2017 In Review

Yearly reviews posted after January are the worst. Good thing I got this in with 24 minutes to spare!


People say scary things about turning 40. Your body hurts more. You wonder if you're doing the right thing with your life. You just feel sleepy all the time.

2017 was my 40th year on this planet. While I won't totally argue with some of the things people say about being 40, I will also say this - I hope every year can be as good as my 40th year was.


One of my goals in 2017 was to get out and speak a ton. I had a goal of speaking 12 times - averaging once per month. I nailed that exactly! In 2017, I gave....

  • 6 talks at conferences
  • 2 talks at code camps
  • 4 talks at meetups

The talk I gave most was Getting Started With React. This was a surprise for me - I hadn't even considered doing an "intro" style talk at the beginning of the year. I figured no one would want to hear "another intro." I was wrong.


In May, I got to speak at Self.conference, in Detroit. As you can see, I was not prepared for this experience. I've been to conferences before, but I've never been to one that affected me so much emotionally. There were so many amazing talks that were focused on making you a better person, not just a better developer. I would love to go back here.

I hope @crebma keeps Self.conference going for many more years, so people can experience what I did.

Open Source North

I wasn't sure what to expect when I made the trip up to the Twin Cities in June, for Open Source North. I came away really impressed with the conference, and especially the organizers. I got some really great tips from Jeff Urban about how we could improve the organization of MKE DOT NET. I would go back to this conference in a heartbeat, if they'd have me. I think I did pretty well!

That Conference

That Conference is where I was originally bitten by the speaking bug - in 2015, when I saw Cory House give two talks, and was blown away by his command of the room. Getting to speak here in 2017 was amazing. It made me feel like I'd really done what I set out to do - become a conference speaker.

Shortly before my talk, I ran into David Giard, another of my speaker heroes, in the speaker lounge. My voice crackled as I told him how much he inspired me, and how much it meant for me to be speaking at the same event as him. He was extremely gracious, as always - and then asked when and where my talk was, so he could attend. This was not exactly what I was expecting, and suddenly I felt a bit of pressure to impress him. Cut to fifteen minutes into my talk, with him applauding me and practically rolling out of his chair with laughter, and I felt like I did pretty good.

My wife and kids attended my talk, too! This was really fun, and I hope they can be in the audience for more of my talks. I felt like I made them proud.


My second trip to the Twin Cities for a conference. I went for a run one morning, and a surprise massive downpour soaked my phone - and turned it into a hunk o' junk.

This was another case of the organizers just being fantastic. One thing I think is really important for speakers is to be very gracious and thankful with the organizers. When they do as great a job as MidwestJS did, it makes it easy to be gracious.

Dev Up

In October, we took the kids out of school for a couple days to make a family trip to Dev Up, in St. Louis. We spent a weekend being tourists, and had a ton of fun.

I had a new talk to deliver here - Maximize Professional Growth By Doing Scary Things. This is a talk I'd had floating around in my head for at least a year. I wanted to convince people to do something scary, in hopes that it would change their life - the way that getting into speaking has changed mine.

I was emotionally drained during the conference, because I was just so nervous about this talk. It is the most vulnerable thing I've done. It took me a lot of energy to build myself up.

It went awesome, though.

It was great to have David Pine and Scott Addie - two friends from home - in the front row for this talk. I needed the encouragement, and they delivered.


This was year number 3 for MKE DOT NET. I've helped out with all three - but never as much as this year. I was significantly involved from start to finish of the planning this year.

And I love it. The day of MKE DOT NET is like Christmas for me. I love the adrenyline of getting to the event early in the morning, and discovering that a marathon is blocking traffic from getting there. It sucks that this kind of thing happens..but it does, every time. We never know what the problem is going to be - but something is going to go wrong, and we need to figure out how to work around it. Dealing with all of the logistical details of a conference gives me a buzz.

I Got A New Job

For the last few years, Centare has been an incubator for me. I've grown so much, thanks largely to the amazing team around me.

In late 2017, I found myself looking for new work. I moved on to Northwestern Mutual - a place that I think is poised to make some noise. I'm really excited about my new team and new role. I'm doing full-stack JavaScript. This is a change, after spending almost my whole career in .NET development. It is a welcome change.

I will continue to help out with MKE DOT NET.

2018 - A Look Ahead

I've got a ton of ideas for 2018. I won't be able to follow through on all of them, I'm sure. There are just too many.

Not As Much Speaking

I'd really like to keep the momentum with speaking at conferences, but it looks like I won't be submitting to nearly as many as I'd like this year. It seems as if there are basically four weeks that all conferences are scheduled this year.

More Writing

I say this every year. But I re-wrote my blog using eleventy last week, hoping that it provides less friction for writing than Metalsmith did. Metalsmith was a bit flaky, and I would often have to restart the dev server just to get it to reload a content change. So far, eleventy has been great.

I've already published one story to Medium - Chekhov's Gun And Better Unit Tests - and I'm hoping to write at least 6 Medium-worthy stories this year. Hold me to it, internet!

Self Improvement

I'm looking to cut back on self-deprecation. I rely on it a lot to make sure people don't think I'm full of myself - but I've found this year that it affects me negatively. I think I believe the self-deprecation a little too much. In 2018, I'm hoping to cut back on this habit significantly.

I've also realized one of my biggest hurdles to feeling comfortable in a social setting with strangers is that I just don't know how to start conversations. I'm looking into specific ideas to improve this, in the hopes that it makes me feel more confident. Being at a conference where I don't know anyone can be really draining for me. If I know someone there, or meet someone, it's a different story - I could talk for hours. I'd like to make it easier for myself to get to that stage.

Something Scary

I'm not totally sure what, yet. I've eliminated live-streaming, as I don't really understand how it is interesting. Writing is part of this, but I want to do something even more scary. I'm deciding between starting a podcast, and making videos for YouTube.

I'm also going to submit a workshop idea to conferences. I've got a basic idea, but I really need to work out more details before I can submit it. I have ideas on how to make a good workshop - but I'm not sure yet how to write an abstract that will get it accepted.

I'd also like to speak at an international conference this year. I got myself a new passport late in 2017, in hopes that I'd get selected soon. Nothing yet but I've got a couple open submissions, and more to come.

Here's looking forward to 2018. Let's get better!