Having our recent 14 year old intern, James, got us thinking about the people our team looked up to in the early stages. I asked some of the folks here in the studio to think a little bit about the people who were inspirations and guides to them throughout their lives and/or careers.
Have you had a mentor (or mentors) in your life that helped you get to where you are now?
Carl Anderson – Application Developer:
Yes, but it wasn’t just about my career but my whole life. His name was Mark Wahlster and he was the first person who ever employed me.
He was also the first adult who never treated me like a kid and made me realize I was at the point in my life at 14/15ish that I could decide what kind of person I was going to be, and that it wasn’t always as easy a choice as it sounded. I think the biggest thing he did was showed me respect and taught me what that means. Some of the things I learned from him are such basic things and have become such a part of my everyday life that I usually forget that I had to learn them in the first place. I have no idea where I’d be today if I hadn’t known Mark. Probably a very unfortunate place, I think.
Brian Middleton – Front-End Developer:
Yes. Jeffrey Zeldman. He is a forward thinker in the web standards community. His book taught me you could divide layout and presentation with CSS. Table-less CSS layouts were unheard of at the time and this really shaped the way I approached web development and inspired me to find new ways to code web pages.
Using semantic HTML markup and CSS purely for layout. I use this everyday and might not be in the position I am today without it.
Annie Cocchia – Interaction Designer:
When I was younger I was inspired by strong, thoughtful, passionate women, like Jane Goodall or Maya Angelou. They were leaders through their actions and words and made a huge impact on all of us. And yet so humbled by the world around them. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with amazing people – a few in particular at a non-profit. The Executive Director and his wife oversaw the organization for years, dedicating so much of the time and energy. Weekends, nights, to encouraging people to volunteer or donate. I always admired their perseverance (even in the worst of times) and positive attitude.
I learned that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and if you’re passionate about it. While I’m not sitting in the wilds of Africa or running a non-profit, these role models remind me that even in the hardest challenges, I know I can get through it.
Ryan Gensel – Business Development:
David H. Maister: Lawyer, Author, and Consultant. He wrote “True Professionalism”, “Managing the Professional Service Firm”, and “Strategy and the Fat Smoker”. He simplified and documented the patterns which define a professional and firm.
I confirmed that it is relatively easy to know what to do, but it is extremely difficult to consistently execute the right thing. “Real strategy lies not in figuring out what to do, but in devising ways to ensure that, compared to others, we actually do more of what’s everybody knows they should do.” Maister’s advice is timeless and technology agnostic. It will transcend work-culture fads and is more about how to get the right people on your team, instead of wasting your time trying to motivate the wrong people to pull their weight.
Becca Ward – User Experience Designer:
I never really had one specific mentor. It was the Art Directors and Creative Directors that I worked with over the years that really shaped what kind of designer i am today.
There are countless things that I learned from working with them over the years, but to pick a big one: When I first started, my work was sloppy and had lots of small mistakes in it. They really taught me that pixel perfect design and clean typo-free copy is really important. If it’s sloppy, its not professional. I guess you would think that is common sense, but a lot of junior designers have trouble with that.
Do you have someone you’ve looked up to in your life as a mentor in your life or career? Tell us about it!