Caylie Rentsch graduated in 2017 as part of the Xenon Cohort. Before joining Designation, she was an Account Manager at TEKsystems in Chicago.
Tell us briefly about your job.
I’m an Experience Design Consultant for Slalom, a technology consulting company with offices all over the country. I’m part of the Experience Design team, which consists of UX designers, UI designers, researchers, graphic designers, content strategists, videographers, storytellers, and many others. We get to wear a lot of hats, which is great! We’re constantly collaborating, teaching each other and learning from each other.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation?
I worked for a company called TEKsystems as an account manager. I partnered with clients in the Chicagoland area and assisted in finding the right IT professionals for their team. I worked a lot with companies looking for designers, which is how I found out about UI/UX design. I started doing some research about classes in the area, and stumbled upon Designation. I reached out to a few individuals who had gone through the program and they recommended I go for it!
How do you describe your Designation experience?
It was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, in a good way! I knew that design was something I had a passion for, so getting to learn the ins and outs of design every day was really exciting. It’s crazy to think how much I learned in such a short amount of time, and looking back at my work from the first phases of Designation was a clear indication of that. I felt I was given enough exposure to the different aspects of design that I knew which direction I wanted to go when looking for positions.
What made your Designation experience unique?
McDonald’s Diet Coke runs, almost every day. I don’t drink coffee, so Diet Coke is my caffeine substitute. I think it may have started with a couple others from my cohort and me taking a 10-minute break. By the end of our time at Designation, almost half the cohort joined us for our Diet Coke runs. It was a good way to get our legs moving a bit and take a mental break. The McDonald’s in the Merchandise Mart will always have a special place in my heart now. How do you think Designation helped prepare you for your job? We got to work with real clients at Designation. I stressed that quite a bit of my interviews and companies were super-impressed I already had “real world” experience. Even though we were given some direction by our creative directors, we were also given the freedom to learn on our own. That was crucial too. I knew no one at my next job was going to give me a step-by-step instruction book; it was important to know how to research and teach myself things I didn’t know.
If I can also give a bit of advice from my experience: Really focus on getting your portfolio done within the two weeks after graduation. The real world hits you fast, and you’ll be happy you have everything done so you can focus on applying for jobs quickly. What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now? I love that design is forever evolving, so there’s always something to learn. I’m always observing my design team’s work, and it gives me ideas and inspiration for my own. It’s so fun to get the creative juices flowing every day. And my work is often tangible, so it makes me feel accomplished when I see a finished product. What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry? Keep an open mind. Being newer to the design industry, you might not know exactly what you want to do (or maybe you have something very specific in mind). Don’t be afraid to be flexible, and don’t turn anything down! You may end up really enjoying something you never thought you’d like. There is SO MUCH DEPTH to design and you can learn a ton if you’re not afraid to try something new.