Growing up I got into computers around the age of 7. I started with a ZX Spectrum +, then a +2, then an Atari ST.
I did small bits of programming, a lot of gaming, and then spent a lot of time using the graphics programs that were around at the time to paint pictures, pixel by pixel (I remember doing Iron Maiden’s Eddie, and an F-16 Falcon on my Atari ST with Quantum Paint).
However when I left for University, I only used the computer labs, and although I was introduced to email and the world-wide-web, I didn’t do much creating. I had to get my girlfriend at the time to format my dissertation that was written in Microsoft Word, because I couldn’t figure it out.
In March 1998 I had just finished my military service in Finland, and had returned home to England. I needed a job so I started doing data entry contracts, and overall discovered I was pretty fast and accurate at it.
At the same time, my dad gave me an old PC laptop. At this point, I hadn’t done much creatively with computers, since being a teenager at home. The world wide web was around, and so I made my first forays into getting myself online using a dial-up modem, using a CD-ROM from Daemon Internet. It took me a long time to figure it out, my friends laughed at how clueless I was. Nevertheless, I persisted, and soon I was connected, I started chatting to friends with Yahoo Messenger, and I slowly took steps to create some HTML pages (I read a book called “Learn HTML in 24 hours”!). The thrill of making my first bright blue page with some white text on it was a revelation. Something clicked in my brain – here was this thing that was structural and semantic, and at the same time creative thing you could do to make something cool.
At the same time, I was half-heartedly attempting to get myself into Graduate Training programs with the typical milk-round companies, as I had no desire to carry on with Biological Sciences, and didn’t know what else to do. I was terrible at interviews, and kept trying until one day I was at an interview for Compaq, and I just got a huge sense of not wanting to be there and left. I then decided to try something that felt right instead of following my peers and friends. I did not want to be part of the traditional corporate culture, I rejected it. I wanted to do something interesting.
Eventually, encouraged by my dad, I took a 3 month full time Web Technologies course, where I learnt everything from the basics of HTML, to using web design tools, to coding Coldfusion and even producing animation and videos. I was so excited. I felt like I was going to get paid a decent wage, escape the dreary bullshit of traditional jobs, and work on really exciting technology and design projects.
It took me a month to find a job, and I’ve been working ever since.
These days I’m concentrating more on the UX and strategic side of things, but sometimes I just like to remind myself why it is that I got here.