March 03, 2015

From learning through work experience to learning abroad


Steven Phan is a Co-op and Field School student who studies in our School of Interactive Arts and Technology. On March 4th, Steven will be sharing his experience as a student in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology to future students at SFU Surrey’s Global Community Open House.

We have caught up with Steven to find out more about his undergraduate experience, and are delighted to share it on the FCAT Blog.

In your own words, how would you describe the study of Interactive Arts and Technology?

A mashup of technology and creative thinking, with a strong focus on making things - a.k.a. prototypes.

Describe your most engaged moment here at SFU.

During my time in the field school in the Netherlands. I got to ride on a ridiculous rollercoaster with one of my all time favourite designers. I sat next to him while screaming hysterically for 15 minutes on this ride. Lets just say my chances at an internship at that design firm are long gone.

Looking back, what advice do you wish you were given when you were considering going into SFU?

Start having an early digital presence. I wished someone told me to create a Linkedin account early on as it has helped me network with some really important people.  With social networks like Linkedin, finding recruiters and other talents couldn't be any easier.

As a Co-op student, you have worked with some fantastic employers. Could you tell us a bit more about them, and what the biggest lesson has been from your work terms?

I have interned both at SAP as a UX Design Intern in Vancouver and at AKQA in San Francisco as a Creative Technologist intern. Most recently, I am going back to San Francisco to work at Facebook where I will be interning as a product design intern. Being a UX Designer at SAP meant I would do a lot of research about personas using the software and sketch and design wireframes that related to that research. Where as AKQA, had a mentality of making and prototyping. Getting your hands dirty was crucial to the fast pace environment at an advertising agency. I got to combine both my software and hardware skills to create some scrappy, but functional prototypes.

One lesson I learnt is to ask your co-workers ASAP about libraries and frameworks you can use to simplify your process instead of starting from scratch. It can take countless hours searching online for the right framework and library to use for your projects. Your co-workers have tried and tested out many frameworks, talk to them and ask for their approved resources.

How would you describe the dutchDesign field school? What is the experience like learning abroad? 

The dutchDesign Field School is a fast paced adventure that forces you out of your comfort zone that can has helped me mature individually. For starters, it is intimidating as everyone in the Netherlands is model tall. When I was studying abroad I found that it was a refreshing change from being in Vancouver. Being able to study near a canal in the summer time is an experience you can have anywhere else except Amsterdam.

How have programs such as Field Schools and Co-op contributed towards your studies?

I cannot stress how important it is to get out and meet people outside of School. By travelling and interning abroad, I have met so many amazing friends that challenged me to product the best work as possible. The next person you meet could be your next referral at your dream company or the boss at that dream company, so go travel and enrich your student life.

What is one question you wish I’d ask, and how would you answer it?

What class did you take in SIAT that has helped you?

IAT 438 (previously 338) with Russell Taylor. One of the most rigorous and intense classes I have ever taken at SFU, but so worth it. It pushes you to present and produce the best work possible. It is so refreshing as industry professionals Skype in and critique students. Not only are you getting feedback from peers and Russell, but industry professionals as well. You can’t say that about other classes at other schools ;)

Do you have a website, an online portfolio, LinkedIn profile, etc. that you would like to share?