Interchange is a two day NUA event for Year 2 students. The aim of the two days is to allow students in Year 2 to experience different activities to what they normally do on their course – and there are also some professional development lectures and workshops too. This is meant to form part of BA2b/BSc2b collaboration units.

I decided to attend an all-day lecture titled ‘5 Years To Your Dream Job’ on Tuesday March 12th and an all-day workshop called ‘Dome Wasn’t Built In A Day’ on the 13th.

The lecture about finding your dream job covered:

  • Identifying what your dream job might be.
  • How to plan for your dream job.
  • Researching the career path to the job.
  • Designing a portfolio.
  • Creating a CV.
  • Networking and asking for help.
  • Revising your plan.

Each section was covered in detail with lots of advice given. There were also some activities to complete, usually involving talking to the other participants.

The workshop about domes (delivered by BA Architecture tutors) covered the following:

  • The history of domes and how they used to be constructed and how they are constructed now.
  • A 2 hour session where we made our own dome out of cocktail sticks and polystyrene balls.
  • A session where we made a bigger version of the dome out of wood with the other participants.
  • Reflections on how the activities could be utilised on our own courses and how domes could be used in our own practices.

I felt that the two days were very successful and I learned an awful lot. Chiefly, I learned that my own CV is far too long and wordy, learned how to look for my ideal job and also learned a lot about domes and structural engineering, which was really interesting a little bit different! Read on to find out more.

‘5 Years To Your Dream Job’

The lecture ran from 10am to 4pm and was delivered by NUA Film & Moving Image Production tutor Jen Handorf. Jen delivered a stellar presentation – genuinely one of the best that I’ve ever seen – that was captivating, entertaining and also very informative.

Identifying your dream job

Jen explained that there are certain questions that you should ask yourself whilst looking for a job. Such questions include:

  • Do I prefer to work alone or in a team?
  • Do I desire stability or adventure?
  • How do I cope with stress?
  • How much time off do I want?
  • Am I a natural leader or a supporter?
  • Who or what inspires me?
  • Do I want to travel as part of my career?
  • What part of my course have I enjoyed the most?
  • Which one of my university pieces am I most proud of?
  • Which part of my course was difficult?
  • Which five unrelated jobs would I enjoy?

It’s a lot to ask, but just considering the answers to these five questions will mean that you will be able to determine what qualities you look for in a job. I noted down my answers:

  • Do I prefer to work alone or in a team? In a team
  • Do I desire stability or adventure? A good mix of both, but probably more adventure
  • How do I cope with stress? Pretty well
  • How much time off do I want? Enough, but not too much
  • Am I a natural leader or a supporter? A leader and an organiser
  • Who or what inspires me? The work of UX agencies and software houses such as The User Story, Earthware and Foolproof as well as MNCs like Microsoft
  • Do I want to travel as part of my career? It would be nice as long as I don’t have any major family commitments 
  • What part of my course have I enjoyed the most? Developing prototypes and user testing them
  • Which one of my university pieces am I most proud of? The work that I have completed so far for the Broads project, or Nellie’s Nursery
  • Which part of my course was difficult? The academic writing pieces,
  • Which five unrelated jobs would I enjoy? RAF fighter pilot, police pursuit driver, photographer (probably for NatGeo or similar), journalist, civil engineer (roller-coasters, probably!)
I’ve always had an interest in flying and the military.

The traits I listed show that perhaps I need to compromise on a few things. For example, I like to work in a team, but always want to lead, take control and have excitement. I think my other ideal jobs of being an RAF pilot and pursuit driver in the police and being a roller-coaster engineer show that I do like a sense of adrenaline! It seems that I like the work of multinationals and respect their big names and large audiences, but the smaller agencies might be better-suited to me because:

  • The work is more varied
  • Holiday is not extensive
  • Work tends to be a little more pressured as there are fewer of you and you are doing more roles
  • There’s the chance to try different roles more often – and my development skills might be more appreciated in a smaller team where skills may be scarce!
  • There may not need to be as many ‘academic’ or ‘formal’ writing tasks

This has definitely got me thinking about where I could be headed. But the truth is, who really knows? Opportunities come all the time and you just have to grab them. Speaking of which…

How to plan for your dream job

…it’s all about taking opportunities. Take every opportunity that you can get.

In addition to that, Jen suggested:

  • Breaking big goals down into smaller, more reasonable, achievements that equate to big goals.
  • Set goals that are:
    • Measurable
    • Have a deadline
    • Achievable
    • Have short-term achievements
    • Have long-term achievements
  • And most importantly, write them all down! We are 33% more likely to complete a ‘to-do’ list if we write it down!
  • Strengths should be focused on and improved upon – e.g. if you are good at languages, learn more!
  • Weaknesses should be eliminated – learn more and train more.
  • Opportunities build strengths, so take advantage of them!
  • Face challenges rather than avoiding them to stop procrastination.

Researching the career path

Jen suggested doing the following to find the career path:

  • Research 5 people who have the dream job and find out how they got there.
  • Consider your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and see how these affect the journey to your dream job.
  • Research roles by looking at job vacancies and list the requirements – assess if you need to complete any further education or training to qualify.
  • Contact professionals and tell them that you’re a student when contacting them.

Portfolios and websites

  • Business cards should be easy to read and wallet-sized – obviously they should also contain contact details.
  • The portfolio should demonstrate a technical and creative perspective of your work.
  • Needs to be indexed by search engines so that people can find you easily.
  • Portfolio websites should be personal to you and contain a minimal number of pages.
  • A portfolio is never finished because you should always be producing more work.
My redesigned portfolio website went online on October 14th 2018, but is being redesigned to make information easier to find.

Creating a CV

Jen gave some really interesting CV advice. I’ve asked several people for their advice on CVs now and it seems that my current one needs to be changed. I’m going to write a new one using the advice below:

  • No cliche intros or ‘skills’ such as ‘punctual’, ‘team player’, ‘great addition to the team’ and so on.
  • List hobbies and interests that are interesting or show skills, e.g. playing Dungeons and Dragons could show planning skills. Being in a team or leading a club shows leadership and collaboration and teamwork skills.
  • Include your contact details.
  • The CV should be one page long – exclude specific A level and GCSE grades and irrelevant work experience.
  • Tailor the CV to the job you are applying for.
  • Consider which achievements you list and consider what they say about you.
  • Referees may ask you to write a reference letter which they then check – this is to prove that you know that you know why you should be hired. If you can’t sell yourself, then who can?
  • List every piece of software you can use – right from Windows and Office to more specialist pieces like Axure RP and Visual Studio.

My CV isn’t necessarily guilty of all of these faults, but it is long and lists outdated experiences and qualifications that may not be strictly necessary

I’ve found LinkedIn is a great way to network and find job opportunities.

Networking and asking for help

When it came to networking, Jen suggested going in pairs so that each of you could find the other person somebody to connect with and also so that if the worst comes to the worst then you can speak to each other. She also mentioned that when meeting people always turn up on time, appropriately dressed and don’t always offer to buy a drink or coffee. When asking people to meet you for professional purposes, going for ‘a coffee’ tends to work better than ‘for a drink’, which may suggest that alcohol is in the equation. Speaking of alcohol, if you attend a networking event and drinks are offered, then just have one or two – don’t risk getting yourself tipsy or drunk as you may say things that you regret and embarrass yourself.

When connecting to somebody after having met them briefly in person first or reading about them online, you should consider why you are seeing them and what you want to get out of a conversation with them. Think about what it is you want to talk about before you meet so that each of you finds the meeting a good use of time. It will help calm nerves and focus the conversation too.

Jen also mentioned that thank you notes go down really well and a surprising number of people don’t say ‘thank you’ after a professional has given up their time to see them. So, saying thank you, whether in an email, a LinkedIn message or a handwritten note sent to them does not go unnoticed.

LinkedIn is a very powerful tool and as I have found, if used correctly and you have a complete profile you can receive a lot of job offers on it. I typically receive 1-2 per week from recruiters.

Get yourself noticed by posting, sharing and liking relevant posts from professionals in your field on LinkedIn, keeping in touch and following what professionals do and attending their events to show your support. This is how I got my work placement at The User Story in late 2018.

When asking for help you should be able to determine who the best person is. For emotional issues turn to family and friends, for professional advice turn to people you meet at networking events and LinkedIn and other locations.

Revising your plan

Your plan should change with your career goals and motives.

‘The only way to fail is to stop trying,’ so if things don’t work out then alter the plan to suit the new situation.

If you’re ahead of your goal schedule, set bigger goals – be more ambitious.

Thoughts on the session

Jen delivered a wealth of information – it was a fantastic presentation and I do not regret going at all. I learned so much and will be applying this to my own professional practice and my new portfolio site and CV. It was a long lecture, but Jen’s flamboyant presentation style with humour, personal anecdotes and knowledge kept me engaged throughout. Jen covered a lot of really great points and whilst I am not a stranger to networking and applying for jobs, I am still learning and it was good to receive this advice to help me develop my practice further.

I felt that attending this talk really helps my work for LO6 – the ‘industry folder’. It shows that I’ve gone out of my way to find out more about improving my own professional practice.

I took extensive notes using my Surface Pro 4 and OneNote. I find spider diagrams/mindmaps work well for me – this is also how I took notes during my A level classes.

Note-taking

Whilst I was an A level student I used an original Microsoft Surface Pro and Microsoft OneNote to record notes in class – I found that using the pen was an excellent method of writing notes down in OneNote. It was quick, easy and did not consume a single sheet of paper. The only weight was the weight of device – for my full opinions you can read the posts I wrote here and here whilst I was a Microsoft Student Ambassador back in early 2015.

For the past 3 years or so I haven’t really used my original Surface Pro and instead found that for my job and uni my ThinkPads have been very successful machines for me, but I’ve recently acquired a Surface Pro 4 after noticing that I am needing to take more notes in university sessions and I am pleased to say that I am once again loving using the pen and OneNote once again. The Pro 4 I have now is not the newest Surface, but is streets ahead of the old first generation device that I was using 3 or 4 years ago. I’m finding that for uni the Surface Pro 4 is an excellent device – my ‘weapon of choice’ in fact. It was excellent in this lecture and using it for 5 or 6 hours straight for note-taking was fine. I simply set the stand to a slightly tilted angle, put it on the bench in front of me and wrote away with the pen. All of my notes are now accessible on all of my devices and I don’t need to lug a whole load of notepads around. It’s great! Plus, it runs the Adobe suite fine too, so I am in the process of using this a lot more than my ThinkPad T440s.

All of the text above has been written from notes that I wrote on my Surface in the lecture. Good note-taking makes it possible to recall this much information!

The Surface Pro 4 excelled in the lecture theatre.

‘Dome Wasn’t Built In A Day’

Indeed, most domes were not! But ours was!

My course mate Naomi and I decided to attend this workshop together because we thought it would be fun – and it was! And as we were completing this workshop we learned that actually architecture and UX have some things in common. It was also interesting to meet people from Games Art & Design, Fashion, Communication & Promotion, Illustration and Fine Art courses at NUA, who all also discovered that domes could find a place in their project work!

The workshop began with a short history of the dome from BA Architecture tutor Leon Crascall and how some of the most famous domes in the world such as the Pantheon in Rome and the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Florence were constructed and how often the builders had no idea how these buildings were going to turn out. This finally lead to an explanation of how spherical domes such as the Montreal Biosphere – one of the world’s largest geodesic domes – was constructed by creating a sphere out of triangles. This was our first challenge – create a dome using matchsticks and polystyrene balls using geodesic principles.

Constructing the dome required a lot of care and attention.

The exercise took Naomi and I a couple of hours to complete, but we did apply some of our UX principles to it (as well as have a nice chat whilst building the dome!)

  • We were quite inventive with how we solved problems – for example we used bits of blu-tac as scaffolding/stilts to raise the structure from the desk whilst the glue was drying and we used my water bottle rested on top of her notepad to raise the structure for the same reasons. Our degree is all about creative problem-solving, so we enjoying doing this in a different discipline.
  • We discovered that we weren’t as ‘good with our hands’ as the fine artists and illustrators in the room – we felt that were more of the ‘Ctrl+Z type – hit those keys if things go wrong!’
  • As we were constructing the dome we were considering who the dome was for and who’d use it – something that would come in handy later on.

We had a few construction issues, mainly to do with not quite getting the angles of the sticks right and initially using too much glue (it turns out that the glue is a solvent that essentially dissolves the polystyrene, so some of the balls were dissolving!) and we generally followed the instructions on the sheet until we got to the end. The instructions told us to construct the dome from the top down, but we struggled when we got to the base as we couldn’t get the angles right. Instead, we built the base separately and stuck it together. Leon explained that in some disciplines, including ours (potentially), things aren’t always done in a logical order. Naomi and I agreed that there might be some UX scenarios where this is true.

Matchsticks and polystyrene balls formed the construction of our dome.

 

Me with our completed dome.

In the end though, our dome was pretty solid compared to some of the others, but due to the angles we had used there were some sections that were a little misshaped! It was interesting to note how the other students from the different courses had constructed their domes and the methods that they took.

Afterwards, we all teamed up and made one big dome using a wooden kit – which one student described as ‘the most complex Ikea kit’! We all worked together and had fun constructing the dome – we were able to complete the exercise in about 20 minutes.

Naomi picks up our dome – demonstrating its structural rigidity.

 

Constructing the giant dome meant that some of us had to get inside the dome to support it!

 

We all enjoyed building the giant dome!

 

…but not as much as we enjoyed sitting inside of it!

 

Once we had all admired the dome we had made, Leon asked us to go away and think about we could use domes in our work. Naomi had initially suggested creating some kind of a ‘dome menu’, with the different triangles on the geodesic construction could be links or buttons. The user could swipe around the dome (or sphere) to see the different options. I suggested (rather less excitingly, admittedly), that the geodesic triangles on the sphere or dome could make an interesting CSS pattern. The ‘dome menu’ turned into a 2D ‘pizza menu’, shown below. We nicknamed it ‘pizza menu’ as a play-on to the famous ‘burger menu’.

The ‘pizza menu’ is an excellent alternative to the traditional ‘burger menu’.

Afterwards, our discussion turned more to hardware that could be in the shape of a dome. Initially I felt that a dome/hemisphere-shaped device could be nice for navigation, potentially replacing a computer mouse. Naomi expanded on this by suggesting that we make a device that outlines the UX process to us, again showing the information in the geodesic triangles. I suggested that perhaps we consider utilising user stories to design something for people, using the ‘as I, I want to, so that’ approach. In the end we designed a device called the ‘Jami Hub’ which would allow you to control smart objects in the house such as lighting and heating. These spherical devices could split into two hemispheres/domes which could be rotated to adjust values that could be incremented, such as temperature, volume, brightness, colour hue/tint, power and so on. For example, you could change the temperature of the heating by rotating one of the hemispheres. The device could also split into two and be used as night lights or speakers. It was certainly an interesting concept (and hopefully not doomed like the spherical Google Nexus Q prototype of 2011 or so!) and it was also interesting to see how other students had implemented domes into fashion design, spaces for artists to showcase their works and character designs.

We all got along really well during the session and even had lunch together! It was really nice to meet some new people in my year group with different interests to the people that I normally associate with. This is what Interchange is all about!

The session was fun and worthwhile. I really enjoyed doing something a little bit different and Naomi and I were still able to apply what we do to it. It was also interesting hearing the history talk at the beginning. As shown lately when researching round-tower church towers, I am interested in buildings and architecture. Perhaps being an architect is a job to add to my ‘5 jobs that interest you and are unrelated to your course’?

The ‘Jamihub’ is a fully-featured home automation device built using hemispheres.

Thoughts on Interchange

I was in two minds about doing anything at all because I wasn’t sure if there was anything that really grabbed me, the fact it’d take two days out from writing about and developing my project work  – and I knew I’d need to write an additional post about it! But I’m so glad I made the most of the two days and attended the sessions. Staff at NUA give up their time and reschedule their days and lesson plans to make these events happen to help us get the best grades possible, so it felt good to support it. I also learned a lot about professional development and about applying other disciplines to my own, so it was definitely time well spent.