On December 31, 1995, Calvin and Hobbes boarded their sled and took off into the blank canvas that to them was the stark white, freshly snow-covered scenery.
That’s not what this post is about. At least in part, it is, however, about endings. Just as that last comic strip Bill Watterson ever published.
In the fall of 1999, I discovered this fantastic little tool called Macromedia Flash 4. To cut a long and boring story short, the result was that instead of going to university, I immediately kicked off my career as a professional web developer in the advertising industry. While in hindsight, that claim of professionalism was bordering on the ridiculous in its utter optimism and naïveté, the good news is: it somehow worked and while I did start university a year later, it had to take a back seat to my main occupation.
Now, twelve years on, it seems like not that much has changed. Granted: I spent the last five years not only developing but also managing teams and doing conceptual work. Still, at the core of things, I am what I was all those years ago - a web developer.
As you might have guessed, though, the real changes are a bit more subtle. As time went on, I became more and more aware of two important facts: first, neither my talents nor my interests really lie in the frontend; second, twelve years of doing advertising is enough for a lifetime.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have any deeply-rooted problem with advertising in and of itself. I do, however, think that there’s a fundamental problem with projects in the advertising industry: they lack real stakeholders. Now I might be completely off the mark here, but that was my overarching impression in almost all the projects I was ever involved in and it makes a lot of sense to me, too: the companies you work for in advertising have their stakes in their products, not really in marketing them.
Whether I’m right about this doesn’t really matter, though: real or imagined, this gap I experience is enough of a problem for me that I want to change what I’m working on.
The other part of the equation is that I enjoy building systems, applications and frameworks, not microsites. The projects I enjoy the most are along the lines of Robotlegs, Swiftsuspenders and Reprise - an MVC framework, an IoC container and a CSS-based layout and components framework. Building a CMS abstraction layer to be used by the hundreds of agencies building modules and microsites for the NIVEA website was pretty neat, too.
For these reasons, I have decided to close my current business as the tech lead of a small team of sub-contractors to advertising agencies at year’s end.
As of January 2012, I will do some exploring of a blank canvas of my own and be available for bookings as a freelancing developer specialized in building systems, renderers and complex applications. I’m perfectly capable of doing and will do the occasional frontend programming if an otherwise perfect job requires it, but as said above, I strongly believe that my real talents lie a bit deeper down the stack. If that sounds like something your company could use and you’re either located in Germany or could include me working remotely then please do get in touch!