Front-End Designer & Developer Alexa Tuskey didn’t always know she had an interest in digital, but her drive lead her to a unique career path, being the first hybrid role at One North. Alexa’s dichotomous passions don’t end at design and development: she’s also an avid knitter and heavy metal listener.
In the following Q&A, Tuskey explains how her career path lead her from the world of print design to digital development.
Can you give me a quick breakdown of your career history?
I went to school for design and got my first job out of college doing print work. At one point, I was put on an in-house website redesign project and that’s what set off my interest in digital.
My next job was in digital advertising, where I focused on the actual creative concepts, but I was interested in the creation of the website itself as well as its design. I wanted to be a part of building something up, instead of furnishing an existing brand through campaigns – which is what lead me to One North.
Once I got here, I started to work with UX designers and developers, and the more I worked with developers, the more interested I became in “looking under the hood” of the websites, so to speak.
How did you make the initial leap from designer to front-end designer?
My manager was very supportive of me exploring the build aspect of sites. At the beginning of this year, I decided I wanted to transition my career. I have always thought that I had to pick either design or development, and finally realized “why not both?”
What did the transition look like?
I started a front-end web development course in the early spring. While I was completing that course, I started working on projects that included basic HTML and CSS styling at work. When I finished my course, I started working more closely with the FED’s at One North and was assigned maintenance tasks as well as paired programming with the other FED’s.
So, what’s your day-to-day look like now?
It kind of depends what I’m focused on that week. One day I could be designing some interior pages for a site, and the next day I could be building those same pages. It depends on what’s needed for clients and what’s on the schedule. I like to think I have a good balance between the tech and design worlds. I get to mix it up and continuously develop my skills in both roles simultaneously.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you fit into the Experience Design team?
Being a part of the interaction design team within Experience Design has basically allowed me to take my shared expertise and help bridge the gap for the teams. Coming from a design perspective, learning about development and how to write code has opened my eyes to what we’re capable of in terms of interactions. Now when I’m designing a concept, I have a more confidence to push boundaries and take advantage of digital options, because I know what I, myself can actually build. On the other side, when I’m developing, I know to keep design in mind and be more disciplined in the structure of the design itself. I’ve really begun to understand how important it is to have a consistent experience, because it leads to a smoother build. The hybridity helps give me perspective on better practices as a designer and relay these best practices to both sides of the respective teams.
What advice would you give to a digital designer that’s just getting started?
In general – be as open minded as you can. One of the biggest things I’ve found – especially in my new role -- is that I’m constantly learning new things and having to adapt. There may be a week where I focus on learning a new framework, and the next week an even newer tech emerges that’s better – meaning I have to learn it. Being excited about these developments and being willing to adapt is key to being successful, and honestly, being happy in your role.
That being said, if there’s something you want to explore or learn, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell your coworkers or your manager. They should want to help push you to learn those things and be the best you can in your role.
Any last words?
Think about what’s going to challenge you and what’s going to make you happy. I wanted to be somewhere that allowed me to be creative while letting me grow into a role based on my interests. If you want that kind of career trajectory, you need to find a place that nourishes your passions. Finding a diverse and challenging work environment with supportive management is a culture that will allow you to flourish professionally.
For more from Alexa Tuskey, read her blogs here.