What I learnt going from an intern to a full-time designer a year later.
I joined TransferWise, as part of the design team a year ago. I started off as an intern while I was studying at Kingston School of Art, before getting a full-time job there once I’d graduated.
For me, TransferWise is unlike any company I had even contemplated interning or working at. It’s been an amazing experience so far, so I wanted to share some things I’ve learned along the way.
Now onto the four main things I learnt going from intern to full-time. Here goes!
1. Uni didn’t fully prepare me for a job, but that’s okay.
Uni can’t prepare you for navigating the politics of working in an office. You have to figure that out yourself. What I’ve discovered is that it’s best to be as honest with colleagues as possible. Working at TransferWise has been about finding a balance between saying I could do things at the edges of my ability and then being honest about when I had no idea.
At university, you create a lot of proposals, or you work on designs of brands which aren’t real so you can imagine my excitement here having a real impact on real people. When you start designing with a real user in mind it gives you a greater sense of focus because there are actual problems that you can solve to make someone’s life a little bit easier.
My design degree taught me how to think creatively, how to come up with ideas, and how to execute them. It didn’t necessarily teach technical skills on InDesign, so naturally, when I started my internship there was a fair amount of technical ability that I had to brush up on. Add in a mix of a few new softwares I hadn’t heard of before and there was a lot to learn, but personally, the unknown is an exciting place to be!
I think one of the best things you can do as a young creative is to bring something new to the table and work on your ability to hold your own. Fresh out of studying you can bring new approaches and ways of thinking to your team, and know that your opinion is still as valid as the person next to you.
Try to imagine what people would say about you when you are not in the room — and if you were there would you be happy with what they were saying, this is something I use as an anchor.
2. Know there is more to design than just agencies.
If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be working in a financial tech company, I wouldn’t have believed you. I always assumed I’d work at a design agency. But working here has allowed me to consider a whole breadth of new options for the future, and it has helped me to widen my view of where my career can now go. I would say to any graduates out there looking for a career in design: think unconventionally and where you end up might be super unique.
My main worry about working in-house was that I would get bored always working with the same toolkit — but I’ve been completely proved wrong.
Designing in-house rather than in an agency means a lot of my day is working with non-designers and helping to realise these ideas. I find it so interesting to work with different people from a variety of departments. One of the areas I’ve been working on is design visibility; a challenge we have is spreading the work we do and why we do it, across not only the company but the wider design industry.
A recent project I have been working on is creating a set of five recruitment videos for each of the design disciplines — putting a spotlight on what it’s like to work culturally and practically at TransferWise. Through this, I got to work with our employer brand, recruitment, office and creative team. It allowed me to undertake so many roles, and try so many new things, purely because we were doing it in-house. Not only did I project manage it, but I also directed and planned the video shoot, worked on the scripts, went to a sound studio and helped to edit and finesse the final cut. I’m not trying to sound big headed here, I just want to highlight the broad spectrum of opportunities that were opened to me! Initially a seemingly daunting task but one where I learnt the most.
3. At the start, you might be taking more than you can give.
I’ve been met with such kindness while working here. People have always been so keen to help me, give advice and help me to grow which I am ever grateful for. Even after the millionth question.
If you’re at the start of your career like me, don’t worry about asking lots of questions. I truly believe in the circle of giving and taking help, and at the start, you’re going to take a lot more than you can give. But at some point, this will start shifting. You’ll be able to answer the questions for someone who’s just starting out. Remember that it was everyone’s first day once and if you have to ask a million questions now, your team will understand.
I have to give a shoutout here to Derek and Chris — the brand team boys, who not only do I have tremendous respect for and look up to, but they have given me so much support and helped me to feel empowered. Also to the amazing Agata who joined our team recently, she’s such an inspiration and super talented. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing team.
But also, don’t be afraid to get involved in projects going on, outside of your immediate circle. I’ve always taken the attitude if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If there is something that you would love to work on or a problem you see which you want to solve; then bring it up — what have you got to lose?
4. Say yes to any social activity you can!
I know it sounds silly now, but I spent so much money on food while I was interning, as I always wanted to join in and go wherever the team was going for lunch (normally Viet Grill or Patty Bun — would recommend both). It was on these seemingly meaningless walks to and from places that I started to feel like I had a place and belonged in this team. Creating a good impression is so important, just by being on time, keen and getting involved in everything I could. I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea but saying yes to all the social activities really helped me.
At times I felt out of my comfort zone, with minimal knowledge of the Fintech industry and a whole bunch of experienced creatives to compare myself to. But going in the deep allowed me to grow so much more in my ability and build great friendships.
Don’t treat your internship as temporary: put in the energy like you’re making long-term relationships and you might get something really awesome out of it at the end. So if people are heading out to lunch, join them.
I think after graduating in any discipline, there is so much pressure to get what is deemed a good job.
There is pressure from yourself, friends, family and society, but if you were going to take away anything from here it would be not to settle for less. I know you might not be able to land your dream job right away but that doesn’t mean you should put up with no or low wage for an internship or being treated like you know nothing.
This is all easier said than done but I guess what I’m trying to say here is put yourself and your happiness first.
I feel so thankful to have gone straight into a job which I genuinely love, variety of work, opportunities to learn and grow and my team around me. I didn’t think that after four weeks I’d have made such strong friendships. Now one of the main reasons I look forward to going to work every day is because my whole design team is fucking amazing.
If you want to see more of what we get up to check out our design platform: www.transferwise.design and our Instagram for updates on the team, work and events @transferwisedesign.
We’re always on the look-out for talent from different design backgrounds, so even if we’re not hiring get in touch. Take a look at our job openings here.