2022 year in review
2022 was the best year of my career so far, and one of the best in my personal life.
I moved away from full-time employment in the summer of 2020 to be fully independent, and I'm enjoying this phase of my career more than ever. 2022 was a year of focus, and I really overcame lingering burnout that had crept into my life from the previous couple years.
Independent consulting work was very successful, rewarding, and dependable. My goal was to keep my time and attention focused, so I turned down several consulting and full-time opportunities.
I started 2022 fully booked for the year with my main client, who was incredible to work with throughout the entire year, and I'm rolling into 2023 with the whole year booked with them again.
While I originally began working with this client in November 2021 to improve their product's accessibility, our work together has since evolved to include pretty much all aspects of the product and business.
I was able to work with the team to drastically simplify and redesign the marketing site and product, introduce lean manufacturing principles to improve an intense data workflow at the core of the business, and transition the team from Scrum to Shape Up with much success.
Working with this team has led to many learning opportunities for me. I learned how to code in Python, build a parser from scratch, do web scraping and data transformations at scale, and really embraced Test-Driven Development (TDD).
In addition to consulting, I took on a new design coaching client who is a solo entrepreneur and a freelancer. While I've done a lot of mentorship in past roles, this was a great experience to focus more on formal coaching, provide advice, and provoke new solutions with less focus on teaching.
While I don't really have the capacity to scale coaching as an offering, I enjoyed the recurring sessions we had for a few months, and it was rewarding to see my client really level up in design skills, UX, and accessibility.
I wanted to keep my total obligations to a minimum in 2022, so I turned down multiple speaking and course opportunities for most of the year.
In the fall of 2022, however, I was contacted by LinkedIn Learning to basically create any course I wanted. After careful consideration, I felt this opportunity was a good fit and came at the right time, so I kicked off production on a new course on accessible design that is slated for spring 2023.
Although I've been gradually working on a large-scale accessibility course for a couple years, it's always had to fall back in priority to paid consulting work. Having a short-term deadline with a more focused scope was the right level of commitment and led to a very productive few months.
I wrote over 13,000 words for the video scripts between October and November, and spent December and January creating designs for dozens of UI examples and over 300 slides. In late January 2023, I went to LinkedIn Learning's offices to record the course, and it's now in post-production.
Since I started my career in visual design, my development experience has always been heavily focused on the frontend. In 2022, I got a lot of experience working with APIs and asynchronous code and getting more familiar with backend development which has helped round out my understanding and made me a better developer.
TDD has always been interesting to me, but it didn't quite click until this past year. While I'm still learning how to best test integrations (particularly with James Shore's nullables technique), it's been confidence-inspiring to code in an always-working state, while improving my understanding of how things work.
Lastly, I finally made the switch to Vim for text editing. Like TDD, I've dabbled with Vim for a while, but didn't fully commit. In the middle of 2022, I tried it again and felt right at home. While I'm still not the most efficient at horizontal movements and more advanced text replacements, most tasks have become muscle memory and really improved the ergonomics of writing and coding.
As part of my focus for the year, my side projects played less of a role in 2022.
After collaborating weekly with a past colleague on a major product idea for the past 2 years, we decided to wind the project down in mid-2022 to focus on individual interests.
I haven't created content for Build UX in about a year and a half, as I was staving off long-term burnout. My burnout wasn't specific to content creation, but something had to give. Recently I've been feeling more inspired to create more videos and free educational content, so it's possible this will play more of a role again in 2023.
Although I didn't make formal progress on my larger accessibility course in 2022, creating the smaller course for LinkedIn Learning proved to myself how much I could cover on the topic in the future. This course has definitely been de-prioritized in favor of bringing in consulting income and I'm not sure when or if it'll be my main focus.
My personal life in 2022 was defined by investing in long-term improvements and simplifying things as much as possible. Overcoming lingering burnout was a huge relief, and I feel like I'm more organized and productive than ever.
The biggest transformation to my organization, learning, and personal growth has been my second brain. Throughout 2022, I really increased my non-fiction book and article reading, with tens of thousands of highlights feeding into several hundred notes.
I created several hundred more notes from courses, educational videos, and both professional and creative writing. Building a second brain has really changed the way I work and learn by structuring all my thoughts and interests and giving me a central reference to any important information I need in my career and personal life.
Alongside this, I can't understate how helpful therapy has been for my personal growth and self awareness. I wish therapy was accessible for everyone as a standard wellness practice. I'm glad therapy is being de-stigmatized as something everyone can benefit from, even if you don't feel you're unwell or in crisis.
On a lighter note, I really progressed in my mountain biking skills and fitness in 2022. My technique, strength, and cardio were better than ever, and I felt more comfortable on black diamond and pro rating trails as I pushed myself to ride more challenging lines, bigger jumps, and longer sessions.
I also returned to learning Japanese after many years. I studied Japanese throughout college and studied at Doshisha University in Kyoto through the Department of State's Critical Languages Scholarship in 2012. I traveled to Japan in 2016 and 2017, and while a lot of things came back to me after a few days of immersion, my overall speaking skills have really taken a hit. But, I'm now on a 150+ day streak of studying Japanese again, and I feel a lot of my previous knowledge returning. I've been fortunate to have a friend to practice with each week, and it's good to be learning something not directly tied to my professional work.
Going into 2023
I don't place much emphasis on New Year's and I'm not a fan of making specific goals or resolutions. Instead, I try to continuously adjust my values and guiding principles to shift my habits and energy in the direction I want.
For 2023, I would like to continue keeping my professional work focused with just my main client, and saying "no" to other opportunities as the default. I'm fortunate to have 2023 already fully booked, and I'm feeling energized with my work more than ever.
I've been getting a lot of ideas for educational content lately, so that will likely play more of a role again this year.
I'm at an inflection point with two side projects that have some real long-term potential, and I know I will need to choose just one to dedicate my time and learning to. It's going to be a difficult call, but I've over-extended myself enough times to know that it's necessary.
In my personal life, I'm excited to keep investing in my personal growth and organization. 2022 very much felt like laying the foundations for future improvements.
I'll hopefully be traveling to Japan in September, which is really motivating me to take my Japanese learning further. I'm also hoping to do a mountain bike race or two, as I miss the personal challenge I used to get from motocross and desert racing when I was younger.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be where I'm at, and more motivated than ever to make the most of it.