Home » Blog » From Spanish Beaches to Starting a Business

From Spanish Beaches to Starting a Business

A Personal Career Journey, told to us by Jackie Latham

How I became Jackdaw Web Design

Once upon a time, in the days when Windows were things to be cleaned and Apples kept the doctor away, I did a degree in French and Spanish and had an absolute blast.  The opportunity to spend a year living in Spain with nothing to do but eat, drink and sunbathe (oh, and visit the university library every now and again) was not one I would have missed for the world.

But what to do afterwards?  I wasn’t good enough to be a translator, and teaching was never going to be an option for me, so I ended up applying for anything and everything.  Apparently I was too gentle to be a banker or a sales person or an NHS manager, and had no interest in retail or marketing, so the only option left was to apply for the civil service.  I aced the entrance exam and then sailed through the interview and was then put on a waiting list until a suitable appointment came up.

But to find me that suitable appointment, I had to fill a form in saying where I’d like to work. And on the bottom of that form was an extra little ticky box which said “Would you be interested in DP (data processing – we call it programming now!) training?”.  And next to the box was a little sentence that said “If you are, we’ll pay you an extra £2,000 a year”.  £2,000! That’s a fairly hefty sum now, but imagine how much that was worth in 1985? It was a no brainer.

So that’s how I got into computing.  I started work the following February at the DHSS (now the DWP) in Longbenton where I did a six week training course on COBOL and batch control languages.  And I took to it like a duck to water.

However, I didn’t take to the DHSS with quite so much enthusiasm – far too much politics and bureaucracy for my liking. And then when they started doing team building days building rafts to float down almost freezing rivers {{shudder}} I knew my time was up.

Next step was Newcastle University, where I stayed for another few years. It was a happy time, but not really an IT job – more of an admin job which I turned into an IT job by building a database and automated mailing system for their Open Days. (Typical of me – you can take the girl out of IT but you can’t take IT out of the girl!)

Then I saw an advert for British Airways who were recruiting “women returners”, and on a part-time basis too. I looked at that ad and just knew the job was mine, before I’d even filled in the application form.

And there I stayed for the next twenty years, some of them the best of my life, some of them the worst.  But even during the really bad times, I never fell out of love with IT – again, it was the politics and the bureaucracy I couldn’t handle.

So when the offer for voluntary redundancy came a couple of years ago, I decided that it was time to call it a day, and make myself a job where I could do as much IT as I liked, but with no politics and no bureaucracy.  So that’s where I am now.  I do a bit of web design, a bit of building websites, a lot of fixing broken sites, and even some IT management consultancy with some of the bigger ecommerce firms in the area.

Is it fun? Oh, yes.

Do I have bad days? Oh, yes. Web design is a fiercely competitive business, since everyone thinks they can just knock up a website, which, to be honest, they can.  The skill is in creating a website which generates business – after all, if it doesn’t it’s really not worth having.

Am I pleased I made the change? Oh, hell, yes. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Jackie Latham

Jackdaw Web Design

Leave a Reply