It’s quite funny when you look back at your own life and see how far you have come right? Yesterday I uploaded a few design bits to a gallery of Facebook and called it a scrap book, just displaying some of the work I have created over the last year or so. It got some really good support from some friends, old and new alike. One person stood out from the rest, a previous employer of mine… Lets back track about 7-8 years.
Back in 2002/03 I worked for a rather popular Internet Cafe chain called Nethouse. I was originally based at the Barking branch but then got moved over to the most popular branch- Baker Street. I was basically the tech guy there, everyday I came to work, re-imaged all of the machines, about 50 in total, well apart from the odd machine that a gamer had become attached too, by attached I mean he’s been on it for three days and is in desperate need of a shower. The rest of my day revolved around playing Counter-Strike and helping idiots printing documents. It was a pretty well oiled machine, when I first arrived at that branch it was pretty much a sinking ship, all the machines were in dire need of upgrades, the night staff were forever getting pissed on Vodka (The company was owned and run by Russians) and there were probably more viruses on the machines than on a Eastern European hospital floor. Needless to say I feel I got that place turned around and making money again.
We used to see a wide range of customers; Students getting their gaming fix, business types sending emails, tourists sending photos home and the odd pervert that thought it is perfectly acceptable to browse porn sites during the day with children running around in the shop. Finley Quaye also frequented the cafe when his Internet went down on a regular basis, he used the shop to get onto his forums and stay in touch with his fans, now that’s dedication for you. Over time you end up building relationships with the regular customers, you get to understand their lives a little more and you begin to realise why they frequent the shop, of all the people 1 guy stood out the most, a very sharply dressed, chain smoking gentleman with what seemed like an endless supply of cash. Several days went past and he was in the shop from morning until night with 2 other guys, my imagination run wild with theories on what they were doing and how they could afford it as £5 for an hours usage is pretty expensive, that worked out at £15 per hour for 3 machines, more than what I was even being paid at the time. I finally plucked up the courage to go and see what they were doing…
Domain Name Brokering. For any one that doesn’t know what that is it’s basically when you buy a popular domain name, you know something like fastcar.com, you buy it for around $10 and then sell it on for incredible amounts of cash. The more popular (and expensive) domain names were 3 letter domains, something like abc.com or zzz.com, they would reach into figures like 500k. At that time stealing domain names was pretty easy, if you didn’t renew a domain the second it ran out the chances are it would get ‘acquired’ by a domain broker and sold back to you at a ridiculous price, that was always an iffy part of the business. The other issue was emailing potential customers for the domains, ISP’s didn’t like spam and the laws surrounding spam at that time were pretty much non-existant, but it was frowned upon. Hence the reason this guy used the Internet Cafe for his business.
So eventually we got talking and it turned out he was looking for a designer that could build sites for clients that bought domain names, so off I went and I built a few templates in HTML and sold them to him for a few quid, he was quite impressed, probably one of the first people to recognise I had a talent and wanted to pay me for that talent. Of course it wasn’t the first design job I had but I’ll probably save that for another blog. Anyway a few weeks passed us by and he announced he was moving to a new office over in Blackfriars, things must of been going really well for him because getting an office on Ludgate Circus (a stones throw from St Paul’s Cathedral) wouldn’t of been cheap. He gave me his number and told me to give him a call if I’m ever looking for work.
A few months passed us by and then I got a visit from the owners of the Cafe, they were extremely pleased with the way the store had turned out and recognised the fact that me being there on a full time wage was pretty needless, I was let go as the idiots there knew how to re-image a machine in the mornings making my position redundant, sometimes I wish I let the machines get into a state again so I would still have had a job but looking on it from a business point of view they were simply paying me to play Counter-Strike.
As I left that job I remembered the guy that offered me some work so I gave him a call, he wasn’t really looking for anyone on a permanent basis but he created a position for me anyway, the day I started I walked into a huge office, big enough for 20 people and workstations, the fact of the matter is there was only 3 people and 3 workstations, the money must of been pouring in. On my first day we took a cab down to Tottenham Court Road and went to the Sony Centre where he bought me a £1500 machine, a desktop Vaio that was armed to the teeth with the latest tech and a screen that could of quite easily been bigger than my TV.
I was working there for around a year and was quite easily the best job I had ever had. About 8 months into the job we moved to a more modest sized office next to Blackfriars Station and I could only guess that the business wasn’t doing as well as it should of, tensions were high in the office and my weekend ‘recreational’ activities often left me in a pretty sour mood for the duration of the week, I think my motto at that time was something like ‘Work Hard and Party a Lot Harder”. Eventually everything just cracked and me and my boss had a massive arguement/slagging match in the middle of the office. I left and regretted it.
He always gave me glowing references and we sort of stayed in touch for a few years, I hadn’t heard hide nor hair of him for a few years until I found him on Facebook about 6 months ago, he has now become a professional Poker player and seems to of made a big name for himself, he won a major prize last year and spends his time travelling the globe, seeing sights that the likes of me and you only ever dream of seeing. But then I look at myself and see what I have achieved in that period of time and then it suddenly dawns on you that no matter what you were doing 8 years ago there is always time to improve. No matter what dramas we go through in life or whatever you see yourself doing, things will pretty much always change, some for the worse and some for the good, it really doesn’t matter as everything we go through shapes you into the person you are today.
Where will we all be in 8 years time?