journey of becoming a consultant by Catherine Dubois

Consulting: Straight out of University

In June 2021 I graduated from Industrial Design with a minor in Sociology in the midst of a global pandemic, and like my peers I was terrified to be entering the workforce in a period of economic instability.

Despite my apprehension leading up to the end of my design degree--a degree that is already notoriously difficult to find employment with--I absolutely do not regret the path I decided to take. In high school, I was drawn to design after finding out that I had to actually like math and physics to be a good engineer. Design seemed like the perfect way to be creative and apply myself to real world problems without needing a knowledge of advanced math and physics.

During my 4 years at the University of Alberta, our professors prepared us for a career in consulting. Rather than writing papers or taking exams, we were assigned hands-on projects solving real world issues with the skills that we had. A great example was a group project I worked on to improve the experience of a young girl getting her first period in the US. It was complicated. Sex education is a controversial topic within the American education system, which means that it’s inconsistently taught around the country and young girls aren’t getting the education needed to understand their own bodies. Rather than attempting to reform the entire system, we decided to add facts and resources to packaging on feminine hygiene products. In our research, we found that pad and tampon manufacturers already had resources available on their websites but they weren’t actively advertising them. By adding information directly to the packaging, young girls are given access to more consistent and comprehensive information, free from any shame. In this project and in every other project we did in university, we had to learn to advocate for our ideas and approaches to convince our clients (or professors) that our solutions made sense and were feasible. My university experience uniquely prepared me to make an early entry into the world of consulting and I’m so thankful for that. 

As a recent Design grad, moving into the world of consulting straight out of university is an interesting path, though not terribly unusual in my field. In most other industries consulting is typically a position that becomes available to someone after years of experience in their field, and here I am as a fresh-faced university grad. Though the titles of freelancer and consultant are technically separate, there’s a lot more in common between the two than people think. The way I see it, consulting is a version of freelancing with more resources; I get to work on project teams with driven and talented individuals without the pressure of having to market myself and convince clients to trust me as a recent grad. Freelancing requires that you establish your abilities in a credible way, but that gets complicated when you just graduated--chances are, you probably don’t have much practical work experience to convince larger clients to work with you. Having the official title of consultant got my foot in the door with large projects that I wouldn’t have been available to me as a freelancer. While most of my fellow graduates have gone on to do freelance work in a small job market and a volatile economy, I’ve had the luxury to skip the groundwork required to be a successful freelancer; I proved my competence to DevFacto when I got hired and therefore proved my competence to clients.

In the 8 months since I started working at DevFacto (and the 6 or so months since I officially graduated) it’s felt almost like an extension of the work that I did in university. I’m learning so much about technology-focused consulting and how to work on diverse and passionate teams with developers, data and business analysts, project managers, and sales teams. The wide variety of projects I’ve had the chance to contribute to that involve working with highly technical developers has encouraged me to learn some coding of my own to improve my design process and communication skills. I’ve been able to expand my skill set by learning basic front-end coding languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, which is something I never ever expected to be learning and enjoying. It’s been very fulfilling to actively use my skills from university and to be able to see the impact my work has on clients. I couldn’t recommend the experience more. 

If you’re looking for a career based in constant learning and growth, consulting is the place for you. Why not check out our open roles?

 


 

About the author

Sara Richards is our Social Media Coordinator and Visual UI Designer based in Edmonton, Alberta. She has a background in industrial design and sociology and is a recent graduate from the University of Alberta. In her free time she loves to do film photography and snuggle with her cat, Lasagna. Sara is passionate about putting the fun in functional to design new and interesting things. Follow her on instagram!

About the artist

Catherine Dubois is a freelance animator and illustrator from Edmonton Alberta. You can follow her and her works on twitter and instagram.

For this piece, she relates "I wanted to express that sense of journey or becoming by having the individual rise up through the tough work of university, barriers of entry, and into the sense of belonging they have found in their new position."