THE WEB IS IN A CONSTANT STATE OF CHANGE
Then CSS came along and pulled the rug out from under me. Suddenly my command of font tags and spacer gifs wasn’t something to brag about. We all know what happened to Flash. I went from feeling like I was badass at my job to desperately trying to figure out why the hell my float wouldn’t clear.
Right around the same time, I had an opportunity to work in an industry I was passionate about. I was offered a job doing print design for a scrapbooking company. I got to sling paint and make image transfers and set up tabletop photoshoots all day long. I spent two years art directing and designing books and magazines.
The huge bonus was that I didn’t have to re-learn any print production techniques; I could just design. Then the scrapbooking industry started shrinking (frigging economy), our magazine closed shop and opportunities in the industry vanished into thin air.
(Simone Elkeles said that, not me. But damned if it doesn’t sum up those three years of my life.)
A lot of my contacts in the scrapbooking world were hanging out their shingle as photographers…and they needed websites. So I sucked it up and started re-learning web design. I struggled through learning CSS. I found WordPress and StudioPress and became intimately acquainted with the White Screen of Death.
Eventually I got past the steepest part of the learning curve. Using my newly learned skills I designed Genesis themes featured in the StudioPress store. I built a lot of websites for a lot of really cool companies. I started teaching workshops and sharing what I’d learned. I felt like I was badass at my job again. At least, I felt like a badass at the design part of my job. The business part…not so much.
Maybe three years ago I made a conscious decision to focus on areas of my business that weren’t directly related to design or front-end dev. I really needed to fill some gaps in my skills regarding business and leadership. Instead of learning SASS I worked with a business coach to learn about running business that actually made money. My copy of Kern and Burn sat on a shelf while I read The Art of the Pitch: Persuasion and Presentation Skills that Win Business. SVG animation tutorials gave way to Gantt charts and Excel spreadsheets.
All of that knowledge culminated in a huge career evolution. About a year ago I took a job at Crowd Favorite as a project manager. I wanted to learn more about the tools and techniques used for keeping projects on time and budget. More than that, I wanted to work on larger projects, with bigger budgets and a bigger team. (I also really wanted to see if I could manage people and mentor designers, since one of my long-term career goals is to be the creative director of a company that isn’t just me and my dog.)
During the year(ish) I spent as a project manager I learned that while I do love the people management part of project management (like, really, really love it), the spreadsheet and detail management part of it made me want to punch Google Sheets in the neck. The lessons I’d learned were invaluable, but I couldn’t deny that I needed to be who I am—a designer. I wrapped up that chapter of my career on Friday May 13 and was immediately hit with the realization that I was re-entering the design field behind by about three years…again.
Where I discover I’m not as awesome as I thought I was
This is where the cautionary part if the tale comes in. By focusing completely on business, my design skills had gotten pretty sad, and my portfolio showed it. I’d originally submitted my resume to Crowd Favorite as a designer. I was a huge James Archer fangirl, and was dying to learn everything he knew. A few months into working together I asked him why I hadn’t been considered for a position on the design side, and he shared that my portfolio just didn’t demonstrate strong enough design skills. Ouch, right?
I heard the same thing a few weeks ago when I interviewed for an art director position at a local agency. While the creative director loved the fact that I was an accomplished public speaker, had project management experience, loved teaching and mentoring other designers, and could talk design strategy all day long, I was told once again that my portfolio didn’t demonstrate the level of design they were looking for.
(I was totally bummed to find out George Custer said that and not Muhammad Ali or Joe Lewis.)
So here I am. I’ve been knocked back down the learning curve, just like I was in 2004, and it’s looming above me again. It’s overwhelming to realize how much has changed, and how much I need to learn so I can build amazing things again. I’ve spent the last two weeks feeling completely overwhelmed and discouraged and frustrated that I can’t MAKE THIS DAMN TUTORIAL WORK WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!? But, since this is a situation that can’t be improved by freaking out, I’ve decided it’s time to make a plan, get back on my feet, and start swinging again.
That’s why I’m taking the entire month of June to focus exclusively on learning some new skills so I can whip my portfolio into fighting shape. Along the way I’ll post here about my plan for moving forward, the tools I’m using to learn new skills, and what I’m making with them. I hope you’ll join me :)