“No day is the same” – from graduates to product designers

“No day is the same” – from graduates to product designers

In March 2020, the East of England was named as officially leading the way as the top tech hub outside of London.

BA (Hons) Graphic Communication graduates Elena Lockyer and Callum Brown graduated in 2019 and now work as Junior Product Designers, within the user experience team at Cambridge based global software company, Redgate.

Sketch notes by Chris Spalton
Elena Lockyer and Callum Brown sit in red pods in Redgate with their laptops in front of them

Elena and Callum gave us a tour of their office and told us all about their careers – and the transition from studying to working.

What do you do on a day to day basis in your role? 

Elena: No day is the same! One thing I really value about being a junior at Redgate is that we’re really included in a range of activities.

This can be anything from customer research, product and design system work to team sprint planning, retrospectives and sessions to share work.

As juniors we’re much more focused on the interaction design side of work but we’re still able to contribute to other parts of the process.

We start each day with a daily stand up about what we’ve been working on and what we will be working on within the team. By always being transparent about what we’re doing, it contributes to a far more collaborative approach. 

Callum: We work under the mentorship of an experienced Product Designer, as part of a cross-functional product team.

Our core responsibility is to help our team develop an understanding of our users, their contexts and needs, through research and design activities.

This involves working closely with Software Engineers and the extended product team to craft and implement interfaces and interactions; delivering working solutions to our users. 

What was the biggest learning curve in your first professional role? 

Elena & Callum: Understanding the role of design within an organisation and how/when to communicate its value to stakeholders.

Other significant learning curves for us have been adapting to real business constraints for example working with legacy technologies and meeting release deadlines etc. 

"Use your summers to relax and reenergise (this is important), but also try to explore industry opportunities during them: work experience, internships, freelancing etc."

Callum Brown

Callum Brown, sat at Redgate on a sofa with red cushions
Sketches on a white board with 4 post it notes on
Elena Lockyer at Redgate, sat in a red pod with a macbook

How do you keep learning and developing your creativity?   

Elena: First off I think it’s important to work somewhere that promotes personal development and makes time for learning.

I say that because it was never what I originally looked for in a place to work, when choosing where to ask for internships in third year.

As much as it’s important to like the work that somewhere you’re considering creates, make sure they have practices and time set in place to help you with your learning too.

If you’re not sure how to find that out, ask in an interview a question such as ‘How do you support personal development?’. 

So at Redgate, we get Friday afternoons, or ‘10% time’ as we know it, dedicated to our learning. It means we don’t have to do product work but can instead focus on something that we think will be valuable to our personal development. 

We also have 1 to 1 development plans and lightning talks, where people can present something they’ve learnt to the rest of us!

Callum: Elena nailed it! Most importantly I recommend that you seek work opportunities where your employer is truly invested in your learning and development, this helps a lot! Otherwise, here’s some of the things that work for me (and hopefully for you 🤞): 

  • Finding some time each day to read articles. Medium is my go to for design/tech content.
  • Attending Meetups where I can engage with the design/tech community. 
  • Regularly exploring different design disciplines (currently furniture design). For me, I feel it’s important to not limit myself to the subject I studied in order to grow. 

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you started university? 

Elena: Remember that you have an opinion too, and as long as you can justify your design decisions, don’t feel bad or like it’s wrong to not be using someone else’s suggestions. 

Callum: Use your summers to relax and reenergise (this is important), but also try to explore industry opportunities during them: work experience, internships, freelancing etc.

Having done had these experiences before graduation will be incredibly useful when it comes to looking for your first job out of university. 

  • Photography by Denisa Ilie
  • Sketchnotes by Chris Spalton
  • With thanks to Redgate