Moving from Advertising to Web Development. What is the best route?
September 30, 2007 6:08 PM   Subscribe

Moving from Advertising to Web Development. What is the best route?

I've always been passionate about the web and saw much potential in it being a vehicle for social impact. A year ago, I was lucky enough to come out of college and found a job in the web advertising industry. I was extremely delighted at first that I was offered a stepping stone into the industry but soon discovered that I had no interest whatsoever in advertising and that my job is destroying this space that I used to enjoy very much.

I'm looking into moving my career path towards to be more site focused and less advertising. I firmly understand the business nature of the web but I feel that merely planning and pushing ads out to the public is not kind of things I want to do. And it looks like site side development is more in line with my values and personality.

I have some background in html but zero experience in other development tools and language. I am looking into taking some courses but the high stress level and long hours of my current job leaves no room whatsoever for any extra learnings. I'm looking into finding another job that is more stable so I will have the time to move forward with where I want to go with my career.

What I need is some advice as to how to accomplish this and whether it is a possible move for someone with little technical skills but have a marketing degree and work experience.
posted by willy_dilly to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: By the way web design is also a very appealing route for me also. I've always had a good eyes and have a good feel on how to emotionally connect with people through visuals so any advice on that is also much appreciated.
posted by willy_dilly at 6:27 PM on September 30, 2007

It isn't clear from your post if your experience in the "web advertising industry" is client side, agency side, or ad-network (i.e. doubleclick) side.

I suspect you're going to find the number of "site-only" shops is going to be small, because websites are often seen (correctly) as part of larger marketing initiatives, so you want to engage advertisers to assist in those efforts. You could work for a boutique group, but at some point you're still going to

Interactive advertising agencies aren't just pumping out "shock the monkey" banner ads. Many large corporations shop out their web design and development to agencies.

I don't know where you're based, but here are some examples to reinforce the comments above:

Critical Mass does lots of work for Dell, Mercedes, Rolex, Georgia Paper (The Brawny Man!) and others (my wife used to work there).

The interactive groups from MacLaren McCann Canada and Cossette produce almost everything on the GM Canada website I used to work for MacLaren.

In the past, Wunderman Cato Johnson in Amsterdam did websites for KPN and Ericsson worked there too.
posted by lowlife at 6:56 PM on September 30, 2007

Response by poster: I work in the agency side and work on an account of a large advertiser so I'm aware of the connection between advertisement and websites on marketing initiatives. What I want to do is move away from the ad side towards the site side.
posted by willy_dilly at 7:10 PM on September 30, 2007

I don't think you can expect to start a career as a developer without a serious time investment. It's not rocket science, but it does take time and effort to learn this stuff.

Especially since being a Web developer is often a "soup-to-nuts" type of thing, where you're expected to know every part of how to make a Web site or application.

Honestly, if you have a visual inclination, start as a designer, not a developer. It's just as hard, but requires less technical knowledge. You can make a career out of doing only that, or you can make the jump over to development if it suits you.

(I do both for my job, but I'm primarily a designer, so I'm not slagging anybody here).

Okay, here's a crash course in Web Development:
  1. Buy some web space, and set up a blog using the CMS of your choice (WordPress). Don't just set one up over the web, since you want some experience maintaining stuff on a remote server. This isn't for your friends to read, it's for you to mess around in.
  2. Make your own template for the blog (this gets your feet wet with CSS and exposes you to PHP).
  3. Add some dynamic elements to the page using javascript. For example, you could add some (probably totally unnecessary) effects using the Scriptaculous library.
  4. Write a guestbook for your blog using PHP and MySQL.
  5. Make the guestbook all AJAXified (this will make sense by step 5).
  6. Throw the CMS away and redo the whole blog in Ruby on Rails.
This is like Web Development 101-201. It wouldn't make you a pro, but it would be a good start.

Even then, there are so many other issues you have to pay attention to, like standards-compliance, cross-browser implementation, security, scaling, learning "best practices", hunting down and figuring out how to use the best tools... ugh. A lot of work. Can't stress it enough.

But anyway, if you're up for it, find some project, dive in, and figure out stuff as you go along. The good news is it's inexpensive to learn, and there's plenty of support (in the form of documentation, tutorials, and forums) out there on the Web. Good luck!
posted by Hildago at 7:16 PM on September 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm afraid you're going to have to find some time and actually build some stuff if you want to get into web development. You don't have to be good to get hired in a junior role, but you need to at least show you're making an effort and making progress. It's all about demonstrating your potential.

In my view, courses are a waste of time and money unless you need them to motivate you and point you in the right direction, which shouldn't be the case if you're enthusiastic and intelligent.
posted by malevolent at 12:36 AM on October 1, 2007

My advice would be similiar to Hidalgo's. Unless you've got some savant talent for coding, you wont be able to just drop into the web-dev side of the business. (without an investment of time/money in learning) Any major life/career change that I've ever been through has been pretty much scrapping everything and starting over. This last time it was (literally) throwing away everything i owned, living for free in someones basement while I got my life back together. I dont know your exact situation, and not saying you have to go to that extreme. I'm just saying....... are you willing to give up whatever it takes to make the necessary changes?
posted by jmnugent at 3:10 AM on October 1, 2007

Going to agree with the last few posters and say that you're going to find it nearly impossible for any employer to hire you for web development. You didn't mention what your educational background is, but seeing as you're working in advertising right now I would guess it's not in a technical field.

> I have some background in html but zero experience in other development tools and language.

You have "web" experience equivalent to an eighth-grader. Web development doesn't mean HTML; nowadays, it means a mix of server-side and client-side programming, and standards-based template work. To get a position in the industry, you're going to need presentable proof that you can learn these technologies, by providing actual demonstrations (live pages) to employers and showing source code.
posted by meowzilla at 7:17 AM on October 1, 2007

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