Let’s recap what happened in 2023 and how this year treated me. Let’s spoil it that much: It was a real roller coaster. With steep lows and a few highs!
It started super productive
At the beginning of 2023, I was, like so often in my life, caught up in winter depression. I hate winters, and my go-to strategy to get out of the bad feelings caused by the cold weather and the lack of sunlight is to work.
Sounds strange? But this is what gives me energy. I love working on my projects (as long as they’re not administrative stuff). So, I worked on new episodes of the se-unlocked.com podcast, made big changes to my newly launched website on code reviews awesomecodereviews.com, and started two more side products. I also continued my work on developer experience and wrote a lot of content. I even started to outsource work, hired a designer, and a person to help me with marketing. While this gave me bliss, and I felt super productive and happy about the progress, the whole family was constantly got sick.
Sickness, sickness and even more sickness
We got sick for the first time in December 2022, and it did not end before May 2023. The three kids had fevers over 40 degrees several times. Even the baby was infected multiple times. I had a fever over 40 twice. It was a nightmare. And while I kept pushing through for a while, I had to drop one ball after the other because the sickness just kept returning.
Real worries about Max
Around Easter, I had Max home with me for seven weeks straight. He would get sick over and over. He was so thin. So pale. I was so worried.
I started to wonder if something was going wrong at school.
He never said he did not like to go to school, but still, I kept wondering what was causing him such stress that he always got sick.
Around this time, he stopped eating. He stopped playing. He was quite a different kid. That’s when all things “work” had to go. I stopped publishing the podcast (more or less from one day to another). Cried. I stopped writing blog posts. Cried some more. And finally, I stopped everything else that was not business-critical. Then I stopped crying and started fighting hard for Max at school.
Making sure Max is happy
My main focus in 2023 was understanding what was happening to Max and ensuring Max got better and returned to being this happy, energetic kid again. I’m not going into all the details, but school was and is a major factor in all his troubles. This also meant he kept getting sick for the entire school year and stayed at home with me a lot.
Code Review Workshops
While I was focusing mostly on my family and Max, I had the pleasure of getting quite a few code review workshop inquiries without needing to do promotion. That was an incredible blessing.
While I was not creating much new content, I’ve taught as many people as I have ever before in one year. This also taught me a lot. I revised and improved the code review workshop during this time and learned tons about different software engineering practices and cultures in different companies.
Developer Experience Research
Another line of work I pursued, even though this year has been hard, was research in the area of developer experience. I had the pleasure that Abi Noda from DX wanted to do another study with me, along with Nicole Forsgren and others from Microsoft and Margaret-Anne Storey from UVic. This was definitely also a highlight for me. One of the research projects resulted in an ACM article describing how to measure and improve developer experience. It’s one of ACM’s most-read articles. Working with those folks gave me energy, and also helped me deal with all the worries I had about Max.
When school ended, Max was only a shadow of his former self. The good news is that I finally understood what was going on with him and what he needed. But he was definitely in burnout. That meant that I also tried to keep my workload as minimal as possible. No additional projects. No new adventures. I gave workshops and did research. But the rest of this summer, I built memories with my kids and got Max back to life.
An actual office space
2023 is also the year that working from home no longer works for me. With one kid at home half the time, another being sick quite often, and the baby running around constantly, I could not focus anymore on work. The office room I had was not enough anymore. Too much was going on. This brought me to another project: getting an office. Quite an endeavor. In October, the office was finally ready, and I’m happy to tell you that I’m writing this from the comfort of my own official office. It was a game changer and one of the very positive things that happened in 2023.
School is not over.
We all recovered quite nicely during the summer holidays and had wonderful adventures. But like every year, mid-September is when school starts. And while you might think this is good, I now must disagree. We were all much more happy when there was no school. I could work more. Max learned more. And he was healthy. He was happy. He was eating, sleeping, and doing sports… all the things he completely stopped doing when attending school. And while I hoped that this year would be better, it started catastrophically. This is also when I stopped advocating for him at school and started to fight the system. I fight with all means I have. While this is a long and very cumbersome activity that often looks like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, the good news is, I managed that things improved (slightly). And I’ll keep pushing for better circumstances and support.
A lot of new projects are coming
By the end of the year, I felt a new burst of energy through my body. The new office space, improvements at school for Max, and Max doing much better overall. All of that gave me the power to think about new projects. Many projects. I want to create again. I want to write more again. I have so many ideas, and I want those to become a reality. Also, this year showed me once again that consulting alone is hard. When you can’t work, you can’t work. I realized, more than ever, that I need some off-the-shelf products that do not need my involvement. That’s why the first project this year is to create an on-demand code review course. I also want to write about all the new insights I got from teaching, coaching, and working with hundreds of developers to improve their code reviews in 2023 alone. And maybe there will be some more developer experience research on the horizon. Ah, and I bought a Mac 😉
It’s probably a different post than what you have read before. It’s less about work. And so was this year. While I gave more code review workshops than ever before and was part of some amazing research with fantastic people, I was still mainly worried the whole year about the most important thing in my life: my family. I hope 2024 will bring fewer worries and more fun projects.
Read about my other years: Year in Review 2020/2021