With a self declared ‘non-linear’ career path working in a variety of disciplines, Nicole Boettcher decided to study part-time at Shillington to change her career. Graduating in 2013, she hit the ground running and is now working as a product designer for JW Player where she works primarily with UI & UX design. We caught up with Nicole to hear more about her new career in design, what she enjoys most in her day-to-day and advice for those looking to follow in her footsteps.
What attracted you to a digital role? Is it something you aspired to before studying at Shillington or a goal that grew whilst on the course?
I have had a very non-linear career path. I’ve worked in film, publishing, and tech, mostly in production/operations and administrative roles. When I started the course at Shillington, I was working in tech, but didn’t actually think I was going to transition into designing for tech — I thought of it as a means to an end while I was studying design in the evenings. After I finished the course, the company I was working for had a position open up in the design department and I applied for it on a bit of a lark.
Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like to work in digital? What are some of the projects you’ve worked on since starting at JW Player?
I’m really more of a Product Designer. I work with Product Managers and Software Engineers to design how our software looks and works. The product that I’m currently leading is a dashboard for managing video publishing. I define the visual look of the user interface (UI) but more importantly, how it all connects, and the user’s experience of the dashboard (UX). A lot of it is organization of ideas, designing the patterns and an overall experience, in addition to designing layouts. My favorite project that I am working on for the dashboard is an in-depth Analytics tool. Charts, graphs, and lots of different kinds of data.
Is there a certain area of your job you enjoy working in the most?
I love working on style guides. In Product Design, that means figuring out really annoying little details, like how many pixels tall a check box should be, and what a dropdown menu should look like, rules that affect every single page of the site. It feels like a puzzle and that I’m both creating and solving at the same time.
How did you find juggling the part-time course alongside other commitments? Is there any advice you’d give to our current part-time students in the same position?
I didn’t know how I was going to manage the commitment of the course with full time work. I had long hours and was always tired after work, probably because I was a bit bored with my day job. Once the course started, I found all of this magical time that I didn’t think I had. Suddenly it was a lot easier to prioritize what mattered to me, which was becoming a designer. Work receded back to taking up about 40-50 hours of my week. I had less guilt about saying no to staying late, saying no to social obligations that I wasn’t interested in, and just focusing on design. It helped that classes were really fun, and the whole thing re-opened a creative part of my brain that had been a bit dormant.
It was easy to shift my energy over to the work I was doing at Shillington.
Have you got any tips for a current student eager to work in digital design following graduation?
The main thing you have to do is show up ready for the job. Fill your portfolio with self-directed work if you need to. Show how you think, show your process. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do—propose something.
People usually want to hire a person who is bringing something to the table, and is good at problem solving.
My boss said that she’d rather have someone very junior who was willing to work hard, propose their own ideas, and learn from her, than someone with great experience who is set in their ways and just handing in assigned work.
Do you think the projects at Shillington prepared you for working in a digital agency?
Definitely. Though I don’t get to do much print work, design is design.
Shillington taught me how to get to the root of the design problem first (#1 best quality) and to work quickly (#1 most needed quality).
The golden rules of hierarchy, contrast, etc, apply to the work I do every day. And I finally learned to use a grid.
If like Nicole, you’re looking for a change, perhaps 2017 is the year to take the plunge! Why not have a read of our recent post 10 Great Reasons to be a Graphic Designer in 2017 to find out more about Graphic Design and if it’s the career for you.
We have full-time classes starting at our New York, London and Manchester campuses in January, and both full-time and part-time intakes in February at our Australian campuses. Find out more at shillingtoneducation.com
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