My web development journey actually started off as a graphic design journey - which I've come to realise is actually fairly common.
I studied graphic design at sixth-form at Rossall School in Fleetwood, UK. I enjoyed the freedom of graphic design, if you wanted to make a poster out of photographs of food; you could. If you wanted to write a message by scratching the burnt bits off of toast; you could. If you wanted to design a new crisp (potato chip) brand using house hold objects photoshopped to within an inch of their lives; you could (yes these are all projects that I did during my two year sixth form course). But even before joining Rossall school, I played nerdy online games that allowed users to personalise their profiles by using BB codes and very basic HTML. I was fascinated with the fact that simple, english readable code such as `color=blue` actually changed the colour of my text to blue - incredible. My fascination grew during school and I learnt basic HTML, CSS and jQuery which allowed me to build basic websites. I stripped apart free online templates and continued to teach myself throughout high school and sixth form.
I enjoyed graphic design so much, that I decided that I wanted to continue studying it, and ended up studying a Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Design at the University of Huddersfield, UK. I really enjoyed University. I played rugby for the majority of the time (just like in the first few seconds of this clip where I catch the ball from the first kick-off, and drop the ball in the first tackle - Welcome to rugby league). My graphic design course wasn't what I had expected. We focused more on the theory of graphic design, and didn't get our hands as dirty as I would have liked. I managed to steer all of my projects into directions that I enjoyed and felt passionate about however, so it all worked out in the end.
My favourite project while at university was my Final Major Project. I opted to brand a mobile coffee service (this was 2015 so they weren't so popular back then). I didn't stop at branding though; I travelled to Germany and bought a Piaggio Ape van, renovated it from absolute ruin to a modern looking, fully working, mobile coffee van! I even fitted an ex-Costa Coffee hipster barista style coffee machine which was in perfect working order. As you can see in the picture below. On the left is how the van was bought, and on the right is how it ended up!
Before I had even graduated from University, I saw a job ad for a junior graphic designer at a really cool tech startup in Manchester called Formisimo. The opportunity sounded amazing, so I applied, and to my surprise I got the job! I started pretty much straight away, and even had to book a day off to go to my University graduation! Which I thought was pretty cool; Here I am at my University graduation and I already have a job in the field that I studied.
Being the only designer (and a junior one at that), I hung around with the developers at Formisimo. We went for walks to clear our heads, daily trips to Booths to collect our free coffees, and generally enjoyed each others company, which was a huge relief to me at my first job. I started chatting to them about Dev, and the fact that I had a VERY basic understanding of what they were talking about. Before I knew it, I was building basic landing pages, email templates and wordpress templates. I learned so much in such a short space of time, because I was being thrown so far into the deep end, that I had to figure it out on my own. I even learnt the basics of SASS - all while being paid. The 2 hour round trip to Manchester at 6am eventually got the better of me though, and I decided that I wanted to move slightly closer to home (also form analytics isn't all that interesting and I wanted to move into something that I was more passionate about).
I applied for a few jobs as a junior developer, in Leeds, as that was the closest BIG city, and had the most to offer. I eventually got two interviews lined up for the same day! One was at Brass Agency (RIP), and the other was at Joe Browns. A few days later I got an offer from Joe Browns, and I was over the moon, but I was really holding out for an offer from Brass Agency. I saw more opportunity for growth in a digital agency like Brass. A few days later I received a phone call offering me the job at Brass and I was over the moon!
At Brass I worked on loads of different projects, but the majority were Wordpress builds, with a custom theme. I grew to love Wordpress, I knew it inside-out and ended up doing some fairly cool things. I also worked on Magento sites, Umbraco sites and Drupal sites, so I really was getting a good taste for web development, and learning new skills. I met some great people at Brass, some of which I'm still good friends with today.
18 months after starting at Brass was one of the single worst days in my career to date. I was called into a meeting by my production manager, who was also my line manager, and a creative director. Almost robot-like, my line manager read a sheet of A4 paper, which explained that I was being made redundant. The company had to save money somewhere, and this was where they thought they could save the most money, most efficiently. Tonnes of emotions ran through my head, but the most prominent one was anger. I felt personally attacked. I've come to realise that this is business, and decisions are usually made with the business in mind, sometimes at the detriment of the staff. Earlier this year (2020), Brass went into administration, and all of the 80+ staff lost their jobs on the spot, so I should consider myself lucky that they gave me a months pay after making me redundant.
My journey is nowhere near over. In fact, I'm basically just getting started, but I'm now at a place where I feel I can really spread my wings, and learn. I'm encouraged to question what we're doing. I'm encouraged to learn new technologies, processes and concepts. I'm rewarded for hard work, and when I'm struggling I'm offered the support I need to get me back on track.
So, from a self taught graphic designer turned web developer - you can be whatever you want to be. Just give it a go!