Headfirst

I wrote this about 3 months ago but had no where to put it. Now that it has a home, it’s great to re-read it and feel just as confident in my ability to learn new things and improve as a designer.

I’d also like to thank my good friend Dave Parsons for all the help and support he’s given me in the short time I’ve known him, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thanks Dave.

The pace at which I’ve learned new things over the last 4 months had been somewhat hidden from me up until a couple of days ago, and it made me realise just how much better I have gotten at what I do.

At the after party of Build 2011, in the crowded downstairs of McHugh’s in Belfast, I had the good fortune of being introduced to Paul. Throughout the conference I had been introduced to many people, most of whom I knew either by name or reputation from mentions or retweets, however, I had absolutely no idea who this guy was. That being said, I proceeded to be my usual full-on self and started talking, summarising my relatively recent past, my passion for design, and my interest in “getting into web stuff”. I also mentioned, in passing, that I had a potential internship lined up once I went back to Dublin which seemed to pique Paul’s interest and he immediately said “Why don’t you come work for me?”. As a recently twenty-one-year-old diploma graduate with very little experience and fresh off a plane from Canada to the visibly grim-economic landscape (breath). THIS was a very exciting sentence to half hear over the bustle of conversation and music. It sobered me a little. I asked “really?, but you haven’t seen any of my work”, Paul non-chelantly passed this off as something of little consequence and so I was then asked ”how much do you want?”. Excitement and terror ran through me.

We’re out of the bustling after-party now and in a coffee shop in Dublin five days later. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nearly shaking with nerves and excitement. By this stage Paul had seen my work and I remember distincly him saying “You haven’t made your masterpiece yet have you”. I, of course, agreed. I wasn’t proud of any of that work anymore and the link I’d sent him was to a terribly designed gallery page—to add insult to injury. I wanted him to know what he getting into before he hired me. Not much as I saw it, but he seemed to recognise something I couldn’t see. We discussed the project I’d be working on. Úll, a designey, developey, inspirational conference about and for people building and designing for iOS and Mac. The idea was in its infancy in Paul’s head but I was already sketching logo ideas, being generally over-enthusiastic. And so, after our discussion, we walked to the office on barrow street and I began working.

As each day and week passed I got more and more bogged down. There was just so much new-ness. I knew basic html and css but really was still grappling with some of the key concepts like positioning and correctly marking things up. I now had to know all that as well as figuring out semantics, responsive design, web-fonts, styling rails apps, SASS, GIT, RUBY, HAML, how to use textmate, using soft tabs, Pull, push, commit, error, error, error. I felt overwhelmed. Almost everything was new. I was asking so many questions of Paddy, Cillian and Dave—my new colleagues. They were all incredibly helpful but every answer lead to more and more chapters started and none finished.

I think I need to bring us to today. I don’t need to take you through my bad practices, my struggles or triumphs with this or that. I want to tell you about my realisation. I’ve gotten so much better at this. I had to do some work on an old project from about three months ago. I was laughing and crying. I couldn’t believe how badly written the code was, and I now had to pick apart my own mess and refactor the damn thing. However, it did make me realise that all those things I had been overwhelmed by were starting to make sense. I love SASS now, and I’m getting ever closer to understanding floats! I’ve read about the troubles other people are having with designing for so many devices, screen resolutions and sizes and I know now that I’m far from alone here and that makes it less of a burden. Plus far better people than me are working out ways to make it easier for us all. I’ve also accepted that things take more time than you’d like, but less time than you’d expect. If you had said to me, it’ll take you four months before you’ll feel like you’ve made an real progress I probably would have been up in arms. But when I think about it. That’s one third of a year. Imagine what I can learn in the next 2.