Developer growth, Startups, Valuable Resources

2018 in review

As is the tradition I want to spend a few minutes reflecting on the year 2018. I find that taking time to reflect gives me a perspective of where I am on my journey. Reflecting also helps give closure and allows me to direct my thoughts and efforts towards what I want to accomplish in the future.

2018 has been one of the most exciting years from a professional perspective. From a personal growth perspective, 2018 has been both rewarding and frustrating. How can this be, you may ask (or not)? I’m asking at least and will be exploring that in this post.

Putting things into perspective

Having some perspective on where you are in life brings context. It allows you to understand where you need to focus your efforts and what you can expect from the outcomes. Without perspective, expectations run amok, and this has been a theme of mine for the last year.

Let’s add some perspective by looking at the themes of the past few years:

Change, Challenges, and Struggle

This year brought around a significant change – a shift in careers. I transitioned from a Web Developer / Team Lead with a path towards Agile Coach / Management / Leadership type of roles at a larger company to becoming a founding employee at the startup, Dolittle (more on this some other time).

The role I took, and currently have is User Experience Lead / Web Developer, and as with any (small) company; titles mean nothing. User Experience is a new field for me to dive in to, practice and build skills in. Even though I’ve been a developer for many years, building applications in modern JavaScript has been an exciting challenge.

Days have been filled with more frontend and JavaScript work than any before, both for our products and client projects as well as all the aspects of building a great culture and the fundaments of a company that will last for years to come.


Working in any startup is hectic, and that’s also what I experienced, even though we limited ourselves to regular workdays, the sheer number of balls we needed to juggle was overwhelming at times. The transition has been exciting, invigorating and also painful. On one side I’ve wanted to explore and establish what UX is at Dolittle, and on the other, coding and working with clients to bring in some income naturally took precedence. All of the while fumbling trying to get on board with modern JavaScript Web Development. This lead to a feeling of not feeling adequate or competent in any of the work I was doing.

Another consequence of feeling like all my energy was going towards not accomplishing things were the negative thoughts and the stories I was telling myself. Luckily for me, the people I decided to work with that Dolittle are some of the best humans I’ve ever had the privilege to know, second only to my life partner, and they offered their support. But the feelings still lingered – this was something I needed to work through and deal with for myself. Which leads to my next real failure – Not taking time to reflect and process how much I was learning.

On a related note, I realise that previous accomplishments have been holding me back from future achievements. I’ve struggled to put my self and content out there for several reasons, one of them has been constantly comparing and raising the bar based on those previous accomplishments, without applying any form of context or perspective. The word "should" has been used way too often, which leads to an internal dialogue of shame.


Things were looking a lot brighter towards the end of the year. I was more comfortable with the day-to-day challenges we had at work, as well being able to acknowledge my role and the contributions I was making. The brighter outlook gave me some space to reflect on my learnings. I was also able to identify a weakness I had (with help from colleagues), namely that I self-censor myself a lot. This weakness manifested itself in not speaking up in meetings, not sharing my thoughts on what I felt was important through other communication channels, and also it put a solid block over any attempt I made to write anything in public. Holding back thoughts isn’t to be confused with reflecting and pondering over a topic before forming an opinion (which I also do), but when it was evident that I had something to ask or say – I didn’t.

I was afraid. Afraid to not have the right answer, to appear foolish and found it easier to keep thoughts within. Identifying this specific behaviour has been a critical discovery. Being afraid of allowing myself to be imperfect is a root behaviour for quite a lot of the issue I’ve been facing, and is something I’ll be working on in the coming year.

As I mentioned earlier, being in a startup means wearing multiple hats, and this has been the year I re-embraced modern javascript web development with AureliaJS. It’s been a painful process of wanting to deliver and ship great products but stumble on "simple" things like identifying component abstractions, understanding es6 syntax, as well as learn the framework itself. My inner voice talking down these learnings as simple things is another manifestation of the "should"-problem with unrealistic expectations.

When I now look back, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made in this area. From feeling inadequate to be able to write and structure applications, write re-usable and business components, and drive application logic with TDD in less than a year has been a huge win.

None of my learnings would have been possible without the people I’m around me. They say that you are the average of the 5 people closest to you, and I’m surrounded by 5 of the most influential people in my career, not to mention them surrounded by others they are equally influenced by. I’m humbled, honoured and so privileged to be able to work in these conditions.

On a private note

On a private note, I want to mention running. 2018 has been the year I purposefully made running a habit. I have some big hairy goals for 2019 when it comes to running, namely complete a marathon towards the end of the year, which means taking the habit and applying running plans & structure.

I’ve also cut drastically down on phone usage around the family as well. Disabled my facebook account, removed twitter from my phone, and optimised more time to be present with them. It’s come in handy as our 3rd child has made the transition from innocent toddler to chaos monster (3 yrs old).

I’ve also been able to plough through quite a few books during my commutes. For anyone interested, you can see my progress on Goodreads.

In conclusion

Summarising the ups and downs of an entire year in a post is challenging in itself, and writing this has been a lot harder than expected. I knew I wanted to write this before spending time on anything else, so it had the potential to become a blocker for me.

I also wanted this to be a personal reflection post, rather than a set of useful tips, things I’ve learned, quick wins — lists of accomplishments, contributions and side projects. There’s enough of that out there. Instead, I hope this post reminds people that life is messy. We all have our ups and downs, our cycles of growth, expansion, reflection. That doesn’t mean that you’re less than others in any way, just that you’re human and on your own journey.

At the end of the day, I’m privileged to work alongside some fantastic people, on a great mission together, building the company we’ve always wanted to work in. All the while, having a precious family life and being able to spend quality with my kids.

In retrospect, the year 2018 has been precisely what I needed to prepare for me for 2019. That’s how I choose to see it, at least, and perhaps that’s enough?

How has 2018 been for you? How are you doing with the transition to 2019? Please share your thoughts and reflections.

Cover photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash