A Web Designer’s Reality Check

All images are owned by Fight Club (1999) and Fox 2000 Pictures

When I was a kid, to say that I was a scaredy cat would be a wild understatement. For instance, I dreaded going to Six Flags with my friends because I knew — nay, I guaranteed — that they would force me to go on the biggest roller coaster in the park. I had this tactic where once we arrived at the theme park, I would feign to have a stomach ache or something similar, and promptly hide myself in the bathroom at the park’s entrance. Eventually, either my dad or one of my friend’s dads would stay along with me while my other buddies would ride everything in sight and make fun of me for the rest of the day.

I was a coward.

This one friend I had in particular, let’s name him Danny. Danny-boy loved to give me a hard time for not being as reckless as the other guys in our little rag tag group of dipshits. In fact, now that I think about it, he was pretty much a bully.

We would go on skateboarding trips. A gang of pubescent delinquents; hitting mailboxes with skateboards and ollie onto people’s lawns. While everyone else was breaking their legs left and right or getting concussions from trying to jump from 15 flights of stairs, I was sweating just thinking about ollieing up a curb. I was—and still am—a terrible skateboarder.

As we all grew older, we grew apart for obvious reasons. I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t a part of the boys anymore, which was fine — I was a terrible trouble maker. They all became punks, or emos, or whatever trend was currently “in.” (Quite literally. Any trend that was in at the time, I’d see them dress the part like it was halloween.) I eventually ended up hanging out with these metal heads at lunch, who were also complete nerds—so we got along just fine.

Eventually, my fears for roller coasters and adrenaline fueled activities diminished over time. For a guy who is over 6ft tall to cower from something that a little girl and her barbie doll would happily enjoy at a theme park became too embarrassing to bare.

A lot of my fears seemed to disappear as I got older, too. I’ve ridden every ride at Six Flags, at least three times now. I’ve taken pilot lessons. I ride motorcycles. I’ve piloted glider planes. I’ve even surfed 8 foot waves (by surf I obviously mean an awkward fumble on the board until I fall over). My old fears for everything under the sun eventually turned into apathy — I just didn’t care anymore. I decided I didn’t want to spend my entire life under a rock.

Risk taking just wasn’t my thing for the longest time. I played it safe and kept myself comfortable, but as soon as I began to rebel against my old self and started taking risks is when my life really took off. It eventually worked into my professional life, too.

My new found ability to take risks meant that I jumped from company to company in bouts of discontentment and boredom. I always thought that I could get something better; something more challenging, and something that would satisfy my ADHD urge to multitask and increase my dopamine levels by completing a vast array of tasks.

From 2007 to 2013, I did just that. I never worked for a company longer than two years, until now. I was casually checking LinkedIn today… not sure why, to be honest. It’s not even a force of habit like checking Twitter or Facebook would be. It’s kind of like when you’re feeling restless, so you lift the hood of your car and begin to stare—eyes glazed over—aimlessly scanning all the engine’s components. After feeling strangely satisfied and utterly useless, like an exterminator checking server appliances, you kind of just close the hood and go about the rest of your day.

Anyway, I was doing that, and I couldn’t help but look at the date for how long I’ve been working for Nasdaq.

3 Years, 5 Months.

For a second I couldn’t believe it has been that long. I felt like I was almost in temporary denial. I have never worked in a company that long in my entire career as a Web Designer, Graphic Designer, Information Architect, Web Developer, Product Designer, and whatever the fuck else title a company deemed good enough to slap on my forehead and kick me in the door.

And, the kicker of all of it is that I’ve worked 100% remote the entire time, which for me anyway, is unprecedented. I’ve never worked for a company that allowed me to work from home for even just a week, let alone 3 solid years.

At this point you’re probably expecting me to say how wonderful and magical it’s been to work completely remote. Like being a remote worker has become this trendy catch phrase that’s almost synonymous with being a “nomad.”

Like I just hang out in a van by the river, coding for however long I’m feeling motivated, and then calling it a day because the rest of my time will be spent in meditation or taking Instagram photos of my coffee. And when I’m feeling unmotivated, just deciding to take flight to, I don’t know… Transylvania. Because design is my super power—it’s magic—and It can only be recharged by taking superfluous company funded trips for I.N.S.P.I.R.A.T.I.O.N.

If you want to read what it’s like working solely remote without a dash of fancy, I wrote about that.

The reality is that shit will get you fired right quick. Yeah, remote working looks pretty behind an instagram filter, and reads well behind pretentious medium posts. But everything you see behind a screen related to remote working—and I mean everything—is a vast exaggeration of the truth.

I’m not trying to be ignominious, by the way. If that’s your thing, then go for it. However, I feel that too many designers are afraid to break their … image? Because even working remotely, work is still work—and your boss is going to have to explain to their bosses why they’re paying you your costly designer wage.

One reality about remote working, however, is that it’s lonely.

I miss regular office banter. I miss drip coffee from a cheap coffee machine. I miss laughing with coworkers about the latest gif craze or wacky video, like this one!!1!

We still connect via Slack, which is great. But nothing beats laughing and collaborating with your co-twerkers in person.

After working for Nasdaq for 3 years, one thing I have to say without any exaggeration is that our camaraderie is profound. When shit hits the fan we all buckle in and get the work done with precision and integrity. We all have seen our fair share of (digital) piles and piles of work.

The work is exactly what you would expect from a company like Nasdaq; it’s very corporate, and has no lack of mass quantity & density. Graph designs abundant! And we’ve all switched between projects (sometimes while in the middle of them).

What we design and create affects analysts, IROs, investors and giant firms alike. A lot of money at stake with what we design, obviously.

We are given the opportunity to really take the reins—so to speak—on projects and project managers. And I’ve personally seen myself sit at the table with “big wigs,” and really contribute design value to important conversations that affect our product offering.

But, what really stands out among our team is that we’re like a family. I know, that sounds almost cultish, but it really isn’t (but we wear masks). We support one another if one is carrying a heavier burden. We wear multiple hats—and being that we all have a vast array of talents in a relatively small team, we’re there to lend a hand, despite popular opinion about “unicorns” or whatever.

We’ve shared in celebrations, and losses. Heavy, personal, losses. I couldn’t imagine staying with another team or company through some of the kinds of personal events & challenges we’ve shared at Nasdaq.

Every project has it’s own special workflow. No two project managers are alike, I can tell you that for sure. But despite the differences in project management, or the tools chosen to both design and plan deliverables, our camaraderie is well rooted.

I’m not going to lie, though. Working remote is pretty great. To put a pretty bow on this ambiguous rant; I’d like to say that while working remote is still a relatively new concept, we all need to contribute being competent and timely workers so we can keep a good thing going.

Don’t get complacent!!1!

I also feel that more designers really need to focus more on the team that they’ll be joining in a company, and less of how prestigious said company will look on your portfolio. If you’re on a good team, nay, a badass team—any amount of work will be rewarding, and you all will celebrate by ending up in bushes, and getting kicked out of bars in lucha masks.

~ @caseyhald

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