Interview with Kelly Graver, Visual Designer at SnapMobile

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Kelly Graver is an alum from the Nectarine Cohort. With a background in marketing and software implementation, Kelly came to DESIGNATION to transition into a career in full-stack design.


Where are you now working, and what is your job title?
I’m working as a Visual Designer at a small startup called SnapMobile.

Tell us a little bit about your new job!
SnapMobile makes mobile apps for clients on a compressed timeline using modular code from past applications. I’m the only designer on the team so I get to do everything design related like wireframes, prototypes, visual design, and branding for client projects. For internal projects, I get to try my hand at even more things like graphic design, motion design, photography, and front end development. The awesome part about working at SnapMobile is that we work a lot like an agency where a wide variety of projects come my way, but I also get all the benefits of startup culture like flexible work hours and no dress code.

How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?
In three words, rollercoaster of emotions. The high of coding a page to look almost exactly like its comp. The low of spending hours agonizing over one style tile while everyone else finishes their third. The high of organizing your thoughts and thinking of the ideal UX solution to a difficult problem. The low of thinking your prototype is great, but having your instructor tell you pretty much the opposite. The high of staying at 1871 late and goofing around with your cohort. The low of being the last one at 1871 and feeling the effects of the 5pm Dunkin Donuts iced coffee wear off.

What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?
I actually learned the meaning to life, but I’ll let everyone else figure that out on their own. Instead, I’ll say the second most useful thing I learned was that the most improved designers in my cohort showed their work to a lot of other people. If your work lives in a vacuum, you probably won’t grow very much at DESIGNATION. Another interesting thing I learned was that if you work hard, people will take notice without fail and they will tell others.

What are the people at DESIGNATION like (including staff, instructor and fellow students)?
It’s an interesting mix of people. Everyone on the staff has the same goal of producing awesome designers, but different approaches in doing so. This works great because students looking for guidance have a bunch of solid options to go to. The other students in my cohort were amazing. From start to finish, I would think about how glad I was to be in Nectarine Cohort because I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with everyone in it. The overall work ethic of my cohort really pushed everyone to some great heights as well. We still hold that we are the undisputed best cohort in DESIGNATION past, present, and future.

What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?
Immediately before doing DESIGNATION, I was travel bumming around Australia and Southeast Asia. But before that I had a corporate gig as a Software Implementation Consultant for Reynolds & Reynolds, which makes software suites for car dealerships. That was my first job out of college and really set me up nicely to become a designer. Training people on how to use software they’re not familiar with really makes you think about good user experience versus not so good. I also had to cater to the wants and needs of a huge variety of people which helps take the edge off of client criticism in my current line of work.

How did you hear about DESIGNATION, and why did you decide to come?
I was actually looking into coding bootcamps and I happened to stumble across DESIGNATION. The fact that it was design focused really appealed to me because I always had creative inclinations, but never thought I could translate them into a career. I started looking into some of the success stories and the curriculum and thought it was by far the best value of any program I had come across. The fact that the classrooms were in 1871 put it over the top.

“The fact that it was design focused really appealed to me because I always had creative inclinations, but never thought I could translate them into a career.”

How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?
The things I learned in the program have translated extremely well to my job at SnapMobile. The client projects we worked on while I was at DESIGNATION were in short sprints, we did daily standups, wrote on every blank space of whiteboard available, and had us working some intense hours. All of these are things I do at Snap. Most importantly, DESIGNATION helps students get used to learning new things quickly, which is huge at a startup.

What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
My favorite part was the fact that literally every day, I felt like a significantly better designer than the day before. A lot gets thrown at students, but once you get used to the pace, it almost becomes addicting. It’s always fun to look back at work from the beginning of the program and just cringe at the stuff you thought was amazing at the time.

What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?
GRIND. I mentioned before that starting out as a designer is a rollercoaster. Everyone talks about the imposter syndrome and it’s totally true. The only thing you can do about it is keep grinding away, every day make something, every day learn something. When you see amazing designs, instead of letting the existential dread flow over you, take warm and fuzzy comfort knowing that whoever designed it was at one point just as good (or bad) at design as you and put in the time to improve.

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