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…

 

 

Follow my Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with my adventures before my next blog post, which will hopefully be weekly from now on.

 

On the move

 

The tale of a zealous student’s first interview for an extremely exciting and promising industry job.

At last things have been happening. A month of unfruitful emails and tentative flat searches passed before anything happened. I got one response offering an interview but unfortunately they ‘found our new Studio Assistant’ before I had the chance to get my foot in the door. Until, while I was sat at my desk trawling through Dezeen Jobs one afternoon, I got the email from Philip Watts Design.

‘Thank you for your application for the placement position we have in London. I would love to meet you to discuss your work and get to know you a little more.

Are you available this Friday at all to meet at OXO Tower and we can get a coffee and discuss your work?’

At last.

The next week was spent lovingly touching up my, now shoddy, first year AutoCAD plans for my makeshift portfolio. I say makeshift because I have a designed portfolio, one I painstakingly laid out and made perfect for a hand in. Unfortunately, despite explaining to my lecturer that I had an interview and the submission having already been graded, I was unable to collect my actual portfolio from the studio. So, I made a makeshift portfolio of all of my original A3 layouts, which meant I could rearrange the work to suit what I knew Arun (my interviewer) wanted to see. And include hand drawn work from first year which is much more charming on its original, slightly crinkled layout paper. I’ve only just learned how to hand draw but it already feels like hand drawing is a dying art.

The interview went well. I survived the social shun of admitting that I don’t drink tea or coffee, then plumped with a much more palatable orange and mango juice. In fact, Arun made me feel right at home in what seems like the Philip Watts family. We briefly talked about me, then him and then the job itself. Over our drinks, the hot London sun warming our necks, he told me there’s often dogs in the office, that I get two weeks off at Christmas, and one of their biggest clients is Greggs while I sat and listened in rhapsody, hoping that the black A3 presentation folder wilting between my Nikes and the chair leg was enough.

It turns out it was. In a stroke of luck, I got the email from Philip Watts himself a week later, 10 minutes before my brother and I were due to meet my parents in Victoria for a family pub crawl back to my brothers Brixton flat.

‘You met recently with Arun at our London office and he was very impressed! So it gives me great please to offer you a placement opportunity with our company.’

Since then I’ve been looking at affordable and practical rooms in house shares around London and I think I’ve found a steal, but more on that later…

 

 

Bangers on a Budget

People all too often assume that students can’t cook and as a result live of quick, easy and unhealthy meals, but that isn’t always the case and it certainly doesn’t need to be the case. I was lucky enough to grow up in a foodie family so I had a pretty good repertoire of meals I could cook when I went to uni, but if you don’t there’s a whole host of student specific cookbook. These books, unlike other cookbooks, contain less complicated recipes that don’t require an extra parsley garnish or a sprig of rosemary which cuts the cost of ingredients considerably.

Building up your cupboard stock can be really helpful when cooking, it makes the range of recipes you can cook much wider and enables you to play around a little more with the recipes you chose. Sometimes the twist of a substitute ingredient can turn a regular recipe into a regular favourite. Soon you’ll find your own ways of cooking meals, I’m not sure if my mother was proud or offended when I started putting soy sauce in my bolognese instead of HP, which she had always used. Cooking should be fun, so don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong if you take out or add in an ingredient.

Cook on students, prove the stereotype wrong.

What’s the point?

Everyone, student or not, knows how hard finding a graduate job is. Statistics have been cropping up for years in agreement. The Financial Times recently proposed that one-in-three graduates are in low-skilled and non-degree-relevant jobs. I, like most other people, chose to do a degree in order to become more employable so every now and then, for me anyway, doing a degree can feel pointless. When zero out of 30 employers reply to your emails pleading enquiring about placement or work experience. Or when you attend a summer placement fair held by your university which is perfect for students studying engineering or accounting but more or less useless for anyone studying anything else.

When you get to this crying sat in front of your laptop stage it’s important to remember why you chose to do a degree, and there is a multitude of valid reasons.

Future Employment

Eventually, having a degree will mean being able to secure yourself a higher paying job or even any job at all. Most employers now require some kind of higher education in order to even get your foot in the door.

Being Educated

This is a competitive world and any upper hand I can have, I will. Having a degree in a chosen field allows me to call myself educated, and prove it.

Degree level education is a lot more in-depth than any other qualification. During your time at uni you’ll learn things that you never thought you would, or perhaps that you never thought you would need. Also, as it covers such a wide knowledge base you’ll probably find yourself unearthing interests you never knew you had. Plus, there’s no better feeling than being education on something you feel passionately about.

CV Filler

Sometimes just making the font size bigger isn’t the answer. Increasingly often people now reach the ripe old age of 20/21, or in other words, graduate before they have any real work experience. A degree is definitely an accolade to put on your CV.

A degree also speaks to your character. They are hard work. They take dedication, perseverance, and intelligence. These aren’t skills everyone possesses, university and the idea of a career isn’t for everyone, and having a degree proves to employers that it is for you and that you’ll work for it.

Life Experience

Love it or hate it, university is often people’s first taste of independent living. All universities have some kind of support in place for people struggling, but even if you’re not, university (especially your time in halls) is a bridge between college and the real world. Trust me, the magical oven cleaning fairy won’t come weekly forever.

Contacts 

The saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ became a cliche for a very good reason, it’s mostly true. Being at uni allows you to meet people in your industry. Lecturers are always good people to have on side, they can be a reference or even a friend later in your career. Guest lectures are also likely to be part of your course, these are hosted by people or companies who are established within your industry and are definitely worth knowing.

Not only does your time at university allow you to make connections with your superiors, but also your peers. Collaboration is an extremely important aspect of a wide range of industries, specifically the design industry.

Ultimately the goal of univerisity is to leave it feeling and being employable, so make sure you chose a field you want to explore during your career and chose a uni that ranks high within this subject.

And finally, get yourself out there when you can, because finding a job is as hard as everyone says it is.

‘Life, People & Friendly Cats’

Now, I would blog about the house I live in, but then people would see where I live. It seems the stereotype of dingy student housing, every surface piled high with washing up and beer cans, doesn’t seem quite so character and memory building when you’re living in it.

But a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of staying with my brother in his charming split level flat in heart of lively Brixton.

The interior is a quirky combination of fresh out of uni trinkets and a tasteful collection of mismatched furniture. The flat, although lived in by 3 bonified adults still contains the playful hints of millennial living such as the dart board and a range of objects salvaged from skips or garage sales. It seems that Brixton has a huge ‘give away’ community, a surprising amount of houses had stacks of old records or books on their front wall free for the taking.

I think the most appealing aspect of the flat was that each room came with its very own picturesque view of London, almost hung like a personalised poster on the wall, framed by classic sash window frames.

Brixton, despite being a young and fresh part of London, emanates an old, friendly vibe. It’s older residents walk around hand in hand with their children or partners while taking in the crude displays of free things on offer and old architecture towering over them. The younger generation dart around the streets like atoms, drinking in the novelty of all things cool in Brixton. (One of these cool places will be featured in a later blog post so keep your eyes peeled)

I was lucky enough to be exploring the very streets that had worn the holes in my brothers Nikes, with my brother. And everyone knows exploring with a local means you get to see all the secret places only those who know, know. Brixton market was first on our hit list of places to visit. The small covered part of the market was packed with shops, standing shoulder to shoulder, spilling sweetly packaged soap and other handmade trinkets onto the bustling main thoroughfare. The surrounding area was bursting with fresh vegetables, fruit, artwork and more trinkets.

On of my favourite things to photograph is contrasting textures and, it appears, brickwork; both of which are rich in Brixton. The architectures patchwork facades, partnered with classic features add to Brixton’s immense charm.

On my way back to the tube station I dragged my feet, thinking of everything I’d seen and how much I craved to be surrounded by such intrigue all the time. Out of the silence came my final comment on Brixton ‘This place is everything I love! It’s full of life, people and friendly cats’. My brother laughed…

Note to Self

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I always think it’s vital to start any day or task with a plan of what you hope to achieve, as a way of ensuring you stay on track. I personally like to do this in the form of a physical list so that I can tick things off as I go and make notes or adjustments without relying on my frazzled and probably elsewhere mind.  I’ve been told by almost everyone who knows me that I’m extremely organised, bordering on obsessive when it comes to making lists and plans. I never shy away from careful colour-coding or frantic post-it noting, also techniques I find very helpful when I’m organising my workload.

As you can imagine I’ve worked my way through my fair share of notebooks (as well as highlighters, pens and various other stationary) but my Bullet Journal is my favourite companion by far. It remains tucked safely in the bottom of my bag, always there when I need it to jot down notes or sketch something quickly.

I also take lecture notes in my Bullet Journal, which you can see below. Since first year I’ve developed my own style of handwriting when taking notes, more as a necessity than by choice, as my regular handwriting is extremely difficult to read, especially when written in a rush. This has helped enormously when it comes to looking back at my notes at a later date, as well as when I’m getting my work looked at by lecturers, this process is made much quicker when I don’t have to read every other word to them.

Ultimately, what I’m saying is, get yourself a good notebook and a good system for making and keeping notes.

I can & I will

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In a difficult time for me 8 months ago I began a blog post entitled I Can & I Will, but it fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons and remained in my draft folder to gather dust. Until now. I now find myself in a similar situation to the one I was in 8 months ago, and again after yet another fall, I need to dust myself off and get back to it with an unwavering determination.

As well as my personal life falling apart recently, I’ve also been extremely preoccupied with looming deadlines which fortunately have now passed. So, I find myself with two weeks off for Easter which I will spend getting as on top of my work as I like to be, planning out and posting a few blog posts and looking into new and exciting options for my third university year.

I think sometimes it’s all too easy to either lose sight of what you want or to just be too scared to reach out and grab it, but I can & I will.