2023 in review

Here we are again, with another year completed. I’ve now been at Google for over two years, I’ve managed to avoid collecting any additional cats or new broken bones, but I have gained a son-in-law!


2023 was the most challenging year of my career to date. Previous downturns in the industry haven’t posed much of a problem to me. I’ve found there to be more work for a scrappy freelancer in lean years, not less, especially if you are someone who doesn’t mind doing work that others turn their noses up at. It’s a whole different ballgame as an employee, and especially as a manager. The layoffs at Google at the beginning of 2023, didn’t impact me or my writing team directly, however they cast a shadow over the year. I try to look at difficult situations through a lens of what I can actually do to change things or improve the situation. At my level of management I’m not privy to layoff decisions, but I can be there to support my team and make space to talk about their concerns. I can strive to make sure our work and the impact of it is visible, and I can make sensible business decisions to make the most of resources in a more constrained environment. And so, after the initial shock of it all, that’s how I’ve approached this year.

Despite the challenges, there have been many work highlights. I’ve been working on the project that became Baseline since I started at Google, so to get a launch moment at Google I/O was amazing. I really think this concept has the potential to bring greater clarity about the availability of features to developers, and I’m excited that we’re working with MDN and Can I Use to roll out the Baseline indicators. I got to travel to three of our worldwide I/O Connect events, and meet developers in Shanghai, Bengalaru, and Amsterdam. This was my first time in India and mainland China. I was in India for 48 hours, which was enough time to experience the wildest Uber ride of my life, eat some excellent dal, and meet just a few of the developers at the event and hear the thoughts of that community about Baseline and interoperability challenges. I got to enjoy Shanghai for a little longer, coming away with new insights in terms of what life is like as a developer there, and how we can better support people by making sure content is available in China.

The layoffs happening while I was a new manager definitely meant that I was thrown into the deep end, but I feel I’ve grown in confidence as a manager this year. I had six months of coaching, which proved incredibly insightful, not just in terms of management skills but in my own understanding of myself. I would recommend management coaching to any new manager, it’s been a game changer for me.

In the latter half of this year we moved our sites to the internal website platform, once again reminding me that markdown really isn’t as portable as people like to make out.

Personal life

In my personal life, the big event of the year was my daughter’s wedding to Rui in June. It was the most fabulous day. She had organised everything so beautifully that the day unfolded in a relaxed way, and it was lovely to see the people from all her and Rui’s very different friendship groups get on so well. As a parent, to see your child surrounded by people who love them is incredibly special.

We gathered again a few months later, for the funeral of my paternal grandmother. She was the last of that generation, the youngest of a large Gateshead family. Many of my earliest memories are of parties with her older siblings, my great aunts and uncles.

I started 2023 with my left hand in a splint after surgery to repair a ligament left me with no fully working hands. It’s taken most of the year to get that thumb working properly again, but it’s pretty much there, and pain-free at this point. I didn’t manage to get back to cycling outdoors, but I’m going to get my bike in for a service, and hopefully get back to that (maybe even a triathlon) in 2024. At the beginning of the year I set myself a running goal, to run 1300 miles in 2023. I hadn’t gone over 1000 miles in a year since 2016, and for several years had followed the same pattern of doing lots of running, usually trying to increase speed, then getting injured. 2023 was all about consistency, the 1300 miles was achievable with three to four runs a week, and I reached my goal just after Christmas. The final total for 2023 is 1,316 miles run. I also managed 1,485 miles of indoor cycling. Many of my runs have been with folk from the This Mum Runs group, I’ve been a solo runner for a very long time, but I have really enjoyed this past year of chatty runs.

The thumb injury also made doing much on the way of DIY hard, however in the second half of this year I have learned how to lay floor tiles, and with the help of my father who was visiting from the USA, built understairs pull out storage. I’m enjoying becoming more confident with the different tools and techniques, and hoping to learn some plumbing in 2024.

Onwards to 2024

In 2024 I hope to carve out some more time to work on CSS. My role at Google is somewhat all-encompassing, however I’ve started to put into place some things to help take some of the load off me personally. I’m definitely someone who will just step up and get stuff done, whatever it is, but it doesn’t always need to be me who does that. I’ve also not done as much speaking this year, or writing for my own enjoyment. These are things I don’t want to lose from my life.

I’m learning Python, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve become a bit frustrated at not having a useful language at Google. I’m mostly a PHP developer(though increasingly an out of date one) and PHP isn’t exactly top of the list at work. Looking at the sort of things I want to be able to do, Python seemed the most useful language, and I’m enjoying working through tutorials and being able to quickly achieve things, even if I do keep tripping myself up with unwanted curly braces!

I’m also thinking about where I physically want to be. I’m currently in Bristol, but when I think about where I ultimately want to be, it’s back up in the North-East. I don’t know when that move will happen, but I’ve started researching places up there. I moved to the South almost thirty years ago, it’s probably time to think about going home.


Simon R Jones January 2, 2024 Reply

@rachelandrew good post Rachel. Life as a manager can be very busy, sounds like you have a good approach & I agree coaching is really helpful. Happy new year!

Jeff Bridgforth January 2, 2024 Reply

@rachelandrew Enjoyed reading your review. Glad you didn’t collect any new broken bones.

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