Web site designer makes a successful transition from psychologist to web site consultant.

Howard University Magazine  - Fall 2000

Some would say it takes a certain amount of courage and daring to leave a thriving psychology career to pursue an entrepreneurial dream. Those with less adventurous spirits might say you’d have to be out of your mind. Say what you will about John Wilson (Howard B.S. 84, M.Ed. 86 & University of Miami Ph.D. 94), but he did indeed leave the safety and security of teaching at Georgia State University to take a spin out on the World Wide Web.

 After a decade of dealing with the emotional problems of countless patients, Wilson decided to do a little self-analysis, and wasn’t happy with what he found. He knew his level of professional satisfaction had begun to wane, but when he began finding it hard to get up for work in the morning, it was time for a change. “The field of psychology had just begun to change over the last several years,” he says. “One of the things I thrived on was the ability to be creative, and I found I wasn’t able to do that any longer.” After 10 years of practice, Wilson says, the invasion of HMOs and bureaucratic red tape left him disenchanted with the field. That’s when he first thought about taking a hobby, web design, and turning it into a business.

Wilson set up shop at his desktop and opened VIP Consulting. He had slowly been teaching himself the intricacies of web design since 1996, when a friend gave him an old copy of Photoshop.  “That program got me started doing photo and image manipulation,” he says. “I learned the program on my own, bought a copy of Microsoft Front Page and a couple of web design instruction books, and kind of worked at it.” He upgraded his home computer and software as he progressed, staying current with web design advances and learning how to add audio, video and 3-D features to web pages. “I enjoyed working on the Web, so the next step was to see if I could turn it into an endeavor to make some money,” he says. That was three years ago.

Over that period Wilson’s firm has designed, managed and maintained web sites for a number of organizations, including the Association of Black Psychologists, Georgia State University Counseling Center and The Write Publicist. Another VIP Consulting client is Ruben’s Nest, a magazine for and by Rubenesque women.

Cyddia Rodrigo is the president of Ruben’s Nest. When she first thought about creating a web site three years ago, she turned to Wilson. Even though he had limited experience at that point, Rodrigo took a leap of faith after seeing some of his early web designs. She was not disappointed. “I expressed what my vision for the site was and it took off from there,” she says. “He has very clean ideas and designs, and knows what to bring forward and what elements should remain in the background. We’re extremely happy with his work,” she says.

Wilson has been shrewd enough to incorporate a significant amount of experience from his former career into his entrepreneurial enterprise. There is indeed a psychology to building a better web site. Wilson explains that understanding the psychological impact of colors as well as the placement of text and visually stimulating elements can enhance the effectiveness of a site. However, “if the design is too wordy and there are a lot of graphics, it may lead to overload for your visitor,” he cautions. “They may leave because they may feel there is too much information thrown at them at one time.”

Wilson sees both professions as a way to help people maximize their full potential. “In both professions, it’s my responsibility to know where you are and where you want to go and to help you get there the best way possible. Many people still don’t fully understand how the Internet can impact their business.”

And while he seems pretty settled at this point, Wilson says the early years were filled with a fair amount of stress. Chief among them was getting over his own fear of failure. “A psychologist is trained to help people, not run a business. So you have to take the time to learn all that goes into running a business,” he says. “Depending on your personality, you might have to force yourself to go out and meet people, network and talk about yourself and your business. I had to understand that this is a learning process. And even now, I’m still learning.”

Eric Hinton is writes for Vanguarde Media in New York.
Interview during the summer of 2000.



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