Hey Dave, so let’s start where all our lives began. Where were you born and did you have a childhood full of computers and other nerdy stuff?
I was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and grew up in the midwest. My family bought our first computer, an Apple //e, from my COBOL programmer uncle in 1990. It had word processing and all that but I used it to play Carmen Sandiego. In 1993 after moving to Pasadena, Texas (outside Houston), my step-dad bought our first PC. It was a pre-pentium 33MHz machine that ran Windows 3.1. I watched my step-dad stay up night after night hacking away at that computer. He was learning how to program, work in AutoCAD, and do complex 3D renderings that he would use in his job as an estimator in industrial sector. I didn’t realize it at the time but that was a huge inspiration for me.
When I turned 15 years old in 1995, I got a 75MHz Pentium because my DOOM habit was monopolizing the family computer. I was in some bands but I wasn’t very sporty, so I spent a lot of time tinkering on the PC. I eventually convinced them to let me get my own phone line and I dialed my 28.8k baud modem into AOL. That’s about the time I began building web pages. My first one was about farts and the rest, as they say, is history.
Haha, cool. So like so many of us, you taught yourself how to build websites very early on. Do you also have a formal education?
For my first year of college I was a Computer Science major with a minor in Japanese. My goal was to make video games for Nintendo. However, after making C’s and D’s in Computer Science and straight A’s in Japanese, I decided to play to my strengths. Eventually, I graduated in 2002 with a B.A. in Asian Cultures and Languages (Japanese). Looking back I can say three things about my education:
If my school offered a degree in web design/development that’s what I would have done. Back then “web designer” wasn’t even a job title. I would have had to piece a program together from 6 different colleges within my University: Computer Science, Communications, Psychology, Library and Information Sciences, and Business.
I learned a lot of foundational stuff in that first year of formal Computer Science, like how to read code, so it was somewhat worth it.
Most of going to college isn’t about the degree. It’s a lot about how to make relationships and teaching yourself to learn. You can learn those outside of college, but higher education creates fertile ground for those kinds of skills.
Okay, great. So that’s the present. Let’s dive into the past. Where are you originally from and how did you get into web development?
I’m from the winter wonderland that is Wisconsin (north central United States). I lived there until I was 27. Through college and my first couple of jobs. My last job in Wisconsin was for a small design agency and I got to the be sole web designer/developer. We had a lot of web clients so I was learning fast how to build and maintain websites. I started CSS-Tricks during that time. I’m 32 now, so in the past five years I’ve lived in five states: Wisconsin, Oregon, Illinois, Florida, and California.
Hey Harry, I know a little bit about you from your blog and twitter, but if you had to introduce yourself with three sentences, what would you say?
Hey! I’m 21, from the UK, a designer, developer, writer and speaker. I am a Senior UI Developer at BSkyB where I specialise in elegant, scalable solutions for massive front-ends. When I’m not coding I’m usually flying round on one of my bikes
Great! When and how did you start diving into web development and design?
I was about 16, I think. My friend Sam and I were dead set on being graphic designers and we were making loads of different things—both paid and un-paid—just to have fun. After a while I decided that we needed a portfolio site to host our stuff so I started looking at building websites.
It was then that I realised that I’m a terrible designer and a far better developer so that became my thing; I used to just tinker with code on loads of throw-away projects just for the hell of it. I kept on and on and eventually landed a full time role at a great, aaward-winning agency in the UK when I was 17.
I’ve not looked back since, but there are a lotofpeople on the way I’m very grateful to.
It seems you got very good at a fairly young age. Did you attend any conventional design/development school or are you completely self-taught?
Cheers! I am entirely self taught, yeah. I found I loved building websites so much that I decided that I could teach myself enough not to bother with university. As a result my knowledge is a lot narrower than most (I don’t know JS, for example) but a lot lot more honed; a lot more detailed.
My style of learning keeps adapting, too. I learn things in context which gives a greater understanding than being taught it second hand by someone in a lecture room.