In 2018, Artificial Intelligence has become the hot topic for all. Please meet Emily Sappington, the VP of Context Scout, an AI in the browser to help the users cut down their research time.
Emily completed her undergraduate degree at Parsons School of Design (Psychology and Design) and masters degree at Carnegie Mellon (Design in Interaction Design). She is a strong believer of iterative process, you don’t know what that is? Continue reading!
1. Can you tell us about your previous experiences?
I was fortunate that when I was at school in New York City, there were a lot of internships available. I decided to take advantage of that. Over the course of my education, I had around 8 internships. The reason for that was because I considered it as an iterative process of finding out what I really wanted to do. So, I started off with the combination of Psychology and Design, which is often a good fit for advertising. However, I thought that there was more I could do to use Psychology to help people. As a result, I decided to try different things; I worked in exhibition design. It was about desigining the experience of moving through a museum or a gallery. Once I landed on interaction and user experience design, for me that was where everything was put together perfectly. I wanted a role where design was more elevated in decision making. All of that taught me different lessons about what I was looking for in a career, what I wanted my day to day work to be like.
2. How would you advise those students who are unsure about which path to follow?
I think the best advice I could give is to intern as much as possible. You should also know that paid internships are a thing and you should expect to be paid for the real work that you are doing. The great thing about it is that you get real world experience, but if you find that you don’t really like the job, it’s over soon. That’s much better than committing yourself to a career for a long time.
3. How can students develop their networks?
Take advantage of being a student. A valuable piece of advice I got as a student was to cold email people if I was interested in their company and see if you can take them out for an infomational interview. It’s not asking for an internship, it’s not asking for anything of them other than to spend a few minutes telling you about what they do for living. I went and travelled around Europe; I wanted to learn more about design scenes in Amsterdam and London. So I thought, ‘why not just write to agencies I am interested in and ask them for a 30 min coffee?’ We all have been students, we all want to help students out.
4. How did you find the process of moving abroad as a professional?
My travels were helpful. I learnt that when it comes to hiring from overseas, you really have to stand out. It takes a lot to explain why you have to go outside of the country to get an employment. So what made sense for me was to wait until I had expertise in certain area and to try to work abroad then. Before I came to London, I applied for ‘exceptional talent visa’, it’s a program between Tech Nation and UK government that awards people visas independent of companies. For me, that was the stability that I felt comfortable with for moving abroad.
5. As a recruiter, what are the 5 points that you look for in a candidate?
- Be generally really interested: your application stands out more if you are interested in a broad spectrum of things rather than just one specific project.
- Be active outside of your campus: it can be extracurricular activities or projects, find a way to show your interest
- Be different: a lot of people can sign up for a class, which is more of a passive learning process, but if you have made a project or entered a competition, that would be impressive coming from recent graduates.
- Take initiative: don’t be afraid to find unconventional way to present yourself (can be websites, blogs or other means).
- Develope your portfolio as a designer: ‘X was the assignment I had to do , but I took it further to create Y’. That’s something I am looking for in a candidate.
6. Do you struggle to balance out your personal and work life?
Because I went through the iterative process, making sure that I am happy with my work, I don’t mind having to work more, even on weekends. That said, it’s important as a designer to enrich yourself in various ways. I volunteer with the Ada, the National College for Digital Skills in London. It’s also crucial to not forget my roots in Fine Arts: I paint, draw, and go to museums.
All in all, you should take the time to find the career you are passionate about. It’ll change over the years, but use your time as a student. Take advantage of all the resources you have. This is the time to really think about what you want to do after you graduate!
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