When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronaut. I was obsessed with the planets, stars, and space. I always stayed up late and watched all those space shows on TLC when you actually learned from their shows. My grandpa scared me by saying if I became an astronaut, I could get lost in space and never come back. There was no gravity and I would float forever. So I decided I wanted to draw instead, considering I was good at drawing on everything in my house - walls, empty spaces on paper, receipts, open envelopes, you name it I drew something on it. I imagined I would be an animator at Disney for as long as I could remember. Every designer felt this way I'm sure. I was always doodling and drawing things that made no sense to anyone but me lol. That stopped, however, shortly after I discovered how much it bothered me when things weren't aligned with each other, or colours didn't go together, or certain fonts annoyed me haha. I couldn't understand why I felt this way about that stuff, but I was determined to figure it out.
Which brings me to education. I choose Multimedia Design at Durham College because I wanted to learn everything I possibly could. Plus, I wanted to see where my skills would take me. Durham had a three year program, most other schools were two years, and I learned a TON in MMDE. It was an awesome - and sometimes frustrating - program because you were completely immersed in the world of design. When I graduated, I was ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, the world didn't care to know of my existence lol. You wouldn't think that the design industry is as competitive as Superbowl Sunday but it totally was and is even more so now. The feedback I would get after interviews was all the same: you don't have ENOUGH experience. So what did I do? I went to get experience. How did I do that? I freelanced to whomever gave me a chance, most of the time offering my services for free. To make ends meet, I took any position I could and continually developed my skills at the same time. It was tough, but worth it.
And so three years after graduating I got my first full-time design position. Actually, I started as a front-end web developer but I not so glamorously pestered my boss - "PLEEEEEASE LET ME DO THIS!" - to trust me with some graphic design work. I left that company with design experience in online education under my belt which I didn't realize would springboard me into the career I've been lucky enough to have so far.
Personally, I tend to seek positions in industries I know nothing about to see how I can best apply my skills to each. Online advertising was very new when I was fortunate enough to get a position working as a graphic designer exclusively within this space. My hard work and quick turnaround times - I had no choice but to be quick or the company lost money, no pressure :/ lol - landed me my first award as a designer. I was so excited, if you can imagine, that I continued to aim higher leading me to my next position.
I was contacted by a recruiter to be the lead designer in a crime analytics software development company, giving me my first taste of UI/UX design, also new when I started there. I successfully designed and skinned two applications as the lone designer working on a team of developers. It was fun but the lack of design support was frustrating at times and was something I had at my last position.
I misread a job description - it happens sometimes when you are job hunting at 2am lol - and I jumped into the world of fitness as the Marketing Manager for a major upscale tennis and fitness club. I learned some of the ins and outs of leading a team, managing a multitude of projects, and learning that you can eat completely mindlessly while working - not fun but necessary! As much as I enjoyed this position, I realized I missed and wanted more experience being a 'cog' in the design hierarchy. Managing people wasn't in the cards for me yet and I knew I still had a ton of design experience to gain.
So I took a position in retail for a HUGE corporation, working in internal communications with mainly digital projects. Although this was good experience, I knew I wanted to to have more of an impact with my design. Unless you're really high up in the ranks, you realize you don't have much of a voice and I knew this would be my game changer.
For my next position, I wanted to find a place where I could take the reins and really showcase what I could do, whether it was running a design team or completely leading a major project. A year later, you can see the result of my efforts from being the lead designer on the website refresh for UOIT. Not too shabby, right? It was a great environment, I had a lot of support, and I am so proud to say I had a huge part in making the site what it is today.
While all this was happening, I was still freelancing and continued to develop my skills through online courses and workshops on the side. If you aren't learning, you aren't growing. Expansion will always lead to better opportunities, more responsibilities, and a chance to share a passion for what you love to do. Onto my next adventure!