2018: Year in Review

2018 was an A+ year for me. Here’s a bona fide “Year in Review” post that I will continue to update in the coming weeks!

Lara posing with a thumbs up in front of a sign that says "Say yes"

Fashionably late, but here it is: my 2018 Year in Review post! 2018 was a monster year for me. Strong A+, 2018. As I was writing this I was like, “Holy sh*t, Lara, please remember this when you are worried about not doing enough!!”.

Big picture themes

I doubled down on CSS. This time last year, I had freshly failed a Google interview (lots about that in this article), and prospects for full time jobs were somewhat grim for my front-end and WordPress skill-set. I expected to commit on WordPress and learn more back-end programming and computer science, but it didn’t turn out like that. I did learn a lot more about programming and computer science, but what got me the job and what has been my north star for the better part of the year is CSS.

"CSS" transforming from simple and grey to exaggerated and blue and exciting
This year, for me, CSS transformed from pretty great to OMG THIS IS AMAZING!!!

I focused on self-development. I am almost 30, after all, so it’s about time! It’s not that I wasn’t focused on self-development before, but this year I took some very intentional steps to understand myself better. This includes developing some healthy habits, phasing out unhealthy habits, and becoming a lot more comfortable doing my thing, be it reading, roasting coffee, illustrating, or inventorying my life via post it notes on a Friday night. My involvement in the web world is just one aspect of what I do – there are many more things that make me, me, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of that.

Writing became easier and more enjoyable. I’ve been blogging a ton about web and non-web things this year, and I really enjoy it. In fact, I’ve written 27 blog posts this year! I love sharing what’s on my mind – in a safe space outside of social media, that is – even if only a handful of people read it. I find it very gratifying to continue working on this website (which is starting to accumulate many years of posts), and to write about whatever I want – tech-related and non-tech related. I want to write a book, perhaps a memoir, someday.

Side Projects and Community

The Algorithms of CSS was born and debuted at CSSConf EU in Berlin. Since then, I have given the talk four times and have been improving it with each delivery. The response to the talk has been fantastic – people have told me that the talk changed how they see CSS! That is the best feedback I could ask for. It’s a ton of fun to work on, and I’m excited to see where this content goes next.

Lara giving a talk on a big stage, with a slide that says "Is CSS a programming language?"
Here’s me giving my “Algorithms of CSS” talk at CSSConf EU in 2018!

I contributed to Gutenberg via educational resources. This included a series I co-authored with Andy Bell for CSS-Tricks. It was super fun to work with Andy, and the series even got a shout-out from Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp US this year! I also taught a workshop at WordCamp EU in Belgrade, Serbia called “Let’s Build a Gutenberg Block” and that was a great success.

I started a the CSS.la meetup in LA and co-organized the Hollywood WordPress meetup. Full disclosure: I am not the most organized meetup organizer and tend to do the bare minimum, but I do it! I love meetups and I honestly owe much of any success I’ve had to meetups I’ve attended and spoken at in various cities. It’s so important to create safe spaces for people to connect. It’s served me really well, and I value being able to provide that for others.

I started a research project about the value of HTML and CSS. This is largely a response to the strange CSS drama that crops up on social media periodically, and how counter it is to my experience over the last year. I read a book about questionnaire research, started assembling the research objectives, and gathered a group of collaborators. I’m going to keep this on the down low for the most part, but it’s a big goal to continue this in 2019.

I did lots of artwork…a.k.a. the Monsters! Thanks to my biting the bullet and purchasing an iPad, the monsters became a more official part of my daily workflow. They appeared in my slides, were printed as stickers, and even have their own page on my website!

Several multicolored stickers of very cute and friendly monsters.
If you see me in real life, ask for a monster sticker!

I helped a couple of awesome non-profits with their websites. This year, I launched a website for Cool Cars for Kids, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that raises money for research for birth defects by way of classic car shows. I also helped the Center for Artistic Activism, a non-profit run in part by Steve Lambert (my teacher in college who got me into WordPress way back in 2010!), make updates to their site which is built with a page builder, Visual Composer. This year, we will be working on a new, much lighter and more maintainable version powered by Twenty Nineteen and Gutenberg!

Work Stuff

I contracted part-time with two excellent creative agencies, Cantilever and Barrel for the first half of the year. I got to work with some great people and learned a ton. This solidified my desire to leave freelancing and one-person-agency type work I had been doing for several years – I love working on teams.

I got a full-time job I really, really love. After a three month contract, in October 2018 I officially became a Sr. Design Operations Engineer at Penske Media Corporation where I work on WordPress websites for big media brands like Variety and the Rolling Stone. Let it be known that I got this job through my friend Aaron Jorbin, who I met at an NYC WordPress meetup in 2014. There was no algorithms interview and, in fact, I never even applied online. This happens, my friend! It just takes time.

I am all in on design systems. I have never felt more understood and at home with my technical skills than at Clarity Conf last year in December. I’ve been laying the groundwork for a design system at PMC since I started, and in the last month I’ve officially been given the go-ahead to work on it in conjunction with an upcoming redesign. I’m extremely excited about both the work itself and giving a badass conference talk about it in a year or so. I have haphazardly been writing about what I do by way of the Designgineering Chronicles.

My programming skills improved, a lot. I wrote a lot of code this year. I don’t have a Github graph to prove it, but my paid work this year has been almost strictly development work. The computer science I learned for the Google interview and working on the Algorithms of CSS helped me immensely, and I feel much more confident in what I know and what I don’t know.

2018 Favorites

I have successfully developed both reading and music habits this year. Here are my favorites from those categories.


Non-fiction + self-development

  1. Creative Quest, by Questlove
  2. Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
  3. How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, Jordan Ellenberg
  4. Show Your Work, Austin Kleon (his email newsletter is great)

Novels + memoirs

  1. Educated, Tara Westover (this carried into 2019 a bit)
  2. The Sympathizer, Viet Tanh Nyugen
  3. All The Light We Cannot See, Anothony Doerr
  4. Killing Commentadore, Haruki Murakami
  5. A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

Now that I look at this list, I see all are by male authors, except one! I feel there could be a 2019 goal to remedy that…stay tuned.


My music taste has gone through many evolutions. I was obsessed with punk and ska in high school to early college, mid-college through shortly after, I was very into glitch / trip-hop and the like, then a strong indie rock phase, then nothing for a while as I filled my ears with podcasts, or relied on other folks to supply their taste in music.

This year, I’ve gotten back in tough with my own taste in music, thanks to discovering Marcy Sutton’s blog post 2017 in Music, the excellent DJs on KCRW, namely Garth Trinidad 💜, and The Round-Up, a weekly playlist by Okayplayer, a hip-hop publication I learned about via Creative Quest by Questlove (also learned about a lot of excellent artists from stories in the book!).

Oh, and I won a Homepod at Loopconf in Feburary – the speaker is really good, so that might have something to do with my revitalized love for music on weeknights at home.

Although I think I can find enjoyment in any kind of music, especially if it’s catchy, my genres of focus in 2018 have been hip-hop and electronic music. One of my best friends, Jessie, has a habit of keeping seasonal playlists. I started that this year, and consolidated the best of the best from summer, fall, and winter into this:

Finally, I must include special call-outs to the following tracks that I’ve had on repeat for a while:

A’ndia by Secondcity (house)

Power by Rapsody, Kendrick Lamar, Lance Skiiwalker (hip-hop / the whole album, Laila’s Wisdom, is excellent)

Honey by salute (electronic)

Taki Taki by DJ Snake, Selena Gomez, Ozuna (reggaeton)

That’s all!

There more to write about, always, but it’s time to call it for this post. Be sure to check out my 2019 Goals!