Of disability, Web design, and opportunity

This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.

Greetings stairhaters. A couple of posts back, I gave you a rather vague idea of what I was planning to get myself into professionally.

First, I’m laying the groundwork for forming an LLC through which I will do professional Web design work. Second, in order to gain experience and help out the community which has helped me so much, I’m planning a “project” through which I will offer free Web design services to charitable, non-profit organizations based in Mississippi. Will share more about that soon. Third, I may be getting involved with a local organization who has made it a priority to stop SMA.

Let me explain my logic behind the first and second ideas in the quote above. I intended to start out doing volunteer work for charitable, nonprofit organizations based in Mississippi. I wanted to iron out my workflow, improve my portfolio, and contribute to my community. Once I decided I was ready, I was going to form my LLC and begin taking commercial projects. As a bonus, I was hoping to still be able to do volunteer charity work as well as get other new web designers and developers involved.

Then I met Jeff Horton, president of the newly formed Stop SMA. We had lunch and a nice talk wherein I agreed to be the webmaster for Stop SMA as well as help with their events and other projects as a member of the Advisory Committee. Shortly thereafter, I attended Stop SMA’s first board meeting. It was a great experience, and before long, I had agreed to work on Stop SMA’s print materials. Since I’ve been spending a lot of time doing stuff for Stop SMA, my charity project idea has sort of taken a backseat. More accurately, it has changed forms. Although I didn’t realize it at first, volunteering with Stop SMA is a huge opportunity for me professionally as well as personally. Here’s why.

Let’s start with the really obvious stuff. I have SMA! Being able to work with a local charity who is trying to cure my disease is too good of an opportunity to pass up. Now only that, but they want me to be their webmaster and graphic designer, which is exactly the field I was looking to get into.

In preparing Stop SMA marketing materials and planning for the next version of the Stop SMA website, I have been reading a lot of articles and several books on various relevant topics. What’s so exciting about working with Stop SMA is that there is seemingly endless possibilities. The organization is very young and excited about moving forward. Getting to know the people involved has been a great experience. Everyone has had a great attitude. The climate of the organization fosters openness, honesty, and the free flow of ideas. It’s about doing something for others. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about working together.

Yesterday, the following idea struck me. I am in an organization who has given me a great amount of freedom to influence their entire marketing strategy. Heck, they’re letting me write the strategy! Really. For the last week or so, I have been planning Stop SMA’s content strategy. This strategy includes the next version of the Stop SMA website, our entire social media presence, and various print materials. Obviously I am not, nor have I intended to be, a dictator. Everyone in the organization has input and the buck does not stop with me. But they are letting me do much of the planning and organizing for our various marketing outlets. For being an organization as a new graduate for just about a month, that’s a whole lot of responsibility. I’m grateful that they trust me enough to give me this much responsibility. It has been and will be a great learning experience. It will give me the chance to take a project from the early planning stages all the way through to the end. I will be able to see what worked and what didn’t work. And all that experience will make me a better web designer and project manager.

So right now, I see Stop SMA at sort of an internship or a jump-start into a career in web design and consulting. It’s exciting. It’s fun. And it’s for a really great cause that affects me personally. I don’t believe I could have asked for a better opportunity than this!

Thanks to all the folks at Stop SMA who have given me the chance to prove myself in a world where new grads need 5 years experience to get an interview. And thanks to all those who have been supporting the efforts of Stop SMA. Together, we’re going to make great things happen.

Cheers.