"I feel fortunate to have received a full-time offer upon graduation and am excited to explore areas that I never got the chance to delve in during school."
Whether it's doing internships, field school, or volunteering, Maheen reflects on how her past experiences got her to where she is today: a soon-to-be Product Designer for Facebook.
1. How does it feel to receive a full-time job offer at Facebook upon graduation?
This year, I will be joining Facebook as a Product Designer in the Virtual Reality team. I feel fortunate to have received a full-time offer upon graduation and am excited to explore areas that I never got the chance to delve in during school.
Although I sometimes experience the "imposter syndrome", it makes me happy to be joining a company that will constantly be challenging me to work towards becoming a better designer.
As a product designer at Facebook, you must be well-rounded and able to work across all stages of the product design process. This includes doing strategy, interaction, visual design and more. Since I will be a part of the Virtual Reality team, there will be lots to learn, and a lot of unknown challenges ahead.
In a ﬁeld that is rapidly developing, it is important to stay ﬂexible, remain knowledgeable and act fast. The mystery and challenges that come with this ﬁeld are what attract me most.
2. Can you tell us more about your previous internships that led to this job offer?
Process is very important to me. As a designer, you must be ﬂexible enough to understand the needs of not only your user, but also your team. Your process should adapt to all those needs.
During my third year, I interned at Electronic Arts as an Associate UX Designer and was working with a team that had never worked with before. In order to do my job properly, I needed to convince and teach the team of the importance of user experience and how it can help the product. This entailed a work process that encourages transparency between my work and the whole team, and at the same time, involves team members in key UX decisions being made.
In essence, UX buy-in from all stakeholders is a very tough thing to do, but by adapting new processes catered to this team, I was able to overcome most of the challenges.
During my internship at Facebook, I had different challenges that required a different set of processes. For example:
- How do you learn about an unfamiliar domain like VR and deliver a product for it within the span of a few weeks?
- How do you communicate across multiple teams in an organization that is so massive?
Being adaptable and open are key to becoming a ﬂexible designer that can make the best out of any given situation.
You can read more about my internship experience at Facebook, in my medium article: Becoming a Virtual Reality Designer
3. Reﬂecting on your SIAT journey, what experiences helped you reach this signiﬁcant achievement?
During my ﬁrst three years in SIAT, I joined business clubs like AIESEC and CaseIT, started an international charity called “LET’S” with students from UBC, and I was the President of Interactive Arts and Technology Student Union. In addition, I did many freelance video and design projects.
Looking back, although these opportunities had no direct impact on how I got to where I am today, they did teach me a lot of soft skills that have made me a stronger designer. From managing all these extra-curricular activities in conjunction with classes, I became better at handling multiple projects in a given time.
Those opportunities also made me a better communicator and equipped me to become a better leader. Hence, I was comfortable with reaching out to strangers from other organizations whenever needed.
In fourth year, I was part of the Italia Field School, which helped me develop a set of values inspired by the designers we encountered in Italy. It also helped me embrace my passion for short ﬁlms and interviews, which I hope to continue as a side project in the Bay Area.
Having a great mentorship system is also important. I am grateful to the teachers and senior students who have always pushed me to becoming a better designer.
Courses like IAT 438 and IAT 499 push students to create projects they never thought they were cable of achieving. For example, this past semester, in IAT 499, my team was able to create a new methodology for designers to practice Ethical Design Thinking. You can read more about it in our medium post.
4. What makes SIAT unique from other programs in the ﬁeld?
What makes SIAT so unique is the network of the SIAT community. In my ﬁrst year, someone gave me this piece of advice: “The people you work with in school are the people you will work with 10 years from now.”
It is important that even while you’re working in school with your peers, you put your best foot forward. Thanks to this network of SIAT alumni, I have been able to experience internships in both Electronic Arts and Facebook, and I hope I can do the same for future SIAT grads.
5. What advice would you give to students who hope to follow your footsteps?
Get involved in initiatives outside of your classes, even if it’s not directly related to design.
Work hard and be someone who others want to work with. Network with students (juniors, seniors, designers and non-designers) and try to expand your community. Take courses in psychology, sociology, business, etc.
Understand the domain you want to design for or work in, and research into which courses will best prepare you for that domain. For example, had I known I would be working within VR, I would have taken IAT 343 and IAT 445 much sooner.
6. What are your career aspirations?
Though I am starting in VR, I have always been passionate about designing for the social good. Currently, VR is mostly being used in the entertainment industry by the limited numbers of users that own it. In the long run, I hope to tackle societal challenges through design thinking and solving problems through domains like VR.
7. What is something about yourself that others may not know about you?
I moved to Vancouver from Waterloo in 2012 to become a visual effects artist. After taking IAT 438 (a common story you’ll hear in SIAT), my goals and aspirations took a major turn. I am very happy to be where I am today!