My career has taken a number of twists and turns. I originally went to college for radio broadcasting, but ultimately wasn’t successful in making it in the industry. I didn’t have the stomach for it.

My journey took me into the world of nonprofits, which is where I’ve been for the last 14 years. Nine of those years were spent at the Project Managenent Institute working for their Educational Foundation.

I started off managing their scholarship program and helping with other administrative tasks. Then I took over managing their website because there was a need for it and I knew HTML.

Then I started our social media program because my supervisor knew we needed to be on it even if he didn’t know why. It was 2009 and the social media boom was happening, so he was right.

Then I started our email marketing program because we wanted to take over operations of it from the parent company.

I became an accidental techie

Many nonprofit employees wind up becoming accidental techies. Thankfully, I had tech skills already, so the learning curve wasn’t nearly as great.

Once I stepped into this role, I participated on my first project team for a custom-built volunteer management system. Then I participated on my next project team: a rebrand and website redesign for the Educational Foundation.

I also went back to school and got my MBA in Marketing. During this time, I also obtained PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management certification. Then I became a Certified ScrumMaster through the Scrum Alliance.

At this point, I was a sponge and wanted to learn as much as possible to take the leap into the next phase of my career.

Becoming a web developer

Once I began managing our website and honing my coding chops, I started doing it for fun at home. I learned PHP and JavaScript and learned how to use content management systems. I fell in love with WordPress and the community that supports it. I started attending and speaking at meetups and WordCamps, and I was building websites for myself, friends, and clients.

The Educational Foundation website was rebuilt on Sitecore CMS, which is built on .NET. This was out of my realm of expertise, and I didn’t really want to learn it.

I took the leap

Ultimately, I wanted to work as a full-time WordPress developer. So, I created a job for myself and went freelance full-time. I was a hired gun for different jobs for seven months until I was picked up full-time by the Jewish Federation, where I currently serve as their webmaster and solo WordPress developer.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned

I have now been a professional developer for over two years. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is this:

There is a big difference between being a freelancer and a professional developer

As a freelancer building a website for a client, they don’t care how the website is built. They just want it to work. I could build it using code. I could build it using a drag-and-drop page builder. I can use whatever tool I want for the job.

As a professional developer, I am expected to be proficient and up on all the latest programming technologies for the systems that I use. For me, that means PHP and JavaScript since that’s what WordPress is built on.

My favorite part of my job: managing projects and building cool things using various tools that are available to me as well as with the help of my teammates.

My least favorite part of my job: anything involving heavy development and diving into PHP and JavaScript in order to either make something work or figure out why it’s broken.

I wanted to be a developer, and it turns out that development is my least favorite part of the job.

Where I’m going next in my career

I did some research and found that there are two jobs that fit me to a t: web producer and digital project manager. They can be interchangeable depending on the company.

A digital project manager is….you guessed it….someone who manages digital projects. A web producer seems to be a digital project manager who gets their hands dirty and participates in the execution of the project. Whether it be contributing to development, copywriting, image optimization, or other related tasks. The producer produces while also managing schedules, budgets, and resources.

That’s the fun stuff. That’s where I want to be.

Thankfully, I get to do that in my current job in addition to the heavy development part of it. I also have extra help with some development projects through an agency that we use.

Onward and upward

I look forward to returning to the world of project management and deepening my knowledge of that and web production. Neither of my project management certifications are current since I let them lapse when I started pursuing a career as a developer. I can always get them again if I want.

I love this new path I’m taking, and aside from doing occasional freelance work, I can’t wait to shed the title of developer. And I never would’ve known that it isn’t for me if I hadn’t tried it.

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