Hi there, I’m Steve. I’m from Yorkshire and I started working at Tomango in August 2016 as a Junior Web Developer.
Somewhat shamefully this is my first post for the Tomango blog, though this has been percolating for some time now so hopefully you’ll find it worth the wait…
As a means of introducing myself I thought I’d tell the story of my journey from Huddersfield, where I completed my Masters in Interactive Multimedia in 2004, to sitting in Tomango HQ over a decade later.
It’s a great tale (though I would say that wouldn’t I?) - a ripping yarn that sees me hitch to America, climb some rocks, climb some more rocks, live in a van in Europe, climb even more rocks then finally realise a long-held dream of working in the web industry close to the best city in England.
Hopefully it all sounds a little more interesting now?
Ultimately I hope that the overriding message of this post is the importance of having a dream, goal, idea or plan, believing you can make it happen, and the power of going for it!
A bit of backstory
Despite my youthful appearance and my title of ‘Junior Web Developer’, I’m by no means a newcomer to web design and development.
I made my first website way back in 2000 and graduated with my MA at a time when Flash, tables, and XHTML certification were all the rage. After leaving Uni I worked for an agency in Leeds and made my way doing freelance work for clients, ranging from the NHS to hip independent bars. I had a decent portfolio, plenty of work and my professional future seemed secure.
Then, one fateful day in May 2005, everything changed. I went climbing again…
In the mid to late nineties my passion was climbing. But, as Y2K came and went, climbing had fallen by the wayside and studying for my MA and building a career had become my focus.
When 2005 came around it had been a long time since I’d been near a boulder or rock face.
Maybe it was the frustration of being a freelancer, increasing cynicism about the design industry or maybe it was just because I’d missed the adrenaline and endorphin hit of movement on rock (I’m still a little unsure which to be honest), but I thought I’d give it a go for old time’s sake. Lo and behold, I was instantly hooked again that day in May.
So what did I do? Well, like any sane, rational and responsible person I decided to hit the road and go to America. More precisely, I decided to hitch to a place called Bishop in California, 6,000 miles or so from sunny Yorkshire.
A seven-year mini-break
For those who don’t know – and that’s practically everyone reading this – Bishop is all about world-class bouldering. My plan was to have my adventure, come back to England a few months later and pick up my career.
Fast forward to 2012 and I’m not back in Yorkshire, but renting a room in Salt Lake City, Utah hanging out with a Chihuahua called Santos.
Climbing had become my life, and what was supposed to be a brief interlude in California became a seven-year odyssey that including the following:
- Two broken ankles, numerous broken bits of fingers and one broken heart (mine)
- Thousands of miles in a battered Honda Civic (Stateside transport)
- Thousands of miles in an old AA van (European transport)
- One first class transatlantic flight (see: broken ankles)
- A ‘Sliding Doors’ style romance (see: broken heart)
- Countless hours spent in deserts, mountains and the sea
- Surviving being stalked by a cougar (the animal kind)
- Just about surviving a night playing drinking games with Paiute and Sioux Indians
- Six weeks babysitting a Chihuahua in exchange for a car (Chihuahua surviving)
- Christmas stuck in a blizzard in a van on the French-Swiss border (Steve surviving)
- A month living in a monastery car park in Spain in the aforementioned old AA van (monks surviving)
- A year or so holed up in Swiss bouldering paradise of Chironico
- Tens of thousands of feet of vertical movement across several continents
- A decent tan (a fine achievement for a Celt)
In short it was awesome.
The Seven Year Itch
Immense even - though as it turned out, seven years was my limit.
While in Salt Lake City I suddenly, and somewhat surprisingly, found myself yearning for rainy days that would provide me with a legitimate excuse to hit up one of my favourite coffee shops, fire up my Macbook, and get creative. The irresistible force that was once bouldering and travel had been replaced with something else.
Something new, or rather something from what felt like a previous life and was much missed…
Starting climbing again – up the career ladder
It had always been a dream and my plan to move to Brighton and work in the web industry once I’d stopped climbing. Despite doing some freelance work on the road, coming back into the industry ‘proper’ was terrifying.
Everything seemed new and the competition was fierce. Having taken all that time away from the such a fast-paced industry, my MA, experience and passion for design just didn’t seem to matter.
Trying to find a place to start was bewildering.
I figured I needed a plan and realised I had a handy blueprint - found somewhat surprisingly in old climbing training plans, drills and goal-setting exercises all of which were adaptable to my new end goal – getting a job in the web industry.
The hours I used to put in on fingerboards, gritstone circuits, treadmills and in weights rooms were replaced with hours in the browser and Sublime, figuring things out and refining my chops and after much work, I got my first breakthrough by being accepted into a part-time role at the University of Leeds in 2014.
I was put in charge of the Faculty of Arts WordPress Multisite and went on to build the University’s first bespoke and responsive WordPress site for the Transnational Holocaust Memory research project.
With that personal milestone under my belt, I was now just about confident enough to move on and started to look southwards and spent hours poring over vacancies on the Wired Sussex website.
Compelled to make this next chapter of my life happen and knowing that embracing uncertainty, taking a risk, putting myself out there and taking myself out of my comfort zone all with no guarantee of success would bring good things in - it had worked in the past after all - I applied for the job I have now.
As I fired up my Mac this morning and saw Apples’s desktop image of the Sierra Nevada (the backdrop to my life and adventures in Bishop) I couldn’t help but think back to that serendipitous day in Yorkshire in 2005 that inspired that first hitch to Bishop and went on to take me to Utah, Nevada, Texas, Switzerland, France, Spain and Brighton had finally brought me to the South Coast.
Here at Tomango a long journey finally feels over or that a particular chapter of my life has closed and a new one opened. I feel incredibly lucky to have landed the job I have, do the work I do and work with the people I do, especially having climbed a few rocks in the process.
So that’s me, or rather my journey from Yorkshire to Sussex. It was always the plan to arrive here at some point - even if I have to pinch myself at times and remind myself I’ve pulled it off and that my slightly leftfield methodology method paid off.
In short, I guess it all boils down to; be bold, have a dream and go for it. You might just surprise yourself!