How many times were you asked when you were a child, what are you going to be when you grow up? When I was a kid, I would usually answer that I wanted to direct movies or be a scientist. I played a lot of computer games when I was younger but never in my wildest dreams did I think the computer would serve as the main tool for my job…how the heck did I end up in the web design industry? I never actually set out one day and said, yes, I want to build websites.
I was 22 and I was at a temp job working for Freightliner (now DalmierChrysler) – they put me as an administrative assistant to the IT department. Most days, I would just file a few things and then try and find something else to do.
I had just pitched myself to a tiny Advertising agency, my dream at the time was to work for an ad agency (picture Mad Men where you pitch to the customer and get to design TV and magazine ads). I was so hoping I could get my foot in the door and work for this two person agency. I was convinced they needed ME. At the end of the conversation, I remember the owner saying that I wasn’t the right material for their agency, but I find the right job and it would make my employer happy with all of my energy and drive that I had demonstrated.
Hearing those words didn’t make me feel better. A few weeks into my temp job, I remember sitting under the fluorescent lights and feeling sorry for myself. It was around 4:30pm on a Friday, so it was almost time to leave and start the weekend. I was sitting next to a woman in the IT cubicles (the department was set up to sit like a U shape with everyone having a desk every few feet and facing away from each other. She told me how lucky I was that I temping in this department and I could learn so much on the job. I didn’t really understand what she meant but I had a feeling she might be right.
Fast forward a few weeks and I’m trying to find things to do at my temp job and someone in my department comes to me and shows me some files that they want to be converted into HTML (the markup language that webpages are made of). I hadn’t really heard of it so they showed me what to do and I followed the pattern. Soon I was creating more and more HTML documents for the company’s Intranet, an internal website, not visible to the public.
One day, I was asked to join the web design department, that was newly formed with employees who knew HTML and other programming languages to help launch the Intranet. We were given a timeline, another team who would help push out requests to make web pages go live (we primarily worked in a test environment) and I was given a new boss, Barbara.
It was a great team. I had the ability to work on different website related projects outside of my team. Not only did Barbara take me under her wing, but I had two other women show me the ropes and teach how to code quickly and cleanly. They showed me short-cuts and how to troubleshoot if something broke.
I stayed at Freightliner for 6 months, enough time to help launch their Intranet and help build their external website as well. During my time there, I found it entertaining I was becoming a “web designer”, it was a term pretty foreign to me. At the time, there wasn’t much you could read up on about it. Powell’s Technical Bookstore became a frequent resource for me; there, I could find books on coding and best practices, but I still didn’t really have other peers who did what I was doing. Most of my friends had gone down traditional paths or went to grad school. It was exciting to be on this new career path but I didn’t really know where I was going.
That was the far distant past and it’s fascinating how web design has changed over the last 18 years. I just picked up the latest Wired and on the cover it said “The end of coding”. Everyone needs a website and they are getting easier and easier to build with tools such as WordPress and Squarespace, but I know there will always be a need to help people with technology, allowing to increase their business, create more time, and reduce stress. I’m excited what the next 5-10 years of the Internet industry will bring!