I’m English and left school a long time ago in 1990 having decided I wanted to do something creative. I identified advertising as a possible vocation and immersed myself in this and learned everything I could about the industry.
I was accepted onto a two year Higher Diploma course in Advertising Design and Copywriting which included an end of year show in Charlotte Street and placements at London agencies including GGT and Saatchi & Saatchi. Despite gaining special merit in this course, after a while I decided didn’t want to be a full-time copywriter; I wanted to take some time out and go to university to study Philosophy!
After some phoning around and living in Camden Town for a year, I was accepted into the University of Durham to study Philosophy, so off I went to the North for the next three years, going to back to London during each holiday to do night work.
I emerged from Durham three years later with First Class Honours in Philosophy. My time studying philosophy was interesting in itself but it also gave me a good grounding in formal logic, which would later prove useful in programming.
While I was at Durham – in about 1994 – the World Wide Web began to take off in academia in the UK, in the shape of the Joint Academic Network (JANET). I could see immediately that this was a massive thing. It was a whole new phenomenon. I was in the computer centre most nights surfing the web using either Lynx, which was a text-only browser, or the new NCSA Mosaic which could even show images!
When I wasn’t learning philosophy (or in the pub – or learning philosophy in the pub), I taught myself HTML and put together some basic pages – well, you could only really make basic pages back then!
On leaving Durham I was offered a place at the prestigious London School of Economics to take things further and do an MSc in Metaphysics, but I decided to go for the web instead. I went back down to London (though I am originally from Northampton) and back to night work while I learned more and more about web technologies – everything from HTTP requests to CSS (which was around even in 1998) to image optimisation.
The thing that really caught my eye though was Macromedia Flash, which allowed web pages to come alive with animation and become truly interactive. I could hardly believe it when I saw my first Flash site; I knew I had to learn everything about that technology.
So I moved to a design agency in Islington where I got more money and more chance to develop with Flash and write ActionScript. While there I developed various sites in Flash and really learned how to program (not just write HTML mark-up). After some time there, I decided to go freelance and became a “for-hire” Flash developer, doing placements in all manner of companies and media agencies around the London area. I could do both the design and the coding. I took a pride in learning this ActionScript and decided to sit a few Macromedia exams.
After passing the exams with high scores, I was recruited by a London company as an instructor. It had never occurred to me before to do this, but after a while I really got into it and I proceeded to spend the years between about 2001 and 2011 as a freelance Flash Instructor – and developer. I worked for numerous training companies and trained literally hundreds of people from all over the world.
This work required technical expertise, tact, endurance (sometimes I would be talking nearly all day long), managerial skills and the ability to get the best out of people. I would frequently take a class full of strangers, help them all get on well and turn them into programmers in only three days.
They say “if you want to learn, teach” and that’s true: I also learned a lot during this time and also made some big sites.
In 2011 I finally moved out of London. This was partly because I realised that it didn’t really matter where I was any more. I was being recruited for development work by people as far away as Orlando, Florida. I could discuss the details of a job with anyone on Skype and sync up files with Dropbox.
I changed primary platform from Windows to Mac and took some time out to do three things: DIY, learn how to make commercial quality music (something I had always wanted to do!) and familiarise myself entirely with all of the new front-end web technologies, including CSS3, HAML, Sass, HTML5 and responsive techniques.
You can hear the fruits of my musical learning here. Computers are very fast now, there are incredible virtual instruments and massive sample libraries and I have a good overview of them. I wanted to start by making a few remixes but I will make make my own music in time and I’m also available to make music for you (or remix your projects)!
So there’s my background. It’s mixed, it’s getting longer all the time, and I’ve learned a lot. If you think I can help you, get in touch!