Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Year in Review 2022

It's time for another journal reflecting on 2022 and looking into 2023.


This blog post is primarily written for future me. I like documenting my journey and have found going back to earlier years' review notes really enjoyable. However, you're free to join the ride! I hope this post will open up to you a bit more about who I am beyond all the tech and community posts and board game projects. I've also learned a lot about my personal growth from the evolution of my writing style and the way I do retrospection.

If you're interested in doing something similar, I find Year Compass a great free tool to guide the retrospective and future planning. I've been using it for years now and it's one of the things I look forward to every year.

I can also tell that reading through my old ones once a year makes me so happy I wrote them, so I highly recommend writing similar ones, even if just for yourself. It's so easy to forget what's been going on and having it written down every year is a good habit.

Previous years

2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021

What I hoped for 2022 last year?

A year ago, I wasn't very hopeful for the future. Two years of pandemic and burnout had taken its toll, I was on a sick leave and there was no knowledge of when the situation would ease out.

However, I did write down five hopes for the future: starting a new documentation meetup, playing more board games, traveling to Europe, doing 2nd season of codebase and writing more. Surprisingly, I kinda did get 3/5 done this year.

I prefaced those hopes with this:

But I'll allow myself to dream an unlikely optimistic future today. If not for anything else, at least for the sake of "if it happens, I'll  have a list of things to do".

And yeah, 2022 was way better year than 2020 and 2021.

Pandemic started easing

I started 2022 on a burnout sick leave and spent the first few months at home pondering and wondering. Just before the turn of the year, I was discussing a new job opportunity for a dream job but had to quit the process due to the burnout. I did the only possible decision but I still wish I wouldn't have had to.

In March, I returned to work, the pandemic restrictions were lifted and I got back to organizing events both at work and at communities outside work. It was a nice spring. I was still tired as heck but managed to organize and host a ton of great events and helping some local meetups run their first events since the pandemic pause.

Five people around a round table in a restaurant, all looking towards the camera
Me and fellow speakers on a dinner in Copehagen before Django Day

I also got to travel a bit when I took the boat and the train to Copenhagen for Django Day 2022 where I met amazing people, made new friends and gave a talk about debugging (and a silly lightning talk about version numbers). During that trip I also had a chance to hang out with friends and colleagues in Futurice's Stockholm office and got a custom Futu-Juhis LEGO figure made in the LEGO store of Copenhagen.

Juhis standing in front of audience presenting with a slide that says "Lightning talk ⚡: rustlings"
Doing a talk in Rust Finland meetup

I also got to talk in a few other meetups: HelPy, Rust Finland, TurkuSec, Koodiklinikka and Codete Tech Lead meetup as well as teach programming in a program co-organized by Vamos and Futurice.

Searching for a new job & starting in one

During 2021 and 2022, I talked with a lot of companies about jobs. During that process, I interviewed with almost 40 companies and in March, I applied to Mozilla for a new open position for a developer advocate. Two long months of interviewing and waiting led to an offer to start as a Senior Developer Advocate for Firefox Add-ons in Germany.

Since January of 2017, I'd been looking for an opportunity to move to Germany and finally I had one. In June, I packed up my stuff into a storage container in Helsinki, headed out to the countryside for a short holiday and in the beginning of July took the boat and handful of train rides through Stockholm, Malmö, Copenhagen and Hamburg on route to Berlin to start a new life. Moving to a new country with public transportation was exciting.

My holiday month of July was spent on getting to know my neighborhood, playing board games 3-4 nights a week with new friends and sweating a lot, as the heatwave swept over Germany.

Juhis wearing a red cap, grey hoodie with Mozilla hoodie and a conference bad, standing outside with rooftops of Amsterdam in the background
In Ad-Filtering Dev Summit in Amsterdam

In August, I started my new job and spent the second half of the year learning the ropes of building Firefox extensions, getting to know people in the organization and the community, and learning the tools and processes.

During the fall, I built a few browser extensions, two of them published: Pokemon TCG Card Viewer and Pokemon TCG Online Code Redeem Helper. The others I built as experiments to learn different aspects of extension building. I wrote a few blog posts and got to teach a class on how to build a browser extension to university students in US.

Teaching that class, creating the materials and helping students build extensions as part of their class was definitely one of the biggest positive highlights of this year. It was exactly what I love to do.

I visited Ad-Filtering Dev Summit in Amsterdam and DevRelCon in Prague as well as took a trip to Helsinki to organize React Finland.

All of those trips were amazing. I got to meet and reconnect with old friends, make a ton of new ones and especially in Prague, it was so lovely to connect with colleagues in the industry with whom I'd only interacted online until now.

However, I didn't really get into the meetup and community buzz in Berlin. Partly because it seems the events haven't quite started yet due to the pandemic and partly due to working mostly evenings as my closest colleagues are in US and Canada.

That was a bit of a bummer but I did get involved with the Berlin chapter of codebar and coached in a few workshops in-person and virtually.


During 2022 I ended up writing around 50 blog posts in different blogs, mainly this one. I had a couple of breaks in the middle: in January/February I was feeling so down on my sick leave and in August I was so exhausted and busy with the onboarding at Mozilla.

I still consider this a good win for the writing. I was able to maintain a mostly weekly pace, wrote a good amount of technical content and enjoyed writing a ton. I still didn't however make any progress on two of my longer form guides that I've been wanting to get done for a good two years already now. 2023 maybe?

I also wrote some blog-post-style-ish writeups about my Advent of Code solutions this year.

In my job, I also got to work with a brilliant copy editor and collaborating with him is definitely improving my writing skills. It is so great to write blog posts when I have a technical team to discuss with (and who review) my content and a copy editor and marketing team who help me with polishing the content and story.

Here are my favorites from 2022:

For a good part of the year, I also managed to maintain my Weeklies, a weekly curated collection of interesting articles, videos, games and other content. I plan to return to it, hopefully early next year.

Communities & events

I already wrote a bit about the events. Since I don't have access to my old work calendar anymore and I didn't take full notes of all the ones, I can't really estimate how many. On the busiest week in late April, I had 6 events on a single week and it was so much fun.

With Turku ❤️ Frontend, we organized 7 meetups and I continued organizing the events in the background after moving to Berlin as well, helping out with speakers, sponsors, marketing and comms. It's amazing it's been already 7 years since I founded the community. It's my proudest creation in my life and I've gained so many new friends through it – and a whole new career in developer relations.

We also did a bunch of Helsinki Dev Lunches in the spring and I got to invite quite a few student groups to Futurice's office for excursions in the spring as well.

At Koodiklinikka, I helped run our annual salary survey with almost 700 participants from our developer community. It was a lot of fun, I got to make a ton of funny memes and have a bit of different kind of interactions with the community than I do on a daily basis.

It was a weird year when it comes to communities and events. Moving to Berlin was such a big change that for the second half of the year I lost connection to most of my old communities without yet forming strong connections with new.

I did organize a small Hacktoberfest gathering at Mozilla's Berlin office in October and used it to work on the documentation of 235.

And I ate a brunch that contributed in a small part into Matias starting a new meetup group Aurajoki Overflow, a very welcomed addition to Turku's meetup scene. And I did a birthday talk about communities in TurkuSec's 6th birthday. I'm so happy to see both of those communities in the Turku dev scene!


This year I also wrote a bit of code. I actually started the year by migrating my 2021 Advent of Code writing into this website.

I continued improving two of my older projects, 235 and Gym Leader Challenge Decklist Validator, making small improvements on feature, documentation and presentation side.

I built Pokemon TCG Card Viewer and Pokemon TCG Online Code Redeem Helper, two Firefox extensions for Pokemon TCG players. To have an example project for my How to build browser extensions class, I built kittens-everywhere to showcase how to get started.

A funny story about the kittens everywhere: I mostly built it on a 31-hour boat ride from Helsinki to Travemünde without access to Internet which made it quite an experience and a challenge.

2021 was a great year for me in Advent of Code, due to having a lot of extra time on my hands and a need to distract myself from the world. This year, I took my trusted toolkit of Python and Jupyter Notebooks and solved what I could and it turned out really great. I'll share more about that in an Advent of Code retrospective in a few weeks.

So tired

I knew that I was pushing hard on the second half of the year but I only realized how hard when I arrived to Finland for the Christmas holidays. When I didn't have to push and keep myself together, I crashed hard and spent three days mostly in a hotel bed being so completely tired. I had a few lunches and dinners with friends but didn't find energy to do anything else.

2023, here we come

Past few years, this part of the journal has been the hardest but this year I'm once again excited for the future. There's still a lot of things to figure out in my personal and professional life so I'll dedicate 2023 to getting back to basics.

I want to focus on my physical and mental health that I've been sacrificing over the past 5-6 years while chasing success and battling the burden of the pandemic. I want to get healthier and get a better grasp of the day-to-day as that's been my main challenge lately.

And yeah, I do want to make progress with my writing this year as well. Writing is one of those things that I really enjoy. Having my own blog that I finally managed to get into a shape where I write regularly has been something I'm very proud of it. It's also very handy because I keep sending links to blog posts regularly when questions come up, so it's also doing its job as a documentation for future.

I'm launching a new newsletter for software developers next week! I'm super excited about it, keep an eye on this blog and my social media so you won't miss it. (Or take a sneak peek at https://www.syntaxerror.tech/ and sign up before others get a chance!) I've written some parts of it already and even I have to admit, it might be one of the better things I've done.

A wrap up

I made many new friends and got to catch up with many existing ones this year. I got through the worst part of the pandemic and while it's still not over, things look way better than they have in a long time.

Thanks to everyone who was part of my 2022 and made the year fun and the adventures worth it. I hope I was able to bring some joy, happiness, new ideas or inspiration or new friends to your lives too.

Next week, I'll head back to Berlin and I'm ready for the new adventures. This time, with optimism.

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