Happy to be caught in the web
Self-confessed ‘geek’ Caroline Hagan from Wallsend explains why making her family proud motivates her and the body art that inspired her to name her web design and development company Blueocto.
What did you want to be growing up?
I always enjoyed art and being creative so one day my mam turned around and said: “you should be a graphic designer”. I wasn’t really sure what that was at the time, but I made it my goal. Throughout school I pursued Art and Design with a passion, later going on to college to do a National Diploma in Graphic Design, then university to study Design, Multimedia and Graphics.
I was always intrigued by technology especially computing but none of my family was into it. It took some persuading to get our first PC with internet – it was ground-breaking! There was no such things as CSS, or Google back then, so I learned everything from books and taught myself web design and development.
How did you end up in the job you’re doing now?
I knew at uni I had to get a job as a designer, and I broke into the industry in my second year, as a Graphic Designer in a small, but wellknown agency. From there I moved onto other agencies taking on more web design and development responsibilities. I was working at a great family-run company when sadly my mam was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were all heart-broken. I decided that instead of being employed, I would go self-employed to spend more time with my mam but two weeks before my notice was due, she sadly passed away whilst abroad. After spending almost a week in Spain we were finally home, with my father safe and sound. I don’t think I can remember half of the work I did in the months following.
You wouldn’t believe it, but two weeks after we returned, I found out I was pregnant, then three months later me and my now husband Stephen were jetting off to California on a pre-booked holiday, to get married in Las Vegas – very hillbilly! Haha! Our daughter was born in the August 2014, 11 days before my mam’s birthday – how spooky.
Needless to say, the first two years of self-employment were hard and rocky and I learned a lot of business lessons, as well as life lessons. I think it has made me more confident about my choices in life, and the thought that I have to spur myself on for my family and make my parents proud gives me a lot of incentive to stick through the bad times as well as the good. I finally went Limited in March 2015 and now I feel I’m finally making some traction. I’m hoping 2017 will be very productive and I can’t wait to meet lots of new exciting people.
Have qualifications got you where you are, has it been sheer hard work and talent or a combination?
I have to say education got me so far, but all the hours spent outside of education, working on my own projects; taking other people’s websites and breaking them down, finding out what made it tick, definitely gives me an advantage. I think just having love for what I do – I ate and slept design. I drove my parents mad, hoarding papers, boxes, posters, leaflets, clothing labels, just because of how they were designed. I still have all my old sketchbooks from college and university. I hope it will inspire my daughter to be creative and pursue her passions too.
Do you feel pressure to be a role model to others?
No I don’t. I’ve always been the wallflower, the geek, the outsider. I feel I’ve embraced it and although now it’s ‘trendy’ to be geeky or nerdy, it’s more true to my nature. I love helping others and like to inspire, as well as be inspired by other people and businesses too. If I feel I’ve helped someone, I’ve accomplished something.
Do you prefer networking on social media or face-to-face?
A bit of both, they both have their benefits. Facebook and the like are great for connecting with like-minded individuals, less formality. But I love meeting people, hearing their stories and what they do for a living over a nice cuppa!
What is a very underrated business skill?
Being genuine and honest. I can’t lie to save my life, but why would I want to? I think just being yourself is hard in business, and I think a lot of people feel they need to be like someone else, or a persona. But you can have such great relationships and friendships with genuinely people, who love what they do, and just do it!
How will the web industry evolve over the next five years?
So much is coming in terms of technology, for example VR (virtual reality) and sensory experiences – the world of technology we knew before iPhone was different to what we do now every day. In five years time, it’ll be different all again. Lots of learning to do as I have to keep on top of it before it goes mainstream so I can teach my clients how to use it too.
Which three people would you like to work with?
I’d love to be sat at a table having a chat with the likes of web developer Nicole Sullivan, graphic designer Sarah Parmenter and Jeffrey Zeldman who’s the Godfather of web standards.
What would readers be surprised to know about you?
I run a few blogs which I don’t really shout about, I also have a mad side project which currently has about 17,32 files to it – only got another 29k to process! Hopefully I’ll get it online in 2017/18 so watch this space 🙂 Non web-related, I have traced my family tree and on my mother’s paternal side I’ve got as far back as the 16th Century.
And I have a UV tattoo on my right forearm of an octopus but you can’t obviously see it without a light – that’s where my business name comes from Blueocto 🙂