My 2015 Year in Review

Often times I’ve ended years with a feeling of “Good Riddance.” This time is different, and I hope that I get to write one of these for each year to come.

I don’t normally get to say this but, I had a great year. I worked harder, dug deeper, made the effort to pursue personal goals, and it really paid off. In the past I used to always think “Good Riddance,” but this year I decided to actually make moves instead of sitting back and hoping things would just magically come together.

Here are just some of the highlights of my 2015.

Began Working at Refinery29

What a huge way to start off the year. Not many people may know this but a year ago from December 2014 into January 2015 I was interviewing at a few places until my friend, Aziz, approached me about building a bigger UX team at Refinery29. I had already a huge offer on the table with a financial tech company at the time, but I turned it down to work with my friends at a company that I truly believed in and thought would be a better fit. I started on February 2nd and I couldn’t have been more happier with my decision.

Spoke at Future Insights Live in Las Vegas

On stage at Future Insights Live, Las Vegas

When I was going to school for Math and Physics at Stony Brook University, I always imagined myself giving lectures and presenting my research in large auditoriums of people. I’ve always been kind of looking for the same opportunities since I made the move to design.

Late in 2014 I was talking to my friend and former co-worker, Smith Schwartz, about how I could somehow find opportunities to speak at design conferences. She directed me to a few links on call for papers/proposals and I spent a week thinking about what I could speak about. I wrote up a proposal, submitted it to Future Insights, and they invited me to speak at their Future Insights Live conference in Las Vegas.

Although it was extremely stressful in preparing, it was a great first speaking experience, and I want to continue doing more of it. I’m glad that I was able to translate one of my high school aspirations over to the design world.

Moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn

BKLN button from HUGE

There are many times in our lives when an unbelievable opportunity presents itself, however, there are many huge “buts” that prevents us from grabbing it by the horns. That was the case when my cousin, Roz, told me about an apartment her friend had available in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was living in Sunnyside, Queens at the time and had just renewed my lease. Along with that I was heads down working on a few projects and really didn’t have the capacity to even think about doing another move within a year.

In the end I took a chance, said “fuck it” and went for it. I told myself that the opportunity was worth the risk and I would figure everything else out somehow.

Today, I’m still figuring some of those things out, but the experience was a true testament to my ability to take the side of risk & opportunity versus staying safe & maintaining security. I have made an effort in 2015 to allow myself to be more vulnerable in order to open more doors, and I’m hoping that in 2016 I’ll start to see the benefits of these decisions.

Went to XOXO Festival

I’ve been wanting to go to this conference for years, and luckily in 2015 I got an invitation to purchase 1 of ~750 conference passes. I’ve found it very rare to find an event that actually caters towards A LOT of my own personal interests. XOXO really fit the bill.

I ran across the Tilikum Crossing, which just opened the day I landed in Portland

This trip also really opened me up to the idea of traveling alone. I’ve gone on trips in the past by myself, but I always preferred to have had a friend with me. While I was in Portland I was able to do the things I wanted to do, and had a great time exploring the city. I went on a few runs along the river and ate at some really good places.

I already have another solo trip planned for 2016.

Ran in the New York City Marathon

Celebrating the finish after a grueling journey. Yes, that’s a fanny pack!

My crowning achievement of 2015. I literally went from 0 to 26.2 in a 2-year personal quest. Although I got into running for the wrong reasons, I made it a goal of mine to run in and complete the New York City Marathon. There were many challenges and distractions along the way but I followed through. I didn’t get the time I wanted but being able to finish it at all was still a success. I proved to myself that if I say I’m going to do something, I sure as hell am going to do it.

On stage at FFC6 making it up as I go along. Photo by Jelvin

Spoke at Form Function Class 6 in the Philippines

Not only did I get to speak in just one conference this year, but I was able to speak in a second one… and in my home turf! This was almost like a homecoming for me of sorts. The last time I was in the Philippines was 5 years ago when I spent a month in Manila in 2010. At that time I had no idea where I was going with my career, I was going through some emotional challenges, and I was just about to start my first actual office job doing design.

Here I was in 2015, trying to inspire fellow Filipinos with my personal history of how I found my way into Product Design. It was an amazing experience to share my story with my country and I was able to meet some really awesome people.

Now Onto 2016

I hope that this time next year I’ll be able to write about some really great things about 2016. Every year I tend to focus on a different aspect of my life, 2015 just happened to be more personal-goal-oriented, so I’m sure that I won’t be able to match that next year. My aspirations for 2016, and every year to come for that matter, are to just define moments that continue to make me a better person. I believe that it is a great exercise to start doing your own year in review so you can set yourself up for a better year to come.

Cheers to 2016.

-J

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