December 31, 2019

2019 Year in Review

I regretted not working on an essay to reflect in 2018. I forgot almost all the things that happened already. So I'll make up for it for 2019.

General theme is — I'm incredibly thankful for the connection with people, momentum with my lifestyle, and the opportunity to provide for the community. In 2019, I'm got to do the following things:

1. Produce 48 episodes of Roots, reach the top charts of Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and get a feature from Net Magazine.

In 2017, I started the podcast as a Junior in college. I only managed to make 2 episodes. In 2018, just graduated, I was able to produce 9 episodes. This year was different, for some reason, I came out with 48 episodes.

What goes into making them is actually really boring. I sit in my room, close the door, listen to over an hour of audio and do the magic. Make editorial decisions, listen to and record my voice, and just barely manage to survive to market the episode.

But I guess I'm used to it. Thanks to momentum, I have the tenacity to just do it every week. I officially have to claim that I am indeed a "podcaster."

Investing my time, money, and life into this side project is definitely worth it. The opportunity to connect with Filipino designers from across the world, to tell their origin stories, and to service the global Filipino design community, is an unparalleled feeling.

It's made me happier. Like a dopamine rush once a week.

Besides, hearing amazing stories from guests first-hand is illuminating for my own career. It's forced me to think beyond the box and level up my own work.

I'm just really thankful and grateful for the support everyone's given me to lead up to this point.

Listen to Roots on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

2. Co-organize the biggest UX conference in Asia for 1300+ attendees — UX+.

We got to organize a star-studded conference in one of the grandest stages in Manila. Thanks to Aram and Christan, I got to take an active hand in helping hype up the conference and help take care of the speakers. The two of them are the main drivers of UX+ and I'm really excited to help build up the conference even more for next year!

My favorite part of it all is just getting to know the speakers. I took Benjamin and Jay out before the conference. We went out for some Jollibee, Nokal, and did a photoshoot!

The actual conference was an unforgettable experience for me as well. I got to moderate a panel and at the same time learn from all the high-caliber speakers we were able to invite.

Image may contain: 7 people, including Ely Jozz, people smiling

UX+ in 2020 is going to be twice as big, so watch out!

3. Start a new podcast with CSJ.

CSJ and I go way back in 2016. I did a UX design internship under him for Jump Digital as a freshman, and this year, we totally collaborated on a lot of projects.

One of those is UX Almusal. We produced over 4 episodes total this year tackling different design topics. Things like how to be a product designer, impostor syndrome, creating principles come to mind.

I like the format because I get to share my thoughts on certain topics, but it's much more challenging to produce it than your normal Roots episodes, which are mainly origin stories.

Watch out for 2020 as we get to explore more topics, and possibly invite some guests over as well.

Listen to UX Almusal on Spotify, Anchor, or Apple Podcasts.

4. Recruit and lead Cwenne and Laura as design interns and convert them to go full-time.

Laura and Cwenne are two of the most important things that happened to me this year! I'm grateful they trusted me enough to go through an internship at Kalibrr, despite being fresh graduates. That's not so common here in the Philippines.

In fact, they did so well that they converted to being full-time, and I'm so proud of them. The next thing is to help them get regularized. Based on my experience, it's pretty tough to stay in Kalibrr, but I'm absolutely sure they're going to be fine.

As with my user research: it's the most fulfilling feeling when a recruiter sees their hire growing and thriving in their role.

I want the two of them to succeed even more and I know they are going to be a strong design duo this 2020!

5. Lose over 20 lbs of fat and finally have a normal BMI.

I think my perpetual weight was hovering around 167-170+ lbs all the time. I've never been in a normal body mass index from junior year high school onwards. It's just impossible.

But there are a few cornerstones of why I lost so much fat this year. I learned about nutrition, I started taking my identity as a badminton player seriously, and I started lifting weights again.

Now, it's become my default lifestyle to eat healthy and to exercise regularly. You can do anything with healthy habits.

I also started going back to the gym regularly for strength training, and I'm excited to get stronger and healthier this 2020.

6. Started my own YouTube channel, and failed to keep it up.

If being a podcaster is hard, then being a YouTuber is twice as hard. Honestly, it's hard to come up with content and find your unique voice in this platform. But that's part of the challenge.

This year, I thought I could maintain a consistent publishing schedule for YouTube, but I obviously failed.

But then, I'm extremely happy that I got the first videos I made right. I learned a few things on filming myself, color grading, videography, editing, and optimizing content too.

With all the stuff that's been going on and the many things I have to keep up with in 2019, I had to put YouTube on the backburner.

This 2020, that might start to change.

7. Start a coaching gig and fail at it too.

Aside from getting around 5 calls in leads for Specter, I didn't actually manage to bag  any serious students this year.

I attribute it to a combination of things — but mostly my failure to act just because I handle too many commitments. I thought that if I dedicated more time to this project, then I'd seriously be burned out from the whole design thing.

So I put the focus on doing my work first, and my other side projects.

Nevertheless, I learned how to create marketing funnels, understand pricing models, learn how creating courses work, doing content marketing, and most importantly, how to coach someone.

I have to readjust my strategy based on the many things I've learned in the year, but that might come in later on in late 2020 or 2021. Specter is just not a priority right now.

8. Expand UX Society to 3 chapters — UST, Yale, and Letran.

This is all Hazell Cham, Chia Amisola, and Riel Reyes's work.

University of Sto. Tomas, Yale University, and Colegio de San Juan de Letran joins the UX Society Circle.

UXSoc chapters are mostly autonomous and their growth relies solely on their own effort. Every school has a different context and the pace is different too.

What I believe is the best thing about expansion is that the idea of experince design takes root much earlier in the minds of people.

I'm actually really excited where UXSoc alumni take their careers. It's become the preferred training ground and talent pool for the strongest entry-level designers in the industry.

9. Ship major and minor things, travel, and build culture, and grow our design team @Kalibrr.

Kalibrr was the only company I applied to after graduating from Ateneo. Every day I go to work reaffirms my belief that I'm surrounded by incredibly smart, ambitious, and trustworthy people.

This year, I'm thankful for being able to travel for work for various reasons. I attended and helped facilitate design and strategy meetings with our Indonesia country team. I also attended UX Thailand with Mark, Gian, and Casper. I also did user research at Indonesia with the help of our Customer Success team there with Renzo, Gian, and Casper.

I got to contribute to helping build our team by directly sourcing incredible designers, especially my idol — Riel Reyes.

Riel has designed our new landing page, cornerstone features for the Enterprise squad, and produced his own documentary series called Intersections. I'd love to say that his success is my success too.

I got to work on important things like handling UX debt, overseeing new enterprise features, working with Mark to refine our design processes, and level up the quality of our team.

Just being with Mark, Jiggy, Riel, Cwenne, and Laura has been an amazing experience so far and I'm sure 2020 won't be any different.

10. Consistently train and play badminton.

I always look forward to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, plus the weekend because I can play my heart out in badminton queueing matches and training.

It's been just a year since I've started training, and I've learned how to play doubles at an above average skill.

I've stabilized my understanding of all the different strokes — clears, smashes, drop shots, net shots, straights and cross court shots, back hand clears and drops, and so much more.

Playing badminton with friends is a regular hobby!

I've gotten a stronger hold of my footwork with my split steps and movement around the corners of the court.

I also learned how to deceive my opponent using pauses, feints, and anticipation.

Most importantly, the best learning is to adjust my gameplay based on who I'm playing against and the skill level of my partner. Every point counts.

I'm just really excited to take my gameplay to a whole other level from where I am now.

11. Do my first conference talk at a design conference and a professional meetup. Plus other talks!

I gave a talk at the student design conference I used to organize, Junior Form Function and Class. I talked about the value proposition canvas and gave some advice to aspiring product designers. That marked my first foray into giving design conference talks!

Likewise, I was so happy to speak for my first UXPH talk where I really prepared for the content and delivery. I talked about "User Research for Startups." I asked my manager Casper for help and the Kalibrr Design team to refine it. It turned out amazing, based on the feedback I got from the organizers and attendees. This was a really big deal for me, I really thought it was 5 years in the making. UXPH is an important part of my career, and I wouldn't be anywhere I am now without them.

I also had an opportunity to go back to UP Diliman for UP Cursor's annual CS Summit. I redid my user research talk from UXPH, because well, coming up with new topics and content is hard.

I went back to my alma mater, Lourdes School Quezon City, to give a glimpse of my journey so far after high school.

I was part of a panel on comparing/contrasting analytics and UX. Looking back, the theme didn't really make any sense, but I guess I'm happy to have been there for the public speaking experience.


For 2020, I don't really have goals set. I guess I just want to continue whatever I've been doing so far and make the most of the opportunities that come my way. In a nutshell — to create a better lifestyle, an environment that forces me to stick to healthy habits, and to deepen my relationships with people.

Other Ramblings