How SCAD Alumna Finds First Job and Builds Design Career
In Chapter 8 of 18 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, interaction designer and researcher Lauren Serota graduates at the top of her college class and then struggles to find work. She broadens her horizons and takes a design recruiting job, where she learns about people and hones her interests. Ultimately, the experience positions Serota for design research work. Serota is an interaction designer at frog design and a professor at the Austin Center for Design.
Erik: After graduating at the top of your class, how did post-college job-search challenges build your character and resolve? Lauren: So I finished at the top of my class. All of the faculty really liked me. I got along well with everybody, and I thought I had an in at a couple of, really, product, deep product design jobs, and I didn’t get either of them. So I was a little bit lost. I didn’t quite know what to do, and I hadn’t yet realized that I could this design research thing like that that was really my calling. So I ended up having a series of events. I moved to New York and had a job for a couple of months. It wasn’t quite for me. And then I – it’s like ‘oh, I’m just gonna move in the city, I’m here, I’m gonna deal with it.’ And just serendipitously, found a position with this woman Angela Leahy who had a recruiting company that used all of the skills that I developed in high school and then my industrial design know-how to work as a headhunter for industrial design. So it was like this great application of these skills that I would have never sought out if I weren’t in that situation, and it ended up being such an amazing opportunity. She was fantastic to me. I learned so much from her about people, and it ended up being really in line with my skills as a design researcher. I was learning about designers and kind of like them personally what their work style was and then matching them up. It was really a matchmaking job, matching them up with the appropriate job. And we did really well, and we were recruited actually for Frog Design, and a lot of product design companies that I aspired to work for. So I got to interface with the people that I would – you know, if I were interviewing be interviewing with, so that experience was just fantastic. And then I also – because I was in this kind of vulnerable situation moving into the city, I opened myself up and ended up meeting this another amazing person named David Art Wales, and he gave me the opportunity to do some trend research work with him, kind of here and there, wherever he needed help I would jump in. So I think allowing myself to not follow this like really straight path right out of school and fumble through things, even though then it was really scary and I didn’t know what I was doing, and it was really – I was very worried. It worked out really well. You know, I had faith in my skills and I didn’t put myself into positions where I didn’t think I was going to be benefiting and I ended up finding these great opportunities that played so well. I mean I couldn’t have asked for better opportunities to play well into kind of the design researcher or designer that I’ve become. So – and then they positioned me unfortunately to leave Angela, and then go into this design research role when it was presented to me. You know, I felt like I was ready and I hadn’t been sitting around hoping for a design job for the past two years. So it’s funny – whenever I talk to, you know, people out of school or people that are getting out of school, and they’re like ‘oh, there’s no design jobs, the economy is bad.’ ‘Realize that you don’t need to’ – like ‘you don’t need to have a product design job right now.’ Like think about all the things that you learned. Getting your product design degree, you learn about people, you learn how to build stuff. Maybe you wanna go work at a fabrication studio. Maybe you wanna work as a telemarketer, you know, anything that you can do to like figure – find one of those skills that’s gonna hone it or apply it. It’s gonna give you more of an understanding of what you wanna do afterwards. And so, it’ll better position you for the thing that you wanna do rather than sitting around and waiting for it to fall on your lap.