What. Have. I. Done. To get to where I am today?

A little bit of drama to get you going.

A lot of you will likely find this post a bit long and waffly and I would probably agree, but I’m still getting used to this whole blogging thing. So after having a chat with Paul Gosling ( We Are Empire’s newly appointed Commercial Director ) today about how we both got to where we are today, career-wise. It was rather interesting looking back at the path I’ve taken to get to a place in my career where I’m happy and I just had to write about it and there’s no point missing too many details now is there?

It made me think and I realised my current career path had started before I got to high school, I was actually quite surprised considering some of the jobs I’ve held along the way.

Other than inheriting my creative genes from my dad, my first insight into my career in the web industry was during a summer school before high school, where I built my first website, a one page car website built using tables, it was glorious, honest.

My education is a little on the boring side, sorry.

So I’ll skip through as much of the boring stuff as possible, so from building my first website, it was another 3 years until my second true insight into my future career, during high school I was asked if I wanted to take a 3 hour test to help pinpoint my potential career paths, I’ll try and dig out the results, but I remember it had worked out that one of the top 3 best fit careers for me would be a web designer, coincidence? I think not.

Going through years 10 and 11 at high school and my 2 years at college I encountered a couple of modules within my generic IT courses that were centred around web design and development, which I passed with flying colours, even though in college we had to use Frontpage, eek.

Now onto university, I had finally decided that I wanted a career within the web industry, and was sold a course on it being a web design course, which at the time was the route I wanted to take, so when I found out the course was actually more focused towards backend development, I didn’t really focus and apply myself to it and ended up dropping out after the second year, obviously looking back now I would of liked to have completed the course.

Anyway, that’s as far as my education goes on my trip to my current situation, see I said it was boring and I barely even went into any detail, if for what ever reason you want to know any more, send me a tweet.

Then, now, my mismatch of jobs.

I started off with the typical paper boy routine, getting through high school with a bit of pocket money, exciting stuff right? Then when I turned 16 I was ‘promoted’ to a full time sales assistant role at the same newsagents, which meant more hours, more money but still nowhere near the web industry I wanted to be apart of.

Following that, it actually gets a bit interesting. I got a job building and servicing coffee machines and weirdly, hot dog carts. I built everything from small counter top espresso machines to huge vending machines for odeon cinemas and as I mentioned, it was actually a very interesting job, fitting wiring and messing with the electronics and boilers but the best bit was the travelling, the job took me all over the country, Glasgow, Alton Towers, down to Brighton and everywhere in between, we even had a couple of espresso machines at the Wimbledon tennis championships. The only downside to this job, was it put me off coffee, like really bad, chains and some independent cafes really didn’t know how to look after their machines, and I can tell you, that month old coffee that has caramelised and inches away from your face isn’t pleasant.

Now after that rather interesting job I was back to another dead-end job with a 3 year stint working in the stockroom of a Next store, as you can probably imagine there’s nothing overly exciting to report here apart from meeting a few awesome people who I’m still in touch with today. But it was during my time at next that I finally started to actively look for work in the web industry, but times were tough and no one wanted to hire a university drop out with no commercial experience, so naturally my search took longer than I had hoped, but finally a local agency took me on as an unpaid intern ( you can read more about my experience as an unpaid intern on the Empire blog ), a big risk for both of us, but after 3 months they had enough confidence in me to offer me a full time position. Career wise, this was the best thing that had happened to me since building my first website.

Following feedback from the agencies I applied for before the internship, I knew I had to gain experience and after being offered this role I knew it was going to be a stepping stone to a new role, but for the first year at this agency everything was amazing, I was learning loads from their front end lead and it was the work I was doing with him that made me realise I actually wasn’t so keen on solely doing design anymore, realising I didn’t understand enough about the theory and processes that went in to designing to solve problems and not just designing to make a site look pretty.

A year into the job the work started to get stagnant, we were repeatedly churning out sites, never having time to put any care or attention into any of them, I was getting mentally drained, every day was getting worse with no excitement in the work I was doing and nothing pushing me to further improve my skills and I started to slowly lose faith in myself and the industry, wondering if this was as good as it got and then to make things worse we bought a house, and although my salary was enough to cover the banks requirements to get a mortgage I just wasn’t getting paid enough to live as well, plus for the amount of work we were doing didn’t justify the low salary, although I hadn’t built up that magical 2 years of industry experience that agencies require, it was time to start looking for a new job.

The search went on and on and on

For over a year I was sending my CV and portfolio to every digital agency that I felt could offer me the opportunity to further improve my skill set and restore my faith in the industry and finally after many rejections, interviews and non-responders, We Are Empire offered me the role I was looking for and the year and 3 months I’ve been with them I have learnt so much, and being based in Manchester has allowed me to interact with the city’s talented designers and developers at various events, helping me bring ideas back into the studio.

After talking through my journey with Paul, he then asked me where I saw my career going in the future and I actually found it really easy to answer, I know exactly what I want to be doing, I want my own studio, I want to help start careers, I want to share my knowledge, I want to lead a group of creatives creating amazing pieces of work and I think most importantly, I want to be able to learn exciting new things from designers and developers who respect me.

So that’s my journey to today

I said it was a long and waffly but be thankful, you guys got the short version. Now I would love to know about your journey and if you can answer it, where do you see your career taking you?

Tweet me at @lee_fuller_.