This past year has been an interesting journey as I have stepped fully into the ‘real adult world’ of year round work, kissing goodbye the summer breaks that I used to enjoy so much growing up. Now, oddly enough, the breaks I look forward to are the coop semesters required by my major. As DAAP is notorious for excessive work and long hours the promise of a simple 8 hour work day with no homework that looms over your head after hours is a welcome relief. It is here on my first coop that I found the single most impactful experience this academic year.
I spent this last spring semester working in the industrial design and human factors department at Ethicon. There I worked on minimally invasive surgical tools and also discovered how I function in an office setting. Going into the coop I assumed that the majority of the learning would be the hard, technical skills that my line of work demands but I quickly found that much of my personal growth was in my soft skills. I struggled with finding my place in the office and communicating effectively and efficiently in presentations. I found that at the end of the day your people skills are what gets you places. That no matter how good your technical skills may be you will go nowhere if you can effectively communicate what you do. This realization has shifted my focus on where I place my effort when working. I now place a heavier emphasis on communicating my ideas clearly than just generating them in the first place.
In relation to that I have also found that for as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with learning technical skills but never applying them to create anything. I learned how to use 3d programs to make animations but never made a short film. I learned how to play guitar, music theory, and how to record but never really created songs. My youtube channel is full of test shots of videos but I never made a movie. I have noticed that I have always learned how to do things but I have never leveraged the technical skills I developed to make or do anything more than a test or a study. I have decided to make an effort to use the skills I have developed over the years, be it photography, guitar playing, painting, or 3d modeling to actually create things that others can enjoy or be affected by. Maybe instead of recording a test song I want to compose an album or instead of just modeling a character in 3d I animate it to tell a story. I want to stop letting the technical aspects of things come before and get in the way of the creative.
This past year I have done a lot more personal growth than I had thought I would and I am looking forward to growing more in the coming year. Not just growing my technical skills within my vocation but building my personal and soft skills.
Number 3, its crazy how fast this all has happened yet simultaneously how far away freshman year feels. I have lived in three different cities in the past year and worked five different jobs. The coop grind is real. I feel like I just finished writing my last year in review. Right now I am working for a small design consultancy team in San Francisco working on consumer tech products. I hope this will be a steppingstone into the design prolific design world of San Francisco. I feel I have reached a point where I really have most of the functional skills that are demanded in the design industry. But what I have found is that there is a world of difference between the skills needed to design (like sketching and using solid works) and the more conceptual side of coming up with good ideas and interesting forms. I spoke to this in last year’s review. For too long I have had my sights focused on mastering these skills. They are far more tangible to master and there for much easier to frame as a goal to achieve. I thought that if I master the skills I master the craft, that is all I need to become a designer. What I have found is that this is just a means to an end. The skills are just tools for communicating the ideas we come up with. The bright side is now I am not limited by the tools I use to demonstrate my ideas, but I have a lot to learn in regard to the generation of these ideas. This again is something I found is reflective of many other facets of my interests. I learned how to take photos but don’t do anything with it, I have learned how to play the guitar and the theory behind music composition yet rarely compose. It is far too easy to blame this on my lack of time but perhaps that just speaks to mis-aligned priorities. Going forward into this next year I hope to utilize these skills I have learned to do and make more.