Web Dev at a University
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I'm currently at a large agency and not terribly happy, and a position I'm qualified for has come up but the sort of web sites universities have tend to be... uninspiring. The money, more or less, is comparable, at least in the near term. I'm not overly inclined to take a shot at it but my wife insists that a university gig would look good on my resume (and it's union so paid overtime and all that nonsense). So any of you folks have any experience being a developer for a university?
those university jobs are available all the time like medical databases
Uninspiring is right. Big bureaucracies, lots of committees of people with no taste or design sensibility.
That said, it was one of the easiest gigs ever.
What university? You get to stay in TO?
- Ya, I'd cut about 25 minutes off my morning walk. ;) UofT.welded
I have a number of friends and a wife that work at universities in various capacities and 'bureaucratic' is a word I've come to associate with them, for sure. One thing I've learned while working at a big agency on major accounts is about the inertia everything has. We do good work, but I'm never going to get a chance at rebuilding a bank's site to fix all the problems an army of devs have introduced over the years. I feel like working at a university would be pretty similar. BUT I'm pretty unhappy and would, on paper, be running the site. A WordPress site, but still...
So is the prevailing opinion that it's not really a golden opportunity?
What is your gut telling you? Wife is digging it, shorter commute, union overtime stuff, summers off, more vacation? If anything put in a year or two and bounce, can't hurt. 9 times out of 10 if you're looking for a change the change finds you and my friend, you are in a great position to make a change if you want. Go through the process and if an offer is made then give it a good night's sleep to sort it out.
Honestly, my gut says "don't bother". There are a couple things to like, but I'm really wary of moving from one dull job to another. If something interesting *does* come up then I'd have to be prepared to move yet again. Plus I feel like it's worth my while to stay connected to the agency world.
Go through the process, if only to shake out the cobwebs and get some practice at competing for a job again.
Depending on the situation, you may find you get to do much more interesting work, with smarter people, than you would in an ad agency. (not that agencies don't have bright people in them.)
Plus I would think you're less likely to be stale-dated in a university than in an agency. See many 45 year old devs at your workplace?
HOWEVER, if you're just starting-out then stick in an agency setting, especially if there's a high-volume of diverse projects, and people to learn from/places to go in the organization.
I've been at this for a few years now but I'm still trying to get a feel for where I want to be. The small agency was great, but limited opportunities, which is why I jumped ship to the large agency, but it hasn't providing the changes I'd hoped for, not yet. Maybe for my own edification I should go for it. :/ That gives me a week to update my site.
I agree with monNom about going through the process. I've often gone on interviews for jobs I didn't even want just to practice negotiating (salary, vacation, etc.) so that when a great job did come along I would have practice in it. I hear you though, a friend of mine works at a university and with all the budget cuts there are not a lot of opportunities for advancement and additional pay so change may be a long time coming in that environment. Best of luck either way.
At a University job, wouldn't you be surrounded by college-age women?
I am a web designer, and now an art director at a university. The above points are valid - bureaucracies, dilution of concept, often ancient and conservative administrators who feel they have to have their in a project etc, but you can press through that.
Design competitions seem to be more forgiving for universities as well, which can help you get noticed as a designer/developer, and give you more autonomy.
Opportunities for free education (we can take 15 hours/year free), travel (my wife and I were sent to a conference in Paris, France to speak, which resulted in a publication), great vacations/holidays, and asked to teach upper-level design courses to art students. All great benefits of being in a university setting.
... and yes boobs, you would be correct. They are everywhere.
Budget and advancement are certainly issues on the other side of the coin. While a good designer/developer has little risk of being let go, advancement in these times is difficult. There are no merit-based raises, so good work, or bad work, you're paid the same, which can be depressing (at least the case here). I was promoted early in my career and spent the last few years feeling stuck, but trying not to let it sour my work.
I am moving in the opposite direction. Seeing the advancement obstacle more than ever, I am looking to go back to an agency. Now that I have a few years of work/teaching/art direction under my belt, I think I have the necessary experience to serve me well out there in the world. At least, I'm going to go give it my best.
Thanks for the feedback, all. :)
you will have great benefits but the work will get stale quick
I think emukid works at a university.
The work doesn't have to be stale, it would depend on your supervisors. Perhaps you could make things interesting? Things do tend to move slowly at most universities however and that can be frustrating for folks coming from a production focused environment. The benefits tend to be really good at universities and they are usually recession proof (mostly). I tend to think that a university job would be more compatible for a person with or starting a family because it is not so high pressure (typically) but if the pressure and fast pace of agency life gets you going, better stick with that.
- < very true , if you go in with pull you are setBattleAxe