AI meets digital, career motivation and advice for junior developers.
Gerard has 20+ years’ experience working in digital production, with 12 of those spent working as a digital production lead. At Icon, Gerard liaises with the clients, UX/UI, content and development teams to manage the design and development of all digital campaigns and web-related deliverables. He has been at Icon since 2016 and will be leading our digital projects for many years to come.
Q. Do you have any career highlights or projects you particularly enjoy working on?
Early on in my career I worked on some really great projects. Growing up I wanted to make games and so I started out my career working in that industry, however, I’d always been a digital native and transferred fully into web 20 years ago. I’ve worked with government a lot over time and one of my favourites is a great project for kids in schools to be able to go out into the bush and to use a tool we created to identify animals. We used a whole bunch of advanced tech from the early 2000’s and UI tools. The project was great as we used children’s senses including silhouettes and noises, so if they saw an animal we had a taxonomy in a sense they could say it was short and it was furry and then it would start showing various animals. We won a lot of government awards for that project, it was well ahead of its time, being developed in 2004.
Q. How has your work in government changed over time?
There’s a different level of ‘smarter’ involved in government now. My early forays were more simple as it's easier to make something for kids because it's a very identifiable user group. The challenge in government is identifying users and what their needs are. Traditionally government sites were built based on their business structure and not on their user's needs, which we are now seeing a massive change in. We’re really starting to challenge in a lot of ways their understanding of who their users are. They’ve got a pretty good idea but we can take their information and do some research, surveys and interviews to challenge those ideas a little bit.
Q. What drives or motivates you?
I like working on large projects. I spent a good period of time working on small Word Press sites and I swore I would never work on one again. I was pushing out close to 20 sites a week and it just drove me nuts. The things that motivate me is mostly the people. I like engaging with clients, we have a really good client base we get along with. The best thing about relationships is when we’re working together we get the best out of our projects. For 99% of clients if you’re emotionally there for them and have an understanding and a little bit of flexibility generally you get the best out of your projects.
Q. What are your thoughts regarding automation in the workplace, and how do you think it will affect your area of work?
We see it all the time. There’s stuff that’s coming in to play particularly within the AI world, and there are projects out now that can go out build a website for you, based on your Facebook feed and based on all the social data it can grab on your company, and that stuff is pretty crazy. But at the end of the day, AI is there to accompany and support our human thinking, it can’t replace it, at least not yet. I think the automation stuff will just enhance our work. We’re seeing it now with Google Analytics data. Once upon a time, you’d have to be trawling through spreadsheets of data to try to work out what’s going. Now Google’s got all this stuff that has AI working behind it to give you the information you need to make improvements to your websites.
Q. Do you have any tips for people wanting to become developers or work in digital production?
Get your hands dirty. Get into it and learn it. It’s the only way to go about it. All the good project managers I know are probably failed programmers or designers. All the good developers, they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of hours learning their craft, and just keeping constantly up to date. It takes time to learn that. It’s hard to find good developers. They’re either well over-qualified which is out of our budget or they’re too under-done. It’s hard to find that middle ground. There’s plenty of work out there.