Analogue Childhood → Digital Adulthood…
2020 got me reflecting on my career retrospectively, specifically how my passion for the web surfaced in the last two decades.
I grew up on the cusp of Analogue and Digital — you may have heard of the Digital Age, Information Age, Computer Age, New Media Age…
I am part of the Generation X (1965–1980) / Xennials (1970s to early 80s) era — the years vary slightly in different sources — I reside in the remaining years of Generation X and Xennials years — I am categorically not a millennial! 🙅🏻♀️
I remember growing up playing the Atari tennis game (as dull as it was), Super Mario and Street Fighter in the 80s /90s. 📺🕹
When I started Uni in 1998, my first degree was Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Business and Finance but I soon realised the creative use of my ‘right brain’ was falling short and lacked lustre so I changed course (literally)… After one year I took a turn to an epoch of computing I did not know existed…
1999 — My Uni degree now was, Bachelor of Arts (BA), Digital Arts with Multi-Media Computing — both studied at the University of West London (formerly known as Thames Valley University). 🎓
This BA degree was the chapter of many new digital experiences, each a stepping-stone to what I did next in my future career, and in some cases I went a step back to figure out which ‘digital string to my bow’ I wanted to move forward with. ♟
Here we go…🥁 hello 90s (some mention of 70s/80s)
- In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee put forward his web proposal at CERN.
- First website went live 1991: view the first-ever website.
- I had my first Starbucks (launched 1971) recommended by a Uni friend — a hot beverage called Caramel Macchiato! Been kind of hooked ever since, they have made the coffee stronger over the years due to the ‘coffee standards’ so I only have a half shot of coffee. The taste of the coffee shots has changed too. Oops back to digital. ☕️
- Oh, wait… my love for George Michael started in the 1990s with Fast Love, released in 1996. So many good songs, pulling at the heartstrings – Faith, Freedom, Waiting For that Day, Somebody To Love… (this song gets me emotional every time). What an amazing songwriter. George actually rang me once and sang Faith down the phone — Yes it really did happen! How surreal! My claim to faith, not fame! 🎼 🙌🏼
- In 1998, when I started Uni, I was allowed my first ever mobile phone.
- In 1999 the Internet was in its infancy, nearly 10 years of mainstream use.
- At the time my Digital Arts with Multi-Media Computing degree was only 2–3 years old.
- Object Orientating programming (C++ language, 1985) — I definitely made use of this in the first year of Uni; also booting up the computer from the black screen to building motherboards — this is a vague memory…
- Adobe Illustrator was launched in 1980s, a vector graphics software. I remember creating this iron in Illustrator, not amazing but it was a start to refining my creative skills.
- I started using Adobe Photoshop software in 1999 (launched in 1990), this began my love for digital art with photography and neuroscience for a period of time (as you can see from the first digital art image). I even had a mini-exhibition at The Brick Lane Art Gallery in 2015.
- Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), was launched in the early 1990s. HTML and front-end web development was part of my degree — it was pretty cool building web pages at the time.
- Macromedia Director launched in 1993 (original name, VideoWorks 1985), later branded Adobe Director in 2008. Peak use was the 1990s / early 200os. I made very good use of this software and also learnt Lingo programming. Two of my Uni projects were fully versed in Director — one was focused on neuroscience, named ‘Essence of the Mind’ and the other was a ‘Space Mutants’ game — both were interactive with the keyboard cursors. Who knew such software existed (what a turn from my previous mundane business and finance degree). We saved files on CD-ROMs 💿 — this was big in the very late 1990s. I still have the files after all these years, now migrated to an external hard drive. Director files could be embedded on websites too and viewed after downloading the Adobe Shockwave plugin/player. The final version release of Director was in 2013 — I believe this is not used in the industry anymore.
- Adobe After Effects (1993) — post-production software used for video games, film making… to be continued when this Uni memory surfaces…
- World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was also founded by Tim Berners-Lee in 1994 — the purpose is to develop web standards and provide international community collaboration. It did not really affect my Uni work but marked an important part of web history.
- Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Adobe (Macromedia) Flash — both were released in 1996. Flash was used at Uni, I made this interactive and immersive Ocean animation, which I thought was amazing at the time but later on with more high-tech software evolution and genius Flash users my work probably looked quite mediocre.
I don’t think I made much use of CSS programming in Uni, it was nearly a decade later in my career when CSS came into play. Along with mobile-responsive web design around 2008/2009 with CSS3 media queries.
Adobe Flash has since died down a great deal but I do remember it was in good use for banner ad interactions on websites in 2012, with the digital agency I was working for. Apparently, Adobe will stop distributing Flash at the end of 2020.
- 3D Studio Max (1996) — I produced a 3D animated pillow with this software, which took a lot of iterations and perseverance — I remember never being pleased with the outcome. I mean when is art ever finished or perfected… arbitrary I guess!
- I created my first Hotmail account (launched in 1996) in one take in 1998 and did not have to be denied email addresses that were taken like nowadays. I still use the same email to this day, 22 years later!
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Macromedia Dreamweaver, and Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) all came to light at some point in 1997. SEO and WAI were not mentioned at Uni from what I recall — presuming still premature in the digital wilderness.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0 (launched in 1998/1999). WCAG did not hit my career until 2007. It’s been a gradual ongoing learning curve.* The next version of WCAG 2.0 was in 2008, subsequently a decade later, the latest version came out in 2018, WCAG 2.1, with enforced laws for existing websites to meet guidelines by September 2020 (watch out world wide web).
My digital web career started in the 2000s
- 1998–2005 — Retail Assistant to Retail Manager & Web Marketing Assistant at Historic Royal Palaces — mainly worked at Kensington Palace, a year after Princess Diana passed away. 😢 This was my first proper job while at Uni. Role — The web marketing opportunity at The Tower of London led to a great stepping-stone to my digital career.
- 2002 — Graduated 🎓 🥳
- 2004–2004 — Web Graduate. Role — Designed posters, brochures, animations in Flash / Illustrator, including HTML and front-end web development — the sound skills learnt at Uni came in super handy.
- 2004–2006 — Web Producer. Role — Technical Web development, ROI reporting, content management, SEO, and online advertising.
- 2006–2007 — Web Content Manager, Europe. Role —International content management, project management, banner designs, SEO, and stats analysis. This role in hindsight was the peak of my career at the time, and perhaps I should have stayed on. 🎢
- 2007–2008 — Web Portal Manager. Role — Content management, HTML, CSS web development, adhering to web best practices, banner/animations designs using Photoshop, Flash and other new media software. At this point, I knew I wanted a more techy development role and so took a step back in my career. 👇🏼😏
- 2008–2011 — Content Designer to Web Developer. Role — Content management, email design, web accessibility, progressed into a more front-end web development role than ever before with CSS. 🤓
Now back to the future (that film was released in 1985) — “Oh, McFly…” oops I have gone off on another tangent. I need a Starbucks!!
All the above Uni experiences and the variety of digital roles I have held have all amalgamated to be quite valuable, even my business and finance degree came in very useful when I started my company.
I have had many digital agency freelance contracts and personal clients while consulting — work ranges from web design, banner designs, email marketing, on-page SEO, Web Accessibility, QA testing, International content management, front-end web development, advising web start-ups and small businesses.
BT, Farfetch, Media Arts Lab (TBWA), Hogarth Worldwide, Oliver, TH_NK, 9 Yards, Crab Creative, Iris Worldwide…
Agency projects delivered
Apple, HSBC, Shell, Santander, Emirates, HP, MINI, Tony & Guy, Vodafone, Betfair, Teisseire…
My ongoing passion for technical web optimisation and web accessibility has become more concrete in the last five years or so.
I am now a keen engineer for Web Accessibility and on-page SEO for my web content agency and for any project/contract work I deliver. The challenge to push forward and to get the ‘buy in’ for inclusive design is a real push for some companies and start-ups I have worked for.
I have made my web content agency website accessible and optimised where possible with ongoing technical improvements every time I learn something new or a better way to refine the content.
I currently work at BT in a content design and web optimisation role.
I challenge stakeholders more than ever if I feel something proposed is not meeting web standards and not serving end-users. Sometimes I find it hard to articulate myself but am working on it! Before I took a back seat but I have grown the confidence to speak up, I am 100% invested and care way too much, especially when I have knowledge of how to enhance the user journey for the greater good!
I love that BT has its own User Research and Accessibility team in our Digital Consumer department - I honestly don’t know any company I have worked with to date that has this, and they have so many passionate people with a wealth of knowledge who really push inclusive design to the forefront. Amazing!
Like Simon Simek states:
“I’d rather feel uncomfortable pushing for better than feel uncomfortable settling for less.”
At BT we have content crits, initiated by Content Design London / Government Digital Services, and ‘’build, measure, learn’ sessions where we constructively evaluate pages to focus on the user needs and business goals.
I think playing devil's advocate is healthy and constructive for both business-as-usual and project work. That way we all derive the best possible outcome from colleagues that have different insights and experiences, along with data-driven decision making.
Sometimes I have to go with the majority even if I feel it's not meeting web best practices as they are none-the-wiser… hopefully, over time I can articulate WCAG and on-page SEO standards much earlier on in the user experience/design mapping stages, then I would not have to challenge much at all when it's ready for development!
I am quite hands-on, creative and technical. In most of my roles, I am the bridge between marketing and back-end IT teams. This is the same case at BT, I work very closely with the back-end development and software engineering teams as well as working with the accessibility and SEO managers/specialists.
In addition, I diligently and succinctly clean up/optimise code when there is downtime, for the greater good of inclusive design, in turn mitigating obstacles for people using some form of assistive technology, like screen readers.
Why do businesses create barriers by doing nothing that automatically excludes people with some form of disability, when we have the capability in web development and design to get accessibility integrated into the initial plan, and not just an afterthought, where the cost would be greater.
So back-end/front-end web developers, web designers, content managers, editors, copywriters, UI / UX designers, product owners, SEO analysts… we all need to take action in the digital age as we are all accountable!!! If you don’t have some knowledge on this by now, you are living half a decade and maybe even a decade behind!
By the way, if life took a different turn I think I would have been a neuroscientist (which might seem a bit farfetched but hey one can experiment with the idea) or an architect as I have alignment, symmetry and equal spacing complexes if not done right.
Random thought — the revolution of CRISPR Cas-9 (genome editing), I'm so intrigued by how this is done!