Interview with Laurel Petty, DESIGNATION Alum and Sr. UI Designer at Rightpoint

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Laurel Petty is a grad of the Emerald Cohort. Originally hailing from Nashville, Laurel had been in Chicago for about a year before joining DESIGNATION, where she quickly distinguished herself as one of the leading designers of her cohort, and landed a job at Rightpoint shortly after graduating.

 

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

I’m a Sr. UI Designer at Rightpoint, an awesome digital agency & technology consulting firm here in Chicago.

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Tell us a little bit about your new job!

So, I get to work alongside some super smart developers, creatives, and UX designers in this amazing and collaborative environment, to solve all kinds of digital and strategic challenges for some pretty awesome clients.

For the last two months, I have been working on this enormous responsive site for one of the biggest hospital systems in the midwest. Next week, I am flying out to Oregon to help facilitate some creative visioning and whiteboarding sessions with a financial client, who has hired us to build an internal “Knowledge and Culture Hub” for their organization. (Oh, and did I mention that we have two keggerators and a fully-stocked winerator in our office lounge?!?) The job and the culture are exactly what I’ve been looking for a long time. Definitely a dream come true.

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How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?

Intense. Exciting. Stimulating. Exhausting. Supportive. Challenging. Eye-opening. Rewarding.

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

With a solid graphic design foundation underneath my belt, I’ve been dying to break into the digital space for years, but I had no idea how. Joining DESIGNATION helped me realize there was WAY more that I didn’t know I didn’t know… but it also provided me with unlimited resources to find the answers. Before coming to DESIGNATION I wouldn’t have even known what questions I needed to ask. I think eye-opening experiences and take-aways from DESIGNATION will continue to pop up throughout my career in these little “ah-ha” moments as I get to keep putting the theory and process I learned into practice.

“Joining DESIGNATION helped me realize there was WAY more that I didn’t know I didn’t know… but it also provided me with unlimited resources to find the answers.”

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

Our cohort was so diverse. There were students from all different places geographically, and with different backgrounds from PR to industrial design, to anthropology. I loved this. The instructors have legit real world experience and are able to bring that to the classroom, which is really invaluable.

What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?

I’ve been a an art director and graphic designer in the more traditional space (i.e., “print”) for over a decade. My last job was with an in-house global marketing department here in Chicago, and before that I was working for a marketing/advertising agency in Nashville.

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

While discussing the mutual desire to break into the digital-design space with a former colleague, he mentioned this crazy bootcamp in Chicago and sent me a link. Last year, I had tried the grad-school route to expand my career, and after a semester, I realized working full time while going to school part-time just wasn’t for me! DESIGNATION was the answer I had always been searching for.

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How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?

The exposure to the entire full-stack process from start to finish, has been invaluable. Gaining a solid understanding of the multiples roles of a UX Designer (and getting to actually participate in brainstorming, research, interviews, white-boarding, wireframing, etc.) helps me intelligently collaborate with the UX team I work with today. Being able to tell the developers I work with that I coded my own web site (using Bootstrap and some additional jQuery plugins) gets me some real street cred among our dev team, and also helps me be a better visual designer, by truly understanding the limitations of CSS styling when building responsive sites.

What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?

Getting to quit my incredibly unsatisfying job and spend 3 months learning, expanding, developing, and creating JUST FOR ME was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (Oh, and I also got a new best friend out of the experience as well! Spending 12+ hours a day with your classmates, sharing all-3 meals together, and riding the train home together at the end of every night is definitely an incredible bonding experience!)

“Getting to quit my incredibly unsatisfying job and spend 3 months learning, expanding, developing, and creating JUST FOR ME was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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

“If you build it, they will come.” I really wanted to create a portfolio site that would let some of my quirks and personality come through. As the web becomes more awesome, it’s also seemingly becoming more homogenous, with so many agencies and designer’s portfolios all looking exactly the same. If you don’t have a lot of work or real world projects to showcase, let your portfolio become a portfolio piece in and of itself.

If you’re an aspiring UI designer, ABSOLUTELY take the time and effort to code your own website. It will be an amazing talking point when you start interviewing for jobs, and proves you’ve really got a solid foundation. It probably took me a couple of weeks after graduating from DESIGNATION to launch my site and start the application process, but within 48 hours, I had like 6 or 7 job interviews lined up in 4 different states (from Silicon Valley to Washington D.C. and a couple of places in between!) I know the sweat and tears I shed while building my site helped get my foot in the door, and I’m really glad I didn’t take any shortcuts in the development process.

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