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What I learned this year

For the past year and a bit, I’ve worked at Blaze Communication, a marketing agency in Enfield. I’ve learned so many new things at this company. My knowledge and understanding is far, far different than it was a year ago. Here are some of my observations.

All of these things could be blog posts in their own right; but I’m a fan of brevity.

How to Sell Change

Right when I started working for Blaze, I got really annoyed and frustrated because I wanted to change how things were done to the way I was used to … I’d come from an organization working to very different ways of planning and development, and I wanted to implement all of them straight away.

I soon found out that change needed to be justified in terms of benefits. So I looked for opportunities to raise the issues I was most concerned about.

After a few strong - but not unpleasant - conversations in which I challenged the validity of certain processes, I got some of what I wanted.

But I also had to see things from the company’s perspective. They weren’t interested in implementing things unless they could be convinced of a clear benefit. And I realised that some of the things I wanted to do weren’t going to fit.

I guess I learned that Agile also needs to be Agile.

How to Convince with Tact

It was clear from day one that design skills (or UX skills) were not to be part of my role. However, I could see a gap in the skills of the team when it came to understanding the users’ perspective.

I needed to find a way of doing this tactfully, so I wouldn’t offend their sensibilities. I eventually succeeded in doing this by being patient, building trust with my design colleagues, and complimenting them when I felt there was a basis for doing so.

Eventually, I was glad to see more talk of “what’s best for the user” near the end of my tenure. I really hope they continue to learn UX based thinking after I move on.

How to perform basic SysAdmin tasks

The answer: With Great Caution. The first time I transferred in a domain from somewhere else, I knocked a site out for a few days. Also: because they say DNS propagation can take up to 48 hours doesnt mean it will. It’s usually done in an hour or so.

In the last few days I’ve finished setting up a new server for the company, although a third party did a lot of the leg work it gave me a lot of insight to how these things happen.

Deciding which version of PHP to install, and the different methods of running it, was a real eye opener for me.

Migrating a server with 20+ live sites and many DNS records can be fun :-)

How to effectively Maintain older sites

The main thing is, don’t be too precious about them. If you need to add a lot of extra Javascript just to get things to perform the way the beief describes, do it.

If it’s an older site and otherwise badly needs updating, it shows that the one responsible doesn’t care too much about it’s upkeep. So why should you invest your care to a greater degree?

How to use CSS Animations

Because design thinking wasn’t part of my remit, I had to find another outlet for my creative thinking. I found plenty of scope in CSS Animations.

When I could see from a design a case for animating something, I would seek a way of doing that in a subtle way. I found that softening page transitions and hover states gave me a way of using time as a canvas.

Here’s a recent site, that was designed buy our in-house team, but with some added animations:

http://blazeoven.co.uk/client/obk/

Other stuff

How to build a Wordpress theme from scratch, how to use SASS, how to remove a hacked site from blacklists (once cleaned), how to build extensibly, how to manage & support remote developers, how to build a theme that’s easily translateable, how to train clients in the use of their CMS.

And probably tonnes more things.

Conclusion

It’s been a fascinating year and I’ve learned a huge amount. I can’t wait to get stuck into other work, and hope that I can accelerate and deepen my knowledge by doing so.

“Wisest are they who know they do not know.” —Jostein Gaarder