Mark Mohr is an Interface graduate who went from working in the financial industry to building the main site and tool for the local startup, Bric.
AIM: Can you tell me briefly about your career path and what made you decide to pursue web development?
MM: After I graduated with a business degree I went to TD Ameritrade where I did mostly trade operations. After about four years I was laid off, and I actually played poker for a living for about three years. Then, I sort of transitioned out of that and went into finance for about a year. Soon I realized that finance wasn’t a good fit for me either, so I did more research on Interface, met with Shonna and decided to pick up programming.
AIM: What are you currently working on?
MM: After going through the program last spring I ended up doing some freelance stuff for a few months and then I took the job at Bric as Internal Engineer.
Bric is an innovative project and workforce management tool I am working on. It gives small to medium-sized companies a better idea of what their employees are working on and how they can better utilize their time and resources.
AIM: Was it difficult to freelance?
MM: One of the hardest parts is being new to the field when nobody knows about you or your work yet. I found a couple of jobs on my own, but being well-connected definitely helped.
When you look at the landscape of the development field, there are plenty of sites dedicated to connecting freelancers to work; however, many of these jobs are outsourced because the companies want to pay less.
AIM: What do you think are some of the benefits to having web development done locally or regionally rather than having it outsourced?
MM: Communication is always important in web development. Sometimes there are language barriers or time differences that make it difficult to clarify exactly what a company’s requirements are and what they are trying to accomplish. Using someone local or even from the region that you are connected with definitely has more benefits than hiring a stranger you found on the Internet.
AIM: How do you like working with a startup?
MM: It’s good, every day is something different. I took on the job as a developer, but I’m also involved in product decisions, meeting with clients and I’m forced to learn new things within DevOps every day, which is something new and interesting.
AIM: Is it intimidating to not have a corporate structure?
MM: I guess I’ve always been pretty independent as a freelancer and developer so I’m not used to having someone there all the time. I think most developers utilize the internet. I don’t know what they did before Google.
I’ve also had a really great mentor for the last year. He’s a long-time developer and my go-to-guy when I can’t figure something out. It definitely helps to have someone that is accommodating and willing to help where they can.
AIM: How do you keep up with the changes in web development?
MM: I read a lot; there is always something new to learn. One of the things I stay up to date on is a weekly email called The ChangeLog; Jerod from Interface is one of the main guys behind the project and he shares what’s going on in the industry, changes to look for etc.
AIM: How does it feel going from finances and trade operations to working at a startup?
MM: I guess I always kind of bring those experiences with me. Even when I was playing poker and gambling, I definitely bring some of those approaches to my current job. For example, measuring options and having that analytical framework before diving in, I think it helps. I think my past influences some of the things I do now, especially in the startup field.
AIM: Any tips for people interested in pursuing web development?
MM: Be ready to struggle a bit. It’s not going to be handed to you; it’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have some hard times ahead of you; but as long as you understand that and keep going and reading and trying then it will work out for you. If you don’t have that work ethic and drive than it might not be the field for you.
AIM: I’ve heard people compare learning web development to learning a language, what would you compare it to?
MM: I’ve never learned a second language so I can’t make that parallel, but it’s actually similar to gambling for me. Like, there are different layers of knowledge and if you come to a point where you think you know everything, you’re probably in trouble. If you’re not always adapting to the environment then you’re going to have issues; but if you’re always on the lookout for what’s next and ready to change your game plan then you should succeed.