Experienced analyst looking to make use of IT skills in a new role.
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2021

Nov 27, 2021
Nov 27, 2021
Having completed the Python bootcamp I had been studying, I have been keen to put what I have learned into practice and to code something from scratch, just starting from an idea. I wanted to make something practical, something that someone else could use and find benefit from, but also something that I could evolve at a later date

Although I appreciate that passwords are an evolving science, I decided to make a password generator. Passwords are still in use and people are encouraged to use long secure passwords.

I started with a list of things I wanted the tool to do:

  1. Be accessible from a desktop shortcut – this would writing a small Bash script that could be triggered from a shortcut.
  2. Generate a password of 10 characters, using a random mix of lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, and punctuation marks.
  3. Display that to the user so that they can use it and make a record of it – users may wish to copy it into a website to set up an account.
  4. After a period of time, erase that record – I deliberately decided to not ask the user given a purpose for the password, but having made a note of it, I wanted to make sure that any record the tool makes is temporary.


I started with the Python code, creating a pool of characters and a function that would generate a list of 10 random characters and pass it to a text file. This file would then open, displaying explanatory text, the password, and confirming the file would be erased. Text files are simple and lightweight, have no complicated UI, and allow the user to copy the text with ease. I then wrote a second function in a separate .py file that would erase the text file after 30 minutes.

Next up was a Bash script that would fire the first function, wait for that to run, and then fire the second function. Although I tested the functions separately, pulling them together was key. Of greater concern was the delay between the two. I needed to make sure it was slow enough to work correctly, but fast enough for a good user experience. With that working, I created a simple .desktop file with a creative commons icon (altered slightly).

It works really well and I am really pleased with it. I do still want to refine it further and learn for myself how to package it as a .deb file for easier installation.
Nov 20, 2021
Nov 20, 2021
One of the key goals of taking a career break was to learn how to code through a structured course. I am therefore very pleased to announce that I have completed a Python bootcamp!

For all that I have done, I have had very little experience with pure code, it has always been a bit beyond me. I came close to learning some Visual Basic many years ago, but at the time there was nothing I could have done with it that I could not have done through other means. I have cobbled together a few Bash scripts and some web extensions, but nothing really substantial.

As part of a pivot to a more tech-based role, I thought it only right that I use this opportunity to learn a coding language. I might never ever need it, but I would feel uncomfortable working alongside those who can code without it, and it will hopefully open me up to more exciting roles in the future.

I decided to learn Python for several reasons. It is reportedly straightforward for a beginner to pick up. It is used in many different ways from AI to the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Looking at samples of the code beforehand, even if I did not know the details, I could get a feel for what it was doing.

Studying has not been easy but as a result of that, it has felt very rewarding. The main tool I was using was Project Juypter and notebook files, but due to me using the Snap version, some libraries would not install.  Juypter is a great tool (using that has been very educational in itself), but when I had a problem I switched over to VS Code and in one example I found an option that had greater automation than the solution.

This course has certainly been a good use of my time. I have learned how to code in Python, something that sharpens my tech skill set.
Oct 03, 2021
Oct 03, 2021
 Of all the events I have volunteered at, the biggest by far has been the London Marathon. I have been in a Deputy Sector Manager (or near equivalent role) since 2009 looking after three miles of the route. 40,000 participants over 26.2 miles of the world's biggest cities, it is an epic undertaking.

As with any event, planning is important. My role is mobile, so I need to make sure I have everything with me that I could need, but at the same time not left encumbered by too much. I also need (working with the Sector Manager) to make sure that we have a plan in place for the day as the more that we prepare for, the better able we are to rapidly adjust on the day to “surprises” as they occur.

London on Marathon weekend is an extra special place to be. Maybe it is the blue line on the road, the barriers stacked up ready to be deployed, maybe it is the road closure signs heralding what is to come. More probably it is the influx (understandably muted this year) of runners, supporters, spectators and charities.

The day is long and hard work, but having runners (proudly wearing medals) say thank you as you are on your way home makes it very worthwhile.
Sep 22, 2021
Sep 22, 2021
Attended an industry event
 Attending tech conferences is something that I have found really helps improve and enhance knowledge of the industry and learn about new tools and technology. Having been sure to check their Covid rules beforehand (and wearing a mask throughout), I went to the Blueprint LDN event (co-located with Big Data LDN). It was great to be among people that are wanting to move things forwards, to look at how AI and automation improve processes and operational rigour.

Some of the sessions of interest:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JklWTZ4E8vw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JklWTZ4E8vw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0Gkg1-VJb8

I also came away with a desire to learn more about Docker and platforms such as Kubernetes and Rancher.

It was certainly a good use of my time to attend and I hope they grow the event next year.
Aug 22, 2021
Aug 22, 2021
Outside of contributing to Mozilla, I am a volunteer with London Marathon Events, something that I have understandably not been able to do recently. It was therefore really exciting to be back on the streets of London for the Big Half, a half marathon that covers part of the famous London Marathon route, but in reverse.

My role on the day is a Deputy Sector Manager, looking after roughly three miles of the route with 60 volunteers and reporting to the Sector Manager so I have a fair bit of responsibility on the day. That the event is run on the streets of London brings added focus as well, both in making sure that the event is a success and that it is safe for the participants, spectators, and the volunteers under me.

Above me in the structure is a Sector Manager, and I was fortunate to work with someone I have worked with before. That teamwork on the day is crucial, they need to have confidence in me and I need to be able to escalate issues up. We need to be able to split the work covering the sector and communicate about any issues that we are resolving. We also need to make friends with the volunteers working for us in our area fast, to build a sense of team with a shared goal for the day.

The day itself went really well, and given that it normally takes place towards the start of the year, to be doing it in warmer weather made a nice change. Under the circumstances, the reduced spectator volumes were a good thing, but it was great to see so many people that have been trapped indoors for so long getting out and running to meet personal and charitable goals. My day was made up of making sure people got medical attention, resolving vehicle movements, and making sure that participants, supporters, and volunteers had a good safe day. 

It was busy and hard work, constantly reassessing priorities and communicating with a range of people, but with over a year since my last event, it was great to be back.
Jun 12, 2021
Jun 12, 2021
Power automate
My role has two sides to it, a core part of responding to customer data requests to maintain compliance with GDPR and a secondary role building automated tools. It was on Tuesday, with a clear plan for the week focussed on the core role, that I was asked to drop everything to get three distinct tools finished...in just three days.


With little notice, I started clearing the desk of business as usual activities, ready for a challenge which I was really looking forwards to. The three tools in question were all half-built, but all needed considerable time to complete. Freed from any distractions, I could just focus on getting them done.


First up was a tool for categorising and approving business risks. The user would complete a Microsoft 365 Form and a Power Automate flow would manage multiple approvals, updating a SharePoint list as it went and publishing the results to either an email or to a Word document. As Power Automate only allows a number of nested levels, I had split the flow into smaller elements to work around the limitation. I had to fix some outstanding issues, make sure that the tool worked, before splitting out various elements that needed to be duplicated (saving time by fixing issues before duplicating them).


Next up was a tool to help project managers record Data Protection Impact Assessments. I had already built (in Power Automate) and tested the logic that would determine which form a user would need to complete, I next had to rebuild the Flows that would take the details on that second form and complete specific Word documents. Hard work on a small screen, but I managed a near-complete rebuild of the functions that produced the documents.


Those done, I switched again to building the companies policy library. Every major company has documents that make legislation and regulation work at an operational level, but with an increasing number of documents, we needed to better organise them. This was a much simpler task working with SharePoint to store the documents and creating a much easier to navigate front end in our Unily-based intranet.


Three very different tools, in three days. I am so happy with the end result and how both individually and together they will improve business processes.
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