I’ve worked for THIS IS RED agency for 13 years, and 2 more with SunKing Interactive Group before that, with the same owner. To say that this has been a big part of my life would be an understatement. But all things, even good ones, must come to an end, and as I prepare to enter a new phase in my career, I’ve felt compelled to reflect on my experiences.
I’ve been quite fortunate. After graduating high school there was an expectation that I would continue my education into college. I didn’t resist the expectation but I also never really considered any other option. I just kinda took for granted that college was what was supposed to happen. And that whatever it cost – and I was warned that I would likely have to take on *some* debt – it would be worth it for whatever career opportunities I might get afterwards. Better opportunities than working at McDonald’s or going back to being janitor some place (that was my first and only job in high school). And I liked to draw and animate – something I started doing for fun in Art Dabbler (does anyone remember that? definitely showing my age there) then later experimented with Macromedia Flash and Adobe After Effects – so I imagined that maybe when I graduated I’d be a computer animator, working for some game company or maybe even with one of my beloved fandoms, DC or Marvel (in that order :). But I was also dabbling with programming and so since I couldn’t decide which path, I went to a school that offered both. I never really had a long term plan for how student loans might affect me, or really a serious expectation for what my job might be when I graduated.
Finding my passion
In the midst of my college education at Duquesne University, I wound up falling in love with web design. It was one of my first classes I took, with Dr Gibbs, and I saw that with web design I could experiment with virtually every kind of media, whether it was graphic art and design, animation, video, interactive audio, or writing, everything you could create digitally could basically be fit into a website and it could be programmed with simple or complex interactivity that can really create unique experiences. I took to it so much that within about a year or two, while still in school I was approached about doing my first freelance work. This, and subsequent odd jobs over the next couple of years really did wonders for my self confidence (something I desperately needed more of). All of a sudden, my artistic and geeky hobbies were turning into valuable skills that people wanted to pay me money to do for them. I also began teaching with Telecommunity around this time, again, reinforcing to me that my knowledge was valuable. I didn’t have to do much for these opportunities to find me, as I said, I was fortunate. Now in fairness, the jobs, including the teaching one, didn’t represent considerably large amounts of money, but it was still meaningful for me to feel like my skills had a purpose.
When I got close the end of getting my 4 year college degree I felt a crisis. What was I going to do after this? I loved taking on freelance jobs, but they weren’t enough for me to live off of. Could I be extroverted enough, or jut pushy enough to put myself into places to find enough freelance work to live off of? I don’t know if pushy or extroverted are even the right words to describe what I needed to succeed in that field, but I wasn’t convinced that I had it, whatever it was. So I would have to find a dreaded 9-to-5. I was so scared. For months actually, I just *knew* that I would hate it. It would be like school again, going in everyday to something monotonous that I would come to hate on a day to day basis. And I’d yearn for the weekends and occasional holidays for relief like so many professional working adults seemed to do. I thought for sure I wasn’t going to find a job that made me as happy as freelancing – being able to make my own schedule, and be my own boss, doing work that I enjoyed. But I just didn’t think I was cut out for it full time. So I panicked for a while. This was going to be the first big change. Transitioning from leaning on my parents (which I was anxious to be able to get away from, much as I loved them), to finding a career that I could support myself on, and finally being done with school. But where would I go? What kind of job would I find? and was there any chance I wouldn’t hate it?
About a month into my last semester, I saw that there was a career fair event on campus, and thought to myself, I should check this out. I’m gonna have to rip the band-aid off at some point and put myself out there to find a proper salaried job. So I got myself a suit and a briefcase, to try and make myself presentable by traditional standards, and did a little research on the companies that I expected to see at the job fair, and went in there. I tried to keep and open mind and talked to a few different people from different businesses, they were mostly looking for business degree candidates, but it was important for me to practice socializing, and seeing what was out there. But there was only one company I really wanted to talk with. It was called SunKing Interactive Group.
I saw on their website that they had open positions available for Web Developer, Motion Graphics Designer and Graphic Designer – All positions I was interested in. I approached their table and met with a couple of guys from the company, they were friendly, and I told them about my experience with freelancing and my major and I got an interview. I was really excited. There was no guarantee I’d be happy in the job, but finding something in my field was the best I could hope for. I interviewed with them within a couple of weeks, bringing the same suit and briefcase, and they seemed to have a really interesting space and atmosphere. They were looking to hire a new developer but my experience level wasn’t quite what they were hoping for. So, they wound up offering me a paid internship, as a kind of try out. I was really pleased. I didn’t know how I’d feel about the work long-term, but I was going to do my best and try and make the most of it.
I felt a bit out of my depth when I started. There was a lot that I didn’t know and so there was a steep learning curve over those first few months. But I was contributing and working on large client projects before that initial “trial” period of my internship was over. So when it came time to renew my internship contract, I told them I was hoping to transition to a full time position. I knew I was a valuable part of the team, and I didn’t want to stay an intern. And they agreed and offered me a position as a junior web developer.
This Is Red
About 2 years into working for SunKing (in 2010), I was faced with another significant change as the company decided to split up. SunKing was no more and from it two new creative agencies emerged, and of the two, the one that offered me a position was This Is Red Agency. Since it was the only offer I got, it was an easy decision for me to accept it, and continue working with about half the team I had been working with prior, but it was at times a rough transition. I went from having a couple people who were definitely above me in my field who I could rely upon and ask questions when some part of the project seemed beyond my level of experience, to being the go to expert on all of the projects I had been most involved with. Again, I felt a bit out of my depth, but I was being relied upon to solve problems for our clients and so I made sure that we were able to do so to the best of my ability.
Over the years, I’ve been challenged with new difficult projects and I ascended to becoming a senior web developer, and I continued working with talented people as staff came and went. It’s been a pleasure working with a people who were amazing at what they did, Jorge Puron, Lauren Golem, Tony Destro, Matt Maiorano, Kirsty MacRae, Klay Abele, Paul Vangura, Jeff St Mars, Sarah Federico, Katja Kaufmann and Dave Croyle, just to name a few. And of course, Jeff Myers, the owner of This Is Red who I’ve worked with all this time at both companies. I was comfortable, and happy to work with This Is Red for years. If I’m being honest, possibly too comfortable. Because challenge tends to be what pushes me to improve and grow, and though I’m proud of my skill set that I’ve developed in career in web development, there’s always room to grow and I’m excited to see what I do next, and what new skills I’m able to learn. So I’m not 100% what the future holds for me, and I never have been, I mean, none of us are psychic, but I look forward to finding new opportunities to make new connections and make cool stuff with other talented people.