I’m a coder, a writer and – most recently – a teacher. I’m passionate about standards-based web design and also about ethical, uncompromising journalism.
Somewhere towards the end of my time at university I sat down in front of a computer in the careers centre and took a quiz to find out what field of work I was best suited for: the computer, perhaps hoping to secure the long-term career prospects of its descendants, told me I should build my future in computing.
The howl of laughter from the friends who’d come to offer moral support could be heard on the other side of the City. Not having touched a computer since my days of bunking off maths homework to play Manic Miner on a ZX Spectrum, I laughed with them.
Now – having spent much of the intervening two decades elbow deep in mark-up, design software and occasionally the guts of malfunctioning PCs – I’m wondering what that computer saw that we all missed.
The things you learn from newspapers
It took a while to get from there to here. My first step was to go into local newspaper journalism, where the writing skills I’d possessed all my life were focused and shaped until they were sharp, versatile and useful.
Newspaper writing teaches you to work quickly, accurately and without giving yourself airs and graces – it’s a craft, not an art, and it’s all about taking an idea and expressing it simply and clearly.
You also need to be adaptable – a day that was supposed to be all about school fetes and council meetings can, in my personal experience, suddenly become about an earthquake, an epidemic or the death of a friend in a newsworthy car crash.
From writing the news, and a brief stint in PR doing my best to make it, a short step took me onto the websites of the Independent and Times Education Supplement newspapers, updating them with content from the latest print editions.
Switching focus to the web
Content management systems were in their infancy then, and the work often involved delving into the raw code of a page. Simultaneously, I was experimenting with building sites on my own personal webspace. Soon the skills to design, develop and organise websites came to fascinate me, and a career change was inevitable.
Since then, I have been involved in almost every task imaginable in the design and maintenance of websites and their content, from the major portals of global brands to compact brochure sites belonging to small local businesses.
I have – and still do – work with the content of sites, but these days I mainly specialise in their design. I am a passionate advocate of web standards and take pride in designing and building sites that are as streamlined and effective under the bonnet as they are to look at.
I’m also a keen follower of trends in social media – my personal blog dates back to 2002, I maintain active profiles on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn, and if I’m not answering my phone it’s probably because I’ve got my headphones on, updating my research into the latest viral YouTube videos.
Putting something back
More recently, I took on a new challenge – collating what I’ve learned over these years and teaching it to a new generation. I spent more than three years part-time at Harlow College, one of the best-rated FE colleges in the country, as a senior tutor in journalism and vocational media.
It was difficult, stressful and at times intensely frustrating – but also infinitely more rewarding than I could ever have dreamed. I have done so many things in my career that I have loved, and the opportunity to perhaps engender that same love in a teenager just embarking on their own professional life was an amazing thing.