An Interview with Ben Fhala – Award Winning Developer from NewYork

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Hello to all readers of Animationalerts. Welcome to back to our  Animationalerts Interview series and today we have Ben Fhala as our guest. Ben Fhala is an award winning developer. He is owner of 02Geek (HTML5 online school) and 02skill and an Adobe ACP. and has worked with prestigious clients from all over the world including US Congress, Prime Ministers, and Presidents around the world.

ben fhala

Please introduce yourself to my blog readers and share something about your journey from Web and Graphics World?

Ben Fhala discovered his passion for data visualization last century while he was working at Parsons in New York, in their data visualization department, PIIM. He is the owner of the online video training school, 02skills.com and 02geek.com, and an Adobe ACP. He enjoys spending most of his time learning and teaching and has a love for visual programming and visualization in general. Ben has had the honor of developing applications for members of the US Congress, Prime Ministers, and Presidents around the world. He has built many interactive experiences for companies such as Target, AT&T, Crayola, Marriott, Neutrogena, and Nokia. He has technically directed many award-winning projects and has been part of teams that have won three Agency of the Year awards. Currently, Ben consults to fortune 500 companies and runs his online communities.

What is your normal daily routine?

I wake up, brush my teeth, have a glass of water and then bike for about an hour. the rest of the day, for the most part, is dedicated to creating things or thinking about how to turn problems into opportunities. 🙂

What are the challenges you faced while building brand 02geek and creating so many high-quality online courses?

That actually never was the challenge. most online courses are not high in quality. While it’s true there are bigger companies with better budgets, better editorial skills, and even better entertainment, it is really rare to find good quality courses that help people move from the armature developer/animator into being a working one.

So the biggest challenge, if i had to pick one, would be my lacking skills in marketing. It’s really hard to explain in 5 seconds to people that don’t know you why what you are doing is so much better (even with the low tech production). It’s easy to create a title that promises to turn everyone into the next Bill gates or another that promise you riches… The challenge is how do you create high-quality courses that students need (while they don’t want them). In the academic world they solve that problem by charging students in advance for a degree – so students aren’t as picky about what course they will learn but instead they are picky about who should they learn with.

Unfortunately the web is a popularity contest – that means even in web development and animation courses – people are less informed and end up knowing less because our natural tendency is to go for the promises of a dream. As i see my online courses as part of my legacy – I just am not interested in over promising even if i would make more money out of it. that is and has been my largest challenge – all the rest is hard but workable as the support of our 10,000+ students has kept me going even though it has never matured into a real stable income (enough to turn it into a real business).

How do you motivate yourself to work hard and stay focused in the web graphics and development industry and who is your inspiration in web industry?

Motivation is easy i really love building interactive experiences just as much as i did when i was a kid. So motivation is really never an issue with building. I’m really bad at following people but clearly it’s hard to not tip the hat to Jordan Walke( the creator of React) and Dan Abramov and Andrew Clark (the mind behind Redux). Very early in my carrier one of the people that most influenced how i think was Colin Moock. His accessible nature to take the complex and turn it into something as simple as 123. Probably the person that inspires me the most was Albert Einstein – while he doesn’t have much to do with interactive development his philosophies and way of thinking guides me in most things I do.

You created some top notch courses over Animation in Javascript at 02skills. Could you share your experience with it? What can it do?

That’s very kind of you. I’ll leave it to others to review my work and we have a lot of free courses as well so people can take a test drive easily. or find one of the over 1000 reviews online from real people all over the world.

How can anyone break into the competitive web and graphics industry if he is just starting out?

I work with a lot of junior developers (and students). The ones that shine are not the ones that think they are very smart but the ones the realize they are creating something for others and understand the importance of being detailed. A great picture is just as good as it’s worst scene. a website is no different or any other interactive experience – if you work for 100000 hours on a project but let things that shouldn’t slide slide – no one will care about how much hours you worked the only thing people see is the worst in the project (even if they don’t express it 😉 so if you are lucky enough to work with a detailed manager or detailed team member, creative director that gives you a lot of feedback – don’t take it as a bad thing but learn from it.

What are the challenges you see in 2017 and in upcoming years in web and graphics world?

I think the biggest challenges have happened already over the last few years.While HTML5 was trying to figure out its baby steps and a lot of frameworks were fighting off it looks like in the short term we have a winner React/Redux for most web products. The next challenge that is very real is creating sites that are more engaging for users – as sites quality have been getting weaker over the last few years instead of better (overall). While everyone was focused on analytics – and that captured the market that is more or less saturated companies and products/brands are more desperate than ever to differentiate themselves and that brings a lot of new opportunities for developers. So I’m very optimistic about the upcoming 2-3 years in our industry. While a lot of work might be automated and we will see a lot more of it – the higher end and unique user experiences (at least in the foreseeable future) is just as good for interactive developers as it was in the 90’s and early 2000’s

Any dream project?

I need to keep that to myself but a few 😉

Any advice/tips or message for the audience at Animation alerts?

yes don’t assume experts know more than you – often they don’t. The only way you will be great is attention to details and following through on your intuition (and that takes the time to develop – and all of the great developers and animators have great intuitions – that developed over a lot of years). So it’s never about taking a course online and becoming an expert it’s about doing and getting a lot of feedback and finding someone you like their work to be your mentor – mentorship is incredibly important. Learning from experience is the most needed skill companies search for (more than the name of the institution you were at). and enjoy what you do – if you don’t change things up as you need to be as passionate about the idea to the execution to create great things.

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