What I’ve learnt since graduating
It has been just over 2 years since I joined Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB) as a service designer (honestly, where does the time go?). It’s been a brilliant experience for me to work alongside our great team at CYB on the exciting projects I’ve been involved with at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). But more than anything else, it’s been a huge learning curve.
Today is the International Day of Education, and as a recent graduate myself, I know that many new and soon-to-be graduates will be looking to their own futures, and asking themselves the same questions I did: where do I want to work? What is the world of work actually like? And what do I need to know before I take the big leap into full time employment?
So I think it is a good time for me to reflect on some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt at CYB, both in terms of service design and as an employee in general, which have allowed me to develop into the designer I am today. Here are the 3 key things I learnt so far:
1. You won’t know everything - learn from your colleagues
I had never worked with the FCDO before, yet as soon as I started with CYB I was straight into the thick of it - exciting and daunting! Immediately, I was helping to build digital consular services that helped British nationals abroad - everything from getting married to importing a car into Portugal (yes, our work with the FCDO is quite varied!)
I needed some guidance as I got to grips with the role - luckily, the team at CYB were brilliant, and so helpful. Christine, our Head of Design and Branding, especially was very helpful with roping me into the consular services, and made sure I felt confident in carrying on the work she was handing over to me. It was crucial for me to learn from her knowledge and expertise. She walked me through the journey maps which illustrate how a British national applies for certain documents from start to finish, and what is also involved from the FCDO.
I learnt how she analysed each part of the user journey, taking note of the pain points or benefits, and how to further iterate the service. When I had questions, she was more than happy to answer them, which accelerated my understanding. Journey maps are a key aspect of our design work with FCDO, especially when presenting our ideas to improve a service. It made me realise the benefit of having experienced colleagues on hand to learn from.
So one key piece of advice would be - ask questions! As many as you can. Learning doesn't stop when you leave the classroom. Like with learning anything new, just as I was with journey maps, you may feel unsure about things. If there’s such a time, ask your colleagues or seniors about it, see what they think and listen to any advice they may give. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask for advice, or about things you don’t know about - no one should expect you to know everything!
2. Be open - work is often a team effort
During your studies, you may have worked on your own for most of the time, and only have your tutors critique your work on a weekly basis. Your job will be very different.
Work with others, and communicate regularly about progress
You might want to show your colleagues that you are capable of working by yourself, to prove you are worthy. That is only natural. There was one occasion where I focused on coming up with what I thought would be a very helpful design for the e-Apostille service we launched for the FCDO. I ended up creating something that was not what my colleagues expected - in fact, quite far from it!
While being ambitious and capable is good, working together is a big part of our ethos here in CYB. The lesson learnt from that experience was to keep communicating and be open with my peers. Run initial ideas past them first to see whether you’re on the right starting point, and also periodically check-in with them to ensure you’re on track. If I did that in the first place, I would not have wasted time, and could have focused on more worthwhile tasks.
It’s therefore important to communicate what you’re improving, the value it provides, but also leave room for feedback. You can still showcase your design ability, but you’ll also inspire discussion about your ideas, and see if there’s anything you missed.
Listen to feedback
Design work is something that everyone can have an opinion on, and it should not be exclusive to you. If anyone has other views, or even criticisms, don’t feel discouraged. Instead, be open and listen to what people think, because they may have a very interesting perspective, or an idea you have not considered. If you do not, then you may have prevented your design from going any further. Therefore, it is very important to check your ego at the door, and embrace other views.
Remember, many aspects of work - especially service design! - are a team effort.
3. Don’t get complacent
I was once praised by a senior member of the FCDO for quickening the process of updating embassies’ bereavement guides across the globe. It’s rare to receive individual praise from our clients, but nonetheless it was very well meant and it’s great to be recognised for the work I did. At CYB, we make a point of giving credit where credit is due for the good work we do, because we want our team to feel valued, and be motivated to do more.
But while it’s occasionally good to reflect on your accomplishments, keep in mind what the next challenge may be. The last thing you want is to rest on your laurels. I always think that what you accomplish is just another stepping stone to the even greater work you will achieve. People remember you for the latest work you produced, so what you did before will eventually come to pass. So stay humble, and stay focussed on the next challenge.
It’s been an instructive and rewarding couple of years for me here at CYB. I hope this blog can help people, or inspire anyone to think about working in service design. My design journey is far from over, it is only onwards and upwards. I look forward to what’s next in our continued work with the FCDO - and to helping CYB use digital as a force for good.