Jami Gibbs
Written by Jami Gibbs who lives and works in Chicago as a developer.   You should follow her on Twitter 👋

2016 Year in Review

January 02, 2017

I wrote my first ever year in review last year. In 2015 I was making some pretty big decisions that I hoped would put me on a new path professionally and personally. I got engaged, went back to school, and started thinking about the next direction my life would take.

I have a sense that I’m at a pivotal moment in my life both personally and professionally. — Me, 2015

I was deliberately building sails for a new course and while in retrospect it felt like it had all just “come together”, in actuality it took a lot of hard work, persistence, and probably a bit of good timing to have been successful.

Professionally

By February, I was finishing up Bloc’s Frontend Developer track and starting to get a whole lot more confident with Javascript. I was starting to feel less like a website designer and more like an application developer which was a very vague, hard to measure goal I wanted to achieve.

I finished Bloc with mixed feelings (some of which I hinted at in my previous year in review) but ultimately I think that without having structure like the one Bloc provided, I likely wouldn’t have progressed as quickly as I did.

If I had to do it all over again though, I probably would have researched other bootcamp style programs and talked to people who actually attended them for candid feedback instead of relying on online reviews. There are so many other intensive programs that I could have seriously considered (online and in-person) but I didn’t for one reason or another (cost, location, time, etc).

And before someone says, “Everything you need to know about coding is already online and likely free!” Yes, I know. I think that’s awesome and I’m using those resources almost daily but don’t underestimate the value of structure, guidance, and a tangible “end goal”. I had to go the route that I thought would best maximize the time I had available.

I should mention that I also supplemented Bloc with Free Code Camp’s frontend dev track which I really enjoyed. I didn’t find it super challenging likely because I was already beyond the basics by the time I started but I still learned a lot and would highly recommend it.

In retrospect, I probably would have been more content with the program had I expected less from the Bloc mentor (a dedicated person assigned to you during your enrollment period and a heavily advertised “feature” of the Bloc experience). I should have instead tried to talk to other experienced developers for guidance and mentorship through local meetups or other master/grasshopper type connections. This is all entirely in retrospect though and it would have been impossible for me to have done at the time for a few different reasons one of which was my often crushing social anxiety (more on that later).

I built a number of small apps and projects throughout the year and have them listed on a Projects Github repo.

Rescue Themes

This was a big year for Rescue Themes; the WordPress theme shop I founded in 2013. It had grown to six themes on ThemeForest, another two on the WordPress theme directory, and in the spring it came under new ownership.

At the start of the year, I made the decision to move away from theme development and instead focused on learning new skills, work on new projects outside of WordPress and explore other opportunities. I couldn’t do this without handing Rescue Themes over to someone who could give it the attention it needed. For several years it had been a big part of my life so making that decision wasn’t easy.

Ultimately I knew that it was the right thing for me to do because I couldn’t give it the attention it needed or deserved with my other goals in mind. It simply came down to prioritizing the finite amount of time I had and I didn’t want to see the shop decline if I tried to take on more than I could give my full attention.

I’m super proud of how far it’s come though and I’m really excited to see it continue to grow under new ownership!

Envato

In the summer, I started looking for an opportunity that would allow me to apply my freshly bolstered skill-set. I wasn’t sure what would be out there but I did know that for someone with a cornucopia of talents, I had a lot of options. I could start a new business. I could join an agency or studio in Chicago. I could also continue studying and experimenting!

I didn’t have a chance to think too hard about it because a company I already had experience with, Envato, listed an open position for their marketplace content team. If there was ever a company I would want to transition to, it would be Envato. I didn’t think twice about it.

I’m now their Content Specialist for Web Templates and it’s been quite challenging and interesting to work with all the various content in their ThemeForest and CodeCanyon marketplaces.

In the last few months, I’ve traveled with Envato to Denver for a meetup, Philadelphia for WordCamp U.S., and this month I’ll be in Australia to work at the Envato headquarters. Not too shabby!

Personally

As if the changes to my professional life weren’t enough, I also had a big year personally.

Anxiety

Not a lot of people talk about this part of their life but I really think more should so I’m taking the initiative. I’ve always been an introvert but at some point it morphed into a crippling social anxiety (at times). I was always carrying around a lot of stress and insecurity so I can only guess that fed into my introversion which itself turned into panic attacks. It was something I was always able to “just manage” but it was exhausting and I was tired of it holding me back from things.

What really was the tipping point was a looming wedding in October. So for six months leading up to the wedding, I worked on that part of myself in counseling. It helped me identify the things that triggered my panic attacks and helped me work through the reasons they were happening. There’s not a whole lot more to say about it except that not everything is perfect after having done it but if you’re not happy with way you’re experiencing social situations or you feel you’re being held back from enjoying life because of anxiety, it doesn’t hurt to explore the reasons why and work through them.

OMG! I GOT MARRIED!

It was an incredibly stressful year putting together a wedding (and for my partner too I’m sure because I probably drove her crazy with my anxiety). The sheer volume of tiny little decisions, the costs, managing attendees and vendors and actually getting to the day without having a complete meltdown was an accomplishment in itself (for me at least).

But it all turned out perfectly (Mom, you were right) and I’m so incredibly happy with the day. We were surrounded by love, didn’t mess up our lines (too bad), and now I get to spend the rest of my life with the most perfect woman. Mic drop.

There are of course a million other things that happened throughout the year too and I don’t mean to minimize them but there’s only so much space (and attention spans!) to work with.

Looking ahead to 2017

There’s so much to look forward to in the coming year! In the spring we’ll likely buy a place of our own (renting has lost its luster) and I’m really excited to continue to grow in my new position at Envato.

As for projects, I’m working on a net worth tracking WordPress plugin that I’d like to finish in the next few months and would then like to continue to build React applications (and maybe dabble a little in React Native!).

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and inspiring 2017!