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Welcome to 2021

By Thorben Janssen

Wow, 2020 has been a wild one. I’m sure all of us could talk for hours about the problems and all the stuff we were unable to do. So, let’s skip that and focus on the good parts. There were quite a few things that went unexpectedly well. I will summarize the most interesting ones at the beginning of this article before sharing my plans for this year.

Highlights of 2020

With the risk of getting infected by the Coronavirus and all the travel restrictions in place, almost all activities that previously required extensive traveling went online.

Engaging and Interactive Online Events

In the beginning, that seemed like a huge upset. But it wasn’t. It sped up a development that had started several years ago and forced parts of our niche to adapt. Conference organizers started to announce online and hybrid events, and on-site workshops at my customers became online workshops.

After a few iterations, all of these events worked really well. I got amazing feedback from my customers. By keeping the groups small and having everyone join with audio and video, we recreated an in-person event’s atmosphere and interactivity. We spend parts of our coffee breaks together to talk about all kinds of topics. The collaborative features in Zoom made it easy to discuss ideas and to solve exercises as a team.

In the end, I liked these events even better than the in-person events we did before.

24.000 YouTube Subscribers

Not only the pandemic made 2020 an interesting year. Several changes of the Google algorithm, the migration of my blog to a new layout, new features of my course platform, and improved live streaming support on all social platforms brought lots of challenges and opportunities.

One of my personal highlights was that the YouTube channel reached 24.000 subscribers at the end of December. Thank you so much for your trust and support.

Remote Coaching

Even before the travel restrictions, I did most of my coaching engagements entirely or at least to a huge part online. That’s because after we analyze the current situation and the team starts implementing the discussed changes, we often only meet for a few hours to discuss the progress and newly arisen questions. Doing that online is much more efficient than spending most of the day at the airport just to attend a 2-hour meeting.

With the pandemic’s start, we did all of these meetings, even the longer ones, online. As the students in my online workshops, all teams quickly recognized that the online workshops were at least as efficient as the on-site workshops.

Remodeled Office and Recording Area

Another personal highlight of 2020 was the remodeling of my office. My wife joins me in the business, and we had to create a 2nd workspace. (From now on, if you see something that works or looks better than you’re used to, it was probably her.) We knew from the beginning that this would require a few bigger changes, and I also wanted to use that to improve my recording area.

It’s crazy how much has changed in the 7.5 years that I have been writing this blog and recording videos. In the beginning, I moved between our living room, kitchen, and bedroom or went to a coffee shop to sneak in a few hours of undisturbed work.

And don’t get me started about my video recordings. For each video, I set up my equipment in our living room and tore it down afterward. I tried to find a picture of my first microphone stand that I mcgyvered by attaching a regular boom arm, which holds the microphone, to one of our son’s tiny chairs that I put on his table. It was a miracle that the whole construction didn’t collapse.

And because I was recording in our living room (see photo), my wife and our then-toddler spend a long weekend with my in-laws to give me the chance to finish the recording of my first video course on time. Without my wife’s endless support, I would’ve never made it this far.

Now, we have a separate room as our office and recording area. My wife’s desk setup isn’t 100% done, and there is quite a list of smaller tasks on our ToDo list to finish the office. But it won’t take long to finish them, and it’s already good enough to ensure a productive start to 2021.

As you can see in the next photo, I also upgraded the video equipment quite a bit and did my best to prevent any echo. I’m looking forward to recording and uploading the first videos using the new recording area.

Before we remodeled the office, I recorded a few videos that we’ll publish at the beginning of this month. So, it will take a few weeks until you can see and hopefully hear the results of the remodeling. But as soon as you don’t see a microphone attached to my shirt, you know that I recorded it using the new microphone and recording area.

Plans for 2021

OK, so what’s planned for 2021?

I expect that traveling will be difficult for most of this year. And to be honest, I enjoy staying at home and spending my mornings and evenings with my family. Because of that, I will put all my energy into my online activities. But that doesn’t mean that I will not be speaking or doing client-specific coaching. I plan to do the opposite. You will see me at more events, online workshops, and live streams on my YouTube channel. And if you prefer on-demand videos, you shouldn’t miss my new video course.

Virtual JUG Tour and Conferences

2 weeks ago, I reached out on Twitter to find JUGs that host online events.

So far, I scheduled a talk at the JUG in Switzerland on 9th March and in Oberpfalz (Germany) on 12th May. And I’m in discussions with 5 other JUGs. I’m optimistic that I will speak at 1 JUG per month, starting in February.

And I will also be speaking that the JavaLand and JAX conference.

If you’re looking for a speaker for your JUG or Java conference, send me a message.

Online Workshops

Hosting my workshops online was one of the big and very successful changes of 2020. Keeping the groups small, enabling everyone to join with video and audio, and planning extra time for open conversations during the coffee breaks provided the same level of interactivity that we enjoy at in-person workshops. Using the collaborative whiteboard and screen sharing features in Zoom, we can take all of this even one step further. After hosting more than a dozen of these online events, I think they are even better than in-person events.

Based on this experience, I’m offering the following 4 open workshops this year:

And if you’re looking for a customized, internal workshop for your team, please use this form to send me a message.

Weekly Live Streams

I did a few live streams on my YouTube channel in 2020. It was a lot of fun, and most subscribers seemed to like it. But it was hard to sustain because I was missing the right equipment and a concept to keep weekly streams interesting without requiring incredible amounts of work.

Over the holidays, I got the missing equipment and brainstormed several ideas for a weekly live stream. On each stream, we will have different segments in which I talk about a specific topic, answer the question of the week from Stack Overflow, the blog, or YouTube channel. If you want, you can also submit your questions here. We will, of course, also have a Q&A segment at the end of each show in which you can ask questions and discuss the latest developments in the Java niche.

I will host the first live stream this Friday at 3 pm CET. I can’t wait to get started.

New Self-Paced Video Course

In addition to all these live events, I will also work on a new video course.

I haven’t picked the topic of my course yet. Please provide me your feedback on the current candidates.

About the author

Thorben is an independent consultant, international speaker, and trainer specialized in solving Java persistence problems with JPA and Hibernate.
He is also the author of Amazon’s bestselling book Hibernate Tips - More than 70 solutions to common Hibernate problems.

Books and Courses

Coaching and Consulting


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