Sunday, 13 February 2011

Going Global By Starting Local

It's been an incredible year for me of self-discovery and development. This sounds incredibly cliche I know, but I really feel like now I have 'arrived'.

Every year I promise my family, this is it, this year is the year that MedWorm really makes a success of itself. But really I was trying to convince myself. This year I don't even need to say it, because I know it, which is the most wonderful feeling. Like this really is the beginning of the exciting journey I was struggling to start.

Over 4 years I've been working on MedWorm. What have I been doing in all that time? Developing.

Not just developing the code - of course I have been doing plenty of that. But I have been developing as a person.

I remember reading Peter Jones's autobiography Tycoon some time back and being slightly frustrated with him saying that one of the key elements that need to be in place for an entrepreneur to gain success in their business was that it had to be the right time for them as a person, taking into account their family circumstances and other things that may be going on in their life. I didn't want to hear that, I guess because I knew it wasn't the right time for me, and was impatient to wait.

But the over the last year (and a little more) I grew, and now I'm really seeing the world through a different lens, which is going to be so vital to the way I grow the MedWorm vision in the years to come. Had I embarked on my journey too soon, I am now convinced I would have missed a vital opportunity which I am now about to take hold of.

Let me explain:

I started building MedWorm when my son was about 1 year old. Middle of the night feeding my baby on one arm (he never slept well, and was feeding for ages) I usually had my computer on the other. The next few years were a constant challenge, trying to build what I had in mind, a complete beginner in php and mysql, whilst juggling nappies and all the joys of a chaotic family life (and as a doctor's wife my husband's career naturally had to take priority). I knew no investor would take me seriously so had to build it myself.

Over the next few years I worked harder and harder, leaving little 'me' time, working on my own from home each day (not healthy to do for a long period of time I think) and becoming increasingly obsessed with health issues (what my husband calls 'medical student syndrome') until I reached a moment of crisis mid 2009 when we all had a nasty visit with the swine flu. During that time I realised a few truths of life - in particular that the reason why bad things in the world happen is because people who could make a difference don't - and this changed my outlook and way of communicating with the world.

What happened next was extrordinary - from that moment of enlightenment I found myself taking steps to speak up for what I believe is truth and to start fighting for justice in the world, in whatever small way I thought I could - which led to me playing a central role in a fight against the plan to build a large scale mass burn incinerator in my locality. This resulted in me stepping into the limelight to help organise and speak at public meetings and demonstrations, as well as giving interviews to the media (newspapers, radio and tv) - this was all a massive challenge, having lived the life of a hermit for several years previously (not online, there I was ok - but in person I guess I was something of a recluse).

I also got to meet, and know, many people in my local community, and came to understand what a wonderful group of people there are here - with experience and skills in so many areas. I realised I could help in linking people together to work together in all various aspects of our campaign against incineration - and as we joined forces we started to become powerful. Who knows if we will win the battle in the end or not - but what is sure is that the little town of Ivybridge has benefited in so many ways in its fight, since out of it has grown a wonderful community of people with shared values that really care for each other and are willing to give up their time to work on projects together for the benefit of society.

All this I got involved in without any thought for myself - my objective was to do something positive in the world. And if my theory was right, my issues of anxiety would resolve themselves as I got the balance back in my life that was so desperately needed.

And that is what happened!

And now I realise the huge payback I have received for my efforts over the past year. I can now translate all the skills I have learned into my own work. Communication, presentation, identifying and pulling together skills in order to collaborate on projects. Wow, how exciting!

Been struggling for years to work out how to pull together a team in order to get investment to take MedWorm forward. The plan was all great, and I know I would have no trouble tempting investors - but getting together a team that I could have confidence in, and put my trust - that was a real struggle.

But just recently I became aware (largely thanks to LinkedIn) of the massive amount of web development skills are to be found in the South West of England - people living all around me. I don't have to go globe trotting to find the people I need to work with - they are living just next door to me! This is so exciting.

A few days ago I presented at the Born Global auditions - got through to the next round. Have just applied for some funding the the Technology Strategy Board for a feasibility study for a related project I have in mind - will know about that by the end of the month. Been helping Chris build the new LinkedIn SW Web Dev group and on 5th March will be hosting the South West's first Web Dev Unconference at Plymouth Uni. Been meeting the most wonderful developers - so positive and willing to collaborate. This is the start of something exciting, the right time and the right place - keep an eye on the South West of England as we are about to see the emergence of the Digital Peninsula, our very own Silicon Valley. If you are a web developer looking for a change of scenery, this is the place to live!