Ben Schofield is a 23 year old adventure sports fanatic. From December 2013, Ben has started a new career in digital technology, startups and entrepreneurship. Follow this blog as Ben writes about his experiences, learning a new industry from scratch as an Apprentice to @r3trosteve

So on December 1st 2013, I quit my job within retail to start an "Apprenticeship"  with my eldest brother,  Steve at Beach (formerly Double Digital).

A long road ahead - learning, creativity, tea and coffee making and more learning. Where my brother is today, 3 years on after leaving his full time job, having increased his wealth of knowledge within the technical side of web design, creating, building, consulting and coding, and where he is today, is where I would like to hopefully be in the next 3 years. 

This meant I was going to have to throw everything at this, if I wanted to succeed and to prove to  Steve that I am able to make it profitable to have me working for him, I would have to load my brain with the necessary  tools that he uses to do his job and to do it well. 

 

Project Administration

So, first things first, Steve handed me the responsibility of his admin duties, uploading data from his project expense reports into the billing service which Freeagent offers. I have found Freeagent to be a fantastic program to follow the progress of our developers, most of which work overseas; its an easy way to log their work hours, and to keep a record of outgoing expenses and bills to clients. Social media plays a huge part of Beach, so using Hootsuite, which is a great program to have when you have multiple social media pages for various logins, which you can control all from page, so uploading relevant topics about social media, digital media to the Double Digital (@steve: Double Digital is in the process of being rebranded as Beach.io, references to both maybe used interchangeably) Facebook, twitter, etc, I found that I could kill too much time looking for a topic to use, so I needed to cut down on time spent looking through blog pages and websites to find sourceable information. 

@steve: distraction is a productivity killer. You need to be very disciplined, especially when doing research for social media or a project. The web is there to suck you in. Maintain a focus on your objectives and stick to strict time allocation for each task.

 

A few Programs I am using a lot are Elance, Odesk, Transparent business, Hubstaff and Freeagent. The first three are which we use for our developers so they can record their timesheets for us to see, to make sure that they are working their hours, on track with project deliverables and so we don;t have to keep interrupting them with constant status updates. They're very simple programs to follow, as it gives you the week and their total hours worked, which you can then go into a single day to see the daily hours where i need to then input that into Freeagent. I use Freeagent to input their timesheets so that when he need’s to, Steve can pay them. The only problem that I found, is when you click onto the developers work that they have been doing, its hard to see what the topic is, as i need to put a task into Elance, it can make it hard, so hopefully now the developers will start labelling their work to make it easier for us to see what task there on. 

@steve: Great point Ben. I need to ensure that there is a balance between accuracy of the data captured and balanced to ensure that it’s not getting in the way of the developers. It was easier when I was doing the admin work myself as I generally know what’s being worked on, but this isn’t scaleable and so more diligence in stating current Job Number, Job Title and Task in time tracking reports is necessary. I’ll raise this with the team.

 

Web Design Basics

Steve set me up with his Lynda.com Training site, This is a fantastic site to learn anything on the computer, my first training course was the HTML essential training course, this showed and taught you the basics of coding a website from scratch, It made sense to me that while learning how to code and build a basic website I may as well build something in which I could use in the future. Within this I found it’s very simple to make a mistake, in which it could cause the whole website not to work, so it was important to make sure you had all the correct coding in place, for example:

<h1 class="LR-site-title" style="display: none;">SILICON BEACH Labs</h1> <!-- This is correct. -->
<h1 class="LR-site-title" style="display: none;">SILICON BEACH Labs<h1> <!-- This is not correct. -->

In this example I have forgotten to put in the forward slash at the end of the closed tag, this is telling the website that it isn't closed so wouldn't format the heading. This shows it is important to make sure your work is neat, colour coded, and formatted correctly in order for your coding to work correctly.

@steve: Colour coding will be done automatically via your text editor, such as Sublime Text, which you are using. But, paying attention to the colour coding patterns will help you identify issues in your code. Formatting your html is also very important, particularly in static sites where you may end up with lots of html code in a single document, making it hard to read. A nice article here

 

From this HTML course I moved onto Essential CSS training, which I was looking forward to as design, art and graphics are what I enjoy most. To be able to learn how to format and design my page into how I would like it to look was very interesting and meant I was able to play around with photoshop, illustrator, and After effects.

 

Throughout the learning of html they kept referring to a “stylesheet” which they had not explained and I didn't know why I didn't have a stylesheet - this confused me. I then learnt that while building your html you start to build up a stylesheet in which you can use to make formatting your pages similar otherwise you would have to go through every page of your site and format the coding, whereas if you have a stylesheet it will make all the headings the same, the paragraphs the same, etc etc. 

So for example: 

class.mega-title h1 {
padding: 0;
margin: 0;
font-size: 40px;
font-weight: normal;
font-style: normal;}

@steve: can you amend your above example to valid CSS please. Check class selector . notation and remember to close it properly.

This is just some example of formatting in CSS, this says that all H1’s should look like this, which you can easily go into padding or font-size and change the value off.

Marketing Essentials

I have also briefly been looking online marketing essentials on Lynda.com, The marketing funnel is a consumer focused marketing model which illustrates the theoretical customer journey towards the purchase of a product or service. 

This an example of the Nutribu funnel that I created this to show how many installs, register, and profiles are being generated through our app, out of screen is a table to show figures. I will be looking creating some Facebook and Google ads as well as some A/B testing.  A/B testing is where you send out either 2 of the same emails, newsletters, or something similar but you may only change one factor, that could be a “Click here” button to a “Press Here” button or “Sign up now” to a “create profile” button, you would then send the two out to your client base and see what gets a better response. I am currently still working through the course for essential online marketing tools, and will come back to add more about this in the near future.    GRAPHIC DESIGN FUNDAMENTALS My favourite thing to be doing is being creative, whether that's with a pen and paper, or painting, so I really wanted to get to grips with Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects, so once again I found myself back on the Lynda.com website on each other essential learning courses, taking notes where I thought was appropriate to help me learn. I have past experience with Photoshop, I dabble with it now and again on my Ipad, and computer but never have I got looked fully in depth with the program, I look forward to continue to grow and expand my knowledge of these 3 programs to help me progress in my career, creating me more work opportunities in the near future. The most difficult thing I find at the moment within Illustrator is when drawing paths, I find it difficult to remember where the anchor points should be, and and which direction to drag them to create a curved line.  Overall, the last 6 weeks has been a real eye opener for me, I am thoroughly enjoying the learning and find it very mind stimulating, However I will look forward to some extra work from either Sergio or Nuno, which will increase my wages. 

This an example of the Nutribu funnel that I created this to show how many installs, register, and profiles are being generated through our app, out of screen is a table to show figures. I will be looking creating some Facebook and Google ads as well as some A/B testing. 

A/B testing is where you send out either 2 of the same emails, newsletters, or something similar but you may only change one factor, that could be a “Click here” button to a “Press Here” button or “Sign up now” to a “create profile” button, you would then send the two out to your client base and see what gets a better response.

I am currently still working through the course for essential online marketing tools, and will come back to add more about this in the near future. 

 

GRAPHIC DESIGN FUNDAMENTALS

My favourite thing to be doing is being creative, whether that's with a pen and paper, or painting, so I really wanted to get to grips with Illustrator, Photoshop and After Effects, so once again I found myself back on the Lynda.com website on each other essential learning courses, taking notes where I thought was appropriate to help me learn. I have past experience with Photoshop, I dabble with it now and again on my Ipad, and computer but never have I got looked fully in depth with the program, I look forward to continue to grow and expand my knowledge of these 3 programs to help me progress in my career, creating me more work opportunities in the near future. The most difficult thing I find at the moment within Illustrator is when drawing paths, I find it difficult to remember where the anchor points should be, and and which direction to drag them to create a curved line. 

Overall, the last 6 weeks has been a real eye opener for me, I am thoroughly enjoying the learning and find it very mind stimulating, However I will look forward to some extra work from either Sergio or Nuno, which will increase my wages.