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Career Quick Look
Salary: $39,900* Education:
Years in Field: 3 A.A. Technology, Graphics Concentration, Walla Walla College
City/State: Boise, ID View Sarah Lewis's Resume

"As a web developer, the more well-rounded you are, the better off you'll be."

"For the most part, anything in the computer industry is possible if you're willing to learn, including management."


Getting Started: Sarah Lewis' interest in Web site design began at age 13 by surfing the Internet on her Dad's computer. She had done some creative writing, which sparked an interest in this world of electronic text. She began by looking at different Web sites, paying attention to URLs and navigation, and then moved on to learning some basic site design programs. Teaching herself, she created her own first Web site, which she describes as "hideous," but it supplied her with enough basic principles behind Web site design to start learning HTML by looking at other sites and reading books on programming and design. By the age of 17, Sarah was serious about Web site design and ready to go to college.

Education: After trying out a couple of majors, Sarah focused on a 2-year program in Technology with a Graphics concentration. This gave her the skills she needed to begin doing Web site development in her spare time as an independent contractor to earn extra money and begin building a strong portfolio. After graduation, she began looking for a more permanent job at the local Internet Service Providers in her area. Having some difficulty obtaining a job that suited her needs, Sarah eventually decided to start her own business for convenience and so took the steps to register her domain name, create her company Web site and apply for appropriate business licenses. Now she has the freedom to work from home, choose the assignments she prefers and schedule her own hours.

Greatest Professional Achievement: Sarah loves coming up with creative new ideas and is most excited about projects that spark bigger ideas for the future. For example, she developed a Web site for real-time on-line pizza ordering, which was not technically complex, but was something she had never thought of before and which inspired bigger ideas she would like to develop later. Among her most current thoughts are creating a Pen Pal site where people from different nations can match up with a pen pal and correspond through e-mail, and a Sports Partner Match-up site where individuals can find others to play sports with who match their skill level and interests.

Barriers: Sarah overcame the difficulty of finding a good job after college by starting her own business. Owning a company requires that Sarah perform all tasks related to keeping it functioning aside from developing Web sites. Sarah overcame these potential barriers by learning new skills, such as multi-tasking, business communication and administrative tasks including proposal writing, in order to run her business efficiently and successfully. She also had to learn self-assessment skills such as recognizing her own strengths and weaknesses and learning to be assertive and set boundaries to avoid being taken advantage of. Sarah has managed to avoid many business pitfalls through her participation in ListServes related to her industry, which allows her to get specific advice from those with experience.

Working with Men: Gender issues don't effect Sarah's business very much because it is still such a new field and most of her work is done independently. While in school, she did notice that a higher number of males were generally in the more technical programming classes, but essentially, her gender has not been an issue in her education or her work.

Advice for Women: To those interested in becoming Web site developers, Sarah urges to get training in any way that you can whether formal or informal. She felt that her A.A. degree was sufficient enough to give her a well-rounded technical education, but lots of education can be gathered from on-line sources as well. In addition to a technical background, Sarah believes that getting a good grasp of traditional visual design is just as important. "HTML programming is straightforward and formulaic. Most people can learn it. But getting some knowledge of design can benefit anybody in this field. It never hurts to have a decent understanding of it."

Typical Workday/Environment: Sarah's typical workday varies depending on what stage of a project she is in. Her time is divided between computer work and client communication, but as most of her clients are not local, communication is generally through e-mail, instant messaging or telephone. She discusses her clients Web sites with marketing in mind and so must spend some time getting them to really think about and specify what they want the site to do. This is an important step in ensuring the Web site's effectiveness as well as add value to the work being done. Communication revolves around client feedback on recent work and web site updates, upgrades and maintenance. Aside from client communication, Sarah spends a significant amount of time programming and creating graphics. She generally works with 2 to 3 clients at a time, but her workload varies depending on client needs and her own personal schedule. Work hours also fluctuate between 5 and 10 hours a day, depending on the amount of clients she is working with and the needs of their site. Because she works from home, Sarah is free to dress however she pleases when on the job.

Career Ladder: Entry-level salary for a Web Developer varies greatly depending on where you live and what type of company you work for. Starting salaries generally range between $30,000 and $60,000 per year. Self-employment as a Web Developer can be slightly less stable than working for an established company and yearly salaries can be slightly lower, but the freedom and convenience it allows are a good trade-off for many. The title of Web Developer is a broad term allowing many options for career advancement. A designer can work up to programming or become Microsoft certified to work with computer hardware. Smaller companies offer more career flexibility with opportunities to do almost anything involved with running the business, but larger companies can sometimes be more stable and may offer more room to be trained and promoted.

For project management, she finds that people come from all different backgrounds - drafting, construction, engineering, etc. Typically, you start as an assistant project manager or project engineer, "where you do lots of the grunt work," Kate says, but still earn $40-50,000 a year. With a few years' experience, you can move up to project manager, then executive project manager, and in some cases beyond. "A lot depends on the company that you work for," Kate explains.

Professional Associations: HTML Writer's Guild

Hobbies: Sarah likes to spend her free time with friends and family. She also enjoys reading for pleasure, playing racquetball and computer games, and hanging out by the pool.

*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Web Designer based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition

 


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