Getting Started in the Industry – From the Mouths of Experts

By Sarah Hawk

This morning I hosted another in our series of Talk with the Experts live chat sessions, but this one was a bit different. After months – maybe years – of battling with substandard chat software, I finally nagged for so long that I was heard. The result? Our brand new, shiny, custom Talk with the Experts interface. I’ll admit to being a little nervous in the minutes leading up to the session – so nervous that I shouted at my kids, spilled my coffee, snapped at my boyfriend, redirected the chat to the wrong chatroom, forgot the syntax to fix the redirection, and bit one nail right down to the quick. All that being achieved, things went surprisingly well. Perfectly in fact.

The session was a huge success. Our experts this time were SitePoint lead dev Jude Aakjaer, a self-taught developer who worked his way through agencies to eventually find his way to us, and Ben Axnick, who is one of the success stories of our graduate intern program.

If you missed the session but would like to see what went down, you’ll find the transcript below. If you missed it because you didn’t know about it, then you can sign up here for email reminders of future sessions. And you can find a list of upcoming sessions and dates here.

[20:58] <HAWK> Welcome everyone – this is our first session using this new interface

[20:58] <HAWK> We’d love your feedback as we go along

[20:59] <HAWK> So this session is intended to be an open discussion about getting started in the web industry.

[20:59] <Frenchysdf> Nice to see it is mobile friendly

[20:59] <HAWK> I’ll be moderating the session, and our experts are our lead dev Jude Aakjaer

[20:59] <HAWK> And Ben Axnick, who came to SitePoint through our graduate intern program

[20:59] <Bentheax> Hello all!

[21:00] <santouras> Hi guys – Jude here

[21:00] <HAWK> Ah yes, Frenchysdf – we have MalCurtis to thank for that :)

[21:00] <Dude> awesome responsive interface 

[21:00] <HAWK> So for anyone that doesn’t know – you can @ tag people to get their attention

[21:00] <tubiz> Hi everyone

[21:00] <Jerry> Hello

[21:01] <KickStarter> Hello all!!!

[21:01] <HAWK> So first up I think it would be good if Jude & Ben could give us a quick intro and a run down as to how THEY got into the industry

[21:01] <Jerry> The new interface looks good so far!

[21:01] <HAWK> Then we’ll throw it open to discussion

[21:01] <HAWK> Thanks Jerry

[21:01] <HAWK> So do you want to kick that off santouras?

[21:01] <santouras> sure thing HAWK

[21:02] <santouras> so, I’ve been in the industry now since 2001, and came through basically being self taught

[21:02] <HAWK> Straight from school, or were you doing something else first?

[21:03] <santouras> after leaving high school and having an interest in the design side of computing, took a course which gave a high level overview of programming fundamentals and web technologies of the day

[21:03] <santouras> which back then included such “fun” things as Director and VB6 :)

[21:03] <Dude> self taught! love it

[21:03] <HAWK> Welcome to the people that have just joined us. We’re talking to santouras and Bentheax about how they got into the industry.

[21:03] <HAWK> Sweet – thanks Jude

[21:04] <HAWK> Bentheax – your experience was different, yeah? Care to fill us in?

[21:04] <santouras> whilst the education I was getting was good, most of what was practical to me in my job was what I learnt when I was at home, which basically involved reading through loads of source code for open source PHP projects

[21:04] <santouras> and of course, browsing browser source code for cool looking websites :)

[21:04] <HAWK> Hehe – like SitePoint? ;)

[21:05] <Bentheax> OK, I’ll jump in here

[21:05] <santouras> yes! sitepoint was one of the big education sites that I visited at the time, I’ve been a long time forum member before being a staff member ;)

[21:06] <Bentheax> I went into uni from high school, and ended up enrolled in a software engineering course at RMIT

[21:06] <HAWK> So you chose this path from the start?

[21:06] <santouras> RMIT is a melbourne based IT focused university btw

[21:07] <Bentheax> You could pretty much say that

[21:07] <Bentheax> At high school we had some optional programming classes I was taking part in too, Visual Basic 6 as well!

[21:07] <HAWK> Welcome to those of your that have just joined us. santouras and Bentheax

[21:07] <HAWK> are just introducing themselves…

[21:08] <Bentheax> so yes, I went into university with a focus on getting into the industry and tailored my choices accordingly

[21:08] <HAWK> In short, santouras is self-taught and Bentheax studied at uni

[21:08] <molona> hello everyone

[21:09] <santouras> hi molona

[21:09] <Kate> Bentheax and Santouras, do you do different work now as a result of your different way of getting into programming and learning so differently?

[21:09] <santouras> Kate: once I finished studying I went straight into agency work and did that for about 10 years

[21:10] <santouras> talking directly to the clients from such and early age in my career definitely affected the way I worked

[21:10] <Kate> More front end, back end or both?

[21:10] <MalCurtis> santouras: Did you find that not having any ‘real qualifications’ was at all detrimental to your career?

[21:11] <santouras> I started out doing frontend work then moved more into backend

[21:11] <Grace> how do you get your foot into an agency? did you compiled a portfolio with broad range of samples that showcased your coding skills?

[21:11] <Kate> good question Grace

[21:11] <santouras> MalCurtis: it probably hindered me at the start, but once you have a few years “real” experience, that is more valuable I’ve found than a qualification

[21:11] <santouras> runs on the board and all

[21:12] <Bentheax> @Kate I think university has a much more dramatic impact on getting started into the industry, but after that it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference

[21:12] <molona> MalCurtis When you say ‘real qualifications’ you mean as a designer or web developer, I guess?

[21:12] <santouras> Grace: I got my first job based on a recommendation from a classmate who was contacted by my future employer

[21:12] <MalCurtis> molona: I mean any university / tertiary institute backed qualification

[21:12] <santouras> he knew the job wasn’t for him, but recommended me

[21:13] <MalCurtis> not neccessarily in the field

[21:13] <johnlacey> So what technologies do you use most these days? And have you seen big changes over the years?

[21:13] <skelly> hi this is sam a web desinger from ghana!!!!

[21:13] <MalCurtis> santouras: Any tips on what you’d look for in an ‘unqualified’ applicant looking for a job?

[21:13] <santouras> in that case it was important that I’d been helping my classmates out with some of their assignments and general school work

[21:13] <MalCurtis> Hey skelly!

[21:13] <molona> MalCurtis Thanks for clarifying

[21:13] <HAWK> Hi skelly

[21:14] <skelly> hi ppl

[21:14] <santouras> MalCurtis: definitely a back catalogue of things they’d been tinkering on in their spare time

[21:14] <santouras> skills can be taught but enthusiasm, you either have it or you don’t

[21:14] <MalCurtis> santouras So personal projects are a big win

[21:14] <HAWK> Maybe you could address johnlacey’s question Bentheax – So what technologies do you use most these days? And have you seen big changes over the years?

[21:14] <santouras> MalCurtis: absolutely

[21:15] <MalCurtis> santouras: What would you recommend as a first point of call for someone looking to self teach?

[21:15] <jessirwin> If you’re currently only a ‘front end’ developer, what would you suggest doing to get personal projects for a portfolio – when you can’t design?

[21:15] <Bentheax> @johnlacey I use Ruby + Rails for most of my day-to-day work. MVC web frameworks are near ubiquitous these days

[21:15] <Kate> to add to MalCurtis’s question: how do you learn fundamental programming best? Python, PHP?

[21:16] <Bentheax> I’ve seen huge changes over the years, and it seems like many universities have been slow to catch up

[21:16] <santouras> MalCurtis: one still needs education, so that can be a combination of reading books, taking online courses, loads of tutorials and reading through source code of web established projects

[21:16] <santouras> github is a goldmine these days

[21:16] <tubiz> HAWK the main thing i love doing is development, designing is not my way but i do it. The main problem we have here is Nigeria is getting a designer. What would you recommend?

[21:17] <MalCurtis> jessirwin: If you’re not a designer, then perhaps rewriting someone elses ‘standard’ web interface into a javascript one would show off your talents

[21:17] <HAWK> Welcome to those of you that have just joined. We’re talking about getting started in the industry – please feel free to jump in at any time. You can @ tag people to get their attention.

[21:17] <johnlacey> The rate of change in this industry seems huge and fast, and I’ve seen a lot of people invest a lot of time learning things that become obsolete and they in turn become really disheartened.

[21:17] <santouras> issue queues with discussions going on involving really smart people discussing how to best solve problems

[21:17] <tubiz> Tunde hello are u from Nigeria?

[21:17] <santouras> the very open eco-system that github and other services like it promote are invaluable to people looking to teach themselves

[21:18] <HAWK> Do you want a designer that would work with you full time, or are you happy to contract them in for projects tubiz?

[21:18] <Bentheax> @johnlacey the key is just to keep on learning new things all the time

[21:18] <MalCurtis> tubiz: Have you looked at www.99designs.com?

[21:18] <Bentheax> and to keep in mind that your effort spent in learning some dead language / framework is never actually wasted

[21:18] <molona> @tubiz I live in Spain but my designer lives in Estonia… the internet makes things possible

[21:18] <santouras> I also spent a lot of time in my early days in IRC channels that had a large contingent of very technical people in them

[21:19] <tubiz> HAWK full time / contract the main problem is getting one

[21:19] <molona> @tubiz you also have placeslike 99desings.com where you can find a design that you may want to code

[21:19] <Bentheax> There’s always lots of idioms you learn and changes in perception that stick with you going forward that make you a better programmer

[21:19] <santouras> building up a set of connections is really invaluable, whether you are self taught or had a uni degree :)

[21:19] <tubiz> molona how did you do that. 

[21:20] <johnlacey> How do you actually plan what you’re coding (do you spend time working on flowcharts and pseudo code, or is it more fluid than that)?

[21:20] <HAWK> tubiz Check out 99designs.com or http://sitepointmarket.com/service-providers/web-designers

[21:20] <molona> @tubiz… actually, I sometimes use 99designs.com to compete against other designers… while I’m not the best, I need to sharpen my skills and I find that competeing against others and receive critiques help me

[21:21] <molona> @tubiz There I found a particular designer that competed very often… and I liked his designs

[21:21] <thaolt> excuse me for idiotic question,but what is web industry? like everything from hosting, developing to promoting and monetizing etc.?

[21:21] <santouras> @thaolt more design/coding in this instance

[21:21] <molona> @tubiz I contacted him to give him the work I couldn’t do… I’m more a programmer than anything else and doing a good design takes me ages

[21:21] <thaolt> Thanks

[21:21] <molona> @tubiz and he does it in a breeze :D

[21:22] <Barney> best place I found was simple forums — there ppl have needs, there I can fill those needs, this has worked for me..

[21:22] <santouras> @johnlacey depending on the project, I’ll start with sketching out my basic data structures and how I see them fitting together

[21:22] <tubiz> molona seems we are in the same shoes. I have a flair for development and not design. Guess I will learn a lot from you

[21:22] <HAWK> Agreed Barney – I am also self-taught and a lot of that came from forums

[21:23] <santouras> then moving onto some basic prototyping of how all the elements fit together and going from there

[21:23] <Grace> where can we find a downloadable transcript for the talk when the session ends?

[21:23] <santouras> and lots and lots of rebuilds when you find better ways of doing things! :)

[21:23] <HAWK> I will post up the transcript on sitepoint.com later today Grace

[21:23] <Kate> I thought that was just my life – rebuilds

[21:23] <Grace> thanks Hawk

[21:23] <HAWK> np

[21:23] <molona> @tubiz I guess we can learn from each other :D

[21:23] <santouras> Kate: that’s a part of every developers life :)

[21:24] <Bentheax> yes, continuous integration and unit tests are a godsend for feeling out new ideas really quickly

[21:24] <HAWK> Hehe, welcome Capt_Snickle_Fritz

[21:24] <johnlacey> Studying, and working on personal projects, I almost find I am in a bit of a vacuum. (My code etc. only really has to make sense to me – and sometimes my teachers.) How do you coordinate with others when working on large projects?

[21:24] <tubiz> @molono would appreciate if we can continue this discussion after this chat my twitter handle tubiz

[21:24] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Thanks HAWK

[21:24] <MalCurtis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz: I love your name.

[21:25] <santouras> johnlacey: having a network of people that you can call on is important, and putting the code out to them for feedback is how you can bring other people into that vaccum

[21:25] <thaolt> What are your preference for CI server?

[21:25] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> My mom used to call me that when I was a wee lad lol

[21:25] <HAWK> Welcome to those of you that have just joined. Feel free to jump in with questions for Jude or Ben at any time.

[21:25] <santouras> whether you get those connections through IRC, forums, conferences

[21:25] <molona> @tubiz my twitter handle is @nuriaz

[21:26] <MalCurtis> thaolt ‘Go’ by ThoughtWorks is a great product http://www.thoughtworks-studios.com/go-continuous-delivery

[21:26] <tubiz> @molona ff you in a bit

[21:26] <thaolt> Thanks MalCurtis

[21:26] <HAWK> santouras: do you think that sites like Learnable (for instance) will mean that there are a lot more self-taught people in the industry, and what affect do you think that will have?

[21:26] <santouras> johnlacey: once you have those connections, make sure you’re also a giver and not just a taker! they’ll often be asking for feedback as well, and going through someone elses work and offering suggestions is a great way for you to not only learn but also get a bit of karma for when you need some help :)

[21:26] <thaolt> I would like to ask santouras

[21:26] <MalCurtis> santouras will tell you TeamCity ;)

[21:27] <thaolt> and Bentheax, about their preferred CI server software

[21:27] <Jannis> I teach a web design/dev class at AUT and my students are graduating this year… I’d say out of ~40, 5–8 have serious potential for web design work. Any advice on how to get a foot hold in the industry when you’re primarily a visual designer with (very) limited coding skills?

[21:27] <Grace> I am a self taught person too… where can I go to post code that I’ve coded for feedback and review, any recommendations?…

[21:27] <Bentheax> just to expand on johnlacey’s thought about being stuck in a vacuum. In terms of studying, the easiest way is to pick up on subjects that involve programming in pairs

[21:27] <santouras> HAWK: absolutely. getting access to quality instructors, especially being able to interact with them like you can in learnable, means more people will see it as a viable way to learn something

[21:28] <santouras> these days people aren’t waiting till they get to uni to start learning, kids are learning to code in their early teens! by the time they’ve gotten to uni age they may already have 5 years experience

[21:28] <Bentheax> you can build a rapport really quickly and it’s a good way to start developing the skills needed to get your code and communication working well with others

[21:28] <santouras> one of our previous experts wrote a wordpress book when he was 16. it is fundamentally changing the industry

[21:28] <Barney> Grace what language is your coding? That will make a diff as to where I amy recommend.

[21:29] <johnlacey> I used to program my Commodore 64 when I was a kid. That was my introduction to programming. lol

[21:29] <Bentheax> larger projects make it that much more difficult

[21:29] <santouras> johnlacey: I loved making adventure style games on the C64 :)

[21:29] <johnlacey> So what skills (technical and soft skills) do you find employers in IT are looking for?

[21:29] <HAWK> Can someone please address Jannis’s question: Any advice on how to get a foot hold in the industry when you’re primarily a visual designer with (very) limited coding skills?

[21:29] <jessirwin> What front end skills/languages would you say are a must have?

[21:30] <Bentheax> @thaolt I can’t really comment on a preferred CI software, I haven’t tried enough different programs out to have an educated opinion

[21:30] <jessirwin> Also, do you think the whole ‘designing in browser, ditch photoshop’, will affect those that are only front-end developers? (As opposed to those that can design and code?)

[21:30] <Barney> Jannis’s join wordpress,org forum – there you can find hundreds of people needing design help

[21:30] <Grace> I can code in HTML/ CSS…working on getting fluent in HTML5/CSS3 and I’m learning javascript; jquery; php; word press on learnable…thank you

[21:30] <thaolt> Thanks Bentheax

[21:30] <molona> Jannis I think that visual designers have it a bit easier… but you definately need to find a good coder that you can trust and that you can communicate with

[21:30] <Grace> thank you Barney

[21:31] <santouras> johnlacey: a good handle on a version control tool is very handy not matter what you want to do, and then going from there, learning at least one of ruby/php/python, a good handle on JS, CSS and HTML are all important

[21:31] <molona> @jannis It also good that you learn the basics of coding yourself, and a bit of UX and a bit of accessibility

[21:31] <Jannis> Barney, I’m talking less about learning code but rather find a way to make a living doing what these young graduates love doing: designing stuff :)

[21:31] <johnlacey> I think, even if you specialise in one thing (design/coding/whatever), it is good to have a nodding acquaintance with other related disciplines if only so you can communicate with other team members effectively.

[21:32] <Barney> join codeable.io — it is great for small design projects and it is controlled (money wise) – you never get stiffed

[21:32] <molona> @jannis Not only to be able to help if needed… it is more to understand what your coder will have to go through.. and how to give him directions, if needed

[21:32] <Jannis> For context: I am currently teaching them HTML, CSS and JS. So they will graduate with a foundation to start with but their passion is design, not code.

[21:32] <santouras> @jessirwin I’m very suspicious about “design in the browser”

[21:32] <Barney> that was my 3.5 Cents :-)

[21:32] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Jannis You might point people in the direction of sites like Odesk.com to get a start on things, and working with customers. I’ve been pointed in that direction myself actually, and don’t have any experience with it, but quite a few people recommended it, so I’m going to give it a go.

[21:32] <santouras> I think there is still a lot of room for those that can put together quality photoshop designs, I don’t feel that is a skill that will ever disappear

[21:32] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Any feedback on that suggestion is welcome lol. 

[21:33] <Jannis> molona Agreed. Understanding code is essential but being in the industry myself, I find ~80% (?) of job offers and opportunities are not for designers but creative coders these days.

[21:33] <Barney> Jannis I made 18,000 US from wordpress.org forums in 2012

[21:33] <Jannis> Barney, thanks for both links. On my list to check out :)

[21:33] <molona> @jannis If you go to places like eLance, Odesk or similar, be sure that you study each applicant and their reputation… it is not totally a perfect system but if they have a good reputation and long time on that web, it is less likeky that they mess up

[21:34] <jessirwin> santouras I’ve seen many articles about it, but can’t think how it’d work smoothly. I’m afraid that at some point, it will mean I’m redundant as just a front-end dev.

[21:34] <tubiz> Barney how did you do that? Are you really serious

[21:34] <Barney> Peoplepost on those forums because they are in PAIN and need of help — many want free Many will pay to just get it out of their hair

[21:34] <Barney> very serious, tubiz

[21:34] <HAWK> What would you suggest that someone new to the industry does to make themselves stand out in the eyes of a prospective empolyer Bentheax

[21:34] <JoshySav> Would you say freelance is best?

[21:34] <molona> @jannis another thing to take into account is the money that the project will cost… if you know how to explain what you want, the quote will be precise… but unexpected changes or bad explanations can make the bill go rocket high… so be very clear

[21:35] <santouras> @JoshySav that all depends on your skillset!

[21:35] <Barney> think about it – someone post on forums looking for something. Many looking for free some will pay just to get rid of the problem

[21:35] <santouras> personally I wouldn’t enjoy freelancing but thats because I don’t enjoy the financial side of running a business :)

[21:35] <JoshySav> Good point. I’m 18 and still pretty new to the industry. What would you recommend?

[21:35] <molona> @jannis finally, for simple projects or just (x)html coding, you can find a lot of services that create a (X)HTML page from a PSD

[21:35] <Bentheax> @HAWK I think the number one thing regardless of background is to build up a portfolio of projects you’ve work on

[21:36] <Barney> maybe a simple CSS or WP plgin, etc… thats where I started

[21:36] <Bentheax> polish them up really nicely and make them available. You’ll sharpen your skills and also catch the eye of employers.

[21:36] <Jannis> molona all good advice, thanks. Will be interesting to see how my students get on once they leave their sheltered university life behind :)

[21:37] <Barney> within 3 monthes of curzing them and answering peeps daily I got  following with real phones and emails and a paypal acct they deposit into from around the world

[21:37] <santouras> JoshySav: doing some freelance work to get a portfolio together is always a good thing however when you’re new in the industry. even tho I would never do freelance and projects for friends these days, when I was starting out I did not only as a way to test my skills but as a way to develop a real website for someone that wasn’t paying for it :)

[21:37] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> I’ve been job searching in the industry now for quite awhile @HAWK so I could answer that question pretty well.

[21:37] <HAWK> Let’s hear it Capt_Snickle_Fritz

[21:37] <JoshySav> Thanks santouras appreciate the advice

[21:38] <JoshySav> thats what I’m doing at the moment :) 

[21:38] <Bentheax> At every interview I attended there was a printout of my portfolio samples, and it generally tended to be a real focal point of conversation. By comparison, I don’t think I saw my cover letters printed off, ever.

[21:38] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> 9 out of 10 positions almost always want some expertise in wordpress and/or drupal. Fluent with windows/linux database.

[21:38] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Experience with pretty much all applications via Adobe.

[21:38] <molona> @jannis being visual designers, they have it a bit easier than a coder… they can create a portfolio of designs to show… but as important as being a great designer/coder is how to market yourself… and that goes for everything: showing the right attitude, doing how to do a great interview, how to negotiate your wages…

[21:38] <santouras> no problem JoshySav. doing low expectation freelance work is a good way for you to try out some crazy new technologies that you’d not normally use as well

[21:39] <tubiz> HAWK Bentheax santouras Barney how do i make money off my skills. I know wordpress in and out but the main problem I have is making money out of it. WOuld be grateful if you can suggest how I can get started

[21:39] <jessirwin> When starting out, did you spend more time outside of work reading/learning/experimenting compared to what you do now?

[21:39] <santouras> @tubiz sites like tweaky.com are fantastic for that

[21:39] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Then, depending on what type of clients you are developing for, C++ experience seems to be pretty common in request, email template building, and ect….

[21:39] <JoshySav> Qualifications or Portfolio? 

[21:40] <Jannis> molona absolutely but I do feel there are considerably less job opportunities in the design market than for coders. Having worked with studios for a while I found that lots of print designers are taking on web work out of necessity so while studios have web work to go around they rarely take chances on young graduate designers with a passion for we

[21:40] <Jannis> b.

[21:40] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> So, from there, they like to see that you have a multitude of languages under your belt, Php, Ruby, Js.Node ect…

[21:40] <santouras> they give you work so you don’t need to find it, and that allows you to get some experience in the industry

[21:40] <JoshySav> Barney just wondering what would you say you specialise in?

[21:40] <Jannis> molona having said that, it does come down to how you market yourself and your attitude and portfolio. Definitely a big factor.

[21:41] <Barney> web design/development, php, mysql, and wp NOT photoshop

[21:41] <Barney> TY HAWK

[21:41] <Barney> what an eye — hahaha

[21:41] <santouras> nothing gets past HAWK :)

[21:42] <johnlacey> Would you have any recommendations on how to develop fluency with programming languages? (Or is that just something that comes over time?)

[21:42] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> They want to see your versatility in other words. Specializing in popular CMS products, knowing your way around the Adobe suite, Building clean databases, and possibly something to tie things in to some software like C++. Shortened version lol

[21:42] <Barney> *smiles*

[21:42] <molona> @jannis It is true… print designers are in the need of shifting to web… but many of them find hard to do the change…. print is fixed, you know exactly how much room you have… web is fluid, screen monitors differ in sizes and colors and those are the skills of a true web designer… and a point that needs to stress, furthemore when you scree

[21:42] <molona> ns can go as smalls as a phone and as big as a 42″ tv

[21:42] <santouras> johnlacey: time :) and experience

[21:43] <santouras> and also being quick to recognise that the way you’re doing something might not be the best

[21:43] <Barney> guys simple by books (pdf) from learnable, I did – created my own webs on wordpress.org to start and show off — then simple reviewed the forums, the request that I could fill I had them email me and contraced a deal

[21:43] <santouras> developer blogs on high quality websites like github, 37signals, 99designs, are a great way to get insight into not only coding best practises and what toolchains big companies use but also some of the business decisions behind the way code is written

[21:44] <santouras> look for the new dev blog on learnable.com coming soon ;)

[21:44] <molona> @jannis also a designer can be more flexible and adaptable… a designer that understands the media and knows about UX and accessibiity and all about fonts worths its weight in gold… because he will not only design beautifully but will be able to design something that the coder can actually code! :-D

[21:44] <Barney> start small, css, layout problem – in a short time you will get you name past around by them… BRB

[21:44] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Some of these job postings are absolutely hilarious lol

[21:45] <Jannis> molona, you’re correct but what I meant was the fact that studios/companies are not firing now obsolete print designers to make room for web talents, rather they keep existing staff and try to get them to do web design (which almost always isn’t a good fit). 

[21:45] <santouras> @molona absolutely. even if you don’t use html/css on a daily basis, knowing the fundamentals as a designer is really important

[21:45] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Senior Web Developer, must know HTML and CSS. I’d love to know what everyone else need to know then lol

[21:45] <HAWK> I’m curious to hear a bit more about Bentheax’s experience of coming in through the SitePoint grad program.

[21:46] <HAWK> Are there a lot of these sorts of programs around atm?

[21:46] <HAWK> Seems like a great intro into working in our industry

[21:46] <Bentheax> Oh yes, I agree so much about those job postings, they tend to be quite optimistic

[21:46] <santouras> Jannis: there is definitely a higher percentage of freelance designers in the industry than coders. At one of my agencies I worked at we would often get an external designer on board to come up with a concept that was completely different to what our inhouse designers would do

[21:46] <molona> @molona Then an option is to brand yourself… make yourself popular in social media, show your work, start to sell it in FB and all that… do videos for you tube that have an impact… start to contact people in linkedin… because having the right contacts is really important

[21:46] <santouras> then we’d work with that and adapt it to our needs. Also a good way to go about things

[21:47] <Jannis> santouras, good to know. Do you happen to know how these external designers were found/selected?

[21:47] <Bentheax> @HAWK yes, there are so many grad programs available, and many places accept “grad applications” 1-2 years after graduation

[21:47] <Jannis> Web portfolio? Word of mouth?

[21:47] <molona> @jannis (sorry that I wrote my name instead of yours) What I mean is that if you don’t find the job you either create that job youself or you do something to make tha job come to you… and showing off may be an option

[21:48] <santouras> @Jannis usually from connections at conferences/meetups

[21:48] <santouras> and once you have one or two on hand, thats all you really need

[21:48] <santouras> as in, as an agency, once we had one or two we were fine :)

[21:48] <Bentheax> It’s not this big thing you have to have arranged in your final university in order to see success, although it usually does help

[21:49] <HAWK> I imagine it would take a lot of pressure off. 

[21:49] <johnlacey> Do you find (in a general sense) there are any conspicuous gaps in the education of graduates just entering the industry?

[21:49] <Jannis> santouras, sweet. Will tell my students to start attending meetups. I think they’re generally afraid of coming across like a noob at them (which is fine and to be expected this early in their career in my opinion).

[21:49] <Bentheax> You will find out all about the different grad programs from the larger companies at careers fairs,

[21:49] <Jannis> molona, thanks.

[21:50] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> SitePoint grad program? 

[21:50] <HAWK> Agreed Jannis – the people that do well at our workplace are those that put themselves out there – attend meetups, socialise, DO things

[21:50] <santouras> johnlacey: doing agency work I definitely found that uni grads had little concept of the realities of actual business work and timeframes surrounding things

[21:50] <molona> @jannis your students are creative by nature… they should be creative to find their own jobs too and not only use the typical ways fo finding a job such as recruitment agencies, etc.

[21:51] <HAWK> We have a graduate intern program Capt_Snickle_Fritz – interns do a month at each of our companies and then at the end we offer the good ones a job

[21:51] <santouras> they can also struggle to see why designing for future changes in scope are important

[21:51] <HAWK> Works well – we have some great guys as a result

[21:51] <Bentheax> I actually stumbled across the SitePoint grad program through a recruiter, so they can actually be a useful resource for finding grad work too

[21:51] <santouras> johnlacey: I would love it if there was a university project where almost all of the requirements changed about one week out from submission. would simulate the real world much more accurately!

[21:51] <Jannis> HAWK, happen to have a link for some more info on your grad program? Sounds interesting.

[21:52] <johnlacey> lol santouras.

[21:52] <Jannis> santouras :) Wouldn’t that be nice for a bit of real-world feel.

[21:52] <johnlacey> Sometimes I wonder if 90% of any client work is reminding the client what they asked for.

[21:53] <santouras> and then expect it to be handed in at the same time. or maybe even a few days earlier :P

[21:53] <HAWK> Sure thing Jannis – http://www.sitepoint.com/jobs/young-talented-developers-and-designers/

[21:53] <Bentheax> Coming through the grad program at SitePoint was great.

[21:53] <santouras> johnlacey: absolutely, having well defined scopes and sign offs are important

[21:53] <santouras> depending on the client of course. some are happy for scope creep and cost adjustments, others need a much firmer hand :)

[21:53] <johnlacey> So HAWK are there any current Sitepoint grad program opportunities?

[21:53] <Bentheax> Fresh out of uni, I thought I actually knew a thing or two about programming, but I was oh-so wrong

[21:54] <Jannis> santouras, teaching at uni at the moment, as good an exercise that would be, you have to put out a brief with marking criteria at the start of the project and that cannot change :/ So much for “preparing our students for the real world” aye.

[21:54] <Jannis> HAWK Thank you.

[21:54] <HAWK> There are johnlacey – more info here http://www.sitepoint.com/jobs/young-talented-developers-and-designers/

[21:54] <JoshySav> Ok got to go :) Thanks so much!! Your doing the community a big favour :)

[21:54] <santouras> Jannis: that is annoying!

[21:54] <santouras> thanks JoshySav!

[21:54] <HAWK> No worries JoshySav – thanks for taking part :)

[21:55] <HAWK> So we have 5 mins left in the session – does anyone have a question that didn’t get answered? If so, now would be the time to raise it.

[21:55] <Barney> when is the next ?? ;)

[21:56] <HAWK> At the end of the session I’ll cut our experts free but the rest of you are welcome to stick around here and chat for as long as you like.

[21:56] <johnlacey> Do certain qualifications (or institutions) carry better reputations than others? [I am currently studying a diploma in web development at TAFE.]

[21:56] <HAWK> The next session you mean, Barney?

[21:56] <Barney> yes Hawk

[21:56] <santouras> johnlacey: I went through the tafe path so I’d probably look at it more favourably ;)

[21:56] <HAWK> Barney: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/fixedtime.html?msg=Talk+Backbone.js+with+the+Experts&iso=20130509T06&p1=152&ah=1

[21:56] <johnlacey> lol. Great santouras

[21:56] <Barney> ty

[21:56] <santouras> but in reality, when I’m hiring people I look at what they can do, not where they came from

[21:57] <molona> I find that the hardest thing to find a job is being confident with your own quality… specially when your starting…. how do you choose the best jobs in your portfolio, specially of that portfolio is made by personal projects?

[21:57] <HAWK> I’ll be posting a full transcript of this session up on sitepoint.com later today

[21:57] <Jannis> HAWK do you have an Auckland based grad program as well? (the link seems to be Melb only)

[21:57] <Bentheax> If there are any grads out there who are stuck and just don’t know where to start on cracking the industry hit me up at ben.axnick@sitepoint.com

[21:57] <santouras> and also their attitude, which is almost always more important than their skillset

[21:58] <HAWK> Sorry Jannis – we’re actually a Melbourne based company – there are only two of us that work out of Auckland (and we commute to Melbourne monthly)

[21:58] <Jannis> HAWK, no worries :) Just thought I’d check.

[21:58] <Bentheax> which goes doubly so when you’re starting out as a junior programmer

[21:58] <Grace> Bentheax : can none grads and self-starters hit you up too? thank you

[21:58] <santouras> @molona having a good story about your project is important as well. what problem you are trying to solve, how you tackled it, and where you will improve on it in the future

[21:58] <Bentheax> @Grace sure!

[21:59] <HAWK> I’d also really appreciate any feedback that you have on this interface – this is our first session using it. 

[21:59] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> I’m curious if the people who went to a university feel like it was worth the money spent, or if they would have been as well off to learn things on their own. Any takers?

[21:59] <HAWK> If you are happy to help with that, please email me – hawk@sitepoint.com

[21:59] <tubiz> Why didnt i knew about this type of discussions early.

[21:59] <molona> santouras that’s a good approach… if you can explain why you did what you did, that at least should show attitude and willingness

[21:59] <Jannis> Bentheax santouras, one last question: How important are open source projects in your selection criteria for a designer/developer type to join you on your project/in your company?

[21:59] <tubiz> I have really learnt and gained a lot today. Thanks everyone

[21:59] <santouras> @molona any sensible employee will know that any project is a current work in progress, so they shouldn’t be judging too harshly on what is there, more important is the why

[21:59] <HAWK> You’re welcome tubiz

[21:59] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> I think the interface works fabulous, and the soft colors are very pleasing.

[21:59] <Bentheax> I think santouras’ point is especially pertintent for junior programmers. Attitude, communication, and general problem solving were the core focus

[22:00] <Barney> SitePoint has been berry, berry good 4 me *smiles*

[22:00] <HAWK> I’d like to say thanks VERY much to santouras and Bentheax for their time this morning.

[22:00] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz, I studied design for 3 years and would say that it was well worth it.

[22:00] <santouras> Jannis: it is getting more important every year as open source contributions are expected

[22:00] <HAWK> Thanks to all of you for joining us

[22:00] <johnlacey> HAWK are the sessions mostly going to be around breakfast Australian time?

[22:00] <Barney> bye and Be Well

[22:00] <Bentheax> No-one was particularly troubled about which languages and frameworks I actually knew

[22:00] <molona> Capt_Snickle_Fritz I didn’t finish university and I was styding mining… but I would say that University is good… it teaches you how to learn, how to discipline yourself and the environment is great

[22:00] <johnlacey> Thanks Bentheax and santouras

[22:00] <HAWK> And a huge thanks to MalCurtis for the amazing work he did putting this interface together

[22:00] <Grace> Thanks everyone for your professional input and feedback

[22:00] <santouras> thanks everyone!

[22:00] <tubiz> Barney bye

[22:01] <Jannis> Thanks santouras Bentheax HAWK MalCurtis

[22:01] <Jerry> Thanks, everyone

[22:01] <molona> Capt_Snickle_Fritz even if the knowledge you get is not usefull… university opens your mind… it makes future learning easier

[22:01] <HAWK> As I said, you’re all free to hang around here as long as you like.

[22:01] <Bentheax> Capt_Snickle_Fritz I found the university experience invaluable

[22:01] <Kate> thank you!

[22:02] <HAWK> And you can sign up for email notifications of future sessions here https://www.facebook.com/sitepoint/app_115462065200508

[22:02] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Thanks experts, molana, and Jannis.

[22:02] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> And all others… Very informative session

[22:02] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz, I’d agree with molona, university was an experience in learning how to think and go about any given problem.

[22:04] <molona> @malcurtis Thanks Mal, It works beautifully and I like it so much better than the previous one…specially because I didn’t have any problem signing in… I used to have to invent new e-mail addresses with the other one lol

[22:04] <MalCurtis> :)

[22:04] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> I’ve been trying to avoid the University, being a single parent, and severely strapped for time and cash, but I’m coming to the conclusion that the interactivity and on hand help would probably be enough alone to warrant the need for it.

[22:04] <Jannis> HAWK, just read through the grad program page: How much programming knowledge is a prerequisite? Can design grads with a passion for web and a basic HTML,CSS foundation apply? Or are they better off learning more programming before applying?

[22:05] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz don’t go for the ‘on hand help’. That part is actually pretty overrated.

[22:05] <molona> Capt_Snickle_Fritz You don’t need university… but it is a shame if you can’t go through that experience… I had trouble too… my father was really ill, we were a large family (10 siblings) and money was short

[22:05] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz My class for example, 20 students, 1 teacher, 2 hours, once a week. Unfortunately there is not a ton of time I have to spend with individual students in class

[22:06] <molona> Capt_Snickle_FritzI had to work to pay my own universtiy and although I was there only for two years… the memories are great!

[22:06] <HAWK> Flick me an email to hawk@sitepoint.com Jannis and I’ll put you in touch with Leni, who runs the program. He’ll be able to give you that info.

[22:06] <Bentheax> The best learning (and some of the most difficult experiences) I had at university were the subjects where I could pair up with other students and work toward large projects over the semester

[22:07] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz So even though I recommend university as an experience and learning exercise still, you’ll have to do a lot of ‘out of class’ work and email your teacher to meet up out of class time to get that hands-on help.

[22:07] <Jannis> HAWK Thanks! Email incoming…

[22:07] <Bentheax> The on-hand help can be a little sparse, it’s the interaction with other students that will help get you up to speed

[22:08] <Jerry> @MalCurtis Design is nice, but one question: is there some way to scroll the chat window?

[22:08] <molona> Capt_Snickle_Fritz but if your situation is that you can’t afford it and can’t do that effort… then don’t. It will be harder but if you have will power and enthusiams, it is definately possible… and history is full of stories of people that didn’t even go to school and succeeded

[22:08] <Bentheax> 100% agree with molona

[22:09] <molona> @jerry… I use my mouse to scroll… I click on a text as if I was going to write and then use the mouse wheel

[22:09] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> One of the things that has held me up, is that I’ve heard some poor reviews. For example, people saying they went through a development program. Feed back I’ve gotten includes: Just the basics on 1 language, and some data base design ect.. In other words, I’ve heard that it really isn’t that extensive. As far as say design, I’ve heard that course j

[22:09] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> ust teach some photoshop basics, html, and css. All at an introductry type level. Most of that is pretty accessible for free, so I’ve been delayed by doubt so to speak.

[22:10] <molona> Capt_Snickle_Fritz The good thing about the web world is that you have a lots of resources that will help you as much as university… even if learning solo is not the same

[22:10] <MalCurtis> Jerry You should be able to scroll the chat window normally

[22:10] <Jerry> @molona Thanks!  (a scroll bar would be a handy addition. Hint! :) )

[22:10] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz, my recommendation: Learn programming using online tools (free and paid ones) but attend a design course which can help learn the basics in Typography, Colour Theory, Layout etc

[22:10] <molona> but sites like learnable of ynda.com can help to save the gap… and the courses are short enough so you can do one in two weeks, rest , and the go for another gone in a month

[22:11] <Bentheax> Anyway, thanks for joining me on my first session guys. Once again if anyone has queries that they didn’t get answered (or were too shy to ask) hit me up at ben.axnick@sitepoint.com

[22:11] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz in my opinion that stuff is hard to come by online… at least in a good quality format with a way for you to ask for clarification on those sometimes abstract thought excercises.

[22:11] <Jerry> @MalCurtis molona’s trick (dragging the mouse pointer) worked to scroll, but there’s no visibly obvious interface for such.

[22:12] <MalCurtis> Jerry: Ah, ok. I use a mac and it doesn’t show scroll bars by default, so if they’re hidden for some reason I wouldn’t have noticed it!

[22:12] <molona> @jannis I agree with you… but some people really don’t have the chance to go to university

[22:12] <Jerry> OK. I’m on Win7 using Chome FWIW

[22:12] <HAWK> ok guys, I’m going to cut our experts free now

[22:13] <HAWK> I also have to head off. Feel free to hang around, but there will be no moderation.

[22:13] <Jannis> molona, yup, I understand that, and I don’t think it’s a requirement to attend either, but if the question is “is it worth it?” then I would still say yes so long you can afford to (time and money wise)

[22:13] <HAWK> Please do email me with any feedback – hawk@sitepoint.com

[22:13] <Jerry> @HAWK — looks like they already cut themselves free  lol

[22:13] <molona> MalCurtis I’m on a Windows and there are no scroll bars… but simply placing the pointer over the text (I just discovered that I don’t need to click) and using the mouse wheel, does the trick

[22:13] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Thanks again Jannis and molona

[22:13] <molona> @jannis Oh then, yes, It is totally worth it :D

[22:14] <Jannis> Capt_Snickle_Fritz Sure thing, feel free to get in touch if you have any question regarding university stuff: hello@jannisgundermann.com

[22:14] <tubiz> ok HAWK.

[22:14] <tubiz> @hawk can i mail you if i need any advise

[22:15] <HAWK> Yeah, sure tubiz

[22:16] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Will do Jannis and thanks again. Time to make the doughnuts!

[22:16] <molona> @tubiz and depending on the advise you need, you can also visit the forums www.sitepoint.com/forums

[22:16] <tubiz> @hawk will do if i need any. Thanks

[22:16] <Jannis> Alright, I’m taking off too. Thanks everyone, been fun.

[22:16] <tubiz> molona ok

[22:16] <molona> it is not that I’m advertising the forum that I collaboratt in :p

[22:17] <Capt_Snickle_Fritz> Grad programs are only for grads I bet. That’s a good reason too! lol

[22:17] <Jerry> You expect us to believe that, molona?  ;)

[22:17] <molona> @jerry … what?

[22:18] <Jerry> That you weren’t sneaking in a plug for the SP forums  lol

[22:18] <molona> @jerry… was it too obvious? Damn… and I thought I was being discreet lol

[22:19] <molona> @jerry but I guess that I need to take full responsibility of my actions… nobody asked me to advertise the forums… I simply did it…

[22:20] <molona> @jerry I hope that you don’t consider me a spammer :p

[22:20] <Jerry> np — jut giving you a little grief over the disclaimer more than the comment

[22:20] <Jerry> nah

[22:20] <molona> @jerry lol

[22:21] <Jerry> The passing references to sites that are obvious to many are often the most helpful

[22:21] <molona> still, it is true that there are some brilliant peope there and with lots of knowledge

[22:21] <Jerry> That is true

[22:22] <molona> I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with them :D

[22:22] <tubiz> have to go now bye Jerry molona

Sarah Hawk
Meet the author
Formerly a developer in the corporate world, HAWK (known as Sarah by her mother) said goodbye to the code and succumbed to the lure of social media. Community Manager for the SitePoint network for several years now. If you're a member of our community you'll be familiar with ^hawk.

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