2017 Year in Review

31 December 2017 | 0 Comments

I have a confession. I’m a procrastinator. Like, huge. I need to feel the pressure of a deadline or some other external motivation to get a task done, and I will usually leave it until the last possible moment. So here we are, on the last day of 2017, and I’m doing my annual reflection. It’s a Sunday morning, I’m in my jammies and slippers with a coffee while Clara watches cartoons and it’s snowy and cold outside. A fairly normal weekend morning in our house.

When I think back to where I was this time in 2016, I’m amazed at what a difference a year makes. I was in a low spot at the end of 2016, mostly because I was in that gross place in the middle of a big transition where things are unclear and confusing and messy and scary. I was moving away from my web design business (although it took me another whole 8 months to properly shut it down). Camp Tech’s Vancouver location needed big changes to be profitable, and we were having serious issues with our office location in Toronto. At the same time, Ian was on jury duty for a first-degree murder trial, and we weren’t supposed to talk about it. Overall, it was a super stressful period.

2017 was a shit year for our society, civilization and culture. I’ve spent so much time being angry and outraged, shocked and sad. That emotional and psychological stress takes its toll on all of us. We’re all so tired. Nevertheless, we persevere. Despite Trump and #metoo and natural disasters, I had a good year in 2017, personally and professionally.

Best Moments

Stopping work as a web designer

I’ve been a freelance web designer for 10 years. It’s the job that sustained me financially while building Camp Tech. But in 2017 I realized it was time to leave web design behind. I thought about what kind of work I want to do in the world, and what value and meaning I can bring to people. I care about the impact of my work, and did a lot of soul searching to figure out the best way for me to have the most effect.

When I thought about the work I do with website clients, and my favourite parts of the projects (which are also the parts I’m best at), I realized that the actual designing wasn’t it. While I’m not a horrible designer, sketching layouts and developing visual assets isn’t my strongest skill. I’m better at strategy and communication, and that’s where I bring the most value to a website project.

Of course, old habits die hard and it took me the better part of the year to stop accepting web design gigs. I’m now happy to say that I only take on contracts as a web advisor and digital consultant, which allows me to do my best work (and also have time and energy for Camp Tech and my media gigs).


Gather North

I hosted the third annual Gather North professional getaway for women in tech in November. This year I held it at the Chateau Montebello in Quebec, and it was magical. The huge fireplace and cozy lodge feel was perfect for our conference, and the speakers blew us away. I love the Gather North community, and how we support and inspire each other.


Clara loves school

I couldn’t do everything I do professionally if my home life wasn’t great. A big part of that is making sure Clara is thriving in her world, and she totally is! She learned to read in 2017, and moved from kindergarten to grade one in September. She loves her school, teacher and classmates and is happy and challenged. It is a huge relief for us as parents, and makes us so proud.


Speaking at Creative Mornings

I’m a longtime fan of Creative Mornings (the free breakfast lecture series that happens in hundreds of cities worldwide). When the opportunity came to speak at Toronto’s Creative Mornings chapter this year, I was beyond honoured and also terrified. A friend said, “Avery, you regularly appear on live network television with a lot of people watching. Why does speaking at Creative Mornings freak you out?” and I realized it was because it mattered so much to me. I love the Creative Mornings community and wanted to do well by them. I spent months preparing a 25 minute talk on Compassion and Computing, including my thoughts and concerns about how technology is designed and made for humans. I was nervous as all hell, but I think the talk went really well. It will be online for you to watch soon.


Covering the Apple Event for CTV

As a tech correspondent for CTV, I get to attend some pretty cool tech events. Hands down, the best one in 2017 was the iPhone X press announcement at the new Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Park (in Cupertino, California). It was my first experience reporting live in the field for Your Morning (I previously had only done in-studio appearances on the morning show). Being one of the first in the world to be on-site at Apple Park, and standing in the press box overlooking the Steve Jobs theatre while the sun came up was a surreal moment for me. Yes, it’s nerdy and dorky but my inner fangirl was screaming with excitement.


A special weekend with family

Many members of my family are gone, so it’s important to me to spend special time with family while I can. In September my sister, Dad and I flew to Florida for a weekend to catch up with our beloved great Aunt, and other members of our American family. We almost didn’t make it due to logistics and a hurricane, but the stars aligned and all worked out. I’m so so glad we had that time together.


Developing and teaching the Digital Transformation Program for Small Business

Camp Tech was contracted by the City of Toronto/Digital Main Street to develop and deliver an 8-week digital skills training program for small business owners. Those in attendance learned about different options for using technology to enhance their businesses, and then completed a Digital Transformation Plan for how they’d like to implement what they learned. Those that finished the training successfully received a $2500 grant to put towards their plan.

I devised the curriculum for the program myself, and taught the first two cohorts. Spending 8 weeks with small business owners, talking with them about their struggles with technology and helping them to pick practical solutions was so rewarding for me. This is the kind of impact I love to have with tech – showing people how it can make a real difference in their lives and business.

(Psssst if this sounds interesting to you, we’re running the program again in February and March. Details here.) 


Worst Moments

Moving offices. Twice.

At the end of 2016, we abruptly had to move Camp Tech’s Toronto office and took a sublet from another tech company in the city. It was fine for the short-term when we were in a pinch, but by early 2017 it was clear the new location wasn’t the best (we had noise and temperature issues, and big problems with our neighbouring tenants). It was super super stressful trying to make it work, and then when I finally accepted it wasn’t to be, I had to hunt for a new office. More stress there. Finding a commercial space in downtown Toronto is as difficult as finding a residential space. After looking at countless offices that wouldn’t work, I finally found one that fit our needs. I signed a two year lease with the option to renew, so hopefully I won’t have to go through that process again for a long while.


Lesson Learned

The biggest lesson I learned in 2017 is a professional one. It comes from Camp Tech, where I’m the sole owner and decision maker. It’s so easy to get distracted and forget to take the pulse of your business, in a quantitative and qualitative ways. It’s not fun or glamorous, but regular reviews of short-term and long-term financials are super important. In 2016 I took my eye off the numbers for a while, and it took a lot of effort in 2017 to get things back on track. A hard lesson learned for me, but one I won’t forget.


What Next

I have so much great stuff already planned for 2018 and I can’t wait to share it with you as it all comes together. Every year I choose a word that sets a bit of the intention I have for the months ahead. Yes, this is a cornball tradition and borderline woo-woo for me (and I generally can’t stand woo-woo). The word I’ve chosen for 2018 is “focus”. That means taking all the activity, potential, attention and energy I have and gathering it together into concentrated efforts. Less diffusion, more precision. I get distracted easily, so “focus” also means discipline to me – discipline to stay on track and engage in the deep work I want to do. It’s hard, but I feel up for the challenge.


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