12th January 2015

2014: A Year in Review

2014 has been a bit of a crazy year. I got myself a proper job, moved to London, jetted to Barcelona for a few days and learning plenty of things along the way. Here is a little review of my 2014. Enjoy.

Rewind to the start of 2014, I was still working part time at Marks & Spencer while spending the rest of my time continuing to build my coding skillset, pushing myself to expand my knowledge of WordPress development and how to be a successful Freelance design/developer. In the first few months of the year I built the Cairbairz website for my Dads business. It got a great reception from their audience and I’m still proud of what it has turned into – with their client base continuing to grow. I have continued to support them on their journey with ongoing online and technological support.

At the end of February I decided to quit Marks and Spencer and dedicate all of my time to doing freelance web design and development. I rebuilt the NothingNowhere site, making cleaner and reflecting my design style whilst including the latest web technologies. I then went on to build AndreaToddDesign for my friend and mentor. At the same time I was supporting JigsawPSHE, helping them maintain their existing website while drawing up plans for a new site. Sadly by the end of the summer that relationship fell apart but that in turn pushed me in another direction. You can read the full story here.

In June I attended London Technology week, going along to Re:Work – The future of education – a mini conference that focused on issues surrounding technology and education and how technology can play an important part in learning in the class room. Another event I attended was Internet World, a large more corporate event held at the Excel centre. It included a broad array of topics from the Internet of Things and the Cloud to Big data and website user experience. There were small presentations from a wide array of speakers including Tesco, Moon pig and Cisco to name just a few. For me the best part of the event was a small intimate talk from Martin McKeay about security on the internet. There were less than 10 nerdy guys in attendance (I think of myself as a nerd too) and after a short presentation it turned into an open floor where anyone could ask questions. It was utterly fascinating.

2014 was also the year that I went to my first Hackathon (a word that seems to strike fear and visions of hacking and crime into anyone who doesn’t know technology). This one was located in Didcot (near swindon) and centred around using satellite data to solve real world problems. I opted to join a team trying to map human impacts on the Yangze river basin. It was an interesting couple of days where I met some interesting people, all food was included and there was a free t-shirt. We didn’t win but it was a good experience and further compounded my thoughts that a career in geography probably wasn’t for me and what I was doing with my coding was the right thing to be doing.

Maybe the biggest news of the year occurred in september when I got a job at Universal Music as a Junior web designer and developer following 2 weeks of chaos after I put my CV on Jobsite. This lead to me moving out (again) and moving to London. This has allowed me to attend various meetups including Untangle the Web, Web Standards and I am a regular attendee of the London Web Performance Meetup. I have met some fantastic people, drunk a few beers and munched on plenty of pizza. If you haven’t been to a meetup, I would highly recommend you do. You never know who you will meet and where it will take you.

Re:develop was probably my favourite Conference of the year. It had everything: It was in Bournemouth so it was super easy to get to, My good friend & mentor Luke Wakeford was there, A great lineup and crowd, the weather was good, free food + drinks + t-shirts and the after party allowed everyone to chat and get quietly drunk. It was a great day. At the after party I got chatting to Kaelig who at the time was working in the Sass team for the Guardian (now works at the Financial Times). I told him about what I was doing with my small scale coding stuff and he was impressed and we raised a glass. It was a nice moment. We kept in touch over twitter and later in the year he invited me to a meetup he was doing in Reading University. We got chatting and I mentioned how I was now working for one of the biggest Music companies in the world. We ended up catching the same train back to London and got chatting. He seemed to know most people in that months net magazine which was quite amusing. At some point in 2015 we will go out for lunch.

I have to thank the guys at the London Web Performance Meetup for sending me to Velocity in Barcelona after I won a twitter contest. It was all a little short notice having won the ticket 2 weeks before the event but I managed to get the time off work and get a cheap flight and hotel.

The conference itself was really good. It was the most expensive conference I have been to and the talks didn’t disappoint, giving me some great insite into monitoring web performance for issues and possible solutions. There were speakers from the some of the biggest players in the web performance arena including The Guardian, The Financial Times, Fastly, Dynatrace and Google. There were plenty of breaks during the day, giving me plenty of opportunities to mingle and network. I got chatting to some of the guys and girls from the Government Digital Service and Auto Trader. The food and drink was pretty good too. I did manage to get time to actually explore Barcelona and be a tourist. I went exploring equipped with my Lonely Planet Guide and connection to Google maps (which both proved very helpful). The weather was fantastic for the whole time that I was there but it did feel somewhat strange walking around in a T-shirt (and Jeans) in November. I managed to see the Sagrada Familia, walk down the Las Ramblas, Explored the food market and even managed to order myself an ice cream in spanish.

I learnt alot over 2014. I worked hard on Treehouse to get new technical skills like Grunt, Laravel and Git as well as increase my knowledge of my core skill set like Javascript (something that I’m still working on). I learned that my skills and motivation for Web design & development make me highly employable – this is something I am keen to maintain. I’ve also learned a few things about myself: including how much I value working somewhere that is using cutting edge technologies, that is willing to take risks, that wants to push me to be better, sending me to conferences all over the world in order to do this. These things are far more important to me than how sexy the company looks on Facebook or what freebies I can get.

So what will 2015 bring? I don’t know (and thats probably a good thing). What I do know is that I will continue to work really hard on my websites, trying to better myself and be a bigger part of the web community. I’ve got a few ideas of web apps that I’d like to build and need to build Festivity. Everything else I’m just going to play my ear and see what happens. Hopefully 2015 will have as many (if not more) amazing stories as 2014. We shall see.