This article is a part of . MEr’s personal experiences and knowledge sharing. We find it crucial to share our community members’ voices and personal stories. So our readers can learn something new, get inspired, and create unforgettable digital experiences. This month, Gabriel Arreola, a software developer and designer, shares his story about creating his digital home.
From a young age, drawing had always been a big part of my life. To me, it was both fun and important that I regularly used the medium as a way to create art. This kind of hobby is easy to sustain when you’re a kid. But for a lot of people, it can die out as you get older. Fast forward to now, and I have a career in software development. Not exactly the type of job that the 10-year-old, art-obsessed, version of myself dreamed about, I agree. However, that’s not to say that the hobby necessarily died out for me. In fact, it’s proven to be quite a handy tool in my professional life.
At the beginning of my career, I was faced with an issue I imagine most college graduates encounter — how the heck do you get a job? Sure, I received plenty of advice from friends and instructors, all focused on the necessary steps for career development. But there was one particular thing that kept coming up: build a personal website to show what you can do. And so, I focused my mind on just that.
Creating My Very First Personal Website
When setting out to create a personal portfolio, I knew that for me it would be another exercise in creativity. In a way, it was just like sitting down with a pen and paper, letting myself go wild with drawings. But, at the same time, it was a lot more complicated. How do web designers actually create fancy fade-in graphics or animate pieces of their sites? Fancy fade-in graphics and animations weren’t exactly necessary for a personal site, but I felt a personal need to include them.
I ended up spending most of my time applying to jobs and researching ways I could create and improve upon my personal site. It doesn’t sound like the most fun (and believe me, applying to jobs can definitely dampen your day), but there was a certain joy I took in the technologies I was learning about. I was engaging more and more with HTML formatting, CSS animation, and specifically, the utilization of inline SVGs to create some pretty cool animations.
The importance of research, creativity and persistance
It may sound like a lot of technical jargon (especially coming from a software developer), but the general methods and tricks I employed are widely accessible to those that seek them out! And to add to that, both CSS and HTML were relatively new to me. So I pretty much started out at square one with a lot of this stuff. Granted, CSS and HTML are two technologies with a lot of online resources, so the question becomes, where does one get started with all of this?
The answer is simple — google it! The internet is a resource for both inspiration and information and for me. This meant I got to indulge in “internet perusing”. I would search for anything that would inspire and direct me towards my goal. This ranged from looking up lists of “best website design practices” and “cool CSS animations” to simply finding other people’s personal websites and seeing what they had done. Once I had an idea of what I wanted to do, my searches became more fine-tuned to specific articles and tutorials. Eventually, I would learn enough to be able to use it on my website!
SVGs and How They Shaped My Site
I had known early on that I wanted to incorporate CSS animation methods for my site. As I scoured the internet for more ideas, I realized there was a perfect animation technique I could utilize — self-drawing SVGs. For those who aren’t acronym experts (and I’m not saying I am), SVG stands for scalable vector graphics, and they are a great option when using logos or icons on a site. Just like the name implies, this is because SVGs scale without distortion and offer a crisp look. They also offer a ton of flexibility in web animation. Luckily, I had learned how to create vector art in college, so using SVGs seemed like a natural step in my discovery process. It was becoming apparent that I could further merge my childhood passion with my technical career. I would quite literally be showcasing drawing on my website!
How Creativity Landed Me an Awesome Job
After a few months of fiddling away with my personal site, I finally settled on something I thought was a good expression of myself. But as I started to use this site to apply to jobs, I wondered if I had focused too much on making something I thought looked “cool” vs something that showed off my skills as a software developer. There’s a lot of introspection when it comes to creating a personal website, and self-doubt can, unfortunately, creep on you. Ultimately, I decided not to dwell on that outlook. After all, the creative aspect of this project is what kept my job-hunting motivation alive.
After a few weeks of interviews and screenings and rejections, I finally landed my first job. I was officially a software developer! I was happy the hunt was over and that I could finally start my career. But a part of me also thought that this was an end to the creative nature that drove me forward in the past few months. Fortunately, I was wrong.
As it turns out, software development is a field that requires a lot of creativity. This wasn’t something that was clear to me during my years in school. And I didn’t necessarily connect my hobby of drawing to my skill as a coder. However, I learned that the two actually stemmed from a need to express creativity. Sure, the parallels aren’t one to one. But the technical problems I face as a software developer scratch the same kind of creative inclinations that I feel as an illustrator (or doodler). Whether I’m solving a database storage issue for a client, or I’m working on a cool design for my own pleasure, I’m still channelling creativity.
One More Thing
Creating that initial website for myself is what really started to open my eyes to this reality. The rest of my career has solidified that. And funnily enough, my boss eventually told me that the creativity I showed on my site is what drove him to want to interview me in the first place. At the end of the day, I can look back at my 10-year-old self and be proud knowing that he never really gave up his passion!