Baby Steps into a Design Career: Reflections on building professional practices
In the last few months of my junior year at California College of the Arts (CCA), I had the opportunity to take a course called Professional Practices with professor Kate Rutter. As this semester comes to its end, I want to share my reflections on this unique course about industry preparation and self discovery.
My first encounter with the terms “professional practices” was through a friend who had been in CCA’s Industrial Design program, who told me that “it’s just a class to help you prepare your portfolio.” Upon hearing that, I had anticipated a semester-long portfolio and resume workshop that would hopefully land me a summer internship.
However, as I entered the virtual classroom, I realized that this course was much more than an exhaustive portfolio and resume workshop, both to my dismay and excitement. On one hand, the systemic feedback I had craved for my portfolio was held tightly within the format of Junior Review, with results I would receive after a three months wait. However, the autonomy and openness that one of the main tasks of the class– a set of self-made and self-directed objectives and key results (OKRs)– presented an exciting and daunting challenge for me to step away from the comfort of academia and slowly peek into the realm of a design career.
With a half-completed first draft of a portfolio website, I began Professional Practices with timid excitement.
As I planned my “professional life OKRs,” I subconsciously divided many of my objectives into ones I knew I could accomplish, others I wanted to tackle, and still others I didn’t know if I could complete.
One of the objectives I was most hesitant to address was virtual event attending. The seemingly endless hours I’ve spent on Zoom since the past year has been constantly battling against my digital attention span. I wanted to quickly dive in and out of a handful of events to check off and move on from the OKR. However, as I began attending events, I quickly realized that many design and career related lectures and workshops were moving away from the rigid and formal qualities that a Zoom meeting room normally brings forth and were transforming into casual and friendly chatter between hosts, speakers, and attendees. Similar to myself, many people desired natural social interaction, even within a collection of isolated boxes on a screen. The seemingly monotonous duty of online event-going transformed into an exciting way to connect with new communities and reconnect with friends and peers.
I began attending a few events each month since the past few months, as well as co-hosted an event with a fellow classmate for our other college students.
Another objective I was eager but hesitant to attempt was creating a personal purpose venn diagram. During the first session of Professional Practices my professor, Kate, had lectured briefly on the assets that an interaction designer needs. In my notes, I had reproduced:
Although I had known that a designer should have skills and the means to showcase them, their own perspective, and a community of support, having been “taught” about these seemingly obvious resources sparked an urgent question of whether I carried these assets. However, as I pondered on my seedling of a professional life, I discovered that while I had proven myself to be a great design student, I had no outlet to present myself as a designer. Thus I took on an objective to explore my personal and professional interests through a personal purpose venn diagram.
The populating of information on this diagram took equally long as the contemplation of whether to share it online. I was simply a college student with little “real” work experience trying to determine answers to a not yet existing professional life. As I scrutinized my diagram, I realized that just like a design project, this purpose blueprint can evolve and be iterated upon as I gain new experiences and perspectives. Thus I shared my venn diagram via LinkedIn and will hold myself to further reflections to it in a near future.
Finally, an objective that I felt confident in accomplishing was continuously working on my portfolio website and gathering feedback. Over the course of the class, I had received feedback from a collection of practitioners and peers. The transposing of school projects into outward-facing case studies introduced both unexpected challenges and a multitude of opportunities. More importantly, it generated space for connecting with friends and fellow college-designers.
Throughout the Professional Practices course, I was able to reassess my strengths and weaknesses and take more autonomy in my professional development.
Connect with me!
As a last challenge for myself at the end of this class, I want to reach further beyond my institutional setting and connect with my community and continuously expand it.
I would love your feedback on my portfolio, or chat about anything, such as meaningful networking, ixd, etc!