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2018 in Review

A close friend of mine asked me recently to describe the last year in a single word - it didn’t take long to come up with the word change. After all of the transition for me personally and professionally, no other word seems capable of summing it up.

On the personal side, it has been a very eventful year. I moved three times, changed jobs 3 times, but I started the year off strong by proposing to my now-wife Katrina. We got married this summer and began our life together in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, where we also bought a home - not an easy feat with the real estate market such as it is in greater Vancouver.

Professionally, there was a lot of unplanned, unanticipated change too.

Position transition - from on-site to remote

I had been working at Engine Digital, a top-tier digital agency in Vancouver for the last 3 years, with no plans to change that. In the spring, I decided to leave for a (mostly) remote position, which enabled my (then) fiancée and I to decide to make our home in Abbotsford, enabling us to begin our married life outside of the more expensive Vancouver area.

While that job turned out to be not such a great fit, my transition to remote work had begun. I then worked remotely for Engine for another short stint, before begining a new position with Great-West Life’s digital teams; working from home for an Ontario-based development group.

In spite of the upheaval, everything that I had done over the last year got me to where I am: being able to work from home, doing work that I enjoy. And for the most part, that work consists of JavaScript development, among other front-end duties.

Year of the JS framework

Having successfully moved away from jQuery and back to vanilla JS over the last few years thanks to the strength of browser engines and with help from Babel and other compilers, it was time to invest more into the big frameworks out there. I had dabbled with both React and Vue previously, but 2018 gave me the chance to really dig in.

Early this year, we successfully launched a large ecommmerce site with Engine, where I got to lead the front-end effort for the new Samuel French site. This project was a deep dive into Vue, handing the product catalog, the shopping cart experience, and other features of the site. I came away from this project with a great depth of experience and knowledge of the Vue framework, particularly using Vuex for state management, setting me up for future success in this area.

After leaving Engine, the startup I joined was building an all-JS ecommerce app - Node (Express) on the back-end, and React on the front-end. While short lived, this was a great learning experience for me, learning the ins and outs of a full stack JavaScript system with bleeding-edge tools and infrastructure: Redux, Sagas, ES6+, Sequelize, async/await, generators, etc.

At Great-West Life, we are using Vue as our library for our new front-end apps, and I get to spend most of my days writing JavaScript with the talented team there.

Finally, I retired my old WordPress blog/portfolio site in favour of this new one built with Gatsby, which is a static site creator using React and GraphQL. This allows for a relatively easy to manage component-based system, and is optimized for speed. After connecting my Github repo to Netlify, publishing a change or new blog post is as easy as pushing a new commit. Netlify picks up the change and handles the rest.

What about 2019?

Undoubtedly, 2019 will have a lot of first for me. It will be my first full year of remote working, and I hope to be able to capitalize on that fact.

A few things that I would like to focus on in the world of front-end:

  • GraphQL
  • Apollo
  • CSS Grid
  • More advanced JavaScript

While the last point is somewhat vague, what I really want to improve upon is my functional programming skills. I’ve been reading stuff by Kyle Simpson and Eric Elliot and have discovered a lot of things to learn there. Specifically, function composition.

Fostering community

I’m really hoping to be able to cultivate connections with my new community in the Fraser Valley. Basically all of the bigger meetups for tech happen in Vancouver at the moment. While there is no shortage of developers and tech in the Fraser Valley, there is very little in the way of community and meetups as far as I can tell. I’ve never been one to organize such things, but I would love to see something develop so I’m interested in making an investment on this front - and I’m looking for partners to join in this endeavour. Is that you?

More projects

I’m also keen to take on a few smaller side projects, whether WordPress (as I’ve done in the past) or with newer tools for modern JAM stacks like this Gatsby site. If you have an interest in a new or updated site for your business or project this year, please get in touch!

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