Shawn and I have been following The FWA since we started the company in my parents basement in 2004 so it’s a real honor to have our work featured on the site.
NS: My name is Nicholas Scimeca and I'm the Creative Director at WCST. I'm 30 years old and I currently live in Los Angeles. In my role, I collaborate closely with our designers and developers to create smart and beautiful digital projects.
SH: My name is Shawn Hilgart and I’m the Director of Technology at WCST. I am a self taught developer and lover of all things technology. I like to cook, read and talk development over some craft beer. At WCST I focus on our digital strategy and the development of technology and tools that guide our web projects.
How many hours do you work each week?
NS: I'm at the desk 7-10 hours a day depending what projects are going on and where we're at in the process but I am always thinking about the company, a project or how to improve something. It follows me around.
How do you relax or unwind?
NS: I put away my phone and computers. I try to get outside to hang out with my fiancée and our 7 month old puppy. We moved to California about 20 months ago and there are unlimited places to explore. We haven't even begun to scratch the surface.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
NS: I would probably be making hip-hop beats.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
SH: Keeping a watchful eye on the trends happening in technology is both my favorite and hardest part of the job. On paper this sounds a bit silly, but as a developer you are presented with an ever increasing choice on what language or platforms to develop on.
Choosing what language or technology to focus on both personally and as team can have long lasting effects. When I get stuck on evaluating the stack for a particular job, I often go back into archived projects and look at my notes for what worked and didn't work.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
SH: A few years ago, there was an epic snowstorm in Chicago and our team ended up being stuck in the office. We all decided the best idea would be to stay up and work through a client project, I think we ended up coding for 50 hours with no sleep.
What software could you not live without?
NS: Honestly, I function by writing everything down in lists. My daily list is on TeuxDeux.com — it's the perfect tool for me. They took the basic concept of a paper to-do list and used technology to advance the functionality by adding a drag and drop daily timeline as well as daily, weekly monthly reminders, etc.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
NS: We usually have 2 big projects that overlap at different phases and then 1-3 smaller projects which are usually maintenance or 2nd phase projects. We keep the schedule pretty lean because the entire team is involved throughout the life of each project so we can keep a watchful eye on the quality of every detail.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
SH: I’ve been loving New Relic as of lately. I am a big performance geek, so its been an incredible piece of software that’s been helping us tune our back-end and front-end.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
SH: Outside of the office I make sure I am always reading books and magazines. With technology moving as fast as it does, going offline and reading an entire book can be vastly powerful. This routine has always kept me excited about learning and as a result allowed me to keep my mind open to new ideas.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
NS: I think everything will become one digital medium that syncs across TV, Web, Tablet, Handheld, Car, Wearables and so on. The execution will be something that we cannot fathom at this point.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
SH: The Optimo site has always held a special place for me/us. The design and aesthetics of the site have held up for 5 years, and we were able to convert the site from flash to html while keeping most of the original design in place. Its rare to be able to work on a singular site with such a high lifetime.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
SH: Building a mapping system for retail supply chains before google maps had an open api. I had to refresh myself on a lot of algorithms and trigonometry to get the job done. There was of course added pressure since we were racing against a short deadline. I got the mapping system done in about 6 weeks. It is still in use, but in a different form now.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
SH: I have a hunch that its on its way out. The combination of the mobile, html5, and the mobile/tablet application market have replaced many of the tools that flash provided. Flash is no longer in a battle for the install base but rather they need to fight for the developer mindset, and I think they lost that battle.
There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?
SH: Over time the consumer has shifted to accessing the web over mobile browsers and native applications, I believe that trend has had a direct result on the way we need to approach design and development. There will always be a need for experimental sites that stand out and push new technology, but the technology has shifted away from flash and over to browser based html5 websites.
I think the mobile landscape is going to continue to see growth and as a result in the long term flash and the amount of experimental based websites will decline.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
NS: Absolutely, I never went to school. When I was 16 I knew that I wanted to do some sort of design on a computer so I just started working at it. After I graduated high school, I got pretty serious about it and gave myself a daily work schedule. I think it takes the right person but it's definitely achievable. You can learn pretty much anything on your own, especially now with all of the resources on the internet.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
NS: Do as much work as you possibly can, even if that means cutting your rates or doing some work for free. The more you work at it, the better you'll get. Everyone sucked at one time.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
SH: Time Machine
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
NS: I believe that everyone wants to work with someone that they know. When you need to hire someone for something you ask around for a recommendation or hire someone that you already know. I wanted to be the website guy that everyone knew. So I met as many people as I could and immersed myself in it. Our business has always been word of mouth. We've never done any sort of advertisement, pitch or presentation to anyone.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
NS: I don't really seek out trends but I am always trying to find new ideas that I resonate with or websites that are pushing the boundaries in one way or another. There are unlimited design sites and inspiration blogs. If something is really cool, it finds it's way to the surface.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
SH: I think the start-up scene in the United States is driving a lot of major innovation both in technology and design. The open source software that has been released from both small and large tech start-ups is driving a new way to develop websites and applications.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
SH: I’ve wanted to develop an interactive installation for some time. I have always had a soft spot for the marriage of software and hardware being combined in a real space.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
NS: We had a 5.1 earthquake in LA the other day which prompted me to purchase an earthquake survival kit.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
NS: Our team plays a huge part in the build of all of our projects. I want to give a shout out to Roxana and Nate on our team who helped put the Optimo website together.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
NS: Thank you! Shawn and I have been following The FWA since we started the company in my parents basement in 2004 so it’s a real honor to have our work featured on the site.