Hi, I'm Arden and I've been a geek for technology as long as I can remember. I became a front-end developer somewhere in the last decade and now I'm wondering what the next decade will bring me.
If there's one thing I find difficult about being a semi-creative in (web) development, it's managing time and prioritising what to focus on. It seems like I think of a new side-project every other day and there's a new tool to learn every other hour. There's so much I want to do, try and create, that for the first time in my life I suffer from indecisiveness.
To put things in perspective, I'm not suffering from hunger (just yet), but regardless I do not enjoy that other gnawing feeling; the feeling that I could spend my time better and more productive.
And maybe it's more than indecisiveness and lack of focus. I guess, to know where I'm going, first I'll have to write down how I even got here in the first place.
Because I'm hoping you'll read this I'll try and write down my thoughts in a coherent way, which in the best scenario will lead to discussion and me learning something about myself, and in the worst case scenario is nothing more than another wasted hour and a string of bytes added to 'the cloud'. You see, there's nothing to lose by sharing my story with you!
Things used to be simple. My first 'grown-up' steps in web-development were made while I was still studying. A good friend and I thought of a project that was best presented on the web (CFYE - still online but slowly dying because of lack of attention, more on that later). With a clear goal in mind I went researching different techniques to showcase our project. I tried out different CMS systems like Gallery2 (cringe), Joomla and WordPress. I learned to hack around in PHP, I learned to work with third-party API's and became pretty well versed in CSS, HTML and at the time, jQuery. Around the same time people started asking me for web-development work, which was a great way to make some money that allowed me to eat and work some more on our fabulous side-project. Needless to say I've never finished that study...
Working on a single, personal project and some freelance development work on the side was a great cycle. I learned loads because all the development for my personal project was goal driven and in turn I could apply that to the client sites I created, which in turn let me eat and work some more on my personal project. There was little indecisiveness and anxiety involved at that time as I barely saw myself as a web-developer. I guess that's also a great way to avoid things like 'imposter-syndrome', just deny that you even want to be a developer in the first place!
You can't live in denial forever though, and in 2012 (after some life-events that make you question just about everything) I realised that I already was a developer and I enjoyed the process, almost regardless of the project. I realised that I enjoy the endless learning, problem-solving, contributing, collaborating and creating shit that make people say 'omgwtfbbq wowðŸ‘ŒðŸ¼'!
I decided to completely focus myself on front-end, as the instant gratification of this field greatly complies with my lack of
So that was the point I started taking myself seriously as a developer and started focussing on truly understanding CSS and HTML, automising and getting over my fear of vanilla JS. During this period I didn't need a specific endgame, I was satisfied just getting better at my craft.
This focus paid of re-heally quick. Within a year the new iteration of cfye.com, which I totally full-stacked (design, front-end and back-end - you can still hear my pride) won a SOTD Awwward, and agencies started noticing me. I started freelancing for the talented people at SuperInteractive Amsterdamâ¤ï¸ and before I knew it I got offered a contract and ended up working with them for over two years.
Working for an agency had never been part of my plan, in so far I had a plan at all, but I greatly enjoyed my time at SuperInteractive. Instead of working with freelancers I was part of a team all of a sudden, and instead of having to f*ck around with WordPress there were back-enders!
During my time at SuperInteractive I made fast progress and not just on the technical front. Learning the ins and outs of agencies, developing workflows, communicating effectively, working in-house at other agencies and managing rookies were all things I added to my skillset.
Yet it kinda felt that part of me was dying there; the part that liked coding in the late hours to create personal projects that make people say 'omgwtfbbq wowðŸ‘ŒðŸ¼'. Lord knows I've tried working on all kinds of stuff, but I couldn't muster the energy and focus to actually finish personal projects behind my computer. The agency work was sort of never-ending, I still had clients from my freelance life to attend to after work hours(ðŸ¤‘) and even though I started calling myself a front-end developer, what was my endgame? A senior / partner position at an agency which I had and could have had at SuperInteractive? My own agency? Lone-wolf? I just didn't know, and so I quit ðŸ•¶ï¸.
That sounds cooler than it actually was, or maybe less cool. I don't know, you decide: I didn't just quit because I didn't know what to do with my professional life, I also quit because I did know what I wanted to do with my life in general; Explore the world and live in new places! My girlfriend also quit her job and we spent the next 7.5 months in Central-America without a care in the world and after returning to Europe we relocated to sunny Lisbon, Portugal.
As I realise after writing this piece, I'm also quite in Limbo of how to approach my professional life. I guess it's not just a lack of time and focus, but also a lack of a clear goal that brought me to the point of writing this blogpost.
So what am I trying to do about lacking a goal, or focus, or decisiveness? That's for a follow-up blogpost which I'll probably call 'Where the hell am I even going?'.
But in the meantime I'd love to hear what your story is and if you've ever arrived in limbo (show me the exit plz).