Andrew Frost works for an e-commerce design company in Staffordshire which designs and creates websites and online retail services for businesses. He explains how he started out in web development and got his studies back on track after his GCSEs.
Tell us about the job you’re doing now. What does it involve?
I work as a front end web developer at iWeb Solutions. I develop the parts of a website or web application that the user interacts with. My main responsibility is taking a design for a website (in the form of a Photoshop file) and programming or coding it (using HTML and CSS) so it appears as an actual webpage. I also adapt and make changes to existing webpages in terms of how they look and work.
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
For me the prospect of having to program something from scratch is quite exciting. It can be extremely stressful when your code isn’t working, but when it does finally work, it feels great.
Would your classmates from school be surprised at what you’re doing now?
Possibly. I have always had an aptitude for working with computers, but I had never shown any interest in working as a website developer. I was also an underachiever back in school, something I worked hard to change during sixth form.
Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence on you and if so in what way?
Yes, my sixth form tutor had quite a strong influence. He had an unorthodox style of teaching, but I responded well to it and it helped me to develop many of my current skills.
How did you decide what you wanted to do after school?
I didn’t know what it was I wanted to do after school. I always intended to go to university, but I didn’t know what it was I would be studying. My career in web development wasn’t planned. One day during sixth form, one of the teachers asked if anyone in the class did web design as a local company were looking for a web designer. Having created a website as part of one of my courses, I jumped at the opportunity not really knowing what I was going for. Despite being underqualified and inexperienced for the job, they gave me a chance and I was able to learn and develop my skills on the job. It was whilst working there I decided to take it further and go on to study it at university.
Did you take a gap year? Did it influence any decisions later in life?
I did take a gap year but it was only to stay on another year in sixth form to complete my A2 in ICT and retake my GCSE maths in which I went from a Grade E to a Grade A.
If you went to university what was your university experience like?
Overall it has been a good experience. Although I sometimes question the way we are taught, I can’t deny I have learnt a lot whilst at university. It provides many opportunities as well, if I hadn’t gone to university I wouldn’t be working where I am today.
What are you proudest of achieving?
My proudest achievement would be the changes I made to my approach to education. Back in GCSE I hated going to school and resented being there most of the time. My poor GCSE results acted as a wake-up call and made me realise I needed to change my attitude. I vastly improved throughout sixth form, passing two A-levels and two BTECs each with high marks, and I am now on track for a first class honours degree at university – quite a contrast when you compare it with my GCSEs.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I honestly don’t know yet. Ideally, I would like to go and work for Google, hopefully in California… one can dream. I have also considered starting my own business as a freelance web developer.
What advice would you give someone still at school who wants to do what you’re doing now?
Start building your own websites as soon as you can. All you need to get started is a computer with a text editor and a web browser. There are many online tutorials to follow to get you started in web development. Start by learning HTML and CSS and then once you’re comfortable with those, move on to more complex languages. When it gets difficult just keep persisting with it; remember “It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be” – Paul Arden.