Industrial design symposium prepares students for professional life

The annual BYU Industrial Design Symposium was Thursday, April 7 through Saturday, April 9. The event gave industrial design students an opportunity to review portfolios with professionals, network and engage in presentations offered by successful professionals from around the world.

On Thursday, students participated in a conceptual design workshop that was led by two designers from Ontwerpduo, which is located in the Netherlands, and also a Women in Design dinner. Ontwerpduo ran another workshop for students on Friday morning. That was followed by lunch, a question and answer session with a professional panel, speakers from IBM and Snook, a portfolio review, dinner and a student showcase. The symposium concluded with a third student workshop from Ontwerpduo on Saturday morning.

"Design has many different disciplines beyond our product focus here at BYU," industrial design professor Bryan Howell said. "We bring in different types of expertise to expose the students to the broader impact and job opportunities for design in the world."

During the question and answer session, students were able to engage a panel of five professionals in a discussion that centered on the transition from school to professional life. The panel consisted of Scott Layton (Cinco Design), Shay Xie (Kaleidoscope), James Lee (Johnson and Johnson) and Brendan Oberkircher (Johnson and Johnson). These professionals offered advice to industrial design students to help them transition into the professional world.

Advice for interviews

When asked about their first interviews, the professionals all had similar experiences. Layton said the interview process is a chance for students to present themselves and show the value they can add to an organization, while both Oberkircher and Lee offered that students that are interviewing for positions should seek to stretch themselves.

“As professionals, we don’t expect (students) to work at the same level as we do because we have more experience,” Lee said. “It’s alright to put yourself out there, because that’s where you’re going to learn the most.”

Challenges during the transition from student to professional

Oftentimes there are difficulties for students transitioning to being paid professionals. For Xie, she went to went to school in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then moved to California for her current job. She didn’t know anyone in the area and was alone. She overcame this by making a goal to talk with everyone that she passed in the hall while at work.

“Even though it wasn’t comfortable for me to talk to strangers, I began to actually say ‘hi’ to everyone in the hallway at work,” Xie explained. “Right now, I know everyone on my floor and it’s awesome. I learned a lot of new things that I wouldn’t have normally learned.”

Picking a job and enjoying it

There are countless opportunities for students as they enter the workforce upon graduation so it can be difficult to choose a job. The professional panel all agreed that students need to be passionate about what they do. It always a career goal of Oberkircher’s to make a difference in whatever industry he entered into and working at Johnson and Johnson allows him to do that. Because he knows that he is making a difference he is able to enjoy his work more.

“That ability to make an impact was really important to me and it guided me in my decisions,” he said.

The industrial design symposium is meant not only for students to network, but to help them move into the professional workforce. As seniors graduate and move on to their professional careers, students will move forward in their curriculum and can look forward to the next annual industrial design symposium.

"(The symposium) is getting better each year," Professor Howell said. "We are exceeding expectations and this venue is a great teaching and learning opportunity."

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