Build Process returns for 2022 with an interview with front end developer Lydia Winters from Limelight Marketing. Lydia is a relatively new developer with a passion for design who’s working on her master’s degree in technology education. We’re discussing her journey in this episode, from the importance high school teachers have in a student’s process, to how she juggled different roles and learns new things.
The following is a machine-generated transcript of this episode. It will contain errors until it has been reviewed and edited, and we apologize for the difficulty that may cause for screen readers. Do you want to help us speed up our transcribing process? Consider sponsoring an episode.
Hello, everybody. This is Michael Fienen, host of the Drunken UX Podcast. And this is Build Process to which everybody is saying one of two things right now, one of those is either build process. I haven’t heard that in about two or three years, the rest of your like, What the hell is build process, and I don’t blame you. It’s okay.
Build Process is a segment where we sit down, we talk to designers, developers, researchers, copywriters, anything in the industry, and talk to them about their journey as whatever role they are, how they got there, what challenges they face and how they ever overcome those kinds of things. Joining me today is Lydia winters. She is a front end developer at Limelight marketing.
She’s also a master’s student in technology education with a bachelor’s in Graphic Communications. Lydia, thank you so much for sitting down with me today and taking the time. And coming out here to the wild world of whatever bar we’re sitting in. We’re at TJ Leland right now, I think it’s a good excuse to get out of the house and get out that cold weather. Yeah, it’s
very cold outside today a little more chilly
than I’m used to. Let me dive in by just diving right in here. I want to go back in time, a hot minute. So you are in technical education. So clearly, like this general field of computery things interests you and then with a background in graphic comm.
But as a web developer, you’re a front end developer? And is that something that like you came out of high school thinking, Oh, this interests me, this is what I want to do and you dabbled in it? Or was it something you kind of just fell backwards into?
Um, I don’t know, I feel like it kind of started when I was in middle school, really, there’s a program called technology Student Association, that I was really involved in seventh grade, eighth grade, and there was a competition you could enter in.
And I mean, in middle school, like how good of a website could you actually create, but they kind of gave you a prompt of like, oh, like, we need to save the world with this website, you know, something big like that. And you’re supposed to make a website and submit it, and then at the national or the state conference, and then they’ll give you an award if you place in the top three.
So I feel like that’s probably like my first, you know, exposure to web development, if you could even call it that. It wakes websites, you know,
that’s, I have no room to talk. That’s effectively how I started. I was a Star Trek nerd. And it was like, Hey, let’s, let’s see what I can do with Spark.
Yes. So I probably started doing that, you know, I really liked the design aspect at the beginning. I’m didn’t really think about what went into it besides the design of a website at that point. Once I got into high school, you know, it was mostly design focus is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a graphic designer. I did. I was also it’s funny, you said you were into theater. I was in musical theater when I was in high school. And I
never said musical. Okay, very clear there.
So, um, yeah, I was never great. But my lovely theater director, Greg Shaw, which, you know, so he found something for me to do. And that was make the posters, make the programs. I was also in the show, but you would never recognize me because, you know, I was in the background, but that doesn’t matter. I had a great time. So I would design the posters, I would make the programs.
And I mean, that was I felt really important doing that, you know, which is good. And so after that, I was like, you know, I’m going to do graphic design. My dad, he teaches at Pitt State. And he says, you know, they have a great graphic design program at Pitt State, I really didn’t have a choice what school is gonna go to, it’s gonna be Pitt State. So, you know, free tuition, you can’t turn that down.
So I did the emphasis in web and interactive media, because in my mind, I was like, you know, I want to make more more money than a graphic designer, I want to do web that was a thought going through my mind, not knowing exactly how much work went into that. And so that was probably how I got my start. I started taking the Web classes.
And then a job came up for a, I can’t even remember what it was listed as probably like a web designer is probably what it was for. Web technician. Yeah, intern, you know, something like that. And it was for a company I’d never heard of before Deb squared. And I showed up to the interview. I was I was bound to determined to get this job. You know, I feel like I kind of manifested it in a way I was like, I’m gonna get this job.
I wanted it so bad. I didn’t even really know why I wanted it. I just really wanted it. And we had, I mean, we had like three rounds of interviews. It was like the most intense like interviewed I’d ever experienced before. Because, you know, before this, I worked as like a student employee. So, so I show up to the interview. And John, Caleb, my bosses at the time, they were interviewing me, and I did not know what they were asking me.
I really it was like, I did not do good. They’re asking me all these technical questions. And I’m like, I know you’re saying yeah, yeah, I know. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
That’s, that’s the fun on that side. Yeah. Let’s, let’s push the boundaries and see, what do they know? What can they tell us?
Yeah. So I definitely be asked my way through that interview. And probably the second interview as well. And then we kind of had like a challenge we had to do to make it to the third interview. I can’t, what did we do? I think we had to like design a web page. Yeah. And I just did something in like Adobe, XD I don’t even think we had to code it really. And so I got the job.
And I was like, wow, this is great. And then I really found out what web development was. I had no clue before then for sure. So, but I like it. So now,
how long ago was that then that you started? Was that
I think the interview process was like at the end of 2018. And I started at the beginning of 2019. So January of 2019. is when I started that job,
you just kind of crested that three year level sort of in this role. Yes. Would you say that, like what you’re doing now? has taken a lot of learning to get there? Or did it come fairly naturally for you once you were sitting there in front of it every day?
Um, yeah. learning, learning learning? I? I don’t know. I feel like some of it did come naturally. At that point. I did more design work for them. They did. Right now in my position. I don’t do as much of this. But at that point, I was kind of designing back and like what the user would see like, stuff like that, and administrative and yeah, kind of like that. And so that came pretty naturally to me, I really do enjoy that.
And anytime we have something that comes along like that, I usually design it. And so even at with my current job, and so, but yeah, the coding, we did like view. And you know, I still don’t know what I’m doing.
Or do you think you’ll find your way into something, you know, teaching education, or teaching people about web development or something like that? Like, what’s the sort of big goal you have right now?
Yeah, um, I think teaching high school is something that I have been thinking a lot about recently, when I finished my bachelor’s degree. I don’t know why I decided to just I was like, you know, I just kind of want to think about teaching. And we had, we had actually designed a website for this program, that KCC t, which is kind of the program I’m going through for my teaching degree, which is kind of how I learned about it.
And so I was like, you know, I’m just gonna try it out for a semester, I had like, one semester left to free tuition, I needed a couple classes. So I was like, you know, I’ll just try it out. And I really actually enjoyed it. I’m not necessarily learning about how to teach web development, but I’m learning how to teach.
And I think in the future, I’d want to teach high school, I’m sure I would end up teaching some design classes, just how kind of works out in that setting, but I’m teaching, web development would be really awesome. It’s just finding the right school that, you know, offers that program the intersection. Yeah.
And you know, my boss, John and I have had a conversation about how there’s not necessarily anyone, like super qualified to teach, like computer science in like high schools, because how many people get a computer science degree and decide they want to go to high school, especially in Kansas, Missouri, you know, around this area.
And so I think it is really important to at least get like, high school students exposed to that, just to even know it’s an option. You know, I didn’t realize how, how important it was when I was in high school. You know, I go websites, anyone can do that. But no, not just anyone to make a website. So
when I was in high school, the emphasis on computers was just take a typing class, like learn how to touch type, you’re good. That’s that is the goal and have different little different world I will emphasize for just everybody’s benefit if education and technology and these kinds of things are of interest to you, but maybe you don’t have a teaching certificate or the time are you thing like that.
I do some volunteering with our school district as a Technology Advisory person. So they have committees and stuff that help the teachers and show them like what do you know? What are you? What should you be teaching? Or what should you be, you know, leading kids towards right now so that they can be ready for college. And so that can be a way to get into some of that as well. So I just throw that out there as he’s advice.
I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed that opportunity to kind of have a hand in things even though Yeah, I have a teaching degree. My parents were both teachers. I respect the hell out of them, but I don’t think I am built for that environment. Okay, let’s let’s talk design for a second, you emphasized how that was something that kind of got you pulled in here. I love the the posters comment because that was also one of my first forays.
When I got into college, I did a lot of like, hey, let’s make some band websites, because every band needed a website and everybody in college knows somebody in a band. And that really quickly translated for me to be in looked at making some friends at a couple of the bars. And they’d be like, Hey, can you make me a poster for this?
And so I’ve got an old archive of like, Photoshop two files, with the old posters in them from 2000 to 2003. But what like, design wise, what were your tools of choice? I heard you mentioned Adobe XD. What else do you like to use?
Um, I would say InDesign is probably my favorite. And that’s what I’m most comfortable with. I worked as a student employee at the printing shop at Pitt State. And I would use that every day. And I mean, that’s the most print friendly software. So that’s what I’d use. I mean, I’m pretty comfortable with most of the basic ones, Photoshop Illustrator. After that, yeah, Adobe XD is my go to for websites, though. figma.
And envision never really gotten into Yeah,
it’s funny to me, I was looking at some like state of design surveys over the last few years. And it’s like, every two years, it went from sketch to envision to figma. And it’s like the, the there’s like this moving hump of people that like they jump ship to the next one. And so I’m wondering, what comes next? Oh,
I know. Every time I get at work, if I get a mock up in Photoshop, I just Oh my gosh, please stop. Oh, my gosh, there’s so many better things. So easier to you. Whoo. Oh, my bad.
Me. So what, when you started working with that squared then, and started getting into some of this code and these newer challenges? What was it that you found, like, out of the gates was sort of new and foreign to you that like, took some time to, like, Oh, let me go read up on that or look up on it. Because you’re, you’re gonna get hit with something like that.
Um, so this is crazy, but definitely like, so we started using Bootstrap. And I knew what bootstrap was, obviously, kind of I know, I had taken Web classes before, but you know, I was probably only like two Web classes in and I didn’t know about like, the utility class. Like text dash center putting, like, oh, like, that opened a world to me. And like, now I look back then, like, sad. Like, how did I not know this?
And now it’s just like, you know, it comes right. To me, we use tailwind most of the time. And it’s, we always make jokes about how we’re gonna like tattoo, like the numbers on our arms, because we can never remember, like, the numbers that we need to use and stuff. But yeah, that was something I was like, you know, I gotta learn this.
Like, they probably think I’m like, the dumbest human on the planet, how have I not learned this, but I knew like, container row column and stuff like that. But the utility classes was never mentioned to me before this. So
Let’s like pick the first first paid product product Project website, something you did as weather That was as a student employee or at Def squared or Limelight where, like, you stepped back from it and felt like, Man, that was good work. Like what was what was that first, like feeling of satisfaction that you got in one of those?
Yeah. Let’s think I feel like I’m the first big project, which is funny, I just mentioned this earlier was the KCC. T site. I was still Deb squared at that point, when we made that site. I look back on it now. And I’m like, I could have done so many things better. But at the point, I was like, I I mean, I really like I design the site.
I, you know, I did a lot of communication with like, the client at that point to those with this one, we were still really small. And then I developed it to with a lot of help from my bosses. But that was probably the first project that I really did from beginning to end, and was happy with how it turned out. And they’re still using it to this day, which you know, is good. It still works.
I mean, I think there’s we’ve definitely had some bugs on it. And we definitely added some things to it. But since then it’s been pretty successful. And I think it looks pretty good. So
yeah, no, I want to rewind for just one quick second here, because I realized you said like, we were a small shop, then what what is the size of the group that you work with right now? Like, are you part of a team of 20 people or a team of two people?
Yeah, so I started out at Def squared. At that point, when they hired me on there, it was four people. It was Caleb and John, the bosses. And then two interns, Aubrey and I, and
Caleb and John code as well. So we should Yes, yes. Yeah, they were not sitting back watching. Yeah, no, no, they are very smart. Hands on with all
of that. Yes. Um, so at the point of death squared, we had two, and then the two interns, so two bosses, two interns. Then when we merged with limelight, Deb squared was at five, merged with limelight, I would say we’re probably 15 at that point. Now, I would say we’re 20 to 25. So just within the last year, we’ve grown crazy. Yeah. So within the dev team, right now, we gained one dev from limelight.
And then we have three, we’re all I’m not all limelight. Now there’s Caleb and John, who were there before, merged with limelight. And then we have four full time developers. And we also have an intern that we just started to. So um, we’re still looking, you know, it’s crazy. We have so much work, we just we can’t stop growing. Um, so yeah, about 20 to 25 people at the company right now.
Oh, yeah. Cool. So in terms of like, when you run into challenges, right, now, walk me through a little bit of like, your, your problem solving technique, right? Like, every day, we hit something like, Okay, is there a utility class for this particular bootstrap need? Or something? Or, you know, tailwind property, what, you know, what does that look like for you?
In terms of I know, this feels very much like a job interview with what what are your problem solving techniques like, but walk me through those sort of that process of because I know how I do it. But I would love for everybody to hear how you do it?
Yes, well, definitely first depends on the problem. That we have so many sites that so many people touch right now that sometimes the easiest way for me to solve a problem is to ask probably the last person who had the website or ask the person who made the website. Like, how did you make it so we can edit the footer? You know, because there’s so many different ways in a WordPress site.
Yes. And so I can’t find where to change the footer. You know, I just need to link this Facebook icon to a different Facebook, and it’s gonna be so much easier if I’m just like, Hey, Aaron, can you just let me know how you did this? You know, shoot him a Slack message. Yeah. Easy, or, Hey, yell at him across the room if I’m in the office. And so usually that’s the easiest way.
If it’s a more technical problem, definitely. Google, Google Google, watch YouTube videos.
Here I am a 25 years into this and I’m like, huh, give me a minute, I’ll find the answer. I you get real sophisticated in how you word those Google queries to sell, sell what you need,
and I’m still learning how to do that. Because half the time I’m just like, I don’t even know how to Google.
I don’t even feel bad about it. That’s like, you know, they you’re getting paid not just for your expertise, but the fact that you know how to find the, that itself is a skill that you can get paid for.
And then sometimes the expert is Caleb, and I go into his office peek in there to see if he’s on a Zoom meeting. And I’m like, Caleb, I can not figure this out. That’s you have to help me and you know, he’s always like, yeah, come in here. I’ll show you and you know, usually sometimes he’ll look at it and I swear it just works.
So we’ve all been there. What about from from the standpoint of like, code review or things like that? Have you got you guys do that there? Is that something that You take part in? Or do you guys have other processes in terms of like, your checking each other’s work? Or how to make sure like you mentioned, in the case of like editing a footer?
You know, well, how did this person do it? Is there a method by which you all track that sort of information to kind of keep up with trying to do things in a similar way, so to speak?
Um, I think we’re trying more and more, but once we merged, you know, we all kind of do things differently. We all have a preferred method of doing things. I def squared, I feel like I learned, like different ways to do different things. And then the limelight developer, he has a different way of doing things too. And so it just kind of depends, I guess, on the project on how it turns out.
Project wise, maybe not project wise, technology wise, let’s just go that direction, because that’s a little a little more encompassing, probably the easier to kind of look at big picture. What are you excited about? What’s like the what is the next thing? What’s the thing you don’t know right now, but you know, you want to know,
I don’t know, technology wise, I’ve been really interested in these drones that are going to deliver packages, which has nothing to do. I haven’t seen one yet. I don’t know. But project wise, um, you know, right now at limelight.
I feel like I have been, you know, we need to figure out like what’s best for the company, like what technology is going to be able to make us be able to make these websites that are going to be great for the customer, easy to edit. They’re not going to take us years to develop. And, you know, our use, and they
look good, the turnkey solution. Yeah. And so right now,
I’ve I have been looking at Elementor, that has been something that I’ve really done a lot of research in, and we’ve done a couple sites that way that we’re kind of looking into is this going to be like kind of our go to for websites under a certain budget? Yeah, we try to do e commerce websites, we just did an e commerce website with Elementor. And it went really smoothly.
It kind of, you know, takes away some of that coding aspect of it. But there’s a ton of dynamic features in Elementor. And like add ons, plugins and stuff that can make Elementor like, really, really a great tool. And so that’s kind of what I’ve been looking into recently. That’s what I’ve been excited to do more of
Yeah. Is it safe for me to assume like, are you guys mainly a WordPress shop then is that?
Um, yeah, we probably do majority WordPress, we do have a couple Shopify sites. HubSpot? Yeah. But mostly WordPress.
Let me ask your opinion, then just in in general, we’re working with Gutenberg, how has your process been with that? Especially as somebody who has who came in here, you know, right around, you would have been jumping in professionally about WordPress? 4.8. Like, right on that cusp. And two years ago, this brand new Gutenberg thing that’s totally different uses react all of this stuff?
Yeah. What’s just generally speaking, like, what was your impression of it? Are you doing much with it? Are you afraid of it or embracing? Because everybody’s got their feelings?
Yeah, I feel like we’ve done a couple of Gutenberg sites. That’s definitely not like my go to not what I want to do all the time. But I think that it’s great. I think we could probably take better advantage of it. But at the same time, it’s the learning curve of it too. Do we have time for this? The learning curve of it, you know, I’m, I’m a slow learner.
Do clients have the
Exactly, yeah. Yeah. The, we don’t have like, I didn’t I guess some of our clients do edit their own sites. But we probably do the majority of the edits. So it’s not a huge problem. But I think probably the biggest problem is, you know, the average age of our dev team is probably like 20 to 23 I don’t know we’re all really young. We’re all still learning a ton.
I think we’re kind of just sticking with what we know. We’re definitely trying to learn as much as we can, but it’s hard when you have you know, a whole long list of websites you know that you need to do.
Oh, yes. Let’s I brought you a present for this interview. That present is my fancy time machine. And we can put you in it. And you can go back in time and talk to like 14 year old you or even 18 year old you you’re like right on the cusp of graduating high school and going off and figuring out what you want to do. What would you take back to young Lydia at this point?
It whether that is the advice to run screaming and don’t ever look at a computer again to go make sure you read all of this stuff. Like what’s what would give advice wise to yourself?
I think I wish I would have done like a little more. Well, I wish I liked to do like more web design at home by myself. Like, I wish I had taken more time to like, learn more on my own. Maybe before I got the job as a intern at Dev squared, you know, I mean, I got the job. So I guess I knew enough, but I wish I would have maybe cared a little bit more to learn more.
In my mind, as I’m doing everything I need to know in college. That’s not true. You’re not gonna learn everything you need to know, in college. I that’s like, not true at all. I can’t think of a less true statement. But I also think, you know, like taking I had so many people be like, Oh, will you make me a website? And I was terrified. I would always say no, I wish I would have said yes to more of those.
Because the ones I have said yes to I’ve learned a lot. Maybe not always good, maybe some bad. But I wish I would have said yes to more opportunities like that, you know, never turn down an opportunity that if even if it’s a website for I don’t know, I made a church website. And it wasn’t very fun, but I learned a lot.
It’s early on now. I will say later in life. No. Yeah. Learn to say no, a whole lot. Okay, I think I know the answer to this one, but favorite tool? XD I’m guessing.
Yeah, I think so. xD
xD I love the fact that it comes bundled. Like if you’ve got a CC license, they’re just like, here have XD along with it.
Sometimes it’s a little glitchy. I will admit. I’m just close out of it reopen. It works fine.
We’re figma shop at work. So I’m kind of shoehorned into that but my own stuff I use XD with the flip side of that least favorite tool? What do you hate to have to interact with? But you know, like this, this is especially true I think if you’re doing a lot of WordPress development, and it’s like, you’ve got that one plug in that every client wants that you hate your some, you know, something like that, like what is the thing that you always put off dealing with?
Anything HubSpot related for sure. Not a fan. I can never find the file I’m looking for. Like, why can’t you search classes?
It’s okay. They’re not a sponsor.
It’s not a fan of that. Um, WordPress. I don’t like the Divi theme. I’m not a fan I’ve been well, it could just be I’ve been working with a lot recently. And it’s been awful. So that might change down the road. Um, I can’t think of too many other things. And I’m just like, I can’t stand this.
And then I’ll wrap up. Forget advice to yourself. What what do you tell somebody else? You’re going into educational education, you have a spark in you for like, teaching people? What is that advice? If somebody currently 16 year old comes up to you and says, Man, I That’s so cool. What you do? What should I be thinking about? Or doing?
What would you say advice wise, to somebody like that? Who is just kind of getting started? And even if they’re not kid you not gonna say yeah, I can be, you know, 55 years old and decide you want to change careers and get into this. But everybody has that question. Where do I start? What should I think about what’s your golden nugget for them?
Yeah, I think I was thinking about this as I was like, how did I get to where I am today? And I would definitely say, like the relationships I built with my teachers when I was even when I was in high school, you know, like, they knew what I was interested in, make sure people know why you’re interested in, you know, mention it as much as you can, like, oh, yeah, I like I think I want to build websites, I want to design stuff, you know, tell them they don’t know, you mentioned
Greg, and the fact that the here’s a theater teacher, right? Somebody who is lives, his life, in front of the stage helping these kids went out of his way to find you an opportunity to both be in theater, but engage in that skill that you wanted to engage
with. Yes, he cared. Definitely. Like, he obviously knows that not all these students that are in these musicals are going to be on Broadway. He knows that he knew that. So, you know, he wanted me to be successful. He saw in me, he knew that’s what I wanted to do. He let me have some creative freedom. You know, he was a very opinionated guys.
So but you know, we did the Addams Family musical, and he let me like, edit the, one of the guys balled in on the poster, you know, he let me experience experiment and stuff. But, you know, he knew that’s what I wanted to do. And I would say that was probably a big, like, kind of boost of confidence in me too.
Like he thinks I’m good at this, you know, even if I wasn’t and from there, you know, I I took like, one web class when I was a senior in high school, because at that point, it’s like that So that’s what I want to do. And I went into the teacher’s room. His name is Mr. Byrne heights football coach. He also taught like accounting, driver’s ed, web development, you know?
And I was like, can I enroll in your web class next semester was the spring semesters last semester, I’d ever be able to get into this class. Well, this is, uh, this is a year long class, I can’t let you in. And me 18 year old I was like, I really wanted to be in this class. I’m like, kind of like almost tearing up, probably just because I was so nervous to ask him to, you know? And he’s like, Well, I guess, yeah, I’ll let you in here.
And he’s like, but you have to catch up on all of semester one’s work. And gave me this Photoshop book, you know, gave it to me. It’s like, second semester is web development, web design. But first semester was Photoshop. Here’s the Photoshop book. And so I like work through all these things before class started in the spring semester. But you know, he gave me that opportunity. He knew that’s what I wanted to do.
If I wouldn’t have explained that to him, you know, I would just walked out of there. Well, I guess I’m not gonna do that, again to college. I am, I would say the only reason I got a job working with Gregor, the web developer for Pitt State is because all these people knew that’s what I wanted to do. I made sure to tell all my professors like I’m just is what I want to do. I had the job with them squared, they knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I mean, I had two jobs at one time in college doing web development, because I just put myself out there I just over and over. And that’s what you have to do. Because no one’s going to just ask you out of the blue, if you want to have this job, if that’s what you want to do, because that’s just not that’s just not how it works.
But if you really put your interest out there and just tell people like how dedicated you are, it’s gonna it’s gonna work out for you.
Well, Lydia, I want to thank you so much for sitting down with me today. I really appreciate it. I hope everybody enjoys your story, and find some inspiration in that I absolutely. echo what you say about the people side of the work we do from the people who can help us to the clients we work with, to the people that visit our websites and use these tools. Doesn’t matter how much code is there.
It doesn’t matter how much design is there at the end of the day, it’s one person building it and another person consuming it. And so those folks are such an integral part from start to finish. So thank you very much, everybody. I hope you have enjoyed this episode. If you want to find this anywhere. We are on Twitter and Facebook at slash drunk in UX, or on Instagram at slash drunk in UX podcast.
You can also chat with us anytime on Discord at drunkenux.com/discord. Everybody have a great day. Enjoy yourselves a little bit and find the people in your lives that can help you lift things up. Take care