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How I Got the Job : Web Page Designer

February 26, 1996

At 25, Gabriella Marks is an established designer of pages for the World Wide Web, the easy-to-browse graphics portion of the Internet global computer network. After graduating from a liberal arts college in Massachusetts and working for a pair of design firms, Marks made her way to San Francisco, where she's found plenty of freelance work on the cutting edge of cyberspace. Although it's a career with an uncertain future, Marks told Karen Kaplan that she has found her calling in the world of multimedia.

My father was a programmer. He's the ultimate geek. I am not a computer geek. My first experience with computers was in high school, where I laid out the yearbook on Macintoshes.

I went to Amherst College in Massachusetts and majored in women and gender studies. In college, I published my own magazine about music and underground bands using a Macintosh system. But I didn't associate that at all with being a computer programmer.

Then I began to read books about cyberpunk, which was a new way to think about technology. In 1990, when I was a sophomore and junior in college, technology started to become cool instead of just being IBM mainframes.

Then I discovered the Internet. I used electronic mail and newsgroups to do some research for my thesis.

After graduation in 1992, I started to think about a career. In the summers, I had mostly writing jobs. I knew that I was interested in computers and design but I didn't think there was any way to make money doing those things. So I worked at a record store in Boston for a while and continued to produce my magazine.

In the fall of 1993, I got a job as an office manager and production assistant at a design firm in Boston. While I was there, the Internet began to become this really big thing. One of the head designers saw that a lot of corporations would be getting on the World Wide Web, and she designed some of the first Web sites. That's where I started to look at HTML [hypertext markup language], the computer language for writing Web pages.

In January 1995, I decided I was ready to head to San Francisco, where Internet design was not an unfamiliar thing. I knew the new-media thing was really happening here. But I hadn't really specified in my head what "new media" meant.

When I got to San Francisco, one of the first things I did was learn HTML because I wanted to get a job at HotWired [the digital version of computer magazine Wired]. I learned HTML from books and from downloading manuals on the Web. I bought a book for $25 called "Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML in a Week."

The people at HotWired never responded to my application, but in March I got a job as a production artist in a public relations firm. I tried very hard to bring the Internet into the equation. I designed a prototype for the firm's Web page, but it was never launched.

About that time, I became involved with Women in Multimedia, a group I found out about on a computer bulletin board. I thought it would be a good opportunity to find out what sorts of jobs were available--what kinds of things people were doing and getting paid for. I wanted to meet someone who would hire me.

I found that people were coming to multimedia from very diverse angles. There are elementary school teachers and accountants. That gave me a good sense of how easy it was to get into new media.

Then a friend of mine decided to go to grad school, and her boss needed a new designer/researcher/production person. I started working for her doing Web sites for hire. The kinds of clients we have are companies like MCA, who want a promotional Web site for their new movie, or we'll do a Web site for the new Meatloaf album.

Working in the design firm was a real good education for me on how to work with clients and produce designs. Plus my experience with freelance writing gave me the confidence to quit my job and find work for myself.

We are all asking ourselves how long we can stay in this business. People are wondering what they'll be doing in a year. There's a feeling there is tons of work out there to produce good Web sites, but no one is sure how long it will last. I think there is anxiety about remaining ahead of the curve. Job security is another source of anxiety. There will continue to be demand for people producing for computers, but I have no idea how that will manifest itself. The traditional sort of corporate structure is not really prevalent. Most of the people doing this are between the ages of 20 and 35. The dream is to find a couple of people [to start a company] and do something really cool and go public and get rich.

Name: Gabriella Marks

Occupation: World Wide Web page designer

Education: Bachelor's degree in women and gender studies

Years of experience: One


Learning HTML

Here are Web page designer Gabriella Marks recommendations for sources on learning hypertext markup language, the Web's main programming language. Three of these are available on the Internet:

* "Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML in a Week," by Laura Lemay (397 pages, Sams Publishing).

* A Beginner's Guide to HTML,

* Composing Good HTML,

* Guides to Writing Good HTML,

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