Coming on Ten Years

Ten years ago this week, I gave my two week notice at my well-paid but non-web related corporate job. I gave my notice so that I could go pro as a web designer rather than just doing it as a side job or hobby. I gave my notice so that I could start my own web design freelance consultancy. I gave notice so that I could teach web design and 20th Century art history at a local university. I gave notice so that I could grow into my new life as a full-time web designer.
My timing, I have joked for years, was impeccable. I gave notice to start a web design business right on the precipice of the Dot Com Bust of 2000/2001.
In the last ten years, I have built a web design and development business / freelance consultancy that has focused on small businesses, creatives, non-profits, and education related endeavors. In the last ten years, I have offered my clients not just a new web site, but also how to conduct an online marketing or promotion campaign, how to use the internet to grow a business or project, as well as helping the internet phobic get comfortable in this new space. It has at times been very satisfying and at others deeply frustrating.
Five years ago this month, I wound down my web design business and teaching at the university to go back to school myself. I packed up my whole life, gave up my lovely 1890s back of the house in Orange, and in Sept of 2005 I moved to Dublin, Ireland, to attend graduate school at Trinity College, Dublin. I went to graduate school with the intention of learning more about programming and web development, as well as to focus on a mobile project.
When I first returned from Dublin with my new minted Masters degree, I spent 6 months in a job search of which many leads were pursued, paths investigated and interviews conducted but none lead to a corporate web or mobile design job as I had hoped at the time. In 2007, I spent a great deal of the year trying almost any new professional adventure offered to me – speaking at developer conferences about design, working as a web developer contractor to an East Coast based agency, thinking & planning a mobile hack day, etc. In one way, this was good, as I got to discover what I did not want to do, but on the other side it was bad, as I felt like I was too full of post-masters degree energy and that I was scattered and did not focus.
For the last three years, I have been working more on the web development and programming side of my skill set, both on client projects and a large semi-collaborative web application, as well as mobile development projects. Something funny happened on the way to the web app forum, I discovered that what I knew to be true in early 2007 when I was interviewing, which was that I really did not want to work for myself anymore but instead work on a team doing bigger projects than one person can accomplish alone, is still very true, in fact truer now than it was in 2007.
Furthermore, I have discovered that the longer I am a freelance web designer and developer working with remote clients or on contract, the more demoralized I become. It is not enough to work on a remote team where there are weekly phone or Skype meetings, I deeply desire, be it a larger company or at an agency, to work on an in office/studio team to be a part of a larger whole than what I can accomplish on my own. I want to hear more than just my own thoughts or what little I can glean when I throw out an idea on Twitter. I want to participate in discussion and discourse, I want to be challenged, I want to learn from colleagues, I want to be able to mentor in turn, I want to collaborate, and I want to participate together on projects.
To this end, I have spent much time this summer dusting off my resume and working on how to best presentation of my portfolio. I have been watching the job listings at companies I admire and would want to work at. I have let friends and contacts know that I am starting a job search.
While most of my client work the last ten years has been mostly web based, be it web design, development or marketing, my true passion and where I have spent most of my non-client working time in the last five years is in mobile. If you have read this blog, you know that besides mobile blogging & camera phone photography, I tend to blog about mobile. Thus, I am searching for jobs in mobile and at mobile companies.
If you know of any openings in mobile for a passionate and bright designer / developer hybrid with strong talents in user experience, communication, marketing, and systems design, please let me know.
Follow Up: Anxious? No.

3 thoughts on “Coming on Ten Years

  1. While not to the same scale, I can relate. In 2005, I graduated from ACU with a degree in Business Management and Marketing – I bucked the trend in college students by never changing my major – I knew what I wanted to do when I started and that was the same as what I wanted to do when I ended. After about a year in a cush corporate position at Time Warner Cable in ad sales, I started on the side, as a hobby. A year later, my work on the site and reputation in the industry had grown further than I could ever have dreamt. It turned a corner when I was invited by Nokia’s WOM World to attend the Nokia Go: Play event in London – my work at Time Warner Cable, despite me getting a big promotion to Account Executive, had been hurting for a few months. My boss at the time told me he didn’t think the trip was a good idea, but that he understood it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We agreed that I would go as a bit of a refreshing ‘break’ from work, then come back and be on probation for 2 weeks, basically. In London, I met the gang at WOM World and noticed they were all roughly my age, and doing things they LOVED, and I knew I wanted that.
    When I came home, I talked it over with my then-serious-girlfriend-now-wife Christina, for me to possibly turn in my notice at Time Warner and focus entirely on getting a job in wireless, where I belong.
    2 days later, I did just that. A few weeks later, I was offered the Editor job at through someone I had met on that London trip – God has some awesome timing, for sure. Other jobs lined up and I was able to work from home for a solid 2 years, which gave my wife and I some awesome experiences and flexibility.
    In the end of 2008, my work with ended amiably, and I was left to try to generate a livable income from alone – needless to say, that’s harder than it seems, and in May 2009, I started looking for a full-time job out of necessity. I ended up working in retail sales for a year so that I could transfer internally to RadioShack’s corporate offices here in Fort Worth, TX.
    From a goal perspective, I’m a complete failure – I didn’t really achieve any of the goals I really set out to do, at least on a permanent basis. However, I don’t consider the experience a failure in the least bit. I had the opportunity to do some awesome things, meet amazing and influential people, and was able to participate in things and build a reputation for myself that I wouldn’t have been able to do had I stayed the course at Time Warner. (Ironically, I found out that 2 months after I left Time Warner, one of the clients I’d been working on pretty much the whole time there ended up signing a HUGE contract that was about 150% of my sales goal).
    I’ve been back in the corporate world for nearly 2 months now, and I know *exactly* what you mean about wanting to be part of something bigger. I’m a creator, and have entrepreneurship in my blood. My grandpa couldn’t even *say* the word ‘job’ (he insisted on spelling it out, to be safe), and my Dad owned his own auto parts store for a long time when I was younger.
    The job that I had for a year in retail sales, as well as this job that I have now, are very daily-oriented. I do a task, it’s done today, I do it again tomorrow. The ‘projects’ that I have rarely last longer than about 2 weeks, and are in no way fulfilling to my burning need to build and create things. However, they don’t need to. I see these jobs as stepping stones that will one day get me where I want to be. I don’t really know where I want to be, but I do know that I won’t get any closer to it unless I’m constantly moving towards something.
    In any case, don’t sweat it – you’re crazy-talented, any company would be lucky to have you on their roster.

  2. El – Thank you for commenting and I am very excited that you are back blogging. Good luck with the job search. I am actually looking to relocate to Europe, preferably London, but I would be happy to work/live in Germany or Finland. p.s. I commented on your blog that I will have a Nokia Nseries moblogging solution for you in a week or two if you want to be a tester.
    Ricky – Thank you for your comment & honesty. What I want to do this week is to blog honestly about work and professional related concerns. As I said my post today, I think there is a lot of pressure to always present only the good side of one’s endeavors and not to examine publicly the failures or turns down the wrong path. I don’t want to be afraid to examine my life, I want to move forward. I don’t want to get complacent and stuck. And as you so rightly put it, God’s timing is awesome. I think in my situation that I needed the last 3 years to sharpen not just my programming skills, but my collaboration skills and to have some breathing time to take on some projects that may not see the light of day but were really good to do.
    Much like you, I am a creator. I hope that the Radio Shack job is a time for you to learn and/or gets you to the next space. I love the photo you put up of someone dropping off components on your desk, maybe you get to stretch in learning to create your own devices. ;o)

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