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[_] Career advice needed please

George Crawford g.o.crawford at
Fri Feb 11 18:19:18 GMT 2011


First post from me, and it's a strange one as I'm actually based in London. The group was recommended to me by a web dev friend, and I wonder if you might be able to offer me some advice.

So, my first question is whether you know a similar list like this in London? I'm particularly looking for one with a PHP or web development focus, but in general a local London community of web professionals would be great if you have any suggestions.

But more importantly, I wonder if you might have any advice for me regarding my career development. I've been a freelance classical musician for about 10 years, and over that time my hobby of web design/development has become more and more interesting, time-consuming and financially rewarding. Although I'm not yet ready to give up on music, I feel that I have a lot of time and energy to invest, and perhaps my web development sideline could become more of a job.

I've built up a pretty solid skill-set as a PHP developer: I'm happy with OOP and Design Patterns, and very keen on Test-Driven Development, which I've employed on a number of Open-Source community projects. I've used Zend Framework to quite an advanced level for most of my recent projects, and Doctrine ORM for database work. I use Subversion, FTP, SSH, have some familiarity with UNIX servers and the command line, .htaccess and various Apache config settings, SQL, etc. On top of the back-end knowledge, I'm happy working in Photoshop & Illustrator, pretty reasonable in CSS and have written some complex UI applications in jQuery. I'm a keen advocate of web standards and accessibility, and I even comment my own code sometimes.

Very nearly all of my work so far has been as solo developer/designer from a home office. A couple of times I've worked with a designer friend, and I instantly found that in working as part of a team, I was far more productive, constructive and focussed in my approach, and with better results. 

I've likened this to my work as a musician - rather than wanting to be a soloist, my preferred work was as a valued member of an orchestra. So, what I'm looking for is an equivalent in the web development sphere. My perfect job would not be Mon-Fri, 9-5, but flexible in some way - either a mixture of remote/office work, or flexible days per week or hours per month. But to get out of the house and work with a talented team who share my interests is what I'm looking for.

I'd love some advice on whether such a company would be interested in me, how to start looking for that kind of work, what kind of payment to expect (or indeed ask for), whether my CV is anything like good enough to get any work, and various questions like that.

I am of course looking for a solid financial return in the long run, however in the short term I would be happy to work for a reduced rate if it gave me the valuable experience I'd need to get into the workplace. The must important thing really is that I'd no longer be the sole developer/designer, but that I'd be working with a team of designers, developers, UX experts, project managers, etc. and could share with, and learn from, my colleagues.

Any advice would be gratefully received.