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Heather Burns

I am glad you are here to write this post. I’m sorry you had to earn this rich wisdom in the way you did.

I speak and write and think, a lot, about how the web design and development professions suffer for our lack of formal professional organisation. We have no union, no centralised standards or membership group, no consultative body, no unified voice, and what we do have, such as platform-specific groups, inevitably descends into Pythonesque factions and power struggles.

So what’s the consequence of that state of play – it’s situations like yours. It’s an industry where everyone is each other’s friend and no one is acting as the parent. Organised professions take on that parent role – the one that orders you to switch off and leave the office for a week, to come and have a chat, or to attend a counselling session paid for by the union. We’ve got nothing and we’ve got no one.

One of the most talented and creative web professionals I ever encountered took her own life three years ago. She was online and social, both personally and as a job requirement, 24/7. She’d been hoarding prescription drugs for months and took them all in one swallow. She never tweeted or posted on FB about that, of course. TV shows, shop queues, plugins, yes. Her plans for that mountain of pills, no.

Now, it’s almost 2014, and we’ve got high schools teaching web design as Flash and Dreamweaver, and they get away with it because we don’t have a recognised, unified professional voice to give them a better curriculum. We’ve got “web professionals” whose sales strategy for their Drupal-based business is to personally attack designers who use WordPress (and vice versa), and they get away with it because there’s no sense of working towards something greater. And we’ve got web designers waking up intubated and sectioned (if indeed, they ever wake up again at all) because they have thousands of followers and friends and not one human being to call on the phone at 2 AM.

Something’s got to change here.