Last month, I was given an opportunity to speak to the design students at Western Washington University for their annual week long Design Days conference. They asked if I could talk about how I got to where I am today, my experience at Phinney Bischoff, and of course, tips on getting into the design industry.

As I was planning for the presentation, I had no problem preparing my notes on Phinney Bischoff as it comes very naturally for me. As a veteran of 10 years (which is rare in the design agency world!), this has become my second home. I am passionate about our team, our work and our clients and have a plethora of stories to share.

Where I struggled a bit was thinking about how to tell my personal story… My journey. It’s different when you have something to point to, to show, and present challenges and solutions for a project.

All of sudden, I was forced to figure out, what can I say about ME?

I remembered attending a design conference where a speaker got personal and shared his childhood comic drawings, and how that passion guided him into his adulthood. His story and examples had resonated and stayed with me since.

For the first time in my life, I started to think about my own private creative exploration, which has always been just for me. And now? Sharing it with complete strangers. I dug up personal journals, drawings, sketchbooks, and art projects from when I was a little child, all the way through my adult years. It was surprisingly therapeutic spending the time to discover myself again, to answer the question, how did I end up getting to where I am today?

These creative artifacts are still too personal for me to share in this post for the whole world to see, as they are still very much just for me… But I was willing to go there for the students to demonstrate vulnerability. And to show how these passions were cultivated over the years, and have inspired me in one way or another, in the work I do every day.

What I will share here is the part of the presentation where I highlighted some key learnings along the way. Even though this list was intended for graduating design students, I believe it’s still relevant to even the most seasoned professionals.

Some things I’ve learned along the way… 

1. Details — It matters.

2. Exploration — There is a time to be obsessive with the details. This phase of the creative process is not the time.

3. Trust — Practice building it. Every day. 

4. Humility — This will lead to wisdom and understanding.

5. Passion — Don’t rely on your 9-5 job to find this.

6. Critical thinking — Seek to understand and be able to speak to the “why.”

7. Biases — We all have them. Be intentional about letting them go.

8. Vulnerability — The more human you are, the more authentic your work will become.

When I gave this presentation, I made sure to end my talk by reminding the students that their path is uniquely theirs. There is no right way to get to where you want to go. And that’s what so exciting about it all.

I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to share a little bit of myself. In return, I walked away even more inspired by the students I interacted with, the questions they asked, and the stories they told. Our future is bright if this is representative of the next generation of designers who will solve our world problems.

Special shout out to Joyce for this post. Couldn’t be happier if this was the takeway from my talk. #selflove