May 21, 2015

You get what you give. Tips for success in SIAT

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

Interactive Arts + Technology is a very broad and quickly evolving field (if you can really call it a field). Part of the learning at SIAT is developing your breadth of knowledge to encompass all the fields that make up SIAT, and the other part is really learning how to learn. Even if you're learning all the up-to-date skills while you're in the program they might be obsolete a year from now, so you really have to know how to keep yourself up to date so that when you go out into the industry you're valuable. All of the self learning that you do on your own really should be trying to help you develop one area of depth so you can say with confidence "I am an interaction designer," or whatever it is you want to be.

What do you love most about the program?

I love how the program is one big community. The Surrey campus isn't too large, and all the SIAT classes are offered on the Surrey campus, so whenever you're walking around or are working in a studio, there's a good chance there will be people around you that you know and if you need an opinion on something or some testing participants, there's always someone there who can help you out. It gives you that small school feeling while having access to all the services and opportunities of a large university.

You’ve completed three Co-op work terms with two different companies, why is participating in the Co-op program so beneficial?

For me Co-op was an opportunity to test out the waters and try to better understand what I want to do after graduation. I was able to apply what I've learned in school to real-world situations and build my professional network. The co-op terms are also really beneficial to my schooling because I'm always learning something there that I can bring back to my courses. I ideate much differently and much quicker after working at AKQA. I've tried to try out different work environments with my co-op placements as well. I've had one in the public sector, one for an agency, and I would like to do one more for a start-up or large company so I can see how the company culture compares.

You transferred into the program from a school in the States, what was that transition like?

The transition wasn't that difficult for me. When I first went to college in the states I wasn't as studious as I am now. So I really appreciate that I spent those first years at the college because it really helped me to grow up and get the most out of my time at university now. The transition wasn't challenging because of the academics, the logisitcs - like health insurance, and understanding what it life is like in Canada - were a bit more difficult though. I've been here a couple years now and I'm still learning new things all the time. The way the terms are setup here was a bit of a shock to me, but I appreciate that the summer term isn't just super crammed and you can actually get a full course-load without going insane.

Tell us about one of your favourite moments at SFU, and why is it so memorable to you?

I would probably say my first time walking into the Surrey Campus. I was spending a week visiting Vancouver in preparation for moving up here, and I still didn't really know how to get around so I had kind of struggled getting here from UBC where my sister was studying for exchange at the time. I was previously an architecture student, so just looking at the campus from the outside it was already pretty amazing thinking that I was going to study here, but when I walked up to the mezzanine it was just a whole new level looking at all the exposed ceiling support structures and the openness of all of it. You never really imagine a university campus looking like this. I'm never surprised to see tourists in the campus taking pictures of the architecture. 

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to newly admitted students studying Interactive Arts and Technology?

I know you hear this all the time, but you really do get out of the program what you put into it. There's a lot of opportunities to get involved on campus, and if you really apply yourself you'll have a great time, get some great portfolio quality projects, develop a really strong network of friends as well as a professional network and have no problem getting a great job when you graduate.

What are your career aspirations?

I'm interested in both user experience and creative technology, one of the rare Unicorns that I'm sure you'll hear Andrew H. Talk about. I would love to work on creating natural user interfaces or something like Magic Leap. Having an idea that can really change things and make the world a better place and then being able to see it through to fruition is something I really enjoy.

What is your favourite IAT class and why?

I would say my favourite class is IAT 233. It's the first time people really have to apply themselves in their work, and the amount of growth everyone goes through in that class is really amazing. It's the first class that really tested me, and I like a challenge.

What is one thing you think students don't hear enough?

Try new things. You've got a bunch of electives, try things that aren't in SIAT and expand your horizons. I have over 100 credits from my time in college in the states, and I don't regret it at all. Only maybe 30 credits have even a passing relation to SIAT, and I learned important things from all of it. Inspiration comes from the weirdest places, so the more varied your knowledge and experience, the more chance for you to connect two thoughts that no one else has before.

Connect with Nick By:

Visiting my portfolio www.nickdoering.com, and my LinkedIn.