Welcome, I’m Tony Ascroft.
I’m 57 years old, I live in the Greater Toronto Area and I’ve been unemployed and underemployed for the past year.
I have a BSc from Brock University (Geology and Biology combined), I trained as an electro-mechanical/electronic technician with the Canadian Army for 6 years (honourable discharge), and I’m a self-taught artist and designer with over 15 years of experience in computer animation as a CG Artist, Department Supervisor and Project Manager.
Click here to visit my web site.
I began my career in 1996 as a background artist and worked my way up through positions and projects for games, film and TV animation. Then, on September 15, 2008 the investment bank, Lehman Brothers, collapsed and began the Financial Crisis of 2008.
I was finishing up a contract for a project for National Geographic when I heard the news. I knew right away it was going to be bad for the animation industry. When financial troubles hit the markets the first thing companies do is try to save money, which means reducing expenditures which means reducing advertising, less advertising dollars means no new animated shows which means no new contracts. And that’s exactly what happened.
Two years later I was still doing small projects trying to make ends meet waiting for the economy to turn around. Unfortunately it didn’t, and I had a family to look after so reluctantly I gave up animation and went looking for a better paying job. I chose Real Estate, not just because I know houses but I figured after a few years I’d get back into animation and have Real Estate as my backup career.
By the summer of 2016 I had sold far fewer houses than I had hoped and I was not enjoying my career. I also noticed the animation industry had recovered and new projects were ramping up. So, after six years away from the ‘biz’ I upgraded my software skills to the latest versions, created a few new pieces, built a new web site portfolio and, considering my years of experience, expected to be back to work within a couple months. But that didn’t happen. A few short contracts but that was all. I kept at it for a year, upgrading skills creating new examples but I wasn’t getting that warm ‘welcome back to animation’ greeting from any of the studios.
I’d dabbled with Python and C++ over the years just for fun. But if I was serious, learning to code would mean going back to University for Computer Science, wouldn’t it? I just wasn’t in a financial position to go back to school. That’s when I started to notice all the free courses on-line. Free courses? Yes, and a lot of them, but nothing free can be worth anything… right?
The programming community has embraced the “open source” concept since the beginning but “open education” began around 2000 and seems to have really taken off. Yes, there are courses you can pay for, boot-camps you can spend money on, but I like the pay what you can policy… and that’s where my journey begins. I’m hoping I can parlay an online education into a good job. Not just for me, but for the scores of other ‘older’ experienced workers who’ve had their futures reduced to low skilled labour positions.
If you’re thinking of being an ‘older coder’ I hope this blog about my experience helps and encourages you on your journey. Best of luck!
~ Tony, February 2018