Can a woman in her 40s break into the web design industry?

OK, I ask this question out of anger really because I am in this very predicament.  I have a long and illustrious career behind me working in a technical environment – all the good transferable skills such as account management, customer facing support, pre-sales support, training, creating technical manuals with a high level of detail etc are solid.  However, it’s not a crime to want to change direction is it?  So when that opportunity arose last April I decided that I wanted to be technical and creative, that I wanted to be part of the growing internet industry, that I wanted to be a web designer.  So I set about it.  I studied hard (actually that should be present tense because I continue to try and study hard), I spent my own money on great training and I started to try and build up a portfolio of work that shows my progression.  I’m told that I am no longer a beginner, that I am actually reasonably advanced for someone that’s only been doing this for just over a year.  So I started to try and apply for jobs.

Now I know it’s a competitive industry and I know that it’s not going to be easy but I can’t help but feel that my age is going against me a lot of the time.  Just because I prefer to rise and start work before 10am, just because I’m not playing on a games console every night and just because I like to keep my facial hair at bay rather than grow it Captain Birds Eye stylee (ok that would be more relevant if I were male but I had to get that jibe in because it seems that every time I look at the ‘meet the team’ pictures on an agencies site, all the young guys have overly long beards!) does not mean that I’m not a decent web designer!  Foolishly I thought my previous work experience and general life experience would be appreciated by employers but alas, it would seem I’m older then most of them too.

The fact of the matter is that I’m a senior person applying for junior positions because I am inexperienced in web design and I have an awful lot to learn.  However, in terms of attitude, passion, devotion, motivation, energy… I would say I could give any graduate a run for their money.  But convincing potential employees of that and asking them to throw away their preconceived ideas of what makes a good web designer is seemingly one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do.  I’m not going to give up and if anyone out there reads this and wants to give me a shot, I’d bite your hand off (not literally of course – that would make brushing your beard very difficult!).

CSS3 only animation

I love avoiding Javascript!

I know that’s wrong of me and I do want to get better at it but the truth is, CSS3 allows me to avoid it quite a lot!  Take the animated text on my websites banner for example (see it here), in order to achieve that effect, I have used pure CSS3 to animate the opacity of the text.  I created an unordered list of my text items and styled them with an absolute position, opacity set to 0 and a z-index set to place it on top of my picture.  You also need to define the animation (duration, iterations, speed curve etc).

Here’s an example of the HTML markup:-

<ul>
   <li>
    <div>
     <h2>First line of text here...</h2>
    </div>
   </li>

   <li>----</li>
</ul>

And the first part of the CSS:-

.slideshow li div { 
   z-index: 1000;
   position: absolute;
   top: 15vw;
   left: 0px;
   width: 100%;
   text-align: center;
   opacity: 0;
   color: white;
   animation: titleAnimation 15s linear infinite 0s;
 }

Next you need to cycle through your divs using the nth child() selector and define the animation delay.  I’ve only used three different lines of text so my CSS basically looks like this:

.slideshow li:nth-child(2) div { 
  animation-delay: 5s; 
}

.slideshow li:nth-child(3) div { 
 animation-delay: 10s;
}

Next you need to set up the keyframes.  I only have three divs and my animation is to last 15 seconds therefore I gave each step roughly 16% like so:

@keyframes titleAnimation { 
 0% { opacity: 0 }
 16% { opacity: 1 }
 32% { opacity: 1 }
 48% { opacity: 0 }
 100% { opacity: 0 }
}

So that’s basically all you need to do – obviously you will need vendor prefixes in the above code.  No Javascript in sight 🙂

LJD Web Design – the journey begins!

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

As a forty something lady with a busy home life who’s job was recently made redundant after 18 years of service, I am sincerely hoping this pessimistic old saying is not true for me.

Redundancy for me was far from negative.  I had been wanting to try something else for a long time but the longer you stay in a job with a more than adequate salary the more trapped you become.  Taking a leap of faith when you have financial commitments which effect your whole family is something I was never bold enough to do.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have stayed for 18 years if they weren’t such a nice company to work for with nice people and in the end my farewell package was over and above what was legally required.  This was my chance to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life and it didn’t take me long to come up with my plan.

I had dabbled in web design before, I took a night class in Dreamweaver (total waste of time!) and I’d done a bit of self study using You tube tutorials etc.  However, I’m someone who learns better in a classroom environment with a real person there to ask questions of.  I found what I hoped was the perfect solution – a Web Designer career path training course with a company called Training Dragon (based in Kings Cross, London).  I started in May with an HTML / CSS course and I absolutely loved it!  I knew there and then that I’d done the right thing.  However, then followed two courses which gave me a reality check – C# and Java Script/jQuery.  OMG (if a forty something lady can use that term)!  This old dog was now finding it hard to learn these new tricks.  At the time of writing I have to confess that I’ve temporarily parked the C# side of things but I’m trying very hard with Java Script and jQuery and like anything that’s worth doing, it isn’t easy but I’m enjoying the learning curve that I’m climbing.

A WordPress course was the next one on the list and my preconceived ideas about it were quickly washed away.  I’ve got as far as creating a child theme and it’s nearly right (but I’ve still got some tweaking to do).  A php course is on the cards next and then I’m hoping to really get going with WordPress theme development.  I’ve also had a graphic design course and have designed the logo on this site myself.

OK, this old dog is now beginning to get it all – so what next?  Well, ideally I want to get industry experience within a company or a design agency but I also need a portfolio of projects that I have worked on.  In order to help this along, I recently attended a networking event and offered my services for free to create or redesign simple websites for those that might need it.  It went well and I should have a least 3 new projects to try.  Thus LJD Web Design has officially begun. Whether it will ever be my bread and butter earner – who knows but that’s all part of the excitement of a journey, you never know where you might end up.