J. Michael Ward

Web Developer, Drummer, and Teller of Bad Jokes

A brief reflection on 2013: the year my life changed entirely.

Well, folks, it’s Christmas. It’s been almost 5 months since I’ve written anything proper in this space, but with 2014 just around the corner, now seems to be as good of a time as any for me to jot down a few notes and reflect on the past year. Let’s step into the Wayback Machine, shall we?

Goals

Each year, I put together a list of goals for myself. Individually, I deem them all to be reasonable and attainable, but often, the list itself is so cumbersome and unwieldy that there’s just no way I’ll accomplish it all. Here’s my checklist for 2013:

  • Finish my Associate of Applied Science degree at SPC
    • Do my best to finish with a 4.0 (It seemed uncertain at times, but I managed to pull this off!)
  • Land a sweet web development job (I’m so proud to work for Room 34, and I can’t wait to see the assortment of problems we get to help solve in 2014)
  • Participate in two professional conferences (I went to one – MidwestPHP in March)
  • Read 35 books (I’m at 39 as of this writing – hoping to check off #40 before next Tuesday)
  • Go to the gym 12 times in all 12 months
  • Redesign my personal website (There’s still more to be done on that front, but hey, it does look different than last December!)
  • Develop and build a message board application
  • Redesign and build the bowling league administration application I started in college
  • Design and launch a collaborative creative writing website
  • Write a short story
  • Do at least one set of stand up comedy
  • Start a new band (No shows yet [and no name, to boot], but it’s been a blast getting together to play with this set of awesome dudes)

  • Learn six songs on guitar
  • Make three pieces of art (illustrations) (Many thanks to my pal Matt and his recommendation for the excellent iPad app, Procreate. I’m planning on making this part of my regular routine in the coming year)
  • Learn to use PhotoShop and Illustrator (Illustrator, you’re next!)
  • Finish motorcycle repairs and ride!
  • Ride my bicycle once a week
  • Take a vacation! (I had the pleasure of spending three fun-filled days in NYC with the lovely Abby in November, our first real trip together)

Clearly, I set out to accomplish more than I actually achieved, but I feel pretty good about the progress I’ve made in the last year! There’s still work to be done, and that’s the fun with goals.

Many things happened that weren’t on the list: I’ve had the privilege of tutoring my friend Phil in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and we’ve been getting together frequently since March. I’ve begun taking lessons in Spanish (via the very fun and excellent Duolingo.com), and am hoping to become proficient in 2014. I’ve learned how to build websites in WordPress and Shopify. I’ve taught myself to use SCSS, Git, and the Linux command line, and took a real-life crash course in learning Responsive Web Design techniques. I’ve continued to study Object-Oriented Programming, and hope to improve upon my existing skill set in the next year. I’ve begun getting together with a mentor to assist with improving those skills.

There is much I want to accomplish in the next year, and some of the goals I set for this past year will likely roll over. I still want to get back on my motorcycle, and I want to begin writing more regularly again. It’ll be great to revisit my list next year – it’s certain that I’ll have learned much by then, and I’m looking forward to seeing just how far I’ve come in another 12 months time.

Projects

Through my work at Room 34, I got to build a ton of great websites this year. Here’s a small sampling of projects I had the pleasure of working on:

Room 34 develops responsive websites for all of our clients by default, so every one of these is set up to work well on mobile devices as well as tablets and desktop/laptop environments. It’s been an absolute joy working on client sites this year, and I’m very much looking forward to building on the experiences I’ve had this year in my future client work.

In addition to my full-time work, in 2014, I’m planning to spend more time working on a few personal projects, some of which were outlined as unaccomplished goals for 2013. I’ve been tinkering around on CodePen a bit lately, and it’s a great tool to work on small front-end projects and quickly lay down some ideas to refer to later. In addition, I’m planning on putting up code for my personal projects on GitHub in the coming year so that I can make better use of that collaborative resource.

It’s really been an amazing year, and looking back to reflect on all this helps me better understand just how far I’ve come. I’m looking forward to learning even more in 2014.