submitted 5 mins before midnight on sat – typical me!
Sam Mclintock | k0956944
My personal development over the last year and plan for the future
In the midst of the biggest employment freeze for decades, I needed to be doing something that would put me ahead of the competition, and give me a more unique selling point. I was concerned that if I just ‘looked for jobs’ one may not come along, and I would then be competing with the following years’ graduates as well as having a year of possible low activity, which could count against me as well. I had one interview but a fellow student got it, he was better suited to the position, and in hindsight it didn’t reflect what I wanted to do in the future, so I was ultimately glad I didn’t get it.
I had been toying with the idea of studying a Business course at some point in the future, so I spent some time looking for possible courses as an alternative to the uncomfortable “look for a job” path. By chance Kingston University had the MACE course, which was an ideal course on terms of my first degree and a business topic; I could to develop my design skills during the year whilst gaining business knowledge.
I could live at home minimising spending whilst doing the course; and being a postgraduate course, this meant that there would be a more adult environment as opposed to the undergraduate world, enabling me to ‘grow’ personally. Additionally the change in environment change allowed me to refocus, by the end of my undergraduate course at my first university I had felt slightly institutionalised.
Interestingly, of the students who graduated with me in 2009, a noticeable majority still haven’t found the kind of job they ideally want, if they even have one. Some have been building websites and such like, I did product design not web/multimedia design, so this is not an exciting alternative for me, many of the these people have used personal contacts to get these projects, and they will also be competing against much more experienced and skilled web designers.
I have a fairly relaxed personality; sometimes this is good and sometimes this is problematic as I can lose focus as I get distracted by other ‘interesting things’. This laid back attitude has in the past let me be overshadowed by ‘stronger’ personalities, knowing this I wanted to work with someone in the business group who had an opposite personality to mine. Mickeala is quite opposite to me personality wise – very serious, proactive, strongly opinionated, so by grouping with her I realised I could learn how to work with opposite personalities. Joe didn’t have a group at the time he asked to join us, he is slightly more in the middle.
I wasn’t a good speaker for the majority of Secondary School and University, this year I have massively improved (I actually feel don’t have the best voice; I often mumbled and it lacks power and so I have made an effort this year to reduce this problem). Presentations also would not go particularly well as I was too often unprepared, they were also individual ones so I couldn’t get constructive feedback from others – everyone else was only interested in themselves.
Our business group was very proactive in organising and preparing for presentations a number of times, we became good at doing the group projects quickly and efficiently (e.g. the business plans) finishing them in good time and we can now understand each other pretty well.
An interesting observation I made with some MACErs was how much some of the other teams joked around with each other, I am sure this must have had an effect on their group productivity, our team was all quite different in ways that complimented each other, this created a balance in the group, and whilst we had some good fun we also did it with serious intent. I found it very enlightening how creativity is increased by having a fun environment, “‘being playful is hugely important to being creative’
– David Kelly” (Myerson, 2001).
Partially as my area of expertise (products) wasn’t used in the business, I feel my contribution to the group was less visible than the others (Mickaela with marketing, and Joe with his previous web experience). However I feel I was able to add a lot of depth and creativity to the ideas we had, as well as bringing in my own ideas or knowledge of things into the fold. I felt I had a good eye for playing ‘devils advocate’, ensuring that the expectations were realistic, rather than being naively optimistic.
I think it would be very interesting to see the dynamic of the group in some different contexts, such as if we were designing some kind of product, or were in a company with defined roles.
During MACE, particularly The Creative Economy Class, I discovered my love of group work, previously commercial group work (during my work placement) had only consisted of discussions of what to do, then doing it individually. During my undergraduate course there was never any worthwhile group work; only small projects where one person would do all the work, the second would not even turn up and the third would claim they did all the work. Slacking off was impossible on MACE, and you felt a duty to your team to perform.
I enjoy bouncing ideas off the other group members and playing with these ideas, challenging the ideas, improving them and looking at them from other angles.
I had done one small but comparable project during my undergraduate degree, working in a team to develop an innovative product for a brand, however this was done in a mainly uninvolved and unenthusiastic undergraduate way, not a great team experience.
The emphasis on using story telling was great, and it will allow teams I am involved with to become more passionate and productive, as storytelling is a “fundamentally human way of conveying information” (Kelly, 2006).
The business class has given me some experience under my belt that would allow me to potentially exploit situations in the future when I see an opportunity, rather than it passing me by. I think I would like to work in high profile companies in the future, and this experience will also help in larger organisations, such as making pitches (especially in the elevator!), influencing others, forming opinions, selling your ideas and your self and networking.
I believe that you should always be constantly trying to improve yourself, “Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant”, (D’Angelo, date unknown), there is always someone “better” than you so you should never become complacent, and always aim to be the best you can.
One example that I have done for this, whilst not academic, is I often go to the gym, being physically the best I can. Whilst being stronger I also have a better posture, and most importantly am much more confident.
This interest in self help topics has caused me to read books such as, “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene, “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie and even to read “The Prince” by Machiavelli, all internationally best selling books. I also read “The 10 faces of innovation” by Tom Kelly, to see what personas I am), and what attributes I should aim to gain (especially some of the Organiser persona traits).
After some re-reading of “How to win friends and influence people”, I have realised that many of the principles outlined in the book are transferable to our studies, and parallel what we have learned during The Creative Economy module.
“Principle 3:11 – dramatise your ideas” (Carnegie, 1953), this is directly transferable to us using storytelling in the various parts of our businesses.
“Principle 3:12 – throw down a challenge” (Carnegie, 1953), this can be related to the challenges we did, an intense short period of creativity allowed us Macers to rise up to the problem, our team rose to the challenges and won two of them.
“Principle 3:7– “let the other person feel the idea is theirs” (Carnegie, 1953), whilst this could be seen as amoral and manipulative, and it indeed could be used in this way, I did use it, but more morally; by re framing this as ‘influence by being proactive’ .Where I worked on my ideas before the others had and then sending my concepts to them, my ideas were indirectly absorbed and included the final outcome, which I believe we all benefited from.
“Principle 3:8- Try to honestly see things from other points of view” (Carnegie, 1953) I feel that this has been very useful in helping me see it from the other group members views, I can change my explanations or general approaches to explain best.
The course has introduced many intangible soft skills such as leadership in the Creative Leadership Module, where my essay covered Walt Disney and his visionary style of leadership. This caused me to start thinking I should develop my own vision or implement some form of visionary approach, based on a personal design ethos, which will help me be a better leader in the future.
During the year I visited the Dieter Rams, famous ex-head designer for Braun exhibition. His work really inspired me more so than any other designer I have ever seen before. He had 10 design rules such as, “Good Design is unobtrusive” and “Good design is honest” (Rams, date unknown), these are clearly seen throughout his work and are a source of influence to designers today, and this has made me want to develop some of my own. This may also provide the basis for my dissertation, researching designers personal ethos’, guidelines and rules and possibly creating a set of ‘perfect ones’.
I am of the opinion that the person who is most proactive in organising, be it in a social, work, study context is often seen as the defacto leader, again being proactive and positive is key. One of the students I graduated with in 2009 who will go furthest is by far not the best designer, he is merely average, but is a great organiser, proactive and very driven, with good people skills.
I have also learned how important constraints are for team work, “Creative people will often be more creative if they know the parameters – and the flip side, not knowing the parameters can lead to frustration [among other things]” (Revenson, 2005). Thus I will need to create more defined time plans, to provide constraints and be more efficient over the summer.
Project management experience from the business module is one area that I now have a reasonable (and marketable) experience in, this should set me apart from others. The few people on my undergraduate course who had good management experience or skills so far have got the better jobs. MACE has also made me much more adaptable and flexible to problems – for example the marketing challenges we undertook, which was the very first piece of marketing strategy I have ever done – rather than just being a ‘design technocrat’. In the business world there is a great emphasis on corporate-client relationships, the business has given me a better ability to deal with this, from meetings creating and forming relationships to presenting ideas.
Being introduced to the concept of Design Thinking, was very enlightening, and it filled some gaps in my knowledge, we weren’t taught along these lines in my undergraduate course, things such as, “fast [and] furious prototyping”(Myerson, 2001).
Previously it was more the technical skills, and you worked out your own design process, which if you were a little unorganised wasn’t always clear what to do. At undergraduate level there is a fairly linear design methodology, which I feel is often unrealistic, for example you will be conferring with other departments during the design process; marketing to engineering.
One of the best things about the MACE course is the variety of disciplines people have and backgrounds people come from, rather than being an ‘all English’ course. I have worked with people who come from marketing backgrounds, art back grounds to fashion backgrounds from a wide variety of countries.
I would like a job in a design company, preferably a reasonably well known one, using the design skills I learnt on my undergraduate course being backed up with the business and management skills newly learned on MACE.
To get a good design job, you need a good portfolio. I am currently making a website for myself, this is taking a very long time, and I am essentially having to re-do a lot of my earlier project work to improve quality and clarity. Neither did I have as many skills in the first few years of the course as I had at the end.
Obstacles and opportunities
Redoing lots of my portfolio is both an obstacle and an opportunity. I have to improve lots of things but they can done to a better standard, with deeper insight into the projects and now an understanding of how to ‘sell’ the idea and my self, the IDEO prototyping cards will help with this!
I need to make sure I am practised at explaining and selling myself during interviews eloquently – in the interview last summer I noticed that sometimes during my responses I just stopped talking at the end rather suddenly catching the interviewer off guard, instead of guiding the answer to a smoother more natural finale. In fact, a personal aim is to improve my person to person chat/banter skills for any context (professional and social) and with any person, especially people dissimilar to myself.
My probable dissertation topic, will require me to contact various designers, this may provide an opportunity to network and even a possible amount of interest in me and my work.
Most product design graduates have experience of many software packages when they graduate, mainly at a low-medium level (often jack of all, master of none). Some skills are essential to match other graduates, and I feel there are some areas I could differentiate myself in.
I feel there are three main types of skills; computer software, communication and project management.
Some of these skills that that are generic among all Product Design graduates, including Sketching and Computer Aided Design. These are necessary skills to have but generally will not set me apart from all the other designers, as the vast majority of people are fairly good at both. I am very good at CAD and just need to brush up on it again, particularly some of it’s advanced aspects that not many others will have experience with, and after a little more practice doing sketching I will be back up to a reasonable standard. Drawing skills will not make you stand out, but are needed to remain competitive so I want to be able match most other people at a good standard.
Many great designers are not actually greatly skilled drawers – they just communicate their ideas well.
During my BSc course we spent some time learning Flash, but now I have decided to not spend much time developing my Flash skills, apart from the basics. There are many people already amazing at Flash and so I would find it hard to compete head to head also this is more ‘web’ and I would like to work in a more industrial/engineering design’ environment.
There are some 3D Surface Modelling and Visualisation software packages that I have a good amount of experience in and enjoy using. Most other Product design students don’t have this skill set – or if they do its fairly limited – so after brushing up my skills in these I hope I will stand out. Again not every job would require these but for some of the more prestigious places this will be a great skill to have.
One knowledge base I need to improve is Injection moulding’ (for manufacturing), many people learnt this on their work placements between years 2-3, I worked somewhere that didn’t require this, and thus didn’t learnt anything on it. During my job interview was clear this was a bit of a handicap, although as stated earlier this was a blessing in disguise. A fellow student did a very good report on Injection Moulding, so good that the lecturer asked to use it as teaching material, so I will get a copy of this and study it.
I believe it is important to have an online portfolio, so people can see your work and get a feel what you are about. Almost every personal website I have seen is very ‘corporate’ showing work but not giving a clue to what the person is about or their values. So I want to give my web-portfolio some essence of me – although done in a professional and subtle way, for example a bit of honest opinion reflecting on the projects I have completed rather than trying to ‘talk them up’ as the best thing since sliced bread, which many people seem to do. I am producing this website in Dreamweaver as I feel the various ‘buyable themes’ are way too inflexible for me.
To complete the web-portfolio I need to set a methodological system to complete it, as until now the progress has been painfully slow, due to having to learn the software, and also it has taken a while to get a graphic look I am particularly happy with. I should set a series of completion dates to complete this, as it is important to have this finished as soon as possible in case I find any job or internship opportunities, I will be able to respond to them quickly.
Once I have finished the first version of the website, I can then redo my real (physical) portfolio, with incremental updates to both afterwards.
I think a good idea is to develop elevator style pitches for myself for any networking opportunities that I come across. I should also develop elevator pitches for my portfolio projects, these will be especially useful during interviews where time may be limited or the interviewer may have a limited attention span.
This has been a very beneficial year for me on MACE, enabling me to develop a whole set of skills backed up by experience that would otherwise have taken a long time to develop, that will compliment my 1st degree very well, giving me a unique selling point in a competitive graduate environment.
Carnegie, D., 1953, How to win friends and influence people, Vermillion London, 3rd Edn.
D’Angelo, A J., date unknown, “famous motivating quote”, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/anthony_j_dangelo.html
[Accessed 7th May 2010]
Kelly, T. 2006, The 10 Faces of Innovation; Strategies for heightening creativity, Profile Books, 1st Edn
Myerson, J., 2001, IDEO: Masters of Innovation, Lawrence King publishing, 1st Edn
Rams, D., date unknown, 10 Personal Design Principles, The Design Museum Website, http://designmuseum.org/design/dieter-rams [accessed on 11th May 2010]
Revenson, J., Ed. 2005, The Imagineering way; Ideas to ignite your creativity by The Imagineers, Disney Editions New York, 1st Edn
Locations of Quotes
How to Win friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
About Dieter Rams, by the Design Museum
Examples of Dieter Rams influence on Modern design – Apple
Creativity Quote by Disney Imagineering
This is a great little book written by Disney Imagineering (arguably one of the most creative organizations in the world) with tips and hint on maximizing creativity. Many of the tips can be used in any “creative” context.
The10 Faces of Innovation by David Kelly
Available in Kingston University library
IDEO: Masters of Innovation by Jeremy Myerson
Available in Kingston University Library
Self Improvement Quote by Anthony J D’Angelo
I saw this quote a long time ago (can’t remember where) and has always stuck in my mind, and forms a basis of my “always be your best” belief so I thought I’d include it.
Mentioned But Not Quoted
The 48 laws of Power by Robert Greene
Overview Courtesy of Purdue Univ.
All the laws in this book at explained using famous historical leaders and influential people, this historical side alone is very interesting!
The Price by Niccolò Machiavelli
You must have heard of this book!