My narrative arc for 2015 was fit for a Focus Features indie film. I had recently moved back to the Midwest suburb I grew up in, bending some ties with the tech-soaked bonanza that is the sweat-stained city of Chicago. I had replaced nightlife with family, coffee shops with pajamas, and brimmed with unyielding consistency rather than the potent excitement of urban enthusiasm.

I traded the ever-inspiring machinery of the Chicago Transit Authority with the reliability of a Honda Civic; swiping a credit card to the tune of a gas station radio advertisement while fondly remembering ganging up on dirty turnstiles with the greater Chicago workforce—bludgeoning ignorant sensors with our crusty pieces of plastic money.

It wasn’t easy. I’d be lying if I said the past year was particularly exciting outside of the work week. It had its moments though.

Jake it ‘til you make it.

The greatest takeaway I have from this year can only be directly adopted by a very narrow vector of the coding populous.

The phrase, “Fake it ‘til you make it” is a deceitful one—convoluted at the very least. The implication is that one is incapable of doing whatever it is that they are faking. That is a lie. The goal of this phrase is to keep one inspired and humble enough to continue pushing forward, and yet the assumption of incapability is the very idea that keeps people from doing things. This is why I amended it to be:

Jake it ‘til you make it.

I am me and you are you. We are capable of whatever we set our minds to. I am jaking it, simply because that is all I am capable of doing. Attempting something I haven’t attempted before is scary, but it does not mean I cannot do it. I am not faking it when I build something for the first time. I am doing it. Sure, there is a variable degree of success in my attempts, but that doesn’t dictate whether or not I am a good developer. Trying things is doing things. You are a good developer if you are trying.

I hope you are capable of coming up with a similar pun that uses your name, because this is true for you too.

Things I Did in 2015

I jaked some things this year. For posterity I figured I’d describe a few of them here.

Self-Coding Pens

Yeah, this was a thing alright. A stupid idea turned into fun little things that resonated with people.I also wrote A CodePen post about it.


I did a lot of Rails and Angular work for the startup Autowatts which helps EV owners power their vehicles with the sun.

Hawaiian Airlines

I spent much of 2014 front-ending on the redesign of 2015 finally saw that effort deployed to production as well as continued efforts in the realm of accessibility.

Random Commander

I built a random music generator using Angular and Web Oscillators.

“No JS” Pens

For whatever reason, my fascination with doing things the “wrong” way continued with a handful of pens that refuse to use JavaScript.

Why CodePen is Important

I also geeked out about CodePen and wrote a few posts on why it is great. The two reasons I chose to write about were Refinement and Community.

I also started a Slack for CodePen users. If you would like, you can give me your deets and join via this CodePen Devs Slack form.

CodePen Chicago Meetups

I attended three CodePen meetups in Chicago and I became further enamored with the CodePen community and the city I love.

Matt Soria (@poopsplat) was the magic-maker here. In addition to setting up all three events, he photographed and wrote recaps on two of them: April and September.

“Ignore What You’ve Heard About Writing Good Code”

I also wrote a CodePen post that the internet at large seemed to fancy about how to humblecode without being overwhelmed and self-deprecating.

CSS Dev Conf 2015

I attended CSS Dev Conf 2015 and met many people I have looked up to for a very long time. Seeing people’s passion for what they do and experiencing their humility was A+. Would do it again in a heartbeat. I was also blessed enough to meet many new dear friends.

Dima Codes

I started teaching my friend Dima how to code. We started off with CodePen, Git, Markdown, and a repo. I get to ramble on about code, and Dima gets to discover how awesome it is. We both get a good excuse to talk all the time.

Kill Dev Words: The Game

I had never made a game, so I made one: Kill Dev Words: The Game.

Image Manipulation

I got into inefficient canvas image pixel manipulation. I chronicled my journey down one rabbit hole in that linked post and you can see a handful of outputs in my image manipulation collection.


The biggest highlight of 2015 was that I got a job at CodePen. I have enjoyed my three months at CodePen more than is humanly possible and am overwhelmingly excited about what the future holds there. I think the thing that really means the most to me about this is the fact that I have an opportunity to make a thing that helps me learn, makes me friends, and inspires me do the same for other people. I grew up thinking I was dumb. CodePen is one of the primary reasons I learned that I was stupid for thinking so.

Walking away from 2015

I’m going to be leaving the suburbs and heading back to Chicago proper this year. That’s about all I feel comfortable anticipating in 2016. Don’t get me wrong—I am excited and I am optimistic. It is just that I find the discipline of looking back, relishing, and learning from what has actually taken place far more crucial. We are fast-paced. We code shit and we move on. Let the stuff you have done sink in—you actually did things. The things you did weren’t perfect, but you are active. Let that spur you onward.

You are capable.

Jake it ‘til you make it.