As part of the Digital Concept Development study programme at Business Academy Aarhus, I went on an internship hunt and landed softly at Designit Aarhus. On the first day, I did not show up alone. Being a growth scout, I came packed with personal and professional goals for the internship. Like, trying to work with diverse agency clients, researching in the field with real users and producing low/high-fidelity artifacts.
But, before I ticked off all the goals, I wanted to find out the core of Designit’s existence and I will share here what I found out.
Who are Designits?
Designit is a global strategic design agency with more than 600 employees spread out in 15 countries around the world. They collaborate with brands who have the ambition to create products, services, systems and spaces that matter, both to businesses and people. These brands include international companies like SAS, Brussels Airlines, Google, Telenor but also local clients like Lunar Way, Kombardo Ekspressen, etc.
Designit’s vision is to make a human-shaped world, because they see all the problems that limit human potential in the world, and want to fix them by design. They aim to observe the systems where we live and design solutions that enable people to live more informed and healthy lives.
Hi! “What can I do for you?”
That’s the first question you will get asked at Designit, whether you are a client, a director or an intern. The core principle is to look out for each other and serve clients coming in through the main door. Equally so, serve their interns with knowledge and an unbelievable network of creatives.
After my first month at Designit, I had a retrospective meeting with my mentor where we discussed my development. To make sure our feedback was equally constructive I used the “I like, I wish, What if” framework that I still use today in my work as an IT project manager at Dynamicweb. These monthly sessions were a great chance to reflect on what I had learned and what I could improve upon going forward. What did I learn?
Firstly, I was surprised about how important soft skills are in day to day work at a digital agency. Simple gestures, like being able to socialize at lunch, and be consistent on following up on these conversations is invaluable. I learned that small talk could be a nice energy booster AND a good way to get interested in the projects of the house. This way project managers would know what projects I thought were exciting, ergo bigger chances for me to be part of the team for that project.
Second, it was crucial to develop a very fast reaction to understanding new projects and industries. Sometimes, I had to use my evenings at home to read up on the requirements of the project and get my head around how the business/industry is built. Having said that, I always felt I had people I could ask and that nobody would step on my throat if I didn’t get it the first time. All the contrary, asking again shows curiosity and interest.
Last, I thought I could easily run tasks on 3–4 different projects during one work day. Then, I found out that this way of working reduces productivity by at least 40%, resulting in high inefficiency. Task switching is what we normally call “multitasking” and it is the killer of a good workday. It is a good idea to accept you are multitasking, take a short walk with your colleague to rest your brain, and get back to one project at a time — focus work.
While reading, one day, I stumbled upon this quote:
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Steve Jobs
Starting an internship at Designit was an embodiment of Steve Jobs’ advice and it has been a growing experience for me, personally and professionally.
During my time at Designit, I became more aware of how important personal branding within the company you start working for, is. Immediately, when you start working you become a resource, so I cannot stress it enough: decide what you want to do, and let colleagues know. You can talk about it during lunch or post your favorite articles (and GIFs) about it on Slack. Related tasks will magically appear on your desk, probably resulting in a job later on.
Be patient and persistent at the same time. Persistent in developing focused habits and skills while being at work, and patient because it takes time to get the basics right. There is no shortcut to hard work, but following a project from start to finish, and having many creatives around ready to help, surely lightens the burden.
When entering the world of UX as a career, I realized quickly that it is very much a collaborative effort. For a web experience to be functional, usable, and memorable — it takes research, analysis, and full speed on artifact production. While I am sure you can be one that does it all, it takes collaboration between many people to get the users’ wow-effect that makes you proud of your work. My mentor Stine talks in-depth on UX as a collaboration at this podcast episode.
Even though I am not working as a UX designer, I have taken these learnings to heart. I try to apply UX principles as an IT project manager every day — of course, patience, persistence, and collaboration as universal work values, too. So, if I were to leave you with one learning from my experience, it is to be very open-minded about people and projects you will work with because however good you already are at UX craft, you are in your internship to learn.