2022 In Review

In a surprising turn of events, I'm happy with my 2022, and I don't really have much to complain about. Is this growing up?

Last year at this time, I set an intention to drop the things I don't enjoy, and focus on the things I do:

So that's my goal for this year. I want to stay focused on the things I enjoy. Maybe those things will contribute to my career...maybe they won't. But it will certainly contribute to my happiness. And the second something becomes not fun for me, I'm kicking it to the curb.

It was rather prophetic of me to clarify that "maybe those things will contribute to my career...maybe they won't." In April 2022, I left my job as a product engineer at Artsy, for a position as a developer experience engineer at Camunda:

…in reply to @pepopowitz
I've become pretty uninspired by product engineering. I've realized that I want a tighter feedback loop where I can more quickly see the appreciation of the people I'm helping. So I'm trying something new -- working as a dev experience engineer at @Camunda.

Starting next week!

Well...more likely than prophesy is that I was already resolved to leaving my job in favor of something in developer experience when I wrote that sentence, but didn't feel comfortable saying it out loud. Regardless, it feels good to say I met my main goal.

If you're in it for the long haul, buckle in for a probably-too-detailed tour of my life in 2022.

I got a new job

Yeah, so news -- I've decided to leave Artsy! I'm very sad to go because it's such an amazing place to work, but I'm also really excited for what's next.

This podcast episode is full of me rambling about what I'm taking with me when I go. @ArtsyOpenSource/1507004771416346626

Even when 2022 started, I was feeling a bit stuck at Artsy:

Or as I like to call it, "Kaja forces Steve to confront his existential crisis head-on." @AlizeNero/1497217162192343043

There are surely a handful of reasons I wasn't happy at Artsy. The one I most remember, and the one I've most cited, is that I wasn't able to feel the impact of my work. It'd been a while since I'd been able to see my work make someone happy.

Developer experience seemed like a good place to feel the impact of my work. This is my first job in the space, and I think it is definitely a good place for me. I enjoy removing friction, and I think my compassion is well-directed towards other developers. It's second nature for me to approach a software interaction from the perspective of "how would I feel about this if I were new to it?" I'm learning a lot, and starting to form my opinions and perspective on developer experience.

I even told my boss recently that I think I'm approaching the time and place for leading a team. Since my first job as a senior developer years ago, I've floated between the idea of remaining an individual contributor and stepping into leadership. I always took a step backward when I dipped my toe into leadership. Right now I feel like I want to eventually build and lead a team in developer experience.

Highlights from my new job

  1. I opened probably my favorite PR of all time.
Look at me, I'm contributing!!! Am I doing it right? Is this how one "does open-source"?

OpenGraph image for github.com/camunda/camunda-platform-docs/issues/1129
  1. I worked a conference booth for the first time, and found that I really enjoyed it.
  1. I got excited about ChatGPT.

Counterpoint: I'm lonely

My main concern at Camunda is that I'm lonely. At Artsy, we paired multiple times a week on work, sometimes multiple times a day. I saw people in Zoom all the time. My job at Camunda is much more independent. Most of the work I do is solo. We're actually really good about not having a lot of meetings, and I often go a couple days without seeing a co-worker on screen.

I've been good about maintaining friendships from Artsy, and hanging with my former coworkers multiple times a week. But there's something to be said for collaborating in code with someone. We've talked about this at work, and I'm hopeful that by this time next year I'm not feeling as isolated.

I made a podcast

Early in 2022 I recorded some conversations with friends about the tools and systems they use to get things done, and their highs and lows. I'd intended to take a lot of time to cut up the episodes and stitch them back together in thematic stories.

At some point in the spring I realized I'd missed my window. Triathlon season was starting, and I was spending all of my time training instead of editing. I also decided I'd set the bar too high for myself — it just felt like too much work to cut up all the episodes and stitch them back together. I guess this is why no one does this 🤷.

Given how happy I was with the content of these conversations, I decided to release them (almost) uncut. The first episode of A Developer Experience Podcast shipped in the fall:

if you've been thinking "I wish I could hear more of Steve's nasally voice" I have a gift for you.

I recorded some conversations last winter with people about the systems that work (& don't work) for them. I'm *finally* sharing them.

First episode ships in a couple weeks! @ADevExPodcast/1579834957509246976

The podcast was my "content" focus for the year. I spoke once virtually at You Got This!, and I wrote a few articles (including this one about breaking problems down), but most of my nighttime non-triathlon-season energy went toward shipping podcast episodes.

I intend on making a second season of A Developer Experience Podcast. I have one more episode to release from last year, and then I'll be seeking out guests for the next season. Next season I think I'll be more broad with the starting topic — I want to talk to people who have an intense relationship with some part of their daily experience, but I don't want to limit it to productivity. If you're interested in being a guest, let me know!

I also plan to tighten up the episodes a bit. When I recorded season 1, I anticipated cutting them up, and I didn't care much about how long they were. Now that I know I'll be releasing them basically uncut, I'll target around 40 minutes for recording.

I made art

The pandemic was great for my art habit...but I still struggle to call what I do a habit.

At my new job, I got to know my teammate Maria, and learned that she is much better at being an artist than me! She set us up with a recurring weekly hangout, to catch up and practice art. It's been a little rocky lately with reschedules, but this remains my favorite weekly calendar event.

Some things I painted this year:

  1. My house
We had a lot more snow last winter, when I took the photo for this painting.
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  1. One of my cats (Marbs)
I painted my cat.
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  1. Some bike shoes!
I've been wearing the same bike shoes for about 15 years, so I was due for new ones. Kids bought me new ones for Father's Day, so I bought paint markers and added "stripes".

Yes they're not as good as professionally custom painted shoes but I made them and I love them.
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I don't see the art part of my life changing significantly for 2023. I'd like to say I'll be stronger with my practice, but I think that's nothing more than wishful thinking.

I stayed fit

Exercise is basically my identity now. It continues to be a daily practice. I got a lot of exercise in 2022:

I fell in love with weight training

I've never been one for the gym. Whenever I'd go, I had to convince myself that it would be nearly as much fun as running or biking. That changed in early 2022:

…in reply to @pepopowitz
Well I am in week 7 of the plan and


I look forward to every Tuesday and Friday early morning. I have no problems putting myself to bed early enough to get up at 5:15. I'm having fun learning about olympic lifts, which I'd never done before.

I fully credit this strength work to keeping me completely injury-free in 2022. (lololol while I was writing this article I injured my neck and shoulder while lifting!!! So forget about "injury-free for 2023.")

I did some triathlons

My wife and I agreed that we wanted to do our first Ironman 70.3 this year — that's 70.3 kilometers total, half the distance of a full Ironman. It took a lot of training, but it was fantastic and I would do it again (when my kids don't want to spend time with me). I had it in my head that if everything went right, I could finish in 6 hours. I made some fueling mistakes on the bike and fought off muscle cramps for 12.6 miles of the 13.1 mile run, but finished about two and a half minutes under 6 hours!

Sunrise this morning was 💯.
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I did a handful of other races too, including my first ever time at the Age Group National Championships.

I rode my bike a ton

Since I had to do so much training for the Ironman 70.3, I signed up for a couple long bike rides. I rode 92 miles around Lake Winnebago, and rode my first ever century ride: 105 miles to the Northern Kettle Moraine forest and back.

105 miles!
On my bike!
Almost exactly a mile of elevation gained!!
To fudgienuckles and back!!
Yes that's really the name!!!

It's the 2022 Tour de Steve and when it makes my body cry it will be a smashing success 💪💪💪🚴🚴🚴
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One other random fun experience of the summer — my friend David Berry sent me a DM asking if I wanted to meet him at Road America, a race track about an hour north of me, to ride bikes one night. Of course!

Achievement unlocked: riding bikes around a race track with one of my favorite Cream City Code speakers @DavidCBerry13
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I did fun things

In 2022 I tried to be more intentional about how I spent my time, and focus on things that brought me joy.

I dressed up in an eagle costume and give kids high-fives all day, as they ran around in circles to raise money:

Oh you know, just spending my lunch running around the elementary school in an eagle costume and collecting high fives, as one does.
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We spent some time in the Dominican Republic for spring break, and it was glorious:

My kids start spring break today, but we just got back from our spring break trip to Punta Cana. The weather there (85F/29C & sunny every day) was much better than the weather here (38F/3C & rainy).

I have not yet fully washed the salt from my hair. I haven't decided if I will.
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I went to my first concert since the pandemic started:

Omfg I went to a concert. I thought I'd be the oldest person at the @illuminatihotts show but apparently there are lots of middle aged fans like me so I guess that's..good? 😅😬
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We took our annual vacation to the northwoods of Wisconsin:

Beats working.
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I made some changes for my mental health

That subheading is kind of dumb — isn't that something we're all constantly doing? Or at least, we make changes as soon as we notice there's a problem.

Anyway, some things that made a difference for me last year:

I remembered I had a "SAD lamp"

Living in the upper midwest part of the US means not seeing the sun for winter. And even if you do see it, you're hiding inside. And even if you go outside, you're covered in layers that block the sun from getting to you.

A few years ago I bought a "SAD lamp" — a lamp that is intended to trick your brain into thinking you aren't currently stuck in 5 months of winter hell. I used it a bit at first, but then largely forgot about it.

I got crushed with sadness at the beginning of this winter, and kept forgetting to take Vitamin D supplements. I remembered the SAD lamp and have been using it pretty much every day. At one point in December, after using the lamp for about a week straight, I remember saying "whoa, I actually feel joy right now." I'm convinced at this point that the lamp does more for me than the Vitamin D supplements (though I still take those).

Hopefully next winter I remember!

I took a hard look at my productivity systems

Late in 2023 I realized my productivity systems needed a revamp. I had a sudden realization that my optimizations for a schedule that was lean on deep focus time were no longer applicable. My schedule has flipped, to be honest — I now have plenty of deep focus time. The misalignment between my schedule and my productivity system was causing me to basically never get shallow tasks done (e.g. following up on comms, scheduling appointments, administrative stuff, etc.). I was waiting for a small block of time to do my shallow work....and I just wasn't getting any small blocks of time. (How's that for a humblebrag?)

With perfect timing, I saw that Anne-Laure Le Cunff was kicking off a "Mindful Productivity" course, and I jumped on it. The course was great — it opened my eyes to a few problems with how I was approaching productivity. It also taught me some tools I'm now using every single day.

I spent most of December blowing up the system I had, and fine-tuning something new. When I came back from holiday break this January, the changes were mostly in place, and I quickly noticed how much better I felt about keeping track of my work.

I'll do a mini-episode of A Developer Experience Podcast about this soon, with more details.

I left Twitter...for now

I didn't expect to write this paragraph. I didn't expect the events that transpired, and even if I had I wouldn't have predicted they'd go as foul as they did.

Twitter has been the social media platform that just made sense to me since I first joined, probably close to 15 years ago. It's been an amazing place for software developers — an incredible community of people building things.

But I no longer want to participate in it. I don't have any interest in supporting the CEO, and every engagement helps him. In November I opened a Mastodon account on hachyderm.io. In December, I deleted the Twitter app from my phone. For a while, I checked back daily from my laptop. Eventually I realized the only reason I was paying attention was to see what Elon burned that day. That seemed pretty unhealthy. I reflected on my goal for the year — retain the joyful, discard the joyless — and finally stopped checking Twitter regularly.

Overall, I'm happy that I don't hang out there anymore. Twitter fueled my rage. I think I liked that. Mastodon is less interesting, so I spend less time on social media now.

I'm not content with Mastodon. I'm not a pure believer in the fediverse. I definitely miss the people from Twitter. But Mastodon is now my main, until something happens to convince me to go somewhere else.

I took back my tweets

One other step I took in my (temporary?) exit from Twitter: I took my tweets back, using the tweetback project. The archive of all my tweets is now available at https://tweets.stevenhicks.me. You probably noticed the many "embeds" in this post that don't come from Twitter or Mastodon. Those all came from my tweet archive, and they link there instead of Twitter.

What's up for 2023?

To be perfectly honest, I don't have a lot of big goals for 2023. I'm not looking to change much. Everything I'd like to do more of would come at the expense of things I'm also enjoying.

This is the most positive, satisfied, content year-in-review I've written in years. I'm proud of myself for finding balance and joy in 2022. I wish you, and myself, the same in 2023.

Spirit guide: a guide that helps you spell spiret. Sperit. Aww fuuu come on guide, I need you right now.

Some people wake up with solutions to problems in their head. I get this garbage 👆