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How I got into the web industry

Posted on by Clive Walker in Web Design Personal

I wrote this post a while back. The content can still be relevant but the information I've linked to may not be available.

I have been thinking about career paths and jobs recently [perhaps as a result of these video interviews with famous web folks] because it seems that many people in the web industry have taken an interesting route into their current careers. I’m not sure how interesting my own career path is but it is perhaps more different than most. Here it is…

Chemistry was my first love

I loved the work at the university level but eventually moved to a company

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I was employed as a scientist by a large multinational pharmaceutical company. The job was a natural career progression since I trained as a chemist at Bath University [via a slightly circuitous pre-university career path] and subsequently worked in various labs in interesting universities like Bloomington and Nottingham. I loved chemistry at the university level but eventually moved to a company environment and, through various guises, ended up with the aforesaid multinational.

Info: My scientific career was mainly organic chemistry which involves making and identifying new chemical compounds.

Eventually, as part of a company secondment programme, I ended up working in Macclesfield, near Manchester, England, in a similar role but in a smaller department. It was a sociable experience, thanks to a mixture of people, and the science/chemistry was mostly enjoyable. While I was there, as part of its normal upgrade process, the company decided to replace its 486 PCs and offer the old machines to staff. I was not sure what I could do with a PC at home but it was circa 1997 or so and the web was coming to prominence. The web seemed interesting and I figured that the PC ‘might be useful’.

Web career beginnings

It took me bloody ages but gradually I built a home page

After installing a dial-up modem and signing up with a large ISP, I was able to connect [albeit slowly] to the web and explore. I was not really sure what the web was about but I slowly became drawn into it by a website ‘build your own home page’ HTML tutorial provided by the ISP. It was a step-by-step tutorial using an HTML editor called Arachnophilia and it took me bloody ages but gradually I built a home page. Not very exciting I’m sure but you have to start somewhere.

After this, I felt certain that I wanted to build another website but was unsure what subject. In the previous year, I had done a lot of cycling in and around Horsham, Sussex, and had discovered a few country pubs on my travels. Thus, Horsham Pub Guide was born. It’s gone through a few changes since then but the website is still going today. I’d probably credit this website for igniting my interest in web development/design.

Advice: If you are thinking about building a personal website, my suggestion is to make it about something you enjoy. I enjoy cycling to country pubs!

Perhaps as a result of this web design ‘experience’, I became more involved with an in-house departmental website, after another move with the same pharmaceutical company back to Horsham. The departmental website was not really part of my main job but I was asked to do it by my boss and I enjoyed the web work. At about the same time, the other parts of my job also changed and I realised I was not enjoying the scientific aspects as much. Eventually, after a stagnating scientific career for a couple of years, the company and I parted.

Tough choice but freelance seemed right

At that stage, even though I had not really worked as a freelancer or in the web industry, I decided to make a complete career change, and start working for myself as a web designer/developer. I don’t pretend that this was the most sensible, or logical, choice but I just thought that I had to do it at that time. To cut a long story short, that was in 2001, and I have worked freelance ever since.

Not everything has gone smoothly in my web career but after eight years, CVW Web Design and I are still here. A less than conventional route I think you’ll agree….!

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  • 02 Sep 2009 22:21:37

    Very interesting to read how people got into their jobs, I like reading about background things.

    I don’t have a web role any more, but back at the very end of 06, until the end of August 07 I was one of two testers in the web team for the MyTravel websites. Before that I was on the customer-facing support team for about year and a half. We all got made redundant with the merger with Thomas Cook in 07. I have worked for an ISP since Jan 08, first in customer services and just this week I have started training for the technical support team.

    Before that I worked in the aviation industry for about 8 years.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this. By the way I have your RSS feed in my live bookmarks, very interesting.

  • 10 Aug 2011 11:42:25

    Nicely said and posted well, thanks for your advice

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