This post is my complete work history, from my first page as a student, through my professional jobs, freelance jobs, and personal projects.
I put up my first web page in December of 2000 on the small hosting plan given to students at the University of Colorado. I used the only tool I had access to, Microsoft FrontPage. I distinctly remember being excited after uploading a tiny index.html file, and seeing the change reflected in my browser. I'm guessing most web developers remember that moment.
I bought my first domain name in 2002 - davinci-design.com. I worked hard on that site, continually refining and rewriting the code. I gained enough confidence and experience to take on my first freelancing client, Casey and Godden Architecture, the summer before my junior year. I struggled my way through building the site, learning all about table layouts and even a little bit of Flash.
The summer before my senior year I was fortunate to land an internship at Sun Microsystems, developing UML diagrams. I had the good graces of a fantastic professor, Dr. Curry, who recommended me for the position. I later learned that there were over 100 applicants for that position, from which they only selected three. The other two fought their way through a brutal interview process. With Dr. Curry's recommendation, the only question in my interview was whether or not I had transportation to get myself to the job! Sun was a fantastic place to work.
My senior project was to build a web "portal" for Avaya, essentially SharePoint with PHP. Today, using Rails, I could probably build that same project in a matter of weeks. Back then it took a team of five students working part-time on the project, a full year.
My first professional job was with Western Skies Practice Management, where I was the only technical person on staff. I handled everything from server maintenance, to writing in-house applications, to creating a ton of SQL scripts for reporting. I also designed and created the website using ASP classic. I stayed at Western Skies for three and a half years, gaining an appreciation for IT/Operations, but learning that it was not the direction I wanted to go with my career. My SQL skills really grew during that period, skills that continue to serve me very well.
In the summer of 2007, I joined the Denver Public Schools Retirement System (DPSRS). At DPSRS I was now part of a team of three, which again handled everything from IT to development. They hired me because they were in dire need of help with the DPSRS website and related web applications. The site was written in .NET, which then became my framework of choice for the next couple of years. I redesigned and rewrote the site twice while I was there.
In January of 2010, DPSRS merged with Colorado PERA. This turned out to be fantastic for my career development. I was placed on the web development team, building and maintaining a mid-size Java site that I've now been working on for over four years. I could finally move completely away from IT responsibilities and dive deep into web development. I've been improving as a developer in this context, and finally feel home.
Some of the more interesting projects that I have built in my time at PERA include:
While at DPSRS, some of the members of a related organization, DPSREA, contacted me about building them a new website. My boss was fine with me working nights and weekends, and I enjoyed putting my skills to use, and making a little extra money. I still maintain the DPSREA site, almost seven years later.
Later that year, I landed another contract to redesign the site for Colorado Gardener Newsmagazine. Colorado Gardener is interesting in that it is the only site I've ever built where I solicited my services to them. I'm a gardening hobbyist, and I came across their site, which was in really bad shape. I sent them an email saying that I could do a better job. Surprisingly to me, the owner of Colorado Gardener, Jane Shellenberger, agreed and we've been working together for almost seven years.
During that time I also created a site for the Colorado Tennis Association's Team Colorado, a group of the best junior tennis players in the state. The site was a way for the players to track their workouts, get parent sign-off on their accomplishments, and share news. This was my largest project on the .NET platform.
Shortly after, I landed another now-longtime client, Valdada Optics. We initially built an e-commerce site in .NET, which served us well for a number of years. Recently, we've moved over to a hosted Magento platform, giving us more tools and flexibility. I've also helped Valdada design and send email campaigns using MailChimp to drive sales.
In 2011, I began working with Dan Rosenbaum and his trio of companies Tamarac Medical, Tamarac Environmental, and Tamarac Medical Waste Services. The two medical company sites are built upon WordPress, while the environmental site is an e-commerce site that we eventually moved to Magento.
During the summer of 2012 I took an opportunity to work with a beverage startup iX MiXer, which later pivoted to Drink iX. This was an interesting project in that it was the only one where I've had a chance to work with a designer. I built both of these sites on top of WordPress, filling in needed functionality with some custom plug-ins.
I started working with Rails out of curiosity in December of 2011. I started with Code School's Rails for Zombies course and haven't looked back. Like many developers, once I experienced how nice it is to work within the Rails ecosystem, it's been hard to use anything else.
AWalkAbout is a site that I used to learn Ruby on Rails. The site is incomplete, and I debate having it in my portfolio. I love the idea of the site, and I'm proud of the work. Someday, I would love to take a shot at turning AWalkAbout into a business.
Jonathan Snook once tweeted out his progress on a full build of a project called Phmral, over the course of just a few hours in a single night. I found his progress updates to be very interesting, I liked the idea. As a new Rails developer, I wanted to try something similar. GreenFixie.com was my attempt to start from scratch with a very simple idea, and launch it in one night. I started with no code, created a new Rails app, created a minimalist one page design, integrated it with MailChimp, and launched it on Heroku. All in an hour or two at a coffee shop.
I started working with Chip Hudson on MyTennisStats during the summer of 2013. Chip has a successful iOS application for tracking tennis matches. I've been working on an accompanying Rails site where the player can upload the completed matches. They can then analyze a group of matches and get a plethora of stats and charts. We hope to launch the site in the Spring of 2014. It's been an interesting project and my first shot at developing an API for a mobile app. It has Stripe integration and pulls in some mapping capabilities from Google maps. Certainly, this is my largest and most involved Rails site to date.
I started working with Niccole Deneke early in 2014 to help create a web presence for her business, Peak8Fitness. This is another Rails site, with some custom functionality for Niccole, and we're hoping to launch in Summer 2014.
I've been working with Jeffrey Lazo on his BooksTo.Me service since April of 2014. BooksTo.Me is a service that prints beautiful photo books from your Instagram feed. The site was originally developed by Erik Dungan, using Rails, and I was brought in as a contractor to help enhance and build new features into the product. It's a great product and has been a lot of fun to work with!
So there it is, my complete work history on the web. I've learned that if I do a good job and am fair and trustworthy, that business finds me. Over the past six years, I've worked with over a dozen sites and organizations, trying to convert their business needs to the web, and I'm just getting started.
Written by Alex Brinkman who lives and works in Denver, but plays in the mountains.