Not in Kansas anymore

Four main differences between being in university, working a part-time job and working in the industry.

Before going to university I had a handful of part-time jobs, predominantly bars, which on my CV I have of course said taught me a whole host of employable skills, but truth be told they mostly just taught me the quickest way to drain water off an inflatable slide and how to pour a pint.  I mean, sure, it taught me how to hold down a job and the value of earning and having my own money, but in terms of transferable skills about how to behave in the professional workplace, I learned next to nothing. In fact, if anything I learned more how not to behave in the workplace, like not dating your bar supervisor or getting too involved in workplace politics.

Similarly, while I believe that being at university helps to develop a range of skills it doesn’t necessarily directly encourage professional development. In my mind, as long as I turned up to every lecture, I worked hard and I handed my assignments in on time I could drink and make a fool of myself as I pleased.

So when I began working in my first industry job I started to see a lot of stark differences between how to conduct myself in a part-time job and at uni compared to at work.

The first being, you cannot turn up either drunk or hungover. 


So many times I would turn up to work with a hangover, especially at the fun park I worked at when I was 16. It was my first job and a gaggle of us would often stay up late, get drunk, and go in the next morning with only our sunglasses as savior. That would not fly now, nor would it be half as enjoyable. Back then it was funny, getting through a whole day incumbered by a hangover was an act of comradery and was eventually rewarded with a pat on the back from my fellow struggling ride operators, and maybe even a pint at the end of the day.

In the same vein, it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary to go get a pint – or two – at lunch while I was studying. And going in hungover almost becomes second nature, the freedom to work for yourself and by yourself allows you to go in, get your head down and achieve as much or as little as possible given your varying state, however in the work place you generally have someone to answer to. Even my boss, as chilled as he is, wouldn’t let me get away with slinking off to the back and aimlessly clicking around on CAD until I feel I’ve ‘worked’ enough to take lunch.

You do not talk about how much, or rather how little, money you have.


At university there’s almost what I’d call an overdraft culture of being very open about money, perhaps because it helps to know were all in the same boat, heavy with debt and sinking fast. There isn’t a lot that isn’t open for discussion, lectures, assignments, sex, money, rock and roll… However, this is not the same for the adult world, you’re bank account suddenly becomes shrouded in mystery and to ask how much someone earns has the same brazen sense that comes with asking an older woman her age, it’s something we can guess by appearance but society insists we should never ask directly.

Be careful how much you reveal about your love life


Talking through your love life over a pint at lunch is the norm when you’re at uni but revealing too much about your love life in the office can get you into trouble, and so can blurring the line between the two. To be frank, at uni you can sleep with half the campus if you want to if that’s your prerogative because it’s unlikely to come back and bite you in the arse (not to say it won’t get you a few side eyes) but at work, I would advise keeping your sexual dalliances separate. No one wants to be the topic of office gossip.

Pulling the covers back over your head when the alarm goes off.


Uni and to an extent part-time jobs are a lot more flexible about your presence. I will never condone just not going to lectures but if you don’t want to go, you really don’t have to. It’s not like school, no one is going to twist your arms to go (but you really should!). And anyone who says they’ve never called in sick to a part-time job because of the above-mentioned hangover or because you just can’t be bothered is a liar, but this is simply not an option with a real deal job. Unless you’re dead or dying, you should really go in.

These are just a few observations I’ve made in the short time I’ve been at Philip Watts Design but there are countless differences between working full time in the industry and studying or working a part-time job while at school or college.


Week Four:

So the end of this week marked my first month milestone working at Philip Watts Design and brought me a week closer to my big move to Waterloo, it also meant the end of what has been a very stressful week for the team.

Recently we’ve been working on a very exciting project for Pizza Pilgrims, a young and fresh pizza restaurant created by two frustrated city boys who really just wanted to make pizza. It started with an ape at the top of Italy and it ended in the best damn pizza in London. This story and some of the recipies they learned on their travels in their book.

This project, while extremely fun and playful in nature, was on a tight schedule and meant all hands on deck so for the latter part of the week I put my Greggs notes to one side and dove into the world of ‘how Philip Watts Design actually draws’. A pile of alien mark ups landed on my desk along with a midfield of unrecognised CAD layers and specific saving formats. My skills were also put to use creating 2D CAD drawings of arcade machines, vintage TV’s and themed pendant lights to later input into exceptionally detailed section drawings. It was both fun and nerve wracking to jump into the project, even if I did just stand on the periphery, my input ultimately a drop in the ocean of the fantastic design the team had already created.


Week Two

This week I continued on my quest to learn everything there is to know about designing the nation’s favourite Greggs, all the while expanding what I thought and was wrong to think was already a comprehensive knowledge of AutoCAD. I can’t help but wonder as I’m pausing to write notes under the heading ‘AUTOCAD HINTS AND TIPS’ what university has been teaching me when 2 years down the line I still don’t know half of the commands I know now or how to produce a GA (general arrangement) Plan and an RCP (reflective ceiling plan). I’ve come to the realisation that I’m going to learn more in my year on placement that I ever would have or will learn at uni.

Since I joined as the fourth member of the team, the office – which doubles as a showroom for Philip Watts products – had become rather impractical. As a result, I spent Wednesday putting together a selection of office flat packs from IKEA in preparation for the arrival of a beautiful new desk. One big enough for everyone and which has a completely flat top, which compared to the charming old carved desk it replaced is a godsend. The thought of just brushing off crumbs and being able to write without the aid of a sketchbook due to the deep grooves was an exciting one.

On Thursday I managed to catch the Kings Cross food market before I hopped on the bus. The stalls were bustling with morning commuters contemplating the array of salamis, cheeses, and cakes on offer. The square was littered with people nibbling on fresh pain au chocolates or tucking into breakfast muffins.

Week two ended in what I can only assume is what people who are employed Monday to Friday refer to as the ‘Friday Feeling’, only made better by the pending arrival of our new desk. The morning was spent frantically trying to finish the work we had so we could dedicate the afternoon to reassembling the office and then, as planned, go out to dinner after work. The desire to leave as close to 5 as possible was strong in us all.

As promised to ourselves at 5 we set off walking in the direction of Shoreditch in pursuit of what was to be the best Indian I have ever had.


Week One

The first morning felt like a dream, not only because it had been a long time since I’d been up at 6 am but because that was the first day of my career as an interior designer.

Bleary-eyed I got dressed, in an outfit I’d planned the night before, grabbed my bag, which I’d packed the night before, and gathered up the last few bits; wallet, phone, keys, and my lunch, which I’d made the night before. I felt accomplished already by the time I got to the bus stop. There’s something satisfying about walking the streets before most people have even opened their eyes. Dog owners, early morning joggers, and fellow commuters were my company that morning, it was nice. I’d already anticipated the morning commute being the worst part of my week so I was pleasantly surprised when I quite enjoyed it. Saying that coming back is much less enjoyable. Traveling there is easy with all the anticipation of what I’ll be doing that day putting a spring in my step, but an equal anticipation to be home at the end of the day adds a haste to my footsteps on the way back, and brings out an inner intolerance for slow walkers. Also having said that, it’s only been a week.

I walked into the office to see a neatly piled stack of paperwork and a drawing pack, as well as a Pukka Pad, a dates diary, two pens, and a highlighter in front of my computer on my side of the carved wooden desk. I stifled the grin, said good morning to my new colleagues and thought this is fucking it as I lowered myself into my chair. That morning was spent doing new job things like setting up my email, getting shown around the building I would be spending the majority of the next year of my life in, and of course being given some work to do – after all, this is my job now.

As Philip Watts Design is split 50/50 between product design and interior design, Arun explained that it is important for me to have even a basic knowledge of the products the company has on offer, especially as our studio is also a showroom. So I busied myself referring to the product website to find the names of the handles around the showroom. Then lunch, which as I had no stack of work to do this week has been a great chance to explore the area and test out different lunch spots. I found one that I liked on the third day, right in the sun at the top of a set of steps that leads right down to the Thames.

It didn’t take long for me to start working on one of their ongoing projects. I picked up one of the only residential projects Philip Watts works on. My job was to source furniture options, present them in an InDesign file; including image, where it’s from and how much it costs, also any additional information that might be helpful such as dimensions or other colour or material options. This was something I continued to work on for the rest of the week, all the while listening to the comments fly around the room regarding other projects and getting involved where possible.

I had the opportunity to meet the Nottingham team one afternoon early in the week while Arun was on a Skype call with Phil to discuss some changes the clients had come back with. I also managed to meet the teams’ sweetheart and mascot, Hilda, who you can see on the teams Instagram. I know it’s a cliche to say a company is like a family, but it honestly feels like one. What with Arun throwing the phone at me throughout the day to say hello to various team members, much like my mother does with my grandparents. My nerves ebbed away with each friendly welcoming to the team. Also in true family style, my computer is a lovingly cleared out hand me down.

On Friday the long process of training me to produce a complete drawing pack for the new Greggs national roll out, a design the Philip Watts team is responsible for, began. First learning about the different floor finishes and then onto wall finishes, all the while rapidly writing notes on all the AutoCAD tips I’m learning from the guys as I meticulously work through the tasks I’m given. I think the best thing about beginning my adventure in such a friendly environment is the ability to ask questions and, in some cases, be openly be confused. Fortunately, nothing is too much trouble for my new team, even if it is to explain what a bulkhead is for the 10th time.

We finished off the week with a prosecco toast in the office and then when 5 o’clock hit shortly after we left in the direction of another watering hole for one more before it was time for me to begin my commute home.

I walked to the bus stop with the same grin on my face that I had on my first day, this is is it, I did it. And I think I’m going to like it here…



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