Leaving design school, it can be really tough to pick a career direction; let alone find a job. Believing ‘change brings opportunity’, after graduating in 2003 I decided to head east and cut my teeth in Asia. Now all I needed was a job, and a destination.
Since I had never been to Asia before (it seems ridiculous to write that now), I lacked any connections or experience in the region. What I did have was a resume that I had been building since leaving high-school that packed a solid range of work experience and internships in some well-known companies. Crucially, a design education that included engineering and management training gave me the advantage of providing something a little different. All this provided a good foundation to start the search.
Leaving Europe. The night before, I had a pain in my stomach unlike anything I had ever felt before … but since the cost of changing my ticket to come home was only €25, I tricked myself into leaving anyway; and almost seven years later, here I am.
Working remotely, it was difficult to get a grasp of the ‘landscape’ of the design industry. I naturally applied through the variety of HR web portals that larger companies maintain, but was not surprised when I did not hear anything back. I browsed design company web sites, pestered my lecturers for alumni contact information, targeted conferences and design festivals looking for speakers and sponsors, and even pored through design award books looking for names. Anything that could give me the crucial ‘@’, that allowed me to crack the e-mail code was considered.
After months of freelancing, interviewing in the UK, and more than a little frustration, I finally hit pay-dirt when an innocuous ad for Asus Computers’ design team in Taipei popped up on Coroflot.com. Phone interviews were followed by a face-to-face in Germany, and before I knew it, I had an offer. I finally hit the ground on May 14th 2004; a solid ten months after graduating. Do not underestimate the power of resourcefulness, patience and perseverance (and even a little cunning).
My first few weeks on the ground were at first a little perplexing.
I struck it lucky with that advert, but a cross-section of my international friends in the region reveals a similar picture; get stuck in with research, and don’t give up. Nothing beats getting your feet on the ground out here, so book that plane ticket (ask your school to see if there are travel or research bursaries). No-one is going to begrudge a meeting with you if you have flown half-way round the world, and it’s likely that if you do meet with other designers out here, your spirit of adventure will likely mean they are more open to help you. You’ll be surprised.
18 months on Asus’ design team was followed by almost three years in design studio, DEM. And this bring me today, working for Dell on the notebook design team, deeply ingrained in the Taiwanese ‘industrial organism’, and a full paid-up member of the Asian Industrial Design Community. More about that next time.
Taking trains to visit vendors in China.