Josh Hanson is a 2016 graduate of Niagara College’s Computer Programmer Analyst program. Josh worked both part-time and full-time as a web developer during his year at Research & Innovation’s Digital Media & Web Solutions division. For the past year he has worked as a Frontend Developer for Form & Affect, a St. Catharines-based creative marketing agency.
Tell us a little about where you work:
Form & Affect is a downtown St. Catharines creative marketing agency that uses design, strategy and technology to build meaningful brand experiences. Experts in modern-day strategic marketing, they have supplied high-calibre creative, state-of-the-art digital solutions and conceptual expertise for brands that are well-known both in Niagara and across Canada.
Describe your role and what you like about it:
I’m a Frontend Developer. A lot of my work involves CMS development using platforms like ExpressionEngine and WordPress, creating custom plugins, building interface components, and sprinkling in some progressive enhancement when possible. (CSS GRID!)
It’s a great mix of clients to have because of the variety of work it allows for. I’m able to work on everything from massive e-commerce sites, to mobile apps, and microsites. I’ve been able to build sites for CBC Sports, the Niagara Ice Dogs, local non-profits, and wineries.
One of the cooler things was watching the Winter Olympics on CBC with my family, and having the broadcaster tell people to go visit a site that I helped build.
How has your experience with R&I helped prepare you for your current role?
The R&I experience has prepared me to work in multiple roles. While at R&I, I often had to wear multiple hats as a designer, developer, and project manager. I was able to design, and build websites, apps, and work closely with clients to make sure that we made the best product for them.
A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
Working on the Wine Council of Ontario site (now renamed Ontario Craft Wineries). On this project, I was able to act as the designer and developer. I built the wireframes, mockups, information architecture, interface, and CMS.
It was a great project to work on because they wanted a fresh start, and they already had a lot of great content and photography for me to use on the site. I was able to build them a responsive website, with a very user-friendly layout.
What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
Niagara had the most well-rounded Computer Programming program for me. The program incorporated design, development, and business classes, so you could get a greater sense of what you wanted to do when you graduated. But I always knew that I was more interested in frontend development. This helped when I was looking for a co-op program and was able to work at R&I.
A faculty member who influenced you?
100% Mark Hardwick. Best teacher I ever had.
I knew immediately within meeting him that I wanted my career path to mirror his. It was such a benefit to have him as a prof as he’s still working in the industry, and everything he teaches you in class is current and something you’ll actually use in the workplace.
He was a big part of me getting to where I am today, and I’m forever grateful.
What advice would you impart on current research students or future alumni?
Don’t limit your learning to just the classroom or workplace. Try to work on some side projects, make an app to make your friends laugh. Try to replicate a website that you think is cool.
I found that you learn best when you do something that you find joy in.
After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
I’ve learned a lot, and am still learning every day. You don’t realize how much you need “soft skills” until you work in a very collaborative workplace like Form & Affect. I’ve learned that your “coding” skills aren’t the most important part of your job. It’s often the more intangible things like how you work with other people, or how you manage your time, especially if you’re working with a team and need to rely on each other.
Proudest achievement since graduating:
I’m happy with how far I’ve progressed in my career so far, and have built a lot of products that I can be proud of. But outside of work, on a personal level, I’m proud of who I’m becoming. I’ve learned to be more patient with myself, my expectations of myself, and with those around me.
Interests outside of work?
Everything awesome happens during the summer time. I’m more of a spring/summer time kind of person, so anything outside really; hiking, camping, spending time at the beach, playing video games for eight hours, eating prosciutto.
If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
Just say OV.