Well, it’s official! After seven years in the consulting business, I’m returning to my roots in the marketing department: I’ve switched positions at BT INS, and will be maintaining all our corporate websites. My new title: Internet Marketing Manager…
It’s going to be fun to get back to creative work, and to service. Most of all, what I’m looking forward to is being able to work in depth on a single project, for the long haul. And a whole lot of creative freedom, as long as I deliver the goods.
It’s also an exciting time to be a corporate webmaster: With blogging and podcasting coming of age, there’s a big strategic difference to be made in how this company communicates. That’s something, isn’t it? Best part, though: I get to work from home again!
Well, it’s nice to move to a bigger, international company, without leaving your desk. Immedient was purchased by INS (International Network Services), a consulting firm with a related, partially overlapping portfolio. INS is big in network and security consulting, and there’s a lot of cross-sell opportunities with Immedient, which is in the IT business services field. Now we can offer the network, the software, and the security all from one shop.
INS is also big, with offices around the world, although it’s not quite a true multinational yet, since the meat of the business is still in the US. Still, I’m allowing myself to dream of a return to Europe again, maybe, someday. In the meantime, for me and my team, it’s business as usual.
On this day I joined a new company, Immedient, as Information Architect. Immedient is a sizable IT consultancy, headquartered in Denver, with offices accross the country. They’ve been on an acquisition binge, recently, and the HQ is buzzing with activity. Immedient is a new name for the dot-com era. The company was formerly named Raymond James Consulting. I did some freelance graphics work with RJC a few years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This is the job I’d been looking for, and that will allow me to truly make a difference. As a graphic designer, I was asked to put lipstick on a pig. As a developer, I was only given enough time and budget to build a pig. My hope is that as an information architect, I’ll get a chance to design a whole different animal. Interestingly, although I found this job on my own, I had to jump through some hoops to get in. That’s because my previous employer, USA.NET, is a client of Immedient, albeit in an area that is totally unrelated to the marketing group I was a part of. Immedient was consulting with USA.NET on their MS Exchange services… So I had to get my boss, the head of marketing, to sign a paper confirming that, in effect, Immedient hadn’t “stolen” me from their client. Kinda funny. It’s a strange position to be in, when you’re telling your manager: “Hey, this is my two-week notice… if you agree to it.” But everybody involved was very professional and things went very smoothly. And I’m happy as a clam in a can. Finally, a chance to shine!
Today we released the new USA.NET website, designed by yours truly. I’m pretty happy with it. I initially set the vision for a fully flash-based, dynamic website. Flash today is not a dynamic tool, but using Macromedia’s Generator server, we could theoretically produce a “dynamic offline” site, that could be refreshed as frequently as needed.
We pulled back from that initial vision. We’re releasing a ColdFusion-based website, featuring Flash navigation and enhanced elements. I coded the dynamic update system that queries the database, develops a generation plan for Generator, and builds all 180 navigation panes and page headers in Flash, dynamically, in a few seconds. It also outputs JPGs and imagemaps for older browsers.
The look and feel is also my doing. Professional and modern. Check out the evolution of my design comps. So, not a bad site overall. And I’ve learned some important lessons:
- Strong vision leadership is important, and I do this well. I set a direction at the start, and fought hard to see it through. Without that, the site would have quickly devolved into a committee-built frankenstein.
- Developers have too much of a chokehold on everything. The clear lines of authority implied by corporate structure mean nothing if developers can put up technical obstacles, without fear of being challenged. It behooves me to keep increasing my technical development skills, to be able to confront them when they’re being short-sighted. Mind you, I understand their plight: The goals they are measured against often run contrary to Marketing’s goals.
- There needs to be something else between corporate decision-makers at the top, and designers and developers at the bottom. Regular marketing executives are too far removed from the details of user experience, and too mired in old media, to act as the moderators between designers and developers. Some higher design authority must take charge.
So the need for a Usability Expert is clear, now. I attempted to be that person, but was never granted the authority to do this job. But now I know that that’s the job I want.
Today I start my new job as Senior Web Developer at USA.NET Just a few weeks ago, I was contacted by my old friend and former boss Kevin Burns. He’s Director of Marketing for USA.NET, and needed something powerful and exciting for their new website. Specifically, he needed me. It’s always nice to be wanted.
USA.NET is a rather large email outsourcing company. Their claim to fame is no less than the invention of webmail, with Net@ddress, years ago. Now services like hotmail.com have popularized the concept, and increased the size of the market, and USA.NET intends to try to maintain its position in that field, but more importantly, it’s banking on outsourcing the entire email chain for its clients.
This is a good lateral career move for me. Having just finished the redesign of the Teletech corporate site into a new Flash envelope, I was ready to undertake something more sizeable. In this new position, I’ll be able to help shape the direction and strategy of the new USA.NET corporate site, as well as produce its new look & feel. Oh yes, there will be flash! I’m excited also to get into ColdFusion development, the staple here at USA.NET. A new feather for my cap!