My story is unlike many people in the industry
2010 - Graduation
I graduated from a small design school called Wood Tobe Coburn where I finished at the top of my class with an Associates degree in Graphic Design and was offered multiple positions from the job placement program.
2011 - Print Designer at Duggal
This was my first job after graduation and the beginning of my professional career. During my time at Duggal I learned advanced photo retouching and color matching techniques. I operated wide format print machines (16ft) as well as prepping files for production and vector files for laser cutting machines. Some of the clients we worked with included companies such as Apple, Verizon, MTV and Metlife.
2012 - Web Design internship at StarChefs
During this time the print industry began to decline with the web dominating the advertising worldwide. I decided to pivot and learn new skills to remain competitive. Here I learned the basics of html, css and was introduced to content management systems. (Drupal, WordPress).
2013 - Prepress Technician at VGS
As I still needed more experience in web development to completely transition mediums. I accepted an offer from another printing company while I prepared to join a developer bootcamp in the coming months. During this stage in my career at VGS I trained some of the machine operators on how to push creative production to it's limits. I taught the team how to engrave with lasers by installing new software and providing prepared photoshop files while also demonstrating how to use routing machines to build props.
2014 - Tipping Point
January - Joined Developer Bootcamp
I started 2014 strong by deep diving into coding by joining a 3 month long part time bootcamp led by Mike De’shazer, a software engineer and serial entrepreneur. At the time this was lamp stack focused and I became more logical about my designs.
April - First front end position at SBG Media
After completing this bootcamp I landed a position at a marketing company working on WordPress sites and lead capture pages. My work here was focused on user growth and lead generation delivering targeted ads based on surveys.
September - Accepted offer at MyLandlordScore
MyLandlordScore was an early stage startup where people could search and rate landlords based on a set of categories we provided. The biggest challenge I faced here as a front end developer was building a mobile app on iOS. I managed to complete this using web technologies and multiple Apple reviews. This is where I learned the true meaning of being a developer and problem solving when facing the unknown.
2015 - FLEX
At FLEX Marketing Group I was given the chance to use many of my skills that i’ve built up over the years. Here I was responsible for designing, developing and scaling internal build systems. I was able to refine my craft but also fortunate enough to learn the depths of running a business as a bonus. I launched over 100 landing pages based on a dozen different templates that went through rigorous multi variate testing. Given the liberty of working independently and managing remote engineers, I gained the competency of working on any project and putting together a plan of action.
2017 - Code in the Dark Hackathon
I participated in the Code In the Dark front end competition in which I placed 2nd(I blame landing 2nd place due to having a high fever that day 😒). The rules were simply to build a web page based off a screenshot of a random website without using any libraries and without previewing your code. After 15 minutes the crowd would vote for the winner of that round until the final round.
2018 - Iterative Capital
2019 - OpenCrowd
I joined OpenCrowd in 2019. OpenCrowd is a design and technology firm based in NYC. I currently hold the position of UX Developer in their New Jersey office. We work on enterprise software using React/Redux on the front end.
Today im focusing on building out content and sharing my knowledge for all digital creators; ranging from marketers to developers. One of my goals are to become a Google Developer Expert in Web Technologies.
When i was a kid i wanted to be able to draw so badly. I thought it was so amazing that u could create things I loved out of thin air. My Mother bought me a book to learn how to draw by using Disney characters. The way they'd layer up the sketches to demonstrate how simple shapes can be used to create detailed objects was amazing. It looked a lot easier than it was and sadly I sucked really bad. I figured I didn't have the talent.
I left it alone until my teenage years when I wanted to make a name for myself after being surrounded by creative graffiti artists. I practiced sketching, I practiced painting, I studied human anatomy and practiced some more that I got good enough that people gave me compliments. Friends would ask me to draw their name for their book covers. When I was 17 this made me start to think about monetizing my skills but it seemed unrealistic or at least too risky as a consistent and reliable source of income.
So i looked into graphic design. Again this time my mother gave me a copy of Adobe CS2 to feed my creative itch. I didn't have too much computer experience so I sucked at that too and just drawing on a pc felt unnatural and weird. I took some multimedia classes in my local community college and found it awesome but there was so much talent that I eventually lost interest. I joined the workforce and forgot about it.
A couple years passed and one of my closest friends that was a talented artist had passed away at only 21. We use to talk about joining a trade school and getting jobs as designers. I was filled with remorse after his passing since he had so much potential and I was just barely getting by. His death inspired me to give this another try and build a career out of it. I owed this to him.
This time around I was on a mission. I was 20 years old back in college starting from scratch. I combatted any negative thoughts with a reminder of WHY I was doing this in the first place. I studied and practiced day and night. I even did a collaboration with the fashion designers to help them with a graphic letterings background leading them to win 1st in a fashion show. I did struggle here and there trying to translate my creativity into a different medium but fortunately I persevered and ended up graduating. I was happy to have been hired before I even finished with school. I was actually surprised but still my reason was clear from the beginning.
A few more years pass and now I was 24 expecting my first child Velani. My career was somewhat stagnant. I wasn't the rock star designer I thought i'd become swimming in millions. Still I had put so much time into these skills I couldn't just bail and slave away working multiple jobs just to provide. My Mother and Father were faced with this same choice at my age and eventually ran out of time that they had no choice but to do whatever was necessary to survive. Breaking your back for someone else and a job that you hate is one of the saddest things. Although I respect it, I didn't want to repeat this same cycle.
So I took a huge gamble and scraped up every single dollar I could gather to join a coding bootcamp that was 3 months long. I figured if I could use my background in design to make up for my lack of professional development experience, I could use this to get my foot in the door at a higher paying job. And I was right! I did get hired right at the last minute of finishing the bootcamp but it was not easy. This process was brutal and there was so much information that I had to consume, retain and apply in so little time. I would leave class with pounding headaches. I was so out of my comfort zone and it reminded me of that time as a kid trying to learn how to draw except of course this time the stakes were higher.
Now today I'm 30
I'm getting the same urge to once again evolve. Not just for personal growth but out of necessity. It's become clear to me now that to continue to grow, the next phase for me to get where I need to be is to conquer my fear of public speaking and teaching those struggling to gain what I've already accomplished.