Tom Smith is one of FdA Web Design’s unsung heroes. He's a quiet, unassuming chap – a one company man – who’s been with Wakefield digital agency ‘Statement’ since he left the course seven years ago. We thought a catch-up was long overdue.
I’ve been with the company from the beginning, so as they’ve grown, I’ve followed. I first started as a Designer, then a Web Developer and progressed to a Studio Manager. I have recently become Operations Director. I’ve put a lot into Statement, and they’ve put a lot into me. It’s been a mutual growth, said Tom.
We asked him to recall his time on the course:
There was always a focus on employability – on having relevant skills – whereas a lot of courses don’t. We were encouraged to learn independently, which is important in the industry, getting good guidance but not having it all done for you is key. I think that’s why FdA Web Design has good employability rates – its students are really motivated.
It was quite flexible, so I could work part-time and study too. By the time I left the course, I felt prepared for the working environment.
We dug deeper and asked Tom to identify the most important thing he learnt on the course:
You get out of it what you put in, he said assuredly.
Work hard and you’ll reap the rewards. To me, that’s just day-to-day work, day-to-day life even. Before I did the course I think I was a bit lazy!
Of course, Statement and FdA Web Design are no strangers to each other. Director Dan Conboy has been a supporter of the course since he employed Tom, and a handful of its students have worked for the agency in a part-time capacity. And latterly – in his capacity as Chair of Cognitiv – Dan has sought to promote the role of Wakefield's Creative, Digital & IT industries in the regional economy, including citing FdA Web Design as a model of good vocational practice.
We are long term supporters of the FdA Web Design course. It epitomises what good web design education should be; relevant, commercial and industry-led. In our work through Cognitiv, we see the format of the course as being a blueprint for the wider Creative, Digital & IT curriculum as the College continues to expand its FE and HE provision in the sector; a testament to the quality of the FdA Web Design course.
We asked Tom about working for Statement:
We focus on three different areas: Digital Strategy, eCommerce and Retail. Digital encompasses website design and development, marketing and so on. We also have a lot eCommerce experience and want to push that more. The third is retail. We are working with Shopify and are looking to implement that platform with smaller independent retailers, enabling them to sell online, in store and do click and collect.
Everyone gets on really well, he continued.
They’re good people to work with. I used to love seeing something I’d done out there. Now it’s more like seeing something the team have done, particularly if you're doing something like helping to grow an eCommerce business.
And what of the future Tom?
There’s quite a few things we're currently working on. It’s more company goals than personal goals for me. In terms of the industry, I think there’s an increased push toward unified digital solutions. Rather than just having a website, you’d manage your inventory in one location which then pushes to your website – to your in-store point of sale – to everything. So there will be a lot more integration.
Technology is going to change a lot. Historically there’s always been new things come out, but I’m a bit of a sceptic, so I hold off and wait to see what happens. Then if it takes off I’m like
Okay, cool, I’ll try that! Sass, is a good example. When it first came out I thought I’ll wait a bit, then tried it out and thought this is awesome!
We asked him for some final thoughts about the FdA Web Design course and a career in the Creative & Digital Industries:
Do it! It’s an exciting industry to get into. If you’re excited and passionate about it, then go for it. You’ll need to put the effort in, but it’s worth it.
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