Cedric Jackson 4 13 15

Host: Deena Ibrahim

Pre-Lecture Bio

Education
Cedric Jackson is from Cleveland Heights, and attended Cleveland Heights School. During his senior year, he decided to attend John Carroll University as an Arrupe Scholars inductee.

Work Experience
Currently he is 1 of 8 Front-end Web Developers at AmTrust North America. They are responsible for all global AmTrust Financial web development. On the side, Cedric owns and runs a multi-state business called CEDRICMedia that specializes in web design, graphic design, and music production.

CEDTalks

Background

Cedric originally came to JCU as an accounting major. After taking a couple courses, he realized that it was not something he was passionate about and not something he was willing to do full time. The second semester of his sophomore year, he made "the big switch" to computer science/computer information systems. The introduction to web design course immediately drew him in and sparked his interest for front-end developing.

CEDRICMedia

CEDRICMedia is Cedric's multi-state company where is is the founder/CEO. They specialize in web development, graphic design, and music production. He started the company around the time he started the computer information systems track. It was through CEDRICMedia that he was able to pay for his last semester of college. My portfolio is what landed me my job. You can check out the responsive site on any device here.

Company and Work Information

At his current job at AmTrust, he is responsible for creating the front-end user experience. In order to do so, he first creates a mock-up design in Adobe InDesign to be sent to the marketing department based on the requirements guides he is given. He is also responsible for coding responsive websites for new and existing insurance products. He and his team focus on redesigning, creating, and maintaining designs for the company. One issue he talked about here was compatibility across browsers, more specifically, Internet Explorer. He cites TurboTax and PayPal as sites with great user experiences.

In order to keep up to date, Cedric says it is important to continue to read, enroll in courses, watch YouTube videos, etc. Without this sort of continuous learning, you fall out of date with the constantly changing technological world. It was in this way that he was able to learn Advanced HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, and Bootstrap. He also said that the artistic skill set didn't come to him naturally. He does a lot of research on and outside the job on user experience, the latest web design trends, mocking/coding practices, etc. He also touched on the importance of learning and understanding code management software (AmTrust uses SourceTree).

AmTrust forces Cedric to be a master multitasker. Assignments begin with meetings on Monday mornings where workload and assignments are discussed. It is a fast-paced environment where often, Cedric says he doesn't fully understand the entirety of the project. He is just given a requirements document and expected to quickly produce output. It is important that everything meets the proper standard and functions correctly so that when the back-end developers get the code, they can fill it in. Typically, a project begins with the design and mock up, then is edited by the front-end designers to become responsive before the project is handed off to the back-end developers.

Cedric's job also requires that he be a sort of correspondent. Because he is working with teammates, leaders, and managers, it is important for him to be a people person. They often talk to each other, correspond, and accept constructive criticisms.

Non-Negotiable Advice

Cedric says that the most important things to consider when looking and applying for jobs are the following:

  • Be picky about the type of company you work for
  • Think to yourself: "Is this a job I want for years to come?"
  • Do not work for less than $40,000 a year coming out of college and no billable hours
  • He also recommends working in downtown Cleveland because of the exciting environment
  • Consider is that company is a place where you can enhance and increase your skills

He also reiterated the advice that it is necessary to prepare. He recommends creating a portfolio with concepts and outside work of projects you've created and to have a completed resume template, cover letter, and letters of recommendations.

Questions

How much of the jQuery libraries and plug-ins do you guys build in house compared to taking open source stuff?
My design leader is a wiz at JavaScript and jQuery stuff, so a lot of the things he's written already (tabs, boxes, etc), but then there's sometimes when we need, for example, a carousel or images to display a certain way, and we don't have that code, so we'll have to write it. So to answer the question, a lot of the time, my design leader's written the code, but then there's some cases where we need very specific functionality in which case we'll write it. Otherwise, we'll try to look online, but it has to be very specific to match what we want.
How did you start to build up your portfolio before you started working?
As soon as I started the CIS track, I started doing graphic design because I really loved my Intro to Web Design class and a big part of web design is graphic design. It focuses on being able to create assets like icons, edit pictures, etc, so in my spare time I created a portfolio of work. I advertised my business through social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Cedric's portfolio.
How did you get your first client?
Literally through social media. Whenever I do a job, I can usually post the work on social media, so I will share, tweet, and Instagram it.
What are your plans for growth for your personal business?
I work 8 hours a day, so I'm usually off at 5 and that doesn't give me a whole lot of time because I don't like to be stressed out after work. Me working at AmTrust has sort of slowed down the work I do for CEDRICMedia. I still service all of my loyal clients with billboards, business cards, flyers, but as far as growth, we'll see where it goes. If I ever want to break away from AmTrust and do that full time, I would definitely have to hire a lot of people.
You came in as an accounting major and had no art background or anything of the sort?
That's the power of the internet and social media. I've taught myself so much just from YouTube.
Do you see yourself moving more towards graphic design or web design?
I feel like web design is the best of both worlds because you get some of both, but in graphic design its a kind of niche.
What tools do you use to organize your daily life?
My iPad mostly. I also take notes in Evernote, but honestly, pen and paper would work just fine. For email we use Outlook extensively. Microsoft also has a built in messenger, but it kind of sucks compared to Hangouts, that's how I correspond with a lot of my teammates and managers.
Have you ever designed something, but when marketing saw it they just didn't like it at all. Is it to not take that personally?
I've been blessed enough that that has not happen to me, but they did just shoot down two of my teammate's designs, so all those hours that they've spent…that's kind of funny. The projects that I've been assigned have been accepted. It's a huge blessing and it feels good.
It sounds like CEDRICMedia is at maintenance level, but even given that, where do you find time to work on it?
What usually happens is a client will contact me and say, "Aw man, I waited until the last minute, I know, but I will pay you extra. Can you get these flyers/brochures/this billboard done?" I usually accept because it's extra money and then I'll have a couple nights to get it done. I can't work on it at work, obviously, but when I get home, I'll work out, eat dinner, take a nap, and then work on the designs. It's like pulling an all-nighter basically, that's why I limit myself. It's good to have projects on the side and keep your mind fresh, but know when to rest.

Presentation Link

The link to Cedric's presentation can be found here.