Interview with Angie Ma, DESIGNATION Alum and Designer at NogginLabs

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Angie Ma is a designer, developer, musician, martial artist, wedding DJ and cat enthusiast. Shortly after graduating from the DESIGNATION – Diamond Cohort, she landed a job as a designer and front-end developer at NogginLabs.

 

Where are you now working, and what is your job title?

I am a designer at NogginLabs, a company that makes custom e-learning courses with an emphasis on gamification and making learning experiences more enjoyable.

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Tell us a little bit about your new job!

It’s really a creative dream come true! On any given day, I get to mock up user interfaces in Photoshop, write CSS, create animations in After Effects and illustrate. The content also varies widely from educating retail employees about products using a mix and match game to showing what muscles are used during biking through interactive illustrations.

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How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?

I’d say ‘magical’ is a pretty fitting description! Seriously though, it’s pretty incredible how a handful of teachers can make you give 150% of your effort and attention for 18 weeks, 12 hours a day. They create an environment in which you have nothing to do other than hang out in a space and become as awesome as you can at design, and it definitely transforms you.

“The way I tackle a problem of any kind has changed after DESIGNATION, and it all started with realizing that my understanding of the word ‘design’ was completely flawed.”

What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?

The way I tackle a problem of any kind has changed after DESIGNATION, and it all started with realizing that my understanding of the word “design” was completely flawed. I was definitely one of those people who thought design was just about making things look nice. But after the very first lecture at DESIGNATION, it became clear that I couldn’t have been more wrong. We learned so much about design thinking, and how it’s problem solving with an emphasis on really considering the people you’re making things for (to an extent further than I’d ever imagined). It’s about using empathy, research, and other various toolsets and processes to deduce what the best experience for those people could be, and how to best communicate it to them.

 

What are the people at DESIGNATION like (including staff, instructor and fellow students)?

I also consider this to be some secret dark magic of DESIGNATION. Having to share a space with fellow students, all studying 12 hours a day, vying for similar jobs, should be a cut-throat, cranky, drama-filled nightmare, right? And yet somehow, every single student at DESIGNATION is the most considerate, funny, laid-back, and hard-working person who you couldn’t be happier to spend all your time with. And it’s no different with the staff and instructors at DESIGNATION. At the drop of a hat, they will help you with anything you don’t understand, give you thoughtful feedback, often well past the time they could have gone home. It’s in their character that they can’t bear to leave a problem unsolved, and you couldn’t hope for better teachers than that.

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What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?

I was a wedding DJ for Toast & Jam for several years! I mainly held music related jobs in the past, though I had been messing around with CSS and HTML since I was in middle school, as a hobby. I’d make websites for myself, or friends, never really quite knowing the proper way to do things. It for some reason didn’t hit me until last year that these were skills that I could make a much more responsible career out of, haha.

How did you hear about DESIGNATION, and why did you decide to come?

Once I considered this career move, I googled around for design programs. I knew I wouldn’t ever sign up for a 2- or 4-year college to change my career—it had to be something quicker or I just wouldn’t do it. And out of all the bootcamps, I found that DESIGNATION offered both a wider and more in-depth scope of topics covered than all the others, which seemed to focus on only graphic design or only coding. I knew I was interested in design and front-end dev, but wanted to learn more about both at the same time. I hesitated to apply because I was scared to devote all my time and effort to something I could end up not liking, but I’m so glad I put my foot down and signed up!

“Every morning you wake up and realize that you’re actually looking forward to making a bit more progress on all the things you’re learning.”

How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?

Though they also gave us seminars on what makes good cover letters and resumes, the instructors instilled within us a solid foundation of how to talk about, evaluate, and defend design decisions, which I found carried me through my job application processes effortlessly and genuinely. At DESIGNATION, we all came to enjoy talking and thinking about design 24/7, so job interviews and design presentations felt like simple continuations of those conversations with new acquaintances. And I think that’s something that companies like to see. As for the job itself, it’s just been a blast to get to use the skills we’ve learned every day!

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What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?

That feeling every morning when you wake up after a long day of hard work, and you realize that you’re surprisingly not exhausted, and you’re not dreading another long day—you actually keep looking forward to every day and making a bit more progress on all the things you’re learning.

What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?

If you want to learn how to build awesome things, you have to be excited to break them first! You’ll never learn how things truly work if you are afraid to make a mistake 🙂

“If you want to learn how to build awesome things, you have to be excited to break them first! You’ll never learn how things truly work if you are afraid to make a mistake.”

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