Way, way, way, way back in 1974 when I was nine years old, I started to really get into drawing things, objects I saw and things in my imagination. In fact I really loved drawing so much, I ordered one of those aptitude tests from the TV commercials. You know the one with the turtle, the parrot and the pirate. You draw whichever one you wanna draw and then send it in and they tell you if you can be an artist or not. Well I got a high score on it and I wanted to get more involved in doing artsy stuff. Well it wouldn’t happen until I was about twelve when I started taking oil painting lessons, got some of my work in competitions and won some awards. As time went on though, the computer age began and by the time I was fourteen, I had lost my focus on drawing and painting and switched to these fascinating machines.
It wasn’t long before I was programming my own games and things, and eventually got so good with computers I got a job supporting them. The years went by and about fourteen years into my career in Information Technology, the whole thing fell flat. I hated going to work everyday, hated dealing with users — especially the users that always had the same problem week after week. By the time all was said and done I was feeling like that guy in the old Dunkin Donuts commercial.
My last job was working as the liaison between the design department and the IT department at U.S. News and World Report magazine. During the 4+ years there I began to realize where my true passion was, as I watched the designers do their work. I realized that the boyhood love of art and design had been buried by the computer age and now it was digging its way back to the surface. One day while I was at work, I wrote my resignation letter, which I intended to present to my boss on December 15, 2007 and I began doing homework on which design school I wanted to attend. I heard a lot of good things about the Art Institutes so I started looking there. About a month after writing my resignation letter I was laid off with a really nice severance package. The next day I was enrolled at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. A lot of my coworkers thought my choice to change careers at that point in my life took some serious balls of steel. I was 42 years old. But I knew in my heart that life is too short to be stuck in a job you hate day in and day out! I needed to do what I wanted to do, no matter what it took!
When I graduated in March 2012, I was pretty sure there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to land a job. I had nothing to show anyone. So, I made a plan and it went like this:
- Go into business for myself – launch my own design studio.
- Get lots of clients and do some real world work.
- Build a portfolio with that client work.
- In 2-3 years kill off the studio and get a job.
Well it looked great on paper, and as it turned out — it worked out in reality. On June 1, 2012 I launched Pixelworx Idea Factory, my design studio. I began getting clients through friends and just talking to people. Then they told people about me and I got more clients. Within a year I was taking on medium to large corporate clients and ultimately became part of a startup in my second year as lead designer for a mobile app that has yet to launch (but it’s gonna launch).
In 2013 the biggest question floating in my head was: “What kind of design work do I really have a passion for?” I had dabbled in corporate identity, making logos, web design, and some user interface design. But it wasn’t until I started doing work for the startup that I discovered where my passion lay: UI/UX Design! Man I was having a ball doing that stuff and now I am feeling like I have come a long way in a short time but yet still have a ways to go.
In October 2014 I began looking for a job doing UI/UX. It was a brutal and gruesome trek up the most steep and inhospitable mountain I had ever experienced. Heck getting a job in IT was a cakewalk in comparison. I went on interview after bloody interview; never heard from 80% of them again and as we went into 2015 my spirit began to wane. I did two interviews with a company out in Colorado Springs called Church Community Builder and I had a good feeling about it. But then they flew me out there for this Cultural Fit Day and it turned out to be my undoing. I felt so nervous and unsure of myself, I just was sitting back in the chair and answering their questions as if I was a mindless robot. I liked the people, but I just felt wrong. When I got back to my hotel I was relieved it was over with and I knew deep down it was going to be another failure. Then I get a message from this guy named Nick with a company I had done some mobile UI design work for, he said that if this company in Colorado didn’t offer me the job, that I can fly back home knowing I have a job with his company. No interviews, no nothing – just based on my passion and my work, both of which he was well familiar with.
So in April 2015 I took the position as Lead Designer with Omnilert, an amazing company to work for with amazing people. I get to work from home, more or less set my own hours (as long as stuff gets done) and enjoy working with great people. Best of all I am doing everything from visual design to UI/UX to web design and even dabbled in some large format stuff. I love my job, I wake up everyday thanking God for this job and I put forth my 100% because I know I will get 100% back in respect and support. So the four and a half years of school was worth it, working my tail off and running my own business was worth it, and dealing with the horrible experiences of interviewing with people who wouldn’t just give me a chance to amaze them, was worth it. My boss appreciates me, has faith in my abilities and he gave me the chance I was asking for and hasn’t regretted his decision to bring me on board (at least that’s my hope).