5 Questions with Mark Willis

Posted by Olivia Lynch

Larry Garfield, our President and CEO, sat down with our recent hire – Mark Willis, our new Senior Director of Digital Strategy

Larry: You went to Bucknell and double majored in computer science and English, why the two seemingly polar opposite majors?

Mark: I’ve always had a hard time being interested in just one discipline. When I was younger, this created some angst. I wondered when I’d find “the thing” that I was best at. When I got to college, I began to realize that you don’t have to do just one thing – you can stay curious and live in a few different worlds at once. And what’s more, you start to become enthralled by the way unrelated disciplines overlap and inform each other. Writing code and writing a thesis paper aren’t the same by any stretch – but there are lessons you can take from each skill and apply to the other.

Larry: What inspired you to get into web development/design?

Mark: The World Wide Web really grew up right along with me.  As a high school and college student interested in computers in the late 90s, learning how to make websites was fascinating. The entire industry was evolving rapidly, and the web seemed like a wide open frontier. There was a lot of excitement around it. Creating websites was also something everybody instantly needed help with, so even though the career didn’t exist when I started college, by the time I left, it was the obvious choice.

Later, I started to fall in love with design and visual expression. By then, I had a lot of technical experience to help me create well-rounded digital work for clients and my own pursuits.

Larry: What about working in web development gives you a sense of accomplishment?

Mark: This might sound funny, but silence! Web development is really tricky, and launching a complex build with lots of moving parts and multiple contributors on time and on budget is an art form. When you deliver a project or a milestone, and things just work, you don’t always get a lot of detailed reaction from those on the other end. Don’t get me wrong - I’ll take effusive thanks. But sometimes knowing things are in great shape, and the client is quietly satisfied is exactly the right level of feedback. When clients can keep moving and don’t have to think too hard, I’m happy. That means we’ve done our jobs right.

Larry: Not only do you work here at Garfield but you also have a side business selling soccer-inspired apparel. Where did the idea for that come from?

Mark: I’m a soccer fanatic, and as I mentioned I have become passionate about visual expression. The world of soccer is the most colorful, expressive, passionate environment you can imagine. It pulls from endless cultural traditions and visual inspirations. I started designing soccer uniforms and brand identities as a hobby, and then for an online audience. This grew to the point where I had a real opportunity to make and sell some of my work. So I did! It’s been a great ride, and opened a lot of doors.

Larry: What’s it like being a Boston sports fan in Philly?

Mark: We moved into our new home the spring before the 2017-18 football season, which as everyone remembers ended with the Eagles triumphing over the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Suffice to say I very quickly learned to tread carefully! I love the passion and pride Philly exhibits, and I’ll gladly play the sports villian in the office (Boston teams keep winning, so that seems inevitable).

Larry: We'll see about that winning streak. And now, the hardest question of them all – Bird or Brady?

Mark: It’s close, but I’ll go with your namesake, Mr. Garfield!