My day job is Senior Manager of Electronic Communications at the University of Chicago Law School, one of the top law schools in the United States (both President Obama and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once taught there). Despite the fancy title, I am basically a one-man web shop: I do everything from designing microsites to managing the Drupal installation upon which our site is built to curating our social media platforms and recording events for podcast. I also do some freelance web and print design work, and write and perform alt.country/Americana music, both solo and with my band, The Lost Cartographers.
I carry my personal 2012 MacBook Pro everywhere, even to work at the Law School, despite the fact that they provide me with a perfectly decent Windows machine on which to do most of my work; I’ve found that having a personal machine over which I have total control is vital in a situation in which I would otherwise have to wait for our IT department to install anything, even fonts.
And of course, my Fender Telecaster is an essential piece of hardware.
I know they’ve gotten flak from some in the design community, but I think Adobe’s Creative Cloud is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to freelance web professionals. In the past, I could never have (legally) afforded to have the entire creative suite on my personal machine, but now for a relatively small monthly fee I can have the latest version of every app Adobe makes. Throw in the Typekit subscription that comes with it, and I think it’s totally worth not being able to “own” the software. And, for the record: I still use Dreamweaver as a coding environment. Haters gonna hate, but that’s how I learned HTML back in the late 90s, and I love being able to easily switch back forth between code and a pretty decent (especially with recent improvements) WYSIWYG display. As far as other software goes, it took me a while to get turned on to Evernote, but now I love it. Finally, my work life would be a mess without the to-do app Asana.
I find it pretty easy to work under most any circumstances, but I do on occasion find myself dreaming about having my own office, with a door that I could close to keep people from interrupting me when I’m in a groove. Most of the time I love the open office setup our Communications office has, but sometimes you just need to be able to shut out the rest of the world and get some work done.
Before I became a full-time web professional, I was working toward a PhD in History of Religions, and I really enjoy when I have the chance to bring the theoretical frameworks that I was studying there to bear in my current work (it happens more often than you might think). I also get an immense amount of inspiration from the amazingly supportive (and fun) community centered around the HighEdWeb organization and conferences. It can be tough to find your tribe when you’re the only one in your office who does what you do, but this community has been a real lifeline for me.
You can find Aaron on Twitter at http://twitter.com/aaronrester.