Being a designer means a lot more than drawing pretty pictures. It involves a lot of creative thinking and problem-solving, being aware of the world we live and communicate in, and the ability to bring big ideas to fruition.
As a long-term artist, the work of building my skills and career has just begun, and that path has not been proven straightforward since taking off the cap and gown.
I first got my start at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois in 2017. There, I studied Graphic Design, and I achieved my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree after four years. When you share that your degree is in Fine Arts, you’re liable to get a whole host of reactions —the most common one being: “Why did you go to school for Graphic Design?” The truth is, for most of my life, I loved drawing, illustrating, and the act of creation in general—but I also loved the aspect of problem-solving that comes with developing an entire brand and identity based on an idea. So, in that sense, it felt natural to major in graphic design, since it brought together all those attributes in this ever-changing and highly creative pursuit.
My original goal after graduation was to find a position at a large design firm in Chicago. My dream was to work for a company where I could be part of a large design team, collaborating with big corporations on branding projects and using my creativity to produce eye-catching graphics. I really enjoyed branding design and wanted that to be my first stepping-stone into a long-term career as a designer.
Things changed a little bit after 2019. My college plans had to be shifted completely, and this was especially true when the COVID-19 pandemic made its debut. The world was no longer what I was used to, especially what I had gotten used to between the years 2017 and 2019. Suddenly, I was at home for a year and a half, pulling together senior projects and meeting with my teams via Zoom. Worse, no one was willing to take on new interns at that time. The firms and companies I had been looking at prior to the pandemic became unviable.
Graduation and Changing Plans
Upon graduation in 2021, COVID was still a huge factor in job opportunities in Chicago, and my goal of being part of a larger firm felt farther than ever before. Because of the lack of a clear career trajectory, I had to pivot into something new. With one life change after another, I shifted my goal and began applying to as many in-house designer positions as I could find.
Still, graduating was a huge deal for me and my family, and it is an accomplishment that I am still proud of to this day. Following my mom, I am a second-generation graduate, which played a huge role in the sense of accomplishment coming out of those four years. Though I cannot say that I had a normal, stereotypical, or even straightforward path through college, I persevered. Despite COVID, I completed a lot of projects that I am proud of, and these projects continue to be a highlight of both my college experience and my portfolio.
Before moving to North Carolina, I held one job related to my degree: working for a local photographer. This position was four months in the summer, and I assisted with editing images and creating graphics for his business and events. I took this job quickly, trying to get as much experience as I could. I was originally working for Walmart while I finished school and for a bit after graduation, and I was looking for any design-related opportunity I could find. Because of that, in my opinion, taking the job with the photographer was a rash decision. While I mostly enjoyed the position, it felt like those four months did nothing to contribute to my career goals. But I like to believe that everything happens for a reason, and even though this part of my path wasn’t how I envisioned, I think it put me right where I needed to be.
Ultimately, the changes in my life brought on by my personal path and the pandemic led me to North Carolina—where I would eventually become part of the Summit team.
My fiancé and I graduated around the same time in 2021, and while I struggled with finding job opportunities, he was experiencing the same difficulties. However, he received a huge opportunity in Raleigh—something that would mean a lot for his career—and while we both grappled with the decision, we eventually concluded that the move would be the best decision in the long run to help kickstart his career plans.
Personally, I never saw myself moving to North Carolina. I was very much a homebody, and I loved the city I grew up in. However, if we never took that chance, I wouldn’t have found my place here at Summit.
As my fiancé and I were in the process of moving down to North Carolina, I began applying to a list of places I felt my skills suited. As it would turn out, though, I received very few responses from anyone.
This changed when I logged in to find a notification from Indeed. Curious, I checked it out—and found that it was highlighting an opportunity at Summit. Though it was a bit outside of what I had imagined, I decided to apply for it on a whim and see where it would go. The next thing I knew, I was being considered for the position.
At this point, I had interviewed for a couple of opportunities, and, as always, I was nervous beyond belief. Usually, I would come into the interview (often using Zoom), introduce myself, and present my work. I often had a suspicion that, for the most part, those I was interviewing with barely looked at my portfolio or even my resume; however, something about my meeting with Summit felt different. The interviewer made me feel comfortable—relaxed, even—and I felt that we had a good connection. She complimented me on my work and asked me about my projects. Our conversation flowed naturally, and we had a good rapport. After a couple of days, I was offered the position.
Hitting the Ground Running
I started at Summit as a Graphic Designer/Marketing Assistant in November of 2021, 7 months after I graduated and 2 weeks after we made it down to North Carolina. I was extremely nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, the team did a lot to make sure I felt welcome and comfortable during my transition. My earliest and most cherished memory is all of them joining me for lunch on my first day, where I was able to learn more about the team and we got to know each other. It felt great to be utilizing the skills that I spent four years building, and though I would like to say my transition to corporate life was easy, school can only teach you so much about actually being on the job.
It’s been almost two years since then, but to be honest, the firm wasn’t too much different from what it is like now. One thing that was different was the Marketing Team. Our department was quite small back then. I had my work cut out for me!
As Summit was my first degree-related job, it was a lot to learn about corporate life and being a designer at a real company. One of my first big projects after becoming a member of the team was to put together a brand-new recruitment video. I’ve spent a good deal of time on this project, which involved taking a lot of videos and editing the footage into something marketable. This process ended up being a good warm-up for the position, because, as it turns out, the recording and editing of videos is an ongoing process. It was my favorite project, as I got to go out and learn so much about the different departments, my new coworkers, and project sites. Being able to go out into the field and see what our firm is working on was a very enlightening experience.
Another project that would come to be a large part of my impact here at Summit would be the comic book. This project was massive, and it was one of the first initiatives that I managed. Bringing the comic book from concept to execution allowed myself and others who worked on it to not only learn more about our company and the people who were involved with its beginnings, but to bring that knowledge to people through a fun, colorful, and interactive medium.
Why My Current Job Rocks
As Summit continues to grow and change with time, so does my role here. Right now, I am focusing on developing myself in my career and position as a graphic designer. Being afforded the opportunity to further my skills while continuing to work has been one of the great benefits of working for this firm. Summit has provided me with a lot of opportunities to improve, something I didn’t expect to achieve at this point in my career.
Even though a lot of life has changed in the past two years here, I am grateful for where I am. I truly believe that Summit has had and will continue to have an impact on my journey, and I’m very excited to see where our team will go next!