Ire Aderinokun is a self-taught User Interface Designer and Front-End Developer. She currently works as Design and Tech Lead at Big Cabal Media, the online publishers of TechCabal and Zikoko. Ire is also a Google Developer Expert and an advocate of Open Source software and works on several open source side projects.
In this virtual chat with us, Ire shares how she got started and the joy of being a web design creator.
For Creative Girls: You have a degree in Psychology and Law, which in Nigeria, leads to quite lucrative careers had you decided to pursue them. What got you interested in Technology in general and UI Designing and Front-end Development in particular? Why did you make the switch?
Ire Aderinokun: I had always been really into technology since I was a child. When my dad first got a mobile phone when I was around 9, I already knew how to use it better than he did. When I decided to study Psychology for my undergraduate degree (and then Law for my masters), I didn’t really realise that this thing that was a hobby of mine could actually be a career. And once I realised, I knew I had to at least give it a chance.
When and how did you get started designing and building websites?
I used to play this online game called Neopets. It’s a virtual world game where you can create pets to take care of, play games, and start communities. As part of the game, you can do some very basic HTML and that’s how I got started. The first website I ever built was a fan site for the game, where I showcased some graphics and other assets for people to use in the game. I would use GIMP to create the graphics and I hosted the site on freewebs.com with a free .co.nr domain name. Even with the snail-slow internet we had at the time, it was awesome!
Your blog Bitsofco.de was created for self-taught web developers like yourself and it has a wealth of information that practising and budding web designers and developers will find invaluable. Why did you start the blog and how has the feedback been?
I started the blog mainly as a way to develop my own skills. When I started it in March of 2015, I knew how to build websites, but because I was self-taught, there were so many gaps in my knowledge. The blog was sort of a challenge to myself to learn something new every week, and the best way to learn is to teach!
The feedback has been overwhelmingly great. The 7th article I ever wrote (CSS Font Sizing) got really popular quickly and gave me a big boost in my confidence. At the time I was writing the article, I didn’t think it would be useful to many people because I thought it was too “basic”. But when it got popular, it made me realise that, no matter how simple I think something is, there will always be someone who will get value out of it and learn something from it too.
A small library for creating Toast messages created by Ire and shared on Bitsofco.de.
What is your creative process like when approaching a new design or product?
When starting a new project, things can get a bit overwhelming. I find it helpful to have everything about a project written down. Some people think I’m crazy because I have tons of lists and spreadsheets but that’s the way things make sense for me!
What are the challenges you faced since you began your career in technology and in running BitsofCo.de? What is the toughest issue you’ve had to deal with?
Probably the biggest challenge I’ve faced is in my own self-confidence. As a person who is naturally introverted, I never really considered doing things that would bring attention to myself or my work. I think this is something that a lot of people, particularly women in this industry, face. But the best thing I have done for my career is to put myself out there, for example through writing on my blog, in spite of any reservations I have. Doing this has been remarkable for me personally, and my career.
Some say that the world of design can be quite unforgiving for a beginner. Was it scary for you at first? How were you able to cope?
It was definitely scary (and sometimes still is). The thing with design is that it’s very subjective, so sometimes people may just not like your work and there’s nothing that can be done to convince them. The only way to deal with this is to develop a thick skin and to try as much as possible to separate your work from yourself. Just because someone doesn’t like your design, doesn’t mean it’s a personal attack on you.
Being a woman in the web design and development industry, is there any peculiarity to it? Has it made your work more interesting or tough?
I have been very lucky to work with people for whom my gender has been functionally irrelevant. I’ve been able to do good work and be equally respected for it.
What have you learnt and what opportunities has your career afforded you?
I’ve learned a lot about myself, mainly that I am a lot more competitive and driven than I thought. I’ve had the opportunity to build skills I never thought I would be good at, like public speaking.
Khaled Bot, a fun bot for Slack that mimics DJ Khaled, created by Ire.
What projects/jobs have you worked on in the last six months? And what are you working on now?
I haven’t done much work outside my main job at Big Cabal Media. I’ve worked on a few side projects, for example building bots for Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. I’ve also started making video tutorials on YouTube, which has been challenging but fun. More recently, I’ve been doing a Udacity Nanodegree which I should hopefully finish in the next couple of months.
What’s your advice to anyone interested in a career in Web Design and Development?
It’s a tough career to really excel in. Anyone can learn how to code, but to be really a great developer/designer, you have to be willing to constantly learn new things. But I also think it’s an incredibly rewarding career, you can literally create anything you can think of, there aren’t many careers that are like that.
Featured image courtesy of Ire.