life of smool

2023 Year in Review

A brief look back

I've never written one of these before, so I apologize in advance if it's rather rambling. However, I was inspired to write this by a tweet from Aaron Francis, so you can blame him ultimately.

I'll break this up into a few categories - career, projects, life and future.


This has been a wild year career-wise for me. In September 2022, I jumped ship from DocuSign to a small media company called Subsplash. On the surface, this may seem like a regression in some ways - prestige, pay, benefits, etc - and that's mostly correct. Two missing components in that list though are happiness and quality of life. The role I had at DocuSign was a dream job for me in many ways - I was focused on the frontend infrastructure for all of and got to work with some of the smartest people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. Despite that, mismanagement from higher levels resulted in my lead engineer (and the only other frontend infra eng) leaving, as well as my boss leaving shortly thereafter. Because of that, I ended up absorbing all projects from my lead engineer and was in (on average) 6 hours of meetings a day, with no relief in sight. On top of this, priorities were constantly changing and layoffs were looming, with essentially all of us ending up incredibly unhappy. The director of engineering who had hired me there had jumped ship a few months before to Subsplash, so I reached out to him and he quickly rescued me from the sinking ship. Two weeks after I'd left DocuSign, a large portion of my previous team got laid off or told to seek other opportunities, and then a couple months after that the remaining engineers were terminated out of the blue. Suffice it to say, I'm glad I took the leap.

As for my current work, it is admittedly a mixed bag. I am the tech lead and sole engineer for one of Subsplash's core products, and inherited a 10+ year old vanilla PHP and jQuery codebase that was built by a single person and acquired by Subsplash in 2018. When I came on, nobody else could even run the app locally - much less deploy it (the creator of it was the only one who could deploy the app, via a custom and incredibly brittle deployment process). The primary goal of bringing me on was for me to enable local development of the app, build out a repeatable deployment process in CI, and generally start the task of modernizing it and bringing it in line with the rest of Subsplash's engineering org.

This has been a mammoth task, to say the least. The app is now fully docker-ized, and (barring time for review/testing) features can go from approval to full production deployment in about 5 minutes. We follow standard version control practices (it didn't before!), have both staging and dev environments, database migrations (previously, all database updates were manual via MySQL Admin), and have been squashing bugs left and right. Despite these improvements, the path to modernizing the app in regards to best software engineering practices is still daunting and unclear. We're on an old version of PHP, an old version of jQuery, and don't even have NPM support (the few third-party packages we do have are used via dumping the entirety of their min.js files into a lib/ folder). Additionally, I'll continue to be the only engineer on the project at least through 2024. There are many days where I think about things I need to build, fix, and improve and simply get overwhelmed and paralyzed.

Ultimately, though, the sheer level of ownership I have and determination to resurrect the app and turn it into one of the best products in the company's suite is what keeps me going. After the turbulence of DocuSign and coming to Subsplash (which was my third job in 1.5 years), my wife made me commit to staying at least 3-4 years in this role, and I plan to stick to that barring any ridiculous circumstances like those of DocuSign. My happiness in this role comes down to valuing the agency and trust that my leadership here has put in me, and knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is being able to look back on the project and know that I learned an exceptional amount and was able to take on the most intimidating task of my entire (relatively short so far) career.

On a positive note, and to explain the missing components from DocuSign: I am significantly happier at Subsplash and my work/life balance and general quality of life has skyrocketed. I have immense freedom in my role, I thoroughly enjoy my coworkers, and am able to disconnect from work at the end of the day and actually focus on and enjoy time with my wife, friends, and family (and hobbies!). For my sanity's sake, the move to Subsplash was one of the best career choices I've made so far and I haven't regretted it for a single day.



At the beginning of this year, Chris Sev ( and I had just launched DevTree ( We went from ideation to product in just a couple months, with the first commit being sometime around November of 2022 and the "official" launch near end of December/beginning of Jan 2023. DevTree was supposed to be the world's best developer portfolio creator - an easier, quicker path to creating a portfolio website than building one yourself. There was a cheap paid tier ($8/mo) which allowed users to hook up their own custom domain, among a couple other things (and we had more premium features on the roadmap). Initially, we had a pretty solid response - racking up a few hundred users in the first couple weeks. However, we were plagued by bugs, unreliable third-party integrations (Hello, Twitter API), and lack of true product market fit. As it turns out, devs really like to build their own portfolios (who knew). Chris and I both don't have our own websites and wanted an easy path to creating those and aggregating our content from other sources, which is where the idea started, but we found out fairly quickly that we were largely in the minority in this regard. This issue was compounded with the ease of blog and portfolio creation via Eleventy, Astro, and others, which are incredible tools and come with pre-built templates for these use-cases. Ultimately, our motivation and the pace of development petered out and the project has now been sunset (which I will write a standalone post about eventually). Despite the "failing" of DevTree, it was awesome to get to work so closely with Chris and see how quickly we could create a product together. Which leads me to...


In March of this year, Chris and Ado asked me to come on as a cofounder for VideoTap ( They had started VideoTap in 2022, but limitations in AI and automatic text/content generation was a brick wall that caused the project to go mostly dormant for a long time. The surge in AI and LLMs then allowed them to finally pursue their vision for what VideoTap could truly be - a content creation workflow engine and generator. After our speed and success in building DevTree, Chris thought I would be a good fit to help out with the project. Since then, with a switch to a subscription model vs pay-as-you-go in May of 2023, VideoTap has amassed thousands of registered users, generated 20k+ social media clips, 10k+ blogs, and risen to over $5k MRR. We generated the text content for PlanetScale's MySQL for Developers Course and did live processing and editing of social media clips for the AI Engineer Summit. There are a ton of plans, features, and improvements in the works for 2024, and I am incredibly blessed to be a part of the project and will be forever thankful to Chris and Ado for bringing me on to help out. It's been a wild ride and I'm excited for what the future has in store for VideoTap.


My wife and I have continued to enjoy life in rural northern Colorado. We spend our days with our four pets - 2 cats, 2 dogs - and are thankful to have a large community of friends in our town, and family close by (about 2 hours north in Wyoming). Travel was unfortunately limited this year - we went skiing a handful of times in Keystone, did some hiking in the summer, and just got back from a Caribbean cruise where we ziplined, snorkeled, and explored some Mayan ruins.

The most important facet of our year though was a realization in January that we had become disconnected from each other. Our relationship was still great, thankfully, but life had been so busy and we'd been so involved with community and friends that we ended up spending very little focused and deliberate time together. Since then, we've had date nights every week, clear out "no phones" time, and block out at least one weekend per month where we don't commit to any social activities so that we can spend time with just the two of us. Our communication and happiness in our marriage is now is at an all time high, and we do our best to continually reflect on ourselves, our relationship, and how we can improve and be the best spouses possible for each other.

2024 will likely be more eventful as we're hoping to add an actual human baby to our family instead of just our four fur babies - so we're bracing for the chaos and lack of routine that will follow that (but we're incredibly excited).


My primary goal for 2024 and onwards is to just simply "be better". I want to be a better husband, a better engineer, a better reader, learner, lifter, and drummer. I want to pursue excellence in everything I do, and have the confidence in myself to achieve that excellence. One of the challenges of Twitter and following so many excellent people is that I constantly compare myself and feel behind - or feel that all those people I follow are at levels that are unreachable for me. While this is likely true in some regards (i.e. I'm confident I'll never have the level of compilers knowledge that someone like Thorsten Ball has), I need to give myself the room and grace to at least try and not be deterred from trying just because of some seemingly unreachable level of skill that others may have. If anything, I should be thankful that I can see, follow, and be inspired by so many people on a daily basis. Aaron Francis talks about his maximum effort era, and that is what I want 2024 to truly be for me. Regardless of what I do or don't achieve throughout the year, I want to be able to look back when I do my 2024 review and know that I at least put in the maximum effort - no matter the outcome.

Thanks for reading ❤️