You are reading an archived post from the first version of my blog. I've started fresh, and the new design and content is now at

What I Used to be

October 1, 2004

Over this past week, Scrivs asked his readers “What do you do?” to learn about his readers. D. Keith Robinson, in a similar post asked his readers “What could you be? What would you most like to be?“. I’d like to look to the past to complete the picture and ask: “What did you used to be?”

In case you are wondering, I was a Biology major. After four years of teaching high school Biology, Chemistry and Computers, I left teaching to go out on my own to start my own company — first focusing on corporate training and education, then moving to all things web related, and eventually expanding to offer web accessibility consulting services. (You know, because that was the logical progression from teaching high school…)

Now, some people out there didn’t used to be anything — they have always been involved in the web. There are now post-secondary programs that focus almost exclusively on the web, and those people are actually graduating as web (designers|developers|professionals).

Still, there are others that have come to the web from various backgrounds. Whether you are a web pro, hobbyist or otherwise, there are always stories to tell about how you got to where you are. I find those stories fascinating — you can learn so much from someone by knowing more about where they came from.

Where did you come from? What did you do before? How much influence has that had on what you do now?

Filed under:

19 Responses

Comment by Matthew Pennell — Oct 01 2004 @ 4:27 am

I used to be… (deep breath):

A barman, a hotel porter, a waiter, a warehouse manager, a barman again, a Quality Assurance administrator, a barman again, a singer/guitarist, a music teacher, a bank teller, a web developer.

I like to think I have a wide and varied experience of life – my family wish I would find a job and settle down.

Comment by David House — Oct 01 2004 @ 12:21 pm

‘Quality Assurance’: that always makes me laugh.

“It’s good, honest! Trust me! Please? It really is!” :)

Comment by Mike D. — Oct 01 2004 @ 3:28 pm

My greatest bit of résumé puffery was “Salad Bar Director” during late high school/early college. Minus the puffery, it was more like “Sneezeguard Wiper”.

Comment by Nick Finck — Oct 01 2004 @ 3:34 pm

I used to be a animator, and videographer… but those were more on the side.. during the day I used to be a senior technical support rep.. for Windows95 and IE4 (when it launched) out of all things. Don’t hold it aginst me. before thay I sold office supplies and computers when Win3.11 and Win95 launched. Before thay I worked in a grocery store stocking Milk and such… And before that I flipped pizzas for a living. Ya, I know.. we’re going way back here.

Comment by Dave Marks — Oct 01 2004 @ 5:41 pm

I wasn’t gonna post until i saw the first two jobs that Matt did – so here goes

Hotel Porter > Barman > Bar Manager > Uni Student > in the words of my stepfather Beach Bum (I’d just quit uni after being told by my tutor that the p tag wasn’t part of a pair and should be put at the end of a paragraph – honestly! there were other contributing factors ofcourse, but then spent the whole summer on the beach – i live in newquay, cornwall uk, right by the beach while trying to start my current job) > web designer/programmer

And I’m not quite 22 yet :)

Comment by Derek — Oct 01 2004 @ 11:26 pm

Wow — you all went back way further than I was thinking… I might as well go back a little further then:

Lifeguard > Public Servant (Agriculture Canada) > Lab Technologist (Canola Breeding Lab) > Teacher > Whatever I am now…

If I go way back into the archives to the very beginning, I think my first job was working for my dad — picking potato beetles off our potato plants in the garden. I took my tweezers, an old can, and picked them off, one by one. I got a penny for each one I did. I remember I used to easily get over 400 at a time — in those days, that was a fortune for me…

Comment by Andrew Krespanis — Oct 03 2004 @ 5:50 pm

This looks fun…
Customer service pleb > waiter > function co-ordinator > uni student > lab assistant > pro lab pixel pusher + chemistry monkey > fruit picker (needed sun – too much lab time :P) > uni student again > freelance web nerd + inhouse designer for a fun little company.

Damn, I’ve never really looked back at it like that before. That’s a long list for a 22 year old – and it’s not even every job I’ve had :|

Comment by Blair Millen — Oct 04 2004 @ 8:23 am

I’m not going to mention all the crappy, part-time / summer / deperate jobs I’ve had to endure to scrape by because I’ll be here all day! The important parts of my past began with my art school training (Glasgow School of Art) which lead onto seven very enjoyable years working as a fine artist (painting and screen printing) before doing a Post Graduate Diploma at Glasgow University, which heralded my inception as a web designer.

Comment by Jules — Oct 04 2004 @ 10:00 am

Starting back in grade 7/8, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist like Jules Verne (yes, I am often called Jules too but just because it is shorter than Julian). I went through high school with the same dream but when I got to University of Guelph (aka, U of Goo or U of Moo for the agriculture college onsite), I discovered that Marine Biology is not as glamorous as it appears on TV. I then switched to animal physiology and went on to do a M.Sc. in inset physiology/biochemistry (Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario). All the way through university, I enjoyed using computers to help me work: word processing, statistics, etc. I left my M.Sc. with no job and worked in retail at Black’s Photography, then a computer related contract with the gov’t, then more computer related contracts, then, teaching computers at an adult highschool, then learning about HTML, then web contracts with the gov’t and other private clients, then employed by the gov’t to assist with the “conversion to accessible web site” and am still here. Currently writing my third book on web design using DW for Prentice-Hall.

I enjoy working with computers and was asked, if I could go back and do my schooling again, would I just jump into computers? No. I am happy with where I am and who I am and I got here through the rather circuituous process of my life. I might not have met my wife, I might not have had the great sons I have, and I might not be doing the things I now enjoy. Would I risk losing all of this just to short-cut my life? No.

Trackback by Mercurial — Oct 06 2004 @ 5:41 pm

What do I do?
I do – what? Scrivs invites everybody to answer What Do You Do?. via Derek, who in turn asks “what…

Comment by graham — Oct 11 2004 @ 12:49 pm

well derek, you know where i came from, as you were there yourself. its what i am now thats a little more difficult to understand. for me especially. you mentioned your past a as a lifeguard and had a bit of a chuckle, felt compelled to pipe up. sorry to hijack your comments page like this, but i suppose thats what its for isn’t it?! GT

Comment by Tommy Olsson — Oct 13 2004 @ 6:37 am

When I was young, I worked at a petrol station and in a supermarket, and did one summer as the Chemical Analyst at the local waste-management plant. :)

After university I got a job as a “methodology engineer” (read: systems developer) at a major Swedish aircraft manufacturer …

7 years later I became an IT consultant, still doing mostly software development. After 7 years of that, I’ve now turned my hobby – web design – into a profession by accepting a job as the webmaster of a Swedish government office.

Comment by kartooner — Oct 13 2004 @ 11:00 am

Let’s see, I used to be a janitor (for 6 years), worked retail (nothing special) and managed rides at a local amusement park.

Now I’m doing web development and graphic design for a local tech company, but even then I’m not afraid to fill the paper towel dispensers or empty the trash.

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Oct 13 2004 @ 11:27 pm

More great stuff… amazing the range of things that people used to do/be. I still wonder how much of an impact it has on your current work — I know I see things a little differently because I used to be a teacher…

@Jules: I had no idea you were a U of Goo grad — that’s where I was actually doing my stint as a Canola breeding technician! When were you there?

@graham: well, look who shows up to the partay! Good to hear from you…. errr… read from you… whatever. Dude, you can hijack the comments to say hi anytime… ;)

@kartooner: Now that is a transition!! How did you get into graphic and web design? Is it natural talent?

Comment by Jeff Smith — Oct 27 2004 @ 8:06 pm

My progression went like this:

Farmhand >> Small engine mechanic >> Bellhop >> Banquet Server >> Bachelor of Computer Science (Systems Analysis)/Bartender >> Graphic/Web Designer <– This is where I am presently. I’ve had lots of other really rotten jobs along the way, but they’ve never lasted for more than a couple of months at a time, so I didn’t mention them here.

Comment by Jules — Oct 29 2004 @ 3:07 pm

Sorry for the delay in replying.

U of Goo: 1979/84, Carleton Univ. 1984/5, Laurentian Univ. 1985/8.

Comment by dotjay — Nov 25 2004 @ 4:09 am

I’m a bit late to the party on this one! (@Jules: You think yours was delayed!)

My job flow would go something like this:

>> junior power electronics bod
>> hospital porter
>> Electronics with Music Technology Student/freelance web designer
>> web developer

It’s funny, because I asked a similar question to this yesterday after thinking about the various roles there are within Web Design itself. Since then I’ve found similar questions on a few different blogs, so I may just add an update and link to other people’s blogs!

Comment by Keith Featherstone — Dec 22 2004 @ 10:05 am

Just looked in on your site out of curiosity…..all way above my head………but have a merry Christmas..and a happy 2005……from another Featherstone Manchester UK

Comment by Elle — Jan 28 2006 @ 7:33 am

ok I’ll add mine too

interpreter -> waitress -> IT helpdesk -> legal admin -> conference organiser -> uni student