Jeremy Keith linked to one of my blog posts, calling out my Venn diagram as similar to how he thinks about how design system, pattern libraries, and style guides all fit together. This simple thing was a huge boost to my confidence as it sent a signal to me that I’m thinking about these things the right way.
I feel as if we made significant progress in our organization to implement a system of components. However, an unseen (yet ultimately positive) circumstance arose that temporarily halted progress on the design system, which was an accessibility complaint.
After this holiday vacation, one of my top priorities is going to be completing a design system that we can build on for years to come.
I crammed so much accessibility knowledge into my head this year because of a complaint we had filed against us by OCR (Office of Civil Rights), which claimed that our website was inaccessible.
While the situation was at times stressful, in hindsight I view it as an incredibly positive experience for a lot of reasons:
Definitely “leveled-up” my accessibility skills a LOT
Created a sense of urgency and importance about the topic within our organization
Offered opportunity to revisit old processes and policies to ensure people understand accessibility
Got me out of my comfort zone and gave a couple accessibility workshops on campus
Again, got me out of my comfort zone to be involved and contribute to in a campus-wide accessibility working group
As part of our organization’s commitment to accessibility, I was sent to WebAIM training in beautiful Logan, Utah. The training was highly valuable as it clarified a lot of the misconceptions I had about accessibility and solidified my understanding of when to use ARIA attributes vs HTML5 elements when it comes to accessible markup.
While working on design systems, I’ve experimented with a lot of templating languages. These are a delight to use because they fit in perfectly with component based design and allow for rapid front-end prototyping. Throughout the year I stumbled on 3 different templating languages that I got the opportunity to play with.
Twig — At work, the current version of our pattern library is in PatternLab which uses Twig to template components. This has allowed me to learn the ins and outs of Twig and get up to speed with it quickly. It is such a good fit because as our organization eyes moving to Drupal 8, learning Twig will prove to be a good investment of time.
Handlebars — I use Assemble.io to build certain custom designed, special projects which use Handlebars to template out partials and layouts.
Governance and policy
This isn’t a technical achievement, but it’s note-worthy nonetheless. While sometimes I wish I could focus on the tech part of my job 100% of the time, it is necessary to be competent in writing and communicating in order to be truly effective and successful in your career.
This year marked the first time I’ve taken a serious look into governance policies, which our organization sorely needs. I like to think I helped get the ball rolling on that initiative by creating some drafts of policy documents that I shared with my superiors who see the policies as a necessity are now using their status to get buy-in and carry the project across the finish line.
2013 was a crazy year for me. It marked a lot of important events in my life and was the culmination of years of hard work.
In February I was hired as a student worker on campus. This meant I didn’t have to work in fast food places anymore and I was making a decent wage doing something I actually enjoyed. I almost didn’t think this would ever be possible because I worked some not so motivating jobs over the last 8 – 9 years. At my new gig, I worked with a senior web developer and made some really cool things for the campus website. That marked the moment where I knew what I wanted to do. I always knew I wanted to do something that was working with the web, but specifically working at a university sounded best of all. I really enjoy campus life, so working on a campus seemed like it would be pretty cool after graduation. That felt like the perfect next step for me to take.
On April 19 I was awarded the Outstanding Senior in Information Science award at SUNY Oswego. The announcement took me by surprise because I still felt like I had no clue what I was doing, but the award was much appreciated and boosted my confidence.
In May, I graduated magna cum laude from SUNY Oswego with a major in Information Science and a minor in Computer Science. My time at SUNY was so meaningful. I went in knowing I wanted to better myself. The environment in the computer science department really helped foster change in me. My CS teachers were phenomenal, and even my non-CS teachers (philosophy and native american history) were very good at what they do. Excellent faculty, challenging courses, and motivated peers made for a great learning experience.
Also in May, I applied for my first “real” job at a University for a web developer position. My qualifications were pretty good for the job minus a few things but I figured I’d give it a shot. The worst that could happen was they would say No and I’d be in the same spot as when I started. I knew I must be doing good when I was called back for a second interview less than a week after my first interview.
In June I was officially hired as an Associate Web Developer at Binghamton University. It was a good place to work and it fit in really well with my wanting to work at a University. The campus was beautiful and my co-workers were hard working. I was working on campus when Barack Obama visited Binghamton. It was all a lot of fun, but it was weird leaving Oswego. My wife and I both missed the lake as well as our friends and family. Also, living in Vestal (just outside Binghamton) was pretty expensive and it was hard to get a foothold financially.
In August, I noticed an opening at SUNY Oswego for the same position title I currently had in Binghamton. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go back to Oswego at first but I felt like I would regret it if I didn’t at least try and see what happens. I applied, interviewed, and was hired in late September, early October. It was a good feeling that we were coming back but we laughed that we didn’t even get to experience one winter away from Oswego. Oh well 🙂
My last day at Binghamton University was October 17 and it was bittersweet. Leaving our life in Binghamton was hard, but luckily we weren’t too rooted there yet. Months after leaving, I still think about our experiences down there and the people I worked with. We really got to like the Nature Preserve on campus and I was building some neat things at work. I’m really thankful for the opportunity and experiences I had at there.
On November 4 I began working at SUNY Oswego. It felt good to be back where I worked as a student. I immediately hit the ground running with some neat projects (hopefully will be launched before Spring, but we’ll see) and had the opportunity to completely redo my workflow. I integrated some incredibly valuable tools into my arsenal and have become a lot more efficient because of it.
So in 2013, I’ve received an award, got a job that made me realize what I really wanted to do, graduated college, got my first real job, moved to Binghamton, got my second real job back in Oswego, moved back to Oswego and re-imagined how I work. When I think of where I was at just a year ago, I feel really good about where I’m at right now. It’s all because of a decision to be better and then staying focused on the path.
As this year winds down, it’s time to start thinking about how to make 2014 even better than 2013.