Humans of dxw: from skateboarding enthusiast to lead technologist

I like to see my role as telling the story of how we will build something

When I came out of my first careers advisor meeting with a plan for how to become a professional skateboarder, I realised that I probably lacked direction. I’d been quite academic when I was younger, but I’d let that slip. I quite enjoyed arts and creative pursuits but lacked the focus to really develop it further.

By the time I finished high school, I really had no idea what to do and stumbled into an Electronic Engineering Apprenticeship. I found this far too restrictive and the following year I enrolled in a Multimedia Arts course in college.

Multimedia Arts is a bit of everything. It involved Film and TV production, Photography, Fine Art, Art History, and Website Development. It scratched an itch of experimenting with lots of different things and ideas, and I took to film and animation. I enjoyed creating stories and finding a way to bring that story to life.

I continued down the Multimedia Arts route into University but very quickly became disillusioned with my course. I started to lack confidence and felt like I was missing direction. Film and animation were still my focus, but my course was not really set up for it so I was primarily doing animations in Flash. I was lucky in my second year to get a part time job at a design agency through a friend, and began using my Flash animation skills to build interactive Flash websites. These were the days when accessibility was not a consideration for the majority of the internet.

It was at this role where I became the ‘technical’ one. My part time role developed into a full-time role once I’d graduated from university and I started working on HTML websites alongside bits of animation and video work. I taught myself HTML and CSS and enjoyed the more logic based approach of creating something. It felt like a merge of science and art.

After moving to a different design studio, I was made redundant and I took the opportunity to go freelance. I’d built up enough skills to handle projects on my own. I got by through some of the connections I’d made, but I was lacking confidence in talking to people. Eventually, I got a job at a video game shop to supplement my income. It was here that my confidence in talking to strangers, and taking on responsibilities grew. After a couple of years I realised that I needed to focus on my development career and I looked for a full time frontend developer position.

I moved between lots of different agencies, big and small, specialising in frontend web development and learning more about various content management systems. I also developed a knack for sticking my nose into processes, and other parts of the business, which wouldn’t have ordinarily been part of my role. I started thinking more about projects as a whole and in a more strategic way, whilst still being able to take on a lead developer role in complex frontend projects.

Throughout this time, I’d always been excited by the prospect of taking what I’d learnt, and the improvements I’d made, and trying to go freelance again. This time I did it properly, I set up a limited company and started contracting and developing projects for clients across the world – working on client projects in Australia whilst being in the UK makes for some awkwardly-timed meetings.

Eventually, I contracted at a sports technology company during the early stages of their new platform. My work there led them to offer me a full-time position in a leadership role. And I accepted as it was exciting to see a platform that I built grow and be successful. As I progressed in this company up to CTO, I took on more responsibilities and learnt more about various technologies. It was exciting but not sustainable for me.

I now work at dxw as a Lead Technologist. In this role, I get the variety of responsibilities and tasks that I crave. From diving into technical aspects of a project, creating new processes, dealing with clients and liaising with technical partners, to supporting designers and product owners in creating services which will improve people’s lives. I like to see my role as telling the story of how we will build something.

My university tutor once said to me I was a Jack of all trades, and I don’t think that’s ever been a bad thing for me.