Regardless of age, level of education, or experience, starting a new career can be daunting. Engine Digital attracts some of the best talent directly out of school, which forces many twenty-somethings to quickly adapt to the complex and ever-evolving world of digital strategy. From Creative and Technology to Content and UX, each of our practice groups are supported by junior team members, each playing an important role in our project work from kick-off through to final delivery. After a year of working at Engine Digital, we like to check in with our new hires for a Q&A session to help make their transition from student to professional as smooth as possible. We hope sharing these stories will help others about to embark on a new career.
Tell us about how you got into the design field. Where did you go to school? And what led you to pursue design as a career?
In my youth, I spent a lot of my spare time photoshopping photos for fun and making posters for my school’s theatre productions – doing all of it with a copy of Photoshop Elements from Costco (thanks mom!). It wasn’t until I began the daunting task of researching universities that I stumbled across Emily Carr’s design program and realized Design was a thing you could actually do as a career. Four years later, in the spring of 2014, I graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design’s Interaction Design program.
How has the past 12 months shaped your perspective on design and the digital space in general?
The digital space is constantly evolving, bringing in new products, coding languages, and software seemingly every day. As a student, it was easy to focus on what’s new and to design for the best case scenario. But I’ve found it important to think about the digital space as growing, at a faster pace than it’s evolving. While new products are hitting the market, the old versions are still there. When building a large-scale product that needs to hit a wide audience, thinking about legacy screen sizes, loading times, and browser compatibility are all crucial parts of the design process and the eventual outcome. A more solid understanding of the digital space comes from working and building real products, something I’ve definitely gained over the last year.
Have you found your experience working in the digital agency environment to be different from what you thought it might be?
My first year working in a digital agency has definitely been a whirlwind of meeting new people, learning new skills, and managing deadlines. But I was expecting all of that. The thing that has really surprised me most is the breadth of work agencies accomplish. Our Creative Director once said, “agencies are in the business of making something different every time – it’s a poor business model.” For each new project, we always want to make something new and different, and push ourselves to learn or improve a new skill that will make our output that much better. The digital agency environment is constantly evolving to keep ahead of the curve and make neat stuff.
The only other thing I didn’t expect when going to work at a digital agency was the amount of time I’d spend listening to music during the day. Invest in a good pair of headphones and a Spotify account. Seriously.
What have been the most important learnings from your time so far at Engine Digital?
As you would expect, the first year of working in the field yields many significant learnings for a young designer. From the importance of communication and working on a team, to calculating timelines and presenting your work to clients. There are so many soft skills that go hand-in-hand with design skills that greatly improve your output as a designer. However, the most important thing I’ve learned as a Junior Designer is don’t be afraid to ask questions. Whether you’re wanting feedback on your work or an idea, or are curious about how a coworker had done a specific task, just ask!
There was a moment early in my career at Engine Digital where I had to ask a fellow designer how he was managing to move things around in Photoshop 10px at a time. Who knew holding down the ‘Shift’ key could do that for you? (I didn’t) I felt dumb for asking (and he was a touch flabbergasted I had managed to make it this far without it), but my production speed has increased 10x from where it was previously was, which I feel was worth the humiliation.
How have your skills and interests in design and digital evolved over the past year?
The nice thing about working on a (relatively) small design team is it allows us to stretch our additional design skills across a wide variety of projects and tasks to become more well-rounded. I’ve had the opportunity to improve my skills in motion design, illustration, and front-end development throughout the last year, which has been fun and rewarding as a designer.
Just a few weeks ago, Engine Digital sent out a challenge to the entire company (devs, designers, project managers – everyone) to complete a one-month app development course. I find things like this to be really interesting and help to deepen our understanding of the technology behind the apps we design.
What would you say are the most important aspects of a great digital experience? What is necessary to achieve great work?
At the end of the day, our goal as designers is to make something that is enjoyable to use, while solving a larger problem. A solid understanding of your product, your client (and their goals), your audience, and the problem you are trying to solve should always be top-of-mind when working on any project.
The experience of enjoyable can be defined as the simplicity of a clean form design, a well-thought-out hover state, or a more complex animation. As designers, it is our job to put all of these things together and determine what it is that will make the best solution for our product.
Any closing thoughts?
I just want to say a big thanks to the entire team at Engine Digital for being such a kind and motivating bunch. And an additional shout out to Scott Strathern, who showed me the ropes during my first year and has continued to put up with all my tomfoolery.
We’re always on the lookout for great talent. See our current job postings.