New Directions

by Stephanie (Sullivan) Rewis on March 2, 2012

In 1999, when I started my journey through the interwebs, I had no real idea where it would take me. I barely knew what was possible. I only knew that my brain loved puzzle-type thinking, detective work, research and figuring things out. And I suspected code would access the parts of my mind that love a work out—and so I pursued it. Vehemently. For the first 12 months, I did tutorials for 15 hours a day and got any friend that might possibly need a website to let me create theirs. (And for the very first customers, may I apologize for the frame and table-based layouts.)

And as I learned, I had questions—lots of them—and I inflicted every one of them on the unsuspecting, and gracious souls on a couple of web design lists. (The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask!) As my skills grew, I began answering the questions of people who knew less than I and continued to pick the brains of those who knew more. Within a couple of years, I had accidentally created a business via business owners who had planned to build their own web site only to find it wasn’t as easy as they expected. Due to the number of questions I answered on the list, they wrote me offlist for a quote to, “Please, just do it for me”.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that there’s a whole lot to this web design business. And some portions I enjoyed more than the others. In looking at where I thought the puck was going, I ventured into the world of CSS—that marriage of code and design—and I loved it. I gleaned great enjoyment from changing a designer’s beautiful comp into light-weight, web-ready markup (I’m too much of a tweak-a-holic to design). And so I moved into specialization in the portion of the industry we now call front-end development.

My desire to give back led me to accept requests to write articles and books (even though I really dislike writing). Writing led to speaking at industry events. Speaking led to doing training in corporations. Filing zillions of bugs to make Dreamweaver move into the realm of Web Standards led to my work with the Web Standards Project (WaSP) as well as working as a contractor for Adobe to create the CSS Layouts contained in Dreamweaver. And writing a book teaching both CSS and Dreamweaver while using those layouts as a base for each project led to discovering the other half of my brain—my co-author Greg Rewis. Now my husband, soul mate, and co-captain on Geeks4Sail. Every choice I’ve made to give—even when there wasn’t a guaranteed return—has come back from the universe in amazing ways I hadn’t envisioned. It’s been a great ride.

And even though I’ve loved every minute of sharing, learning and teaching others, and of working with awesome agencies, companies and start-ups—I still leave them with the code and walk away to start the next contract. I rarely get to see a product through to fruition or have any further affect on its development. I can’t continually help the code evolve as the web changes. I just hand it off and move to the “next thing”.

But all that’s gonna change…

I was recently approached by a start-up (oddly enough, right here in the Phoenix area). We initially discussed their need for a top notch front-end developer to build their web app—probably a six month contract. We discussed what they were building for about an hour—and I got this feeling in my gut. You know the one that hits you in the pit of your stomach and says, “I really, really feel like this is a thing“? That one. But having been taught by my parents never to trust my gut—always use your head—I did the obedient thing and went to the web for some Google research. As you do… That research made the feeling in my gut even stronger. And a series of meetings with the CEO, CTO and team over the past couple weeks has evolved into my decision to make a full-time commitment—forsaking all others. This is a big step for me after 12 years of independence. I should feel a twinge of sorrow. But I don’t! I’m as excited as I’ve been about anything in years.

I am now officially the VP of Interface Architecture for Contatta (Italian for “be in contact with”), helping to create a new era in Contact Management. And while a product related to CRM may not sound like a sexy start up to you, Pat Sullivan, the co-creator of ACT!, and founder of SalesLogix is a founder of this company. Along with Sunil Padiyar who was a founding member of SalesLogix as well. When the man that helped create an industry 25 years ago says he thinks it could be in a better place—and in fact has ideas about changing a currently stagnant industry—I listened. And in listening, I was impressed enough to get on board.

Not only am I excited about the product, I’m super excited about the team they’ve already assembled. I’m going to have the opportunity to work with some amazingly top-notch devs and we’ve already been exchanging ideas. I’m literally chomping at the bit to get started!

Lest any clients (or prospective clients) are concerned, I’ve got great back-up with good friends and co-contractors like Emily Lewis (of “Microformats Made Simple” and “HTML5 Cookbook” fame), Leslie Flinger (front-end developer and former Director of Marketing at EllisLab) and others. You’ll be in great hands!

A recommendation on Contatta’s Facebook wall says – “With Pat behind it … here’s hoping for a real game changer for the industry!” I agree with that and I’ll take it a step further and say, “With the team behind Pat, we’re gonna work to make awesomeness—and maybe a ding in the Universe.”

EDIT 3/7: Some have emailed to ask whether I’ll still be speaking. Yes, on a more limited basis—but not once a month as I have been. Feel free to send requests. :)

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Shailesh Ghimire March 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Congratulations! I am sure Contatta will be highly successful.

Deborah Edwards-Onoro March 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Congrats Stef ! Wonderful news to hear. I’m grateful for all you’ve shared in your articles, posts, book and forums; I know my work has benefited from you sharing your knowledge. I look forward to hearing more about the product and your work at Contatta. Wishing you the best!

John Burkhard March 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm

That’s awesome, congrats! Was hoping you were going to start teaching newbs like me, but always glad to hear when someone makes a positive move in their career path :)

Stephanie (Sullivan) Rewis March 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Thanks guys! I appreciate it. I’m sure I’ll be blogging Contatta CSS and other fun subjects. :)

And John, don’t give up hope… Once I’ve got my life switched around, I’ll actually have more time on weekends, etc (being independent is VERY time-consuming). Greg and I have some good ideas about training for web newbs and we’ll share that with you later.

Laurie Casolino March 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Congratulations Stef!! Knock ‘em dead!! :-)

Jonathan Snook March 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Congratulations! I look forward to seeing the results of your new efforts. :)

Ruth Kalinka March 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Congratulations, Stef! Passionate about CRM design? Just knowing you’re on the team gives me hope that the whole industry will get a major overhaul. Have fun and good luck!

Tiffany Wardle March 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm

You are one of the ladies I’ve watched on Twitter for a few years now. I could tell something big was going down. I’m very excited for you and wish you all — and only — the best!

Chris Flick March 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Stef, I would say congratulations but that word always struck me as having a tinge of “luck” somewhere in it and we all know luck had nothing to do with all of your hard work. So instead of congratulations, I will say “good job” at following your brain AND your gut. You’ll be great (like those of us who know you didn’t already know that). Here’s to your next wonderful journey…

Chris Georgenes March 2, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Well done Steph! Well done!

Daniel Sofer March 2, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Congratulations Stef! If it feels right, you just gotta do it!
Have fun!

Kate March 3, 2012 at 2:37 am

Good luck Steph,

Thank you for the knowledge you share so ‘unselfishly’:

Thank you for keeping your WebW list going:

Have a wonderful new begining, most of all enjoy every moment, you deserve it.
K

Georg Portenkirchner March 3, 2012 at 4:15 am

Congratulations and good luck!

Alexandre March 3, 2012 at 7:39 am

Congratulazioni a entrambi!! (To you for the gracious state of gut-feeling, and to Contatta for having you on board).

Maaan! Hearing about ACT! takes me back a few years (back when I was living in Miami, little before that-now-husband-of-yours dazzled me with the Broadmoor site in a Roadshow -did I say a few years? A decade is more like it!).

I owe you both great times in my professional career (and a big LOL reading your “frame and tabled-based” apology).

Enjoy it!

Robert C March 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

Congrats again Steph!!!
Wishing you all the success with this new venture. I’m very excited and thank you for always being there for me as a mentor and the continued support. It’s been years now that we’ve known each other and thanks to you it’s why I’ve been successful in this business. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Best
R

Leslie Jensen-Inman March 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

I ♥ that you’re going to make awesomeness! I know that you will put a ding in the Universe because you already do:) Congratulations, I’m so happy for you.

Mark Anders March 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Congratulations, Stephanie! That’s wonderful news and I hope that it is a rewarding, fun and profitable adventure. Good luck!!!!

Mark

G. Armour Van Horn March 3, 2012 at 6:40 pm

That’s got to be gut-wrenching to give up the independence, I hope it works better for you than it ever did for me. Of course, being a VP of a startup should mean a good paycheck if it all comes together, you haven’t been independent as long as I have, and you’re certainly more flexible!

Best of luck,

Van

Sandra Roszell McDaniel March 7, 2012 at 10:20 am

Stef, I am so proud of you and your accomplishments! Just enjoy the journey and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses with family and friends along the way! We love you!
Sandra & Jerry

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