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advancement and alumni engagement

Becky Hayden '98

Principal of Spot Works Design in San Francisco, California

Designed websites for the Comcast and Nintendo's National Geographic Panda 
Built her business entirely by word of mouth


Words of advice 

"Fly by the seat of your pants a little. If your career plan is too inflexible you can miss the new opportunities-and some of those will be better than anything you imagined."

Becky Maedge-Hayden spent her college years as a cheerleader for St. Ambrose, but these days her web designs get the hurrahs. As principal of her own company, she's designed websites for clients as varied as the L.A. Times, Miss Sixty and Cedric the Entertainer.

In her own words

How did you get started in web design?

My college years were the start of the Internet. I remember in my art history class, our instructor told us to make a website. I was thinking, "That's kind of weird. Isn't this class art history?"

Did that class project signal great things to come?

It was pretty primitive. We were using Adobe GoLive, or some other really ancient program, to make it. But you were kind of proud. "Wow, I made a webpage." Looking back it's funny, because web is all I do now.

Did you experiment with other majors before settling on graphic design?

No. I always knew what I wanted. I actually sat down with my parents and had the dreaded talk about what I was going to do with my life. I said, "Well, I really like computers and I really like art." And my parents had the forethought to say, "Have you thought about graphic design?"

You grew up in Lena, Illinois, about 90 minutes from Davenport. How small was it? 

There was no stoplight! That's how small.

If somebody told you on graduation day that you'd end up as a web designer in San Francisco, what would you have thought?

I would have laughed. I was such a small-town Midwestern girl. I was terrified of living in a city. Davenport was a big city to me because there were stoplights! To be honest, now San Francisco feels like a small town-and once you get connected, business spreads like wildfire. I've never done any marketing for myself. Not once. It's all been referrals.

How did the L.A. Times redesign project happen?

The L.A.Times literally called me. They said, "We need you to redesign our website." I was thinking of all the reasons why not: I'm kind of busy now, that sounds like a really big project. But my boyfriend was like, "Are you kidding? It's the L.A. Times." That project was kind of a fluke, but it turned out great.

What's your career advice for today's grads?

You've got the world of self-marketing at your fingertips. Create a brand for yourself. Set up a website. Be confident about what you've learned. And call people back! It's not hard, but it will take you far in business.

What makes you nostalgic about St. Ambrose?

When I left college I was in tears. I missed the day-to-day interaction with so many great people. I have friends from big schools who never had that strong sense of community. I remember leaving Ambrose thinking, "This was the best experience of my life." Even though I've done a lot cool things since then in my life and career, I'd still say that.