A little context for those that don't know me yet, I'm Matt, a 36 year old Software Developer from the south of England with a dream of creating a better life for my teenage family.
I started my journey around 20 years whilst taking a very broad ICT course, covering everything from Excel and Powerpoint to web development using applications like Dreamweaver back when it was owned by Macromedia.
I spent the next couple of decades building sites with HTML/WordPress, setting up forums and tinkering with scripts and applications both for fun and for friends and family. I was essentially a self-taught front-end developer.
Due to imposter syndrome I never considered software development as a career option I felt like I was bouncing between jobs in retail, hospitality, warehousing and sales not really finding a role I was truly passionate about.
In 2018, I stumbled upon a course that unbeknown to me at the time would change my life in unimaginable ways. That course was the Complete Web Developer by Andrei Neagoie.
Fast forward 5 crazy years I am now a Fullstack Developer and Community Manager for the very company that provided me with the foundational skills to excel within the tech industry. And what's more is that I now get to directly inspire, encourage and help others achieve their goals in joining one of the best industries. So I get to do what I love, help thousands of people achieve the same thing and get paid for it 😍.
One of the biggest challenges for me this year was balancing home life, work, education and now a social life in the wake of Covid. Here in the UK, we started to see life start to return to normality, with lockdowns and social distancing protocols being relaxed and eventually discontinued.
In reflection on this past year, I haven't spent as much time intentionally learning new things. What I mean by this is that I haven't scheduled as much time to specifically learn things that will help me in my career and this is something I plan to rectify in 2023. Fortunately, 2022 was filled with lots of organic learning opportunities 🙏
The majority of my learnings this year came from projects I took on, so I'll elaborate on them more later.
I strongly believe that working on projects first-hand is the best way to learn and consolidate knowledge so I am always working on side projects. I find it's also a great way to expose knowledge gaps that I can focus my education on.
My main focus for side projects is to learn and grow as a developer, I am fine with starting projects that I won't launch or even finish, as long as I gain something from them.
Over the last 12 months, I have worked on so many cool projects, including several Discord bots, 2 Next.js projects, a couple of web scrapers, a couple of Android apps and even a couple of starter projects for new developers to get involved with Hacktoberfest.
If I had to pick just three of my favourite projects, it would be a tough call but in no particular order:
🤖 ZeroSpam 🤖
ZeroSpam was an incredibly educational closed sourced project that I worked on alongside a fellow community manager to combat spam in the Zero To Mastery Discord Community.
Although it targeted various types of spam its main function was to eliminate as much of the Discord Nitro phishing scam and the Steam phishing scam messages that were incredibly prevalent all over Discord in early 2022.
I actually learnt a lot from this project due to the evolution of the scammer's tactics to avoid detection. At one point it felt like we were updating our detection methods almost daily, utilising methods such as:
👉 Detecting similarities in strings with packages such as this
👉 Blacklisting URLs until domains were being switched out daily.
👉 Scraping URLs and analysing messages for common scam keywords
👉 Utilising AI to analyse message intentions
Overall this project was loaded full of opportunities to learn new things and taught me a lot about developing quickly in a rapidly evolving environment, but I am glad Discord has taken over being the first line of defence for that fight now 🙏
🍺 Drink Tracker App 🍺
Back in June, we set off on our first cruise, where we took out the all-inclusive drinks package. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn React Native and build an app we could use to track if the package was worth the upfront cost for next time we took a cruise.
🛂 ZTM Passport 🛂
The ZTM Passport app is one of my favourite projects of 2022, not only because it's helping to motivate thousands of ZTM students by rewarding them with cool badges for their achievements within the ZTM Academy, which I'll admit is pretty cool, but also because designing and building out the backend challenged me as a developer to think outside the box at almost every step and I'm looking forward to working on this some more in 2023.
Overall 2022 was a pretty crazy year with some big wins both professionally and personally. Whilst I can't currently talk about some of my more bigger wins publicly, here are some of my favourite wins:
I started a new Youtube channel and published 4 Videos on participating in Hacktoberfest. For a brand-new channel with very little external promotion these videos seem to be well-received.
I authored 6 articles on two blogs with one ranking on Google and receiving a steady stream of traffic each month. If you are looking for some new Youtube channels to watch check out my Ultimate List of Developer Channels
I set up and co-maintained 3 projects for Hacktoberfest, enabling nearly 400 students to participate in the event. I personally reviewed and merged over 200 pull requests 👀.
This year I planted a tree for my Hacktoberfest participation instead of claiming a t-shirt 🌴.
My Plans for 2023
I'll be publishing an article in the next few days detailing my plans for 2023 so be sure to subscribe if you are interested in checking that out. But here is a sneak peek at what I have planned:
🎓 Learning 🎓
I'm aiming to complete both the Futureproof Yourself workshop and the Learning to Learn course by the end of January to build better habits and processes to make my learning journey in 2023 more efficient.
I'll also be aiming to take and complete the following ZTM courses:
👉 System Design + Architecture
👉 DevOps Bootcamp: Learn Linux & Become a Linux Sysadmin
👉 Complete Node.js Developer in 2023
👉 Rust Programming: The Complete Developer's Guide
In addition to the courses above, I'm also planning to check off a bunch of titles in the Blinkist and Audible apps to improve upon my productivity and mindest skills.
🏗️ Building Projects 🏗️
Project of the month 📆 - For each month of 2023, I'll be looking to dedicate some spare time to building and deploying a small application that solves a real-world problem of some kind. Drop me a comment if you have any suggestions.
📝 Blogging 📝
I plan to be more consistent with writing and publishing articles throughout 2023. I'll be aiming to publish at least three articles a month on topics such as:
My learning journal
Course notes, thoughts and reviews
Tutorials on a variety of subjects from tips and tricks to planning and building projects.
🎥 Youtube 🎥
Much like my plans for blogging this year, I'll be aiming to be more consistent with creating more video content for my channel. I'd love to be publishing weekly but I am conscious of how much time creating and editing video content takes.
Thanks for checking out my year-end retro, hopefully, you enjoyed the post and got something from it.
If you have blogged about your 2022 retro and your 2023 goals let me know in the comments, I'd love to check it out. If you haven't, I'd highly recommend doing so, it forced me to recognise some of my wins, challenges and shortcomings that I had either forgotten or yet to realise.
Happy New Year!