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From Healthcare to Graphic Design: A Shillington Student’s Journey

Pooja Dharia graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy and worked in healthcare, but was always interested in design and felt stuck in her career. Enter: Shillington. Pooja studied 3 months full-time and made a big career change. Now she’s merged her two greatest interests and works as a Branding Designer at a healthcare advertising agency working on the branding of new drugs, clinical trials and healthcare campaigns. What a perfect fit!

Read on to hear more about Pooja’s background, why she loves working as a designer and where she goes for creative inspiration.

You had a very different career before Shillington. Tell us about making the career change from Pharmacist to Designer!

Before Shillington, I studied pharmacy in college and I was living in DC working at the Food and Drug Administration as a project manager and also spent some time at a consulting company. I had always been interested in design but I never took the leap in college. I felt the itch to be more creative at my job and I kept thinking about Shillington. I finally started the program in September 2016 in NYC. I now work as a Branding Designer at a healthcare advertising agency working on the branding of new drugs, clinical trials, and healthcare campaigns. It’s a combination of all my previous healthcare and regulatory experience, plus branding design and strategy and I couldn’t ask for a better fit! 

Why did you choose Shillington?

I had already studied for six years in college and I didn’t have the time to go back to school for an additional degree in graphic design. The 3-month full-time course was the perfect amount of time off to learn design and to figure out my next step. I had attended an Information Session over the summer and knew right away that the program was the right fit based on the curriculum, the teachers, and the portfolios of previous graduates. I was nervous, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take the chance.

Now you work as a Branding Designer at a healthcare advertising agency—such a perfect fit for your past experience and new graphic design skills. What’s your typical day like?

Since there are so many projects and timelines are quick, there’s an opportunity to work on something new each day, from color palettes, logo and system design, brand guidelines, and even naming of new drugs.

The best part is that I can still use the science part of my brain to do background research and to inform the design and concept. 

Can you share the process behind a recent professional project? 

The design process is actually really similar to how we worked on briefs at Shillington. You start by knowing the brief, looking for inspiration/moodboards, brainstorming and sketching out ideas and finally executing the design. It’s very collaborative so you’re usually working with a few designers and receiving client feedback throughout the process.

Why do you love working as a designer?

I love working as a designer because I’m constantly learning and evolving, whether it’s learning a new shortcut in Illustrator or doing background research to spark more ideas and create a better design.

No day is the same and each project offers a brand new challenge.

What was your favourite Shillington project? Why?

The handmade project was one of my favorites because it was an opportunity to create something totally one of a kind. I also really liked learning typesetting and the editorial design projects. At the end of every project, I loved seeing how different everyone’s ideas and designs were, even though we all received the same brief.

What advice would you give to a Shillington student on day one?

Really immerse yourself in the program and absorb every piece of advice from your classmates and your teachers—everything you learn will be so useful once you start working. Also have fun and enjoy the process. It’s a lot of work with some late nights, but it goes by fast and you’ll feel so accomplished afterwards. You might even miss the 8 AM start time!

Where do you go for creative inspiration?

Walking around the city, traveling, paper magazines and books.

Huge thanks to Pooja for sharing her story! Be sure to check out her website and follow her on Instagram.

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