Blog Post

Pixel art of Eric Newsome being interviewed

Interview with Eric Newsome

Job Title:

Web Manager 

Place of Work:

UVA Engineering 

Industry or Specialization:

I worked in higher education communication. 

What got you into Web Design/Development?

Leading up to my current role, I worked in communications support and administrative support in higher ed. In hindsight, even in prior non-technical roles, there was always some web or digital platform component. I have a degree in social science, and an interest in quantitative measures of human behavior, and have always gravitated towards digital and technical solutions and platforms, but it never really occurred to me until middle career that web platforms exist in the Venn diagram overlap between those domains.

What does a typical day or week look like for you? What sort of things do you do?

Most of my time (30% or more) is spent talking to content managers, assessing their needs and helping organize the content they plan to deploy on our web platform. We have roughly 50-100 content managers cycling on or actively working on the platform. Managing, onboarding and training new users is 30%. The remainder of my time, gets eaten up between periodic systems administration type tasks, working on the platform itself, compliance, performance optimization, security, troubleshooting issues, analytics, and staring at ceiling wondering “How can we make the platform better?”

What types of web technologies do you work with most often?

We use Drupal 7 CMS, and are in current development of Drupal 9 system working with a great vendor.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

I really like working in higher education – and many of the sites on our platform are maintained by graduate engineering students; when your job is keeping the digital train running, its helps when you genuinely like the passengers and the conductors.   

What do you wish you could change about your job?

More time? Web platforms and user expectations are ever evolving. My dream job would be on team sharing web tasks, spending 40% of our  time sharpening our skills/tools to build even better tools and the other 60% using them (instead of 10/90%).

Where do you see your section of the web development/design industry going?

Hmm… not sure about the industry itself, but two trends that anticipate impacting designers/developers that are basically continuations of existing broader trends:  

1. I think the ongoing design reorientation towards visually elegant and contextually organized design, and away from overelaborate and broadly targeted pages, will continue. The web will keep looking/functioning more like apps, and apps will feel more like microsites.

2. AI-defensive measures. Preventing an army of mindless robot Zombies from storming your content fort isn’t hard, but smart Zombies are coming – hordes, disguised to look like actual users and trained to act like humans, are just outside the gates. Sadly, I think everyone will be spending more time (or alternately a greater portion of support resources) devoted to security.  

What technology and/or skill do you wish you learned before you entered the industry?

Speaking of zombies… JavaScript. It was first going to die around 2010, and then 2015, and reports of its eminent demise as perennial as, well… JavaScript. I think the replacement of JavaScript in 2025 or 2030 on the web, will be better and tighter JavaScript.

What are you looking to learn or what skill are you looking to build next?

More analytic UX strategy, primarily streamlined reporting & project dashboarding. Personally I’m at crossroads of diving deeper into backend development/project management and focusing on user derived outcomes. Often the difference between a scalable $500,000 enterprise site and a $15,000 mediocre webpage is not the CMS, or visual design, or the even the technical frameworks utilized, it’s how well the tool was crafted to meet the end user’s needs. Just because you can forge the perfect sword, doesn’t mean you can mow grass with it.

What would you tell someone to do who’s looking to get into the industry? How should they best prepare themselves?

I never really felt a strong need to understand network security before, but if bots trying to access a site are like zombies trying to storm a castle, smarter zombies require smarter defenses and AI is changing everything. I’m looking at re-learning fundamentals now, so having solid fundamentals is always a good way to be/stay prepared for rapid changes.