How my online marketing career started with Transformers

Posted on November 10, 2017


As anyone who knows me will testify, I own a lot of Transformers toys. It may seem strange for someone in their 40s, outside of Steve Carell, to collect children’s toys, but here we are. I’m proud to admit it.

Someone once asked if I have ‘all’ of the Transformers, which just elicited laughter as a response – until I realised it was a serious question.

No, I do not have all of them. Nobody does. It’s impossible to have all of them. I probably have a couple of thousand, and that barely scratches the surface – even though I usually have at least one on preorder at any given time.

Why am I talking about Transformers and what relevance does it have to business? I assure you, I’m coming onto that. In a recent business presentation at a local networking event, I spoke about my background and passions, and showed the image featured at the top of the page as an example of what I used to be like. This was closely followed by the following image, showing what I’m like now.

As you can see, little has changed. Transformers fans, however, will note that everything has changed, as every Transformer in the first picture is different to the ones in the second picture, as I temporarily grew out of them. The follies of youth and getting rid of your childhood toys only to replace them again probably cost me several thousand pounds considering what they’re worth now.

OK, onto the business side of things.

My passion for Transformers led me to choose it as the basis for my first foray into web development. Way back in the late ‘90s, before Twitter and Facebook, and back when Yahoo was the biggest search engine, I first started to dabble with websites.

When you’re starting off like this, you should always begin with something you’re interested in, so I chose Transformers as a subject. I made a couple of Transformers-related websites, and they proved quite popular. They were featured in magazines such as .Net and Dreamcast magazine, and they attracted one or two visitors.

OK, they attracted thousands of visitors and built up a community of fans I still have regular contact with today. As well as this, they also launched my career in online marketing and secured my first real job at GAME, as their in-house web designer.

While I had no real work experience, no agency background or track record of working on large brand websites, what I had was a demonstrable passion for building websites because I actually wanted to do this. It’s as I tell my 13-year-old now, who is starting to learn web development himself – if you want a career in it, you need to do it, rather than wait for someone to give you the chance. Equally, when we’re recruiting at Engage Web, we don’t look at qualifications, or what courses people have done at college or university; we look at what websites they have designed and built. If someone has a qualification in web design but has never even built their own website, then they clearly don’t have a passion for the subject at all.

I had a passion for it, and it was obvious. I had also created, using video capture, my own animated GIFs of Transformers ‘transforming’. This was back in 1999, way before Twitter and Facebook even existed, never mind when they started using GIFs as responses.

Without an interest in Transformers, I would never have made those websites, I would never have created those animated GIFs and I would never have landed my first job as the web designer for GAME. It’s passion that drives creativity, and that’s why I do what I do now – and why I’m happy to tell anyone that, even at 40-something, I still readily collect toys that are predominately made for children.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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