Jon Daiello Designer + Front-End Engineer

Journal

2016: The Year of Transition

While it’s been quiet here on jondaiello.com over the past few weeks, my life and career have been the complete opposite. You’ve probably heard the sentiment that your own website tends to get pushed to the background when other things pop up. This may be true, but only when your site isn’t the highest priority. Now, my site certainly isn’t the highest priority in life, but I have been giving a lot of thought to the first article this year. I knew that the 2016 year would have the theme of ‘Transition’, but I didn’t realize how deep that theme would go.

Decisions, Decisions

At the end of 2015, I decided that I wanted to give up full-time freelancing. Some of you might be shouting at me saying, “Why on earth would you do that?” Well, there were a host of reasons behind the decision, but in the end, I felt it was best for my family, myself and my career. I am grateful for all of the people who worked with me while I was a full-time freelancer. Many of them poured into me and helped to shape many of the skills that I possess. It was a tough (and emotional) decision, however, I stand behind it. I’m glad I made the decision since it lead to a lot of personal development as well as career advancement.

I began searching for full-time employment as a User Experience Designer. I had gained experience working in many of the UX disciplines and was eager to dive deeper into that area of work. After lots of interviews, and missed opportunities I couldn’t afford to be unemployed. I knew I could leverage my UI design and front-end development skills, so I re-focused my efforts in that area.

Starting Fresh

In January of 2016, I started a full-time gig as a Web Designer and Front-End Developer. I knew I would need to level-up my JavaScript skills, so I began to study. I researched, took online courses and invested in my front-end abilities. I was surprised at how easily I fell in love with JS. It was a language I had largely stayed away from unless I absolutely needed it to accomplish a task. I was extremely grateful for Treehouse, Lynda.com and Wes Bos resources on the topic. I went from having a working knowledge of JS via jQuery to rolling my own JS to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. Throughout the year, I also continued to exercise my UX skills wherever possible as I knew that was still a big interest of mine and I couldn’t shake the desire for more user experience work.

As the year progressed, I realized I had to make a decision to change. With a long commute, it was beginning to wear on my family and my personal life. Believe it or not, my career isn’t my highest priority. I began to talk with my wife and close friends about how to manage the commute issue. During these discussions, I happened to see an opportunity in the UX field. Immediately, I felt the need to give it a shot. I didn’t expect much, but I knew if I didn’t try I’d regret it. This gave me the opportunity to explore the field of UX opportunities once again.

It’s Go Time

To my delight, I was chosen for the UX position and I began a new role as User Experience Practitioner in December of 2016. I was elated. As I began my new role, I quickly felt unprepared. I felt like I was surrounded by geniuses (and rightly so). I wondered if they had made a mistake when hiring me. I began to panic.

The problem wasn’t that I was unskilled. The problem was the industry-pervasive disease of “Imposter Syndrome”. I’ve heard of it and experienced light battles throughout my career. This time, it was a doozie. I began to question so much of my career that I thought I couldn’t make it. I started to discount my previous experiences and question their validity. I confided in a few new colleagues and friends that know me well. I found that people believed in me. They saw potential in me. Imposter syndrome had clouded my vision and distorted my reality so that I was blind to my own skills.

One way or another, it was “go” time. I needed to step up and show that I was capable of the job I was hired for. If I was deficient of anything, then I must be honest and learn. In a position of leadership, I have a team of highly skilled people that I can rely on to accomplish goals and educate me where I have gaps. This was the “ah-ha” moment where I dug in. I knew I could do the job. I don’t know everything, but who does? I am here to stay and here to do my absolute best.

Things I Learned

During my multiple transitions this year, I learned a few things that shed light my journey:

  • Transition Decisions: Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you should make a change in your career. Do you stay put and dig deep, or take a leap on a new opportunity. Do you focus your skills in a specific area, or develop with the intent to move into a different specialty? Your decision must consider all the facts. Are there opportunities where you’d like to go? Do you need special training? Can you provide yourself and your family? Take time to consider, be patient, and don’t rush into anything.
  • Skill Focus: I had a vague notion of how and where to invest skills. I knew that my time and resources were limited as a husband, father, and servant in my life. It wasn’t until last week that someone articulated it well. Nate Denlinger wrote an amazing piece that relates the concept of an RPG game to our career.
  • Imposter Syndrome: It’s an industry-pervasive disease that runs rampant. It can be caused by many things. Whatever the cause, put it behind you. Step up to the challenge and approach it head-on. Learn, level up, and do your absolute best. Success won’t come by giving up.