFD (The Ugly First Draft)!
  • Thinking in Systems: A Primer was a book that I didn’t have any expectations of. I’ve found it quite hard going at times, but it will completely change and re-frame how you look at the world. I have a much better understanding of why things happen now and perhaps the smallest of grasps on the systems around me and their impact. This book will reframe your view of the world and add a lot of understanding to the systems you interact with.
  • Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy is my current read. Of course, this means that soon we will become puppy parents. This book is doing an excellent job of training me to look after the family addition. I’m pretty sure it’s going to eat my shoes, books, post and anything else I accidentally leave at its height. Of course, it’s all going to be my fault when it does because they are “legal chew toys”!

I moved house

A lot has changed since we bought our old house back in 2014. We have both changed jobs and moved to remote working in part due to the type of job and in part due to the pandemic. We embarked on the journey of moving house in September 2020, had an offer accepted on our old house in November 2020 and moved in our new house in March 2021. It was four months of packing, stress, anxiety and then happiness. I don’t intend to repeat it any time soon, but I have no regrets about doing it. If you also moved house in the pandemic, remote high-five coming your way! One day I’ll manage to finish unpacking, today is not that day, tomorrow doesn’t look good either.

I changed jobs

2021 was a year of change! After almost 18 months at JetBrains, I accepted a role at MongoDB as a Keynote Storyteller. I’ve been there three weeks now, and it’s been a whirlwind already! I spent my first week in New York, which was awesome because I met my new team members in person, something that isn’t a given with remote working. Covid-19 brand Omicron has since ramped up, so I’m very grateful to be home now with good memories and lots to do!

Of course, this also meant that I got on a long haul flight for the first time in over two years. That part was stressful; the outbound and inbound requirements and resulting paperwork for Covid-19 took time and effort, probably because I checked it at least 8 times both ways.

Related to this, I also managed to move beyond the free tier for my Amazon S3 bucket of blog post images. This means that there was a lot of traffic to my site. Four thousand of you in fact came to check out my blog post for my last day at JetBrains. Can I get a hug, please?

I migrated my website

I’ve been procrastinating about this since February 2020. My site was hosted on SquareSpace and I was quite convinced that I didn’t know enough front-end web development to move it to WordPress, despite also recognising that I wanted it on WordPress because it’s a lot more configurable and cheaper. I was also struggling with my blogs as I tend to write them in markdown in IntelliJ IDEA and SquareSpace is not great at supporting markdown. So this festive holiday I decided to just bite the bullet and get on with it. After 2 days and only one exceptionally large gin when I misconfigured something and lost a bunch of stuff (no I didn’t have a backup and yes I should have had a backup) – welcome to my new WordPress site! I still need to untangle my blog post categories and tags, perhaps I’ll do that now. Also, it’s amazing the lengths I will go to to avoid writing my new talk. 

I’m co-authoring two books

I can finally announce that I’m working on a book with Trisha Gee called Getting To Know IntelliJ IDEA! I’m going to put this blog post down in a bit and work on it some more. It’s an absolute pleasure to work alongside Trisha and continue to advocate for users with the product. I still love working with IntelliJ IDEA even though I no longer work at JetBrains; there are not many products I can say that about!

But wait, there’s more! I can also share because it’s now public that I’m working with Daniel Terhorst-North on his book Software Faster. Daniel has a wonderful way of looking at life and the challenges throughout it. I’m honoured to be a part of this project and learn from Daniel. The book list above includes recommendations from Daniel too.


In summary, it’s been a year of change and growth. It’s been jam-packed, which is how I like it. As I look to 2022, I’m excited about contributing to MongoDB World 2022, book prospects, and continuing to share what I hope will be great content with the community. In addition, I’m building out a new talk that I’m excited about! I should probably apologise now for the shameless use of David Bowie lyrics. Right, time to chill a bottle of bubbly for the New Year!

It’s My Last Day at JetBrains

I’m leaving my role as a Java Developer Advocate at JetBrains today, Friday 3rd December 2021. I start my next adventure soon, but before I do, I want to recognise those I’ve worked with as well as my achievements!

My Team

First and most importantly, my team. Trisha Gee leads the team and is my sponsor, mentor and friend. I have learned an incredible amount from her, including being kinder to myself and how to prioritise my efforts. Trisha also steered me towards public speaking and has been my biggest cheerleader in that department. Working alongside Trisha has been an incredible opportunity and privilege that I’ll cherish forever.

I can remember being incredibly excited when I first met Mala Gupta. I was totally in awe of her, and I still am. Mala embraced what I brought to the table; the skills and the fears. Mala challenged me on several occasions in the kindest way possible. I’m forever thankful to her for that. It’s because of what Mala has taught me and the feedback she’s given me that I push myself even further out of my comfort zone, repeatedly!

Dalia Abo Sheasha helped me to recognise that it wasn’t just me who struggled with code at times – everyone does. She also taught me how to walk away and come back to something troubling me, something I have often struggled with. Dalia always treated me as her equal on the Java front, despite my lack of real-world experience. She always let me find my own way when we were solving a problem and patiently listened to all my thoughts. Dalia is the reason I’m more confident writing code than I’ve ever been.


The Java community have been incredibly helpful and supportive throughout my time at JetBrains. If you’ve read any of my blogs, watched any of my videos or tuned in to a live stream – thank you!

To those of you who collaborated with me on projects, are lurking in my Twitter inbox, sent me some messages of support and encouragement, gave me a platform, supported me through a new process, offered me opportunities, chatted with me in any number of Slack organisations(!), or connected me with even more amazing people – thank you!


I’ve done a lot at JetBrains; here’s a whirlwind tour! Of course, I can’t list everything, but I’ve hand-picked my favourite highlights from my time at JetBrains.

  • Straight after I started in August-September I wrote ten blogs for the JetBrains Technology day for Java.

JetBrains Technology Day for Java

foojay Multiple Carets Blog

  • December is not only Christmas, but I also crafted this 3 Ways to Refactor Your Code in IntelliJ IDEA, one of my favourite blogs. December also was home to this screencast on the New Project Wizard in IntelliJ IDEA – my top-performing video!
  • Phew, here comes January! I stepped back from the public content creation and focussed on creating content for the IntelliJ Guide. I also started drafting my new talk Writing Code is Easy, Being a Great Developer is Hard.
  • In February, we held our IntelliJ IDEA Conference to celebrate IntelliJ IDEA turning 20!

IntelliJ IDEA Guide

JLove Conference

  • July was home to was more talk preparation and conference efforts, including being part of the program committee for Devoxx UK.
  • As I look at August I’m reminded that for the past year I’ve produced the vast majority of the tip tweets you see on the IntelliJ IDEA Twitter handle – that’s me!
  • In September, I hosted one of our Coffee Club episodes – Staying Ahead of the Curve and I started crafting what has become Helen’s Take On videos.
  • I’m not sure what happened in October, but mostly it was more video recording and conferences!
  • I spoke at Devoxx UK in early November.

Devoxx UK Conference

And since then, I’ve been wrapping up my time at JetBrains, culminating in the blog post that you’re now reading!


I’m very fond of the 16 months I spent at JetBrains, and I’m honoured to have worked with some of the smartest people I know. Beyond my immediate team, I got to work in the broader team full of talented developer advocates who never hesitated to help me or answer my endless questions.

To name check but a few… Marco – thank you for all the Spring and Spring Boot help, I learned so much from you. Paul – thank you for listening to me as I brought the IntelliJ IDEA Guide to life, I could not have done it without you (and I’m sorry for beating on Gatsby so much). Maarten for bailing me out of my Git holes on more than one occasion and generally being an all round sane voice! Rachel for teaching me some fundamentals that had totally passed me by and also for being a lovely friendly person to chat to right from the start. Nafiul for teaching me more about audio than I thought there was to know and demoing it. Shengyou for helping me to understand our broader audiences and for working so tirelessly on translations. Khalid for helping me on my website and co-authoring a blog with me. Matt for being my buddy in the UK when a rant was required about something country-specific! Yann for helping me to understand aspects of the plugin ecosystem. And finally, Hadi, firstly because he’ll be upset if I don’t mention him, but more importantly, for being super supportive at all times. I haven’t name-checked everyone (sorry), but in summary, you’re all awesome and I’ve loved working with you!

It’s been a really enjoyable time, and as I move on to my next adventure, I have great memories of this role and for all those I interacted with directly and indirectly.