After working here a little over 5 years, today is my last day at Smith Brothers Agency.
It’s been an interesting time – but overall, I’ve learned a ton of things working here that I otherwise wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. I’ve helped a strong traditional advertising agency become a leader in interactive in the CPG field. I’ve worked with some of the largest brands in the world. I helped Smith Brothers become an agency known for being developer-friendly and a place that is a huge supporter of the local web development community.
I’m the type of person who learns by my own experiences. (Usually, these are mistakes that I have made.) My dad always said I was “pig-headed” – whatever that means – but I find that I learn best when I experience things first hand. Here are a few things I learned in the last few years
Politics suck, but you have the deal with them.
This is especially important when it comes to working with extremely large brands – and it’s a problem you need to solve that is just as important as your content, layout and code. Once in a while, it may even trump your code. That’s ok. It’s all about compromise. You win some, you lose some. I’m sorry you don’t like content carousels. Sure, your stats may tell you that people drop off and don’t look at all of the slides. (Or they could even tell you the opposite, which I have seen on a number of our own sites). The point is that the problem being solved has nothing to do with the web – or web standards – or design. It’s just a huge compromise to keep internal heads clear and happy. Bite your tongue – and do your best to create a nice accessible and responsive content slider. You’ll get plenty of chances in future projects to do some neat stuff that makes you happy.
It’s not our job to do the absolute best website for a client.
But, it is our job to do the absolute best website for a client within the signed-off budget. You need to know when to say when. It’s so incredibly hard to keep feature-bloat and other things from getting out of hand on a website. Keep things in check – make a list of priorities and stick to them. I’m not in this business to try to be hot-shit on Twitter. I’m in it to make a living. You go over budget, you lose money. You lose money you can’t buy any heavy metal records!!!
Being a manager is hard but incredibly rewarding.
As a manager of a team, I feel a responsibility to the people who work under me. It’s my job to make sure they have all the tools they need to do a great job. It’s my job to make sure that they understand the tasks at hand and the best way to approach them. It’s my job to step in at a moments notice when they need help to do things. It’s my job to make sure that they are happy being employed, but if they end up going somewhere else, I want to make sure they are much better developers when they go. It’s also my job to do all of this while also working on my own projects.
While at Smith Brothers I hired and worked with some of the most talented developers I have ever worked with. I can’t begin to tell you how much I respect the talents of these guys. Anthony Bruno, Johannes Ma, James Acklin and Kurt Emch – you guys are so much more talented at your age than I ever was. It’s been a blast working with you and I’m excited to see all the awesome work you do in your careers. Every one of you guys made Smith Brothers Agency a better place because you worked there.
If you are a developer try to be in client meetings.
Even if you don’t say anything. If you have the time, meet the clients – learn what is important to them right from their own mouths. Learn as much as you can about their business and their goals. (Learn about their internal politics!) You’ll be able to create a much better website for them if you understand their business goals, background and internal business success and struggles.
Not knowing how to do something is OK!
I’ve been a web developer for over 15 years now. Every single time I set down to do a new project, there is something new I have to learn that I have no idea how to do. While your account people and project managers may panic when you tell them this, rest assured that it’s OK. We’re problem solvers – it’s our jobs to figure things out. Don’t stress over it (too much). Put on the headphones, fire up Google and get to work. I’m still the cranky old CSS developer that hasn’t touched Sass at all. (Don’t worry future employer, I’m getting to it!!!)
I could go on with a few other things, but I got a final lunch scheduled with all my old colleagues. So to close out:
Thanks to everyone at Smith Brothers Agency for putting up with me over the last 5 years. It’s been a lot of fun being a part of this company and working with everyone here! Especially thanks to Bronson and Lindsey Smith whom I have a ton of respect for. They believed in me and stood by me whenever I needed them. Both of them were fantastic bosses who really, really give a shit about their employees. They have also been incredible supporters of the local web development community. I’m gonna miss these guys!