It’s been a year since I managed to obtain my first graduate job. I was writing down what has happened to me nad my skills since then and I’ve whipped it into a messy blog post. I’m half decent now but by no means an expert. Hopefully any web designer can relate to some of the stuff I mention here.

This time last year I was pretty shit if I’m honest. I wasn’t the smartest person in the class and I probably didn’t have the best skills. But what I did have was a passion and dedication for web design. I lost count of the amount of sites I made and I was always trying something new and reading books.

Oh and I was employed about 12 weeks before I graduated from university (2 day week) if you’re wondering.

How I learnt

My favored way of learning web design was to pick a website I liked from an inspiration website and try to replicate it. The results were often shocking and barely resembled the original, however I used to enjoy comparing them and evaluating why mine looks crap. Looking back now I can say it was generally a mixture of poor typography, layout and content in addition to a general lack of detail.

When I left university my coding skills were very, very basic. I knew how to make stuff but half of the code I wrote was very unpractical and just really messy. I remember I used to duplicate CSS styles over and over rather than just giving them all the same class.

In addition to my lack of skills, other major issues during the transition from university to a real workplace included:-

  • Some things I hadn’t really experienced before such as SVN,  Terminal commands, local site setups, hosts, IP addresses.
  • Timekeeping was very difficult. It was tough to say how long something WOULD or even SHOULD take you.
  • Becoming part of the team was tough. Knowing how account managers operate. Knowing how designers make their sites. And knowing how to pass work onto other developers.

Importance of the workplace

In reality there are loads new of skills that can only really be absorbed through work experience. Just looking at some of the senior members of staff and seeing how they operate, code and communicate is a massive learning experience in itself.

I would say that I have learnt about 50-60% more in the workplace than I did at university. It’s ok knowing the basics at university but putting them into practice is an entirely different thing altogether. I used to become incredibly nervous during some early projects to the point where I couldn’t sleep. Am I doing this right? How should I code this? When you barely know anyone in the workplace asking a question is a nightmare. I would ask the most ridiculous questions sometimes. But it’s all part of the learning experience. Everyone that you ask would have been in the same position at some point so never worry about asking questions as long as you are actually taking the information in.

One of the biggest things I have learnt to do is relax and think about things before getting worked up or making a decision. The amount of times I was given a task or bug and all I could think was “SHIT How am I going to do this”. Once I start panicking I am never going to make rational decisions. I’ve now learnt to take a step back and analyse the situation. And while you’re in the situation there is always someone you can rely on. Google. He’s become my best friend!

When things go right

As you get better you start to feel really good. There is no better feeling than creating your first site from scratch and seeing it go through to live. It’s ace. As my skills improved so too did my status in my workplace and my relationship with my workmates. About three months in I started to feel relatively comfortable each time I was allocated a task.

Once I starting working my passion for web design seemed to escalate quickly.  I became obsessed with reading books and knowing everything I could. I was making at least a website a week. I was coding/reading/designing day and night and I’m lucky because I love it.

Obtaining employment

The best thing I ever did was to focus on my online presence. In my latest job my new boss told me that he didn’t even look at my CV, and why should he? He doesn’t care what grade I got or what modules I sat. He wants to inspect my code browse my websites and resize his browser. I made a few websites and they were innovative, half decent and looked ok. I’m still amazed that some graduates don’t even have their own websites when they apply for jobs. That to me is just unbelievable.

I’ve come a long way since I left university but I’ve still got so much more to learn. The good thing about the web community is that most people are eager to help you and give advice. The amount of tutorials, inspiration and blog posts I see everyday is unreal.  I have lost count of the amount of times I wanted to re-design all my websites because I have learnt something new.

My aim

My personal aim is to be a very competent front-end developer in three years time. I want my work to be seen as first-class and to be trusted with any project. I feel it’s very important to keep on learning and reading as technologies constantly evolve and things change very quickly. Luckily I’m now at a fantastic workplace and surrounded by some very talented folk who are always happy to help me.

I’m hoping my passion for Web Design is going to stick around for a while yet because I’m really enjoying web design and everything it entails.

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