2022 Retrospective

What I learned and did in 2022

For the last decade, I've maintained a private document that says what I did that year related to my work. Not only does this help me when it comes time to write my yearly evaluation, but it also helps me plot a course for where I want to go - the technologies I want to learn, skills I want to develop, and the types of problems I want to solve. It also helps build out my resume when it comes time to look for a new job.

Since I'm writing more this year, I figured I'd make it public and offer some commentary. It's essentially a public brag document.

Building in public

I've been much more open in this last year than I have previously. I wrote a guest article for the HTMHell Advent Calendar, did a guest appearance on the Catching Up with Web Performance podcast, and was engaging with people more on Twitter until most of them left the platform. I also started offering mentorship on MentorCruise.

The reason for this was that I've been at my current company for 5 years, and there were a few things that I wanted to work on that I don't have the chance to do in my day job. Engaging with others outside my current role gave me insight on how other organizations operate and a valuable new source for ideas. There have been plenty of conversations with people who have helped me, and I've tried to return the favor where I could be of service.

As an example, our deployment system at my job was no longer growing with us, and I had some deployment-related frustrations. While on Twitter, I was able to connect with Maciek Palmowski, who at the time was doing developer relations at Buddy. He met with me over Zoom, gave me an overview of the platform and some advice on how to get started. I was able to move all of my company's sites over to Buddy within weeks, and it has addressed the issues of what was happening with our old deployment service.

Working one-handed

I don't mean this figuratively. Back in February, I broke my arm and dislocated my shoulder while skiing. The broken bone took 5 months to heal, and for the first month, I was in a sling.

While I was in the sling, I was using voice dictation software since I couldn't type very fast. This allowed me to do my job, but everything was much slower than it usually was.

During this time, it was easier to create prose than it was to write code, so I took the opportunity to write documentation and guides for a cross-disciplinary audience, including editorial staff, graphic designers who work on promotional ads and emails, and developers. This has provided an official reference any time someone has questions about alt text, color contrast, which image format to use, and other topics.

I now have full use of both arms, but because of the immobility I experienced during my ordeal, I also developed a personal interest in accessibility, and in that time, I've read several books on the subject, and even took a workshop with Manuel Matuzović where I learned new techniques, workflows, and processes to help further this skill.

Web performance

Web performance continues to be a primary interest for me, and I have made a lot of progress this year. I received the employee service award for excellence at my company this year due to the advancements I've made and opportunities I've identified while making our sites faster.

Every site I work on has seen an improvement for all Core Web Vitals metrics this year, and this is something I'm extremely proud of. For instance, I was able to improve the Largest Contentful Paint by 61-84% for the sites in my company's portfolio.

I've mentioned how I have done much of this in other posts this year, but there are some things I left out.

For example, I wrote Cloudflare Workers to implement caching at the edge, which improved our cache hit rate from 55% to 70%. There is still more work to be done on this front, as I'd like to move into a globally-replicated cache store and start seeing better performance in locations far away from our AWS regions.

In the workers scripts, I was able to use the URLPattern API for the first time, and will make this my new go-to for JS routing.

I've also written new front-end tooling, refactored code to remove old dependencies, and also began the process of evaluating new architectures, which included attending a design system architecture workshop by Nathan Curtis and talking to potential vendors to help manage the 850K images on the sites I work on.

Culture

At my company, I've gone from having limited visibility as an individual contributor to having a larger role in our technical direction and visibility outside my team. I did this all by advocating for performance and also being vocal about how I could contribute and where I saw opportunities.

Looking ahead

There are a few things I'm excited about for next year, most of which revolve around web performance. I'm also on a committee for training and professional development, which aligns with my interest in mentoring and my general intellectual curiosity, so hopefully it will provide some additional interest to my day.