Rachael Furn, known on Twitter as @calmbanana is a full-time web developer at a “kickarse” creative agency. In her spare time, Rachael updates her personal website, Calm Banana, where she writes about anything from music to creative reviews of popular website. Below is an extract taken from the CalmBanana about page.
“I love amateur photography. Amateur is the key word there because I’m really not as good as I would like to be. I like to take photos of people, musicians, and the sea. You can see most of my photos on my flickr account.
I also love horror films, especially British and Japanese ones. Gore, violence, and terror are things I enjoy rather than things that make me feel sick. To keep me from becoming deeply mentally disturbed I balance out these films with the likes of High School Musical and Camp Rock – though one could argue the latter is perhaps more mentally disturbing than something like Saw.
I also like to travel around the UK and spend most of my free time on trains. I especially enjoy the south coast, and Scotland. In between those places outside of cities can be dull for the most part.”
What inspired you to become a developer and what inspires you to stay a developer?
I started out as what some people like to call a “bedroom boy”. For me, web development was a hobby. It was something I did in my own time, for fun. Living in the middle of nowhere there’s not exactly lots to do outside the house, so most of my free time was spent in front of my computer. As time went on I started to get pretty good with HTML/CSS and from there I kept expanding my skills and learning new things.
For a brief period, I considered becoming a freelancer, but eventually decided it would be better to work for a company. I applied for various jobs (and even temporarily accepted a position for a company in Birmingham) before eventually starting with the company I work for now. They let me loose on websites for clients and right now it’s pretty much my dream job. Because it started out as a hobby, there’s that passion for development and that’s what gets me through the days where most would sit and think “why the hell am I doing this job?”. I also love learning, and web development is always giving me new things to learn. I don’t see my job becoming stale any time soon.
Give one piece of advice to newcomers to design and development and those who are starting out.
Love what you do, even if you’re not very good at it right now. Skills can be improved; techniques can be learned, but passion cannot be practiced or found in a book. If you don’t care about what you’re doing, you can’t expect anybody else to, and if nobody cares about what you’re doing, you’ll find it tricky to get a job.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we should be excited about?
Right now I’m working on a little site which combines my skillz with my passion for Formula 1 – it’s a somewhat collaboratory project with a friend who’s far better with design than I am, and that should be up and running in time for the 2010 F1 season. It’ll focus on the ‘fan’ side of things rather than the in depth analysis and technical side.
Which upcoming designers and developers do you think we should watch out for in the future?
The top two British talents I can think of right now are Rob Hawkes and Lilian Tula. They’re both at Uni on the south coast studying things I don’t entirely understand, and they’re both what I would describe as “hot sh*t”. I also have a lot of respect for Laura Kalbag who I met at WordCamp back in July. Across in Canada, I’m infinitely impressed by Jacky Gilbertson’s talents as a newly-graduated Illustrator.
What applications and hardware do you swear by?
I love free / open source applications. My most-frequently used applications for development are Smultron and Cyberduck. My day passes quicker with the help of Spotify, and I use Photoshop CS4 at work. Hardware wise, I’m not at all fussy. I use a Mac Mini at work and an iMac at home, but I wouldn’t be against working on a Windows machine again at some point in the future.
Any hardware or software on your wishlist for 2010?
Strangely, no! Right now I am satisfied technology wise. I have all the software I need to do my job effectively, and between my iPhone and my Asus EEE PC I can cope when I’m away from my desktop machine. Apple will probably come up with some new gadget I’ll desperately want, but for the time being I am content.
Name a few of your favourite websites of 2009.
I absolutely adore Songkick – I’m a big user of last.fm but Songkick completely dwarves it when it comes to live music. It scans your music library and emails you when new concerts are announced for artists in your library. It also allows you to “track” artists and cities to find live shows to go to.
What’s your view on HTML5, will you be using it and if not, when?
Right now I’m honestly not an expert on HTML5. I’ve heard good things about it though. I will be using it when I need to. Most of what I do currently is XHTML 1.0 which does the job. When it doesn’t do the job, or when the job specifically calls for HTML5, I will dive right into it.
You swear by WordPress, what attracts you to the platform so much?
I love WordPress! I truly believe WordPress can do anything you throw at it. It’s good at being versatile; it can do a three page brochure site, or it can be a complete social network (with the help of a few plugins). It also has a great community surrounding it. When you come across a problem there’s a whole network of people you can turn to in order to get help. Plus it’s good to give back too either by releasing themes (something I’ll do at some point) and helping people with WordPress questions. I can’t say I’ve experienced that same community when it comes to Drupal, the other CMS I work with regularly.
And finally, á la Inside the Actors Studio, what turns you on?
Music turns me on. I learned my first musical instrument in year 1 of primary school and since then I’ve attempted to learn every woodwind instrument I could get my hands on. I love playing music and I love listening to music. I have a wide taste in music and am happy to listen to anything from Spanish pop music to Finnish rock music to Canadian electropop to Baroque tunes. Music is a way of connecting people no matter what their mother tongue / age / culture / whatever. Plus it’s good to listen to music whilst writing markup.
About the Author
Luke Jones is a freelance website designer and SEO from the United Kingdom. He has been working for himself for over a year and specialises in site usability and accessability standards. If you enjoyed this post, then you could follow him on Twitter (@traxor) or visit his website (Traxor Designs).
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