Photo by Jingda Chen on Unsplash

My 2018 Annual Review

Alessandro Desantis
6 min readJan 7, 2019


2018 has had lots of ups and lots of downs for me. I’ve never published an annual review before, but I thought it would be fun to try.

For me, the greatest value of this exercise lies in the ability to look back at the commitments I have made publicly and see whether I was able to honor them or not.


In February, I broke up with my significant other, whom I had been with for three years. It was one of the most painful and challenging experiences of my life, but it was also transformative.

Because I was hurting so badly, I decided to try therapy — it turns out it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It taught me a lot about myself and what I could improve in how I dealt with other people. Most importantly, it taught me to recognize patterns and act on them before it’s too late.

I would urge anyone who’s struggling with themselves or others to give it a try. Done with the right person, therapy can really make a difference. It allowed me to recover a relationship that I thought broken.

There are still challenges in my life — my family is struggling in several ways and I feel like I’m failing to support them properly. In 2019, I want to practice more empathy and become a better son, brother and partner.


On the professional side, the first few months of 2018 have not exactly been a blast. The startup I was CTO of ran out of runway and we had to prematurely end an amazing journey. I don’t think I need to explain how sad it can be to pull the plug on a project you’ve given your everything.

The day we decided to call it a wrap, though, is also the day I got an email from the folks at Nebulab, asking if I wanted to join them on their journey to build an amazing place for engineers to work in Italy. I was a bit skeptical of working for a local company at first, since good opportunities in the tech industry are fairly limited here, but they proved me wrong.

The experience has been fantastic so far and I’m learning a lot on what it means to run an agency of 20+ people. We doubled our revenue, we set up a mentorship program for employees and improved our hiring process by an order of magnitude. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!

In 2019, I want to become a better manager. I’m especially interested in how I can help people overcome obstacles and keep growing by providing them with the right guidance at the right time. If there are any resources you can suggest, I would love to hear about them.


My health in 2018 has been worse than usual. Nothing serious happened, but I’ve had a lot of small problems and annoyances that have kept me more busy than I would have liked. I suspect it’s because of the stress from so many problems hitting me at once.

I also gave up exercising for a great part of the year and have suffered the effects — overall, I felt less energetic and healthy.

I have only now started to get back in shape, but I’m feeling much better already, both mentally and physically. I have also started making my own food again, after a long stretch of restaurant and precooked meals.

For 2019, I have three different health-related goals:

  • I want to do at least some light exercise every day (I’m following my own version of Nerd Fitness’ basic routine and I’ll be moving to the advanced one soon);
  • I want to cook my own meals at least 4 days/week;
  • I want to go to the gym 3 times/week, starting in February.


I wish I could say I didn’t have the time to write much in 2019, but it’s more accurate to say that I couldn’t find the energy. There was just too much on my mind in the first part of the year and, by the time I had my willpower back, I had completely lost the habit to write consistently.

I missed writing very much: for me, it’s an invaluable tool to help me make sense of myself, my work and the world around me. Needless to say, it’s also a very good way to build and improve my personal brand.

I published 6 Medium stories in 2018. In 2019, I want to publish at least 12, hopefully more. My plan is to make time for writing in the morning, but I’ll use weekends to accomplish the goal if needed. I found if I block out all distractions, I can easily have a decent draft ready in 3–4 hours.

Some of these articles will be published here, some of them will most likely be available on Nebulab’s blog first and then syndicated on Medium.


My Kindle dashboard says I read 19 books in 2018. Unfortunately there’s no good way to extract accurate stats from my Kindle library, so I just based this on my memory and date of purchase.

This is a good result considering that I also devoted a lot of time to work and personal matters, so I’m quite happy with it.

In 2019, I hope to get to at least 20 books. I also want to improve my ability to retain information, so I will strive to read in a more mindful way. This might be hard because I usually read when I’m in bed, but I’m sure it can be done.

Finally, while there’s nothing wrong with fiction, I want to make sure I also keep reading more challenging material, so I’ll try to read one non-fiction book for every fiction book I read.

Open source

On the open source side, things went pretty well. I was able to push a few improvements to Pragma — a lot of work has gone into improving the developer experience by writing better error messages for common gotchas and extensive documentation on how to use the framework in the real world.

I have also released Adaptor, a very small library to help implement the adapter pattern in Ruby. It has come in handy in a few different projects already, so I hope it will be useful to the rest of the community as well.

Since I work at Nebulab, I’ve also been contributing to Solidus, a Spree fork. The project is a lot of fun and the people working on it are brilliant, so I’m proud to be able to add it to my portfolio.

Finally, I’ve worked with the folks at Hound to add support for ERB Lint and Brakeman. This is not strictly open source, but Hound is free for open source projects, so I still consider it a contribution to the OSS community. We are now using Hound on the majority of our codebases at Nebulab and we’ll keep investing heavily in it.

In 2019, I want to complete Pragma’s documentation and the work I started on pragma-client, which should make the framework the perfect choice for Ruby-based service-oriented architectures.


This has been an absolute disaster. I only published 13 photos on my 500px profile in 2018 and, while this might seem a decent number, they were only shot on two occasions and are not really up to my usual standards.

As far as photography is concerned, I will probably need to start from the basics again and spend a lot of time practicing.

I commit to publishing at least one picture every month on 500px, or to remove “photographer” from my bios across the internet. Coders code, writers write, photographers photograph — it’s as simple as that.



Alessandro Desantis

Technology leader and strategic advisor. I work at the intersection of people, software and words.