2016: A Retrospective

Vincent Danen

December 30, 2016

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this past year and all of its challenges and accomplishments, the moments of growth and clarity, the opportunities taken and the opportunities missed. I'm not one to get deeply personal in public, and won't get into a lot of the nitty gritty as I write this, but the end of a year is an opportunity to look back and do some self-reflection. I'm a firm believer that if you don't know where you came from, you'll have no idea where you're going. I've come to learn that perspective is key in a lot of things.

This has been a very interesting year for me, personally, and for my family. There has been a lot of stretching and a lot of growth. There have been some hard times and some really hard times, but there have been some awesome times as well. The security industry is probably going to note 2016 as the year of "the suck" (for a lot of really valid reasons!) and it would be easy for me to get sucked into the same doom-and-gloom point of view, especially when I consider all of the personal stuff this year brought. But I am an eternal optimist (although I've not always been so) and so I don't look at 2016 as "the suck" but "the stretching".

From a work perspective, this year has been challenging. At Red Hat we have been doing a lot of stuff, and within Product Security we have had a lot on our plate. The growth of branded high-visibility flaws has been a real challenge to manage. And manage it we did, sometimes not as well as we would have liked or hoped, but in the end we accomplished what we set out to. There were some really big projects (and a lot of little ones) that kept us busy with the aim of streamlining, enhancing, and strengthening the work that we do. This was incredibly challenging and I can honestly say that I don't think I've worked harder in my life than I have this year. This was a period of significant growth for me personally as well, and a lot of personality quirks needed to be dealt with. I absolutely need to thank the folks I work with for being some of the most awesome people on the planet. I have peers that are amazing and the folks that report to me... well, I would not want to work with anyone else. You guys blow my mind and you know who you are. If any of you wander across this and read it, know that I highly value each and every one of you!

I had the opportunity to go to the Czech Republic twice this year and meet with most of my guys and this is something I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm not a big fan of travel and it's quite the hike to get there, but again, I get to hang out with some awesome people and work on some amazing things. Hopefully I have the opportunity to head back again soon as I really enjoyed spending time with these guys and weekly video chats just don't cut it.

So work this year was hard but in the end, I'm glad it was hard. Strength through adversity and all that jazz right? Growing and learning. I've read a ridiculous number of management books this year and try to put these things into practice and with it comes a lot of uncomfortable self-examination. Things that are easy to ignore or overlook when you're doing purely technical work (which I don't anymore, in fact I don't seem to be doing much hands-on technical stuff at all anymore). These are, however, a critical mirror when you're dealing with people.

I also retired as the "IT guy" from the church this year which I've been doing on a regular basis for the last five years and an irregular as-needed basis for the five or so prior to. That was a huge change as well, but allowed me to focus on more important things like my work with Red Hat, my family, my work as a marriage counsellor and district pastor. Ultimately it gave me back a lot of time, so while that was a very hard decision to make, I'm glad for it.

On a non-work front, thirteen months ago we "adopted" a 17 year old and had her come and live with us. Her story is her's to tell, so I'm not going to get into the how or why she became part of the family, but suffice it to say this was one of those situations where God was clearly at work. Having a 17 year old come and live in our home (our daughter was 14 when she moved in) was one heck of a challenge. Everything was turned upside down as we adjusted to living with not just another person, but one we were responsible for and who needed us. And when I look back over the last thirteen months, I realize we needed her as well. Obviously not in the same ways, but she brought things to our home and our lives that caused us to stretch and grow. We live and think a certain way and our ways were not her ways and so there was a bit of a "culture clash" that caused all of us to grow and develop that under-used skill called perspective. She moved out a few days ago (she's 18 now) to make a go of life as an adult on her own (she calls it "adulting"). And while this is sad, it's also exciting. I'm excited to see what she does with her life. I'm excited to see if those late night conversations made a difference. I'm excited to see what comes of the foundational changes and opportunities God has given her, and He's given her plenty of both.

In 2015, God gave us a young lady to take care of but in 2016 He gave us a forever daughter and I'm immensely grateful for it.

Also this year I've been thinking a lot about my faith and service to Jesus Christ and what that means on not just a personal level, but a practical one as well. I've had the opportunity to speak at church on a variety of occasions in the last few years and I felt led to share some of that outside the confines of the church walls. And that's where the podcasts come in. I have no idea where they will go or what will happen with them, but I'm making and taking the time to speak to those who are interested in listening and whatever God wants to do with it is up to Him. I've written about my faith here and there in this blog, but now I'm going to speak about it as well. I don't plan on a particular cadence, but as things come up with counselling or things that I read, I'll be taking the time to talk about it, not just write about it. I think this is especially important in our day where a lot of Christians are going off the rails and are doing and saying things that are not in line with the Bible we profess to believe says to say or do. I don't think a lot of people who call themselves Christians read their "instruction manual" and find themselves in places they were never meant to go. So my hope is to bring some clarity to that confusion as well.

So, fair warning, if you're not interested in the Bible, you probably want to avoid the podcasts. =)

I could go on.. so much has happened this year. It has literally been a crazy year and looking back on it I'm amazed at just how much got jam-packed into 365 days. It seems like such a small amount (it's only 2.5% of my life or 5% of my productive adult life). Some people I know can't wait for 2016 to be over and done with (hang on! it ends tomorrow!) with almost a superstitious zeal that writing a 7 instead of a 6 will make everything magically better. 2017 will come with it's own challenges and opportunities for growth -- of that I am certain. Looking back on 2016... I'm grateful for the challenges and the opportunities. I am not the same man on Dec 30 as I was on Jan 1 and for that I am thankful. Zechariah 4:10 tells us not to despise the day of small beginnings, and if your beginnings seemed small in 2016, know that often they are the essential building blocks, foundation stones, to greater things in the future. We all start off small but we almost never end that way if we are committed to the growth process.

God bless and Happy New Year!

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