Are You an Autodidact?

What do Kurt Cobain, Frank Lloyd Wright and Leonardo Da Vinci have in common? They’re all autodidacts—or individuals who are self taught. The CHIEF team counts more than a fair share of autodidacts to our BRAVE gang of creative and technology masterminds. From CTO, Clay Marshall, teaching himself to build websites on Drupal in the early days of the internet to CCO Chris Lester drawing logos on his notebooks long before InDesign was invented—our legacy of self-learning is as deep as it is important to the fabric of who we are.

As we expanded to open our West Coast operations we found this theme prevalent in the personal and professional lives of the CHIEF Portland crew. Our own Senior Developer, Ray Estrada, holds a BFA in Fine Arts and started his career as a graphic designer. He now manages some of our largest websites and is an expert at Drupal and front end development. You may be asking yourself, how’d that happen?

Beyond passion, grit and a naturally curious disposition, the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention,” certainly played a part. Ray started learning basic HTML and CSS in the mid 2000s as graphic designer to fill a need at his agency. After years of on the job experience, a little trial by fire and one big move across country, Ray was hired by CHIEF’s CTO Clay Marshall. A former art major turned technologist himself, Clay appreciated Ray’s can-do attitude and creative approach to technology—knowing hisbrand-first beliefs would fit right in with CHIEF’s BE BRAVE ethos.

Since joining CHIEF, Ray has taught himself Drupal site building and module development—in addition to developing designs and layouts. Eventually Ray began managing large-scale, complex deployments for clients such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Cambia Health Solutions. On his own time he developed a toolkit—comprised of a combination of UI foundational elements, a prototyping web framework and a styleguide generator—that is CMS agnostic, running on npm, Gulp, Webpack and Handlebars. This toolkit has been instrumental to streamlining our development processes, while also creating a source library of reusable code that is constantly evolving to keep pace with technological advancements.

When asked about his ongoing autodidact endeavors, Ray had this to say: “I have an insatiable desire for learning. It’s like a fire igniting new ideas, illuminating what was once hidden and opening new doors.”

The common thread of passion and performance has been seen time and time again at CHIEF. We are infinitely impressed and grateful for Ray’s keen artistic eye and technical prowess—the combination of which makes him the ideal liaison between the design and technical teams and allows us to improve processes to find the best possible solutions for our clients.


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