Managing your career in the world of Web development

I used to be that guy, cheap once.

The one-man webmaster, find creator and designer and strategist and coder and sysadmin and dBA. Yes there really was a time when one person could do all that – and more. Do it for many websites. Some of you reading this were likely in grade school when this was so – the art and craft of mastering websites has evolved exponentially, to the point that even the simplest blog requires a minimum of 2 people – you and the person managing the hosting.

Back in the day it was easy to plan your career. Things fell into place easily and largely because you were one of a rare few that understood the arcana of http, ftp, gopher, IRC and you actually had a netsol ID number. (Mine is KS443 – for us old fogeys they kept some of the records alive for posterity¬†even they don’t use them anymore ). You could command vast sums of money, work any hours you chose, get all the latest toys and have a total blast using view Source and Kai’s Power Tools. A great day in the office was downloading the newest version of Navigator.

Nowadays, not so much. In fact, it’s fair to say the current generation of web workers (web developer is too limiting a box) has become commoditized. Technical schools, arts colleges, even some Universities now have programs designed to compress 20 years of whirlwind innovation into 2 or 3 years of specialized training and spit out an unending stream of assembly line workers. We have hierarchies and R&R documents. ¬†We have Architect, Front End, Back End, Middleware, User Experience, Strategy, Rich Media – all of whom are good at one thing and familiar with a couple more and fully expect to work in a team environment where artifacts of their labour get passed around like so many auto parts waiting for final assembly.

Sound familiar? I’m not surprised. It’s a case of the pendulum having swung to the other side and while I am sanguine to know it will cycle back to normalcy I am both impatient for that time and struggling with my own contributions to its kinetic energy. I am spending a lot of my time recently interviewing candidates for various positions within our company and I see daily evidence of what I speak. And I ask myself time and time again ‘how are these people ever going to get out of the assembly line?’.

In our next installment, and at the risk of sound patronizing, I am going to offer some tips on how to manage your career in the coming years. And in a third and final episode I will offer some tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of ambition in the world of Web development.

This entry was posted in August 2010, Business, Geek, Life Hacks and tagged , by Sean Burke-Gaffney. Bookmark the permalink.
Sean Burke-Gaffney

About Sean Burke-Gaffney

Sean Burke-Gaffney has been doing web work since the days of WAIS and Mosaic. Before browser wars, when IRC was the social media platform and Real Media was known as Progressive Networks, Sean helped develop the world's first white-label eCommerce engine. From startups to Enterprises he has managed to successfully navigate the job waters in an industry where those waters are constantly swirling. Sean likes Irish whiskey, the Habs and lives for creating great user experience. He can be reached at

One thought on “Managing your career in the world of Web development

  1. This is very interesting. I am very interested in seeing the next article in the series because I feel it will apply to more than just web workers. I too work in IT but feel that the real opportunities are in creating value content. I am curious on your thoughts.

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