Convocation Feature: Shayla Pal

October 03, 2023

Shayla Pal graduates this week with a Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Arts & Technology with a concentration in media arts. Shayla shares her experiences in co-op, her favourite course, memorable projects, and her advice to students!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I didn't really know everything about SIAT when I first got involved. I knew it would be creative and I knew at some point or another I'd be able to do some animation and storytelling. What I didn't know were the many other things I'd get to experience, like game design, coding, sound design, website making, and much more!  

I have been in SIAT for a long time! One of my biggest reasons for joining SIAT was that I wanted to do something creative with my career. It was exciting to be able to see the many different things that could be done in the program. I especially enjoyed anything where I got to draw or tell stories such as the film and animation courses. Growing up I loved to draw and I didn't want to give it up for my professional career.

That being said I was able to bring a lot of my artistic background to my role at SIAT. In numerous courses I was able to combine my skills with the new knowledge I learned to make many amazing things. There are things I learned here that I know my friends didn't get the benefit of learning in their degrees. Beyond just technical skills, being a SIAT student means learning new heights of understanding and empathy for the many diverse individuals who could one day be your user or audience. Good skills don't come from books and lectures alone.

What was your favourite SIAT course?

The class that I enjoyed outstandingly more than the rest was that of IAT 343 which is the Animation course. Not only did I feel like professor Steve DiPaola and our TA did a phenomenal job teaching but their genuine interest and support in the topic made it incredibly easy to begin learning. I didn't feel like my marks mattered more than my effort and so if I didn't catch on immediately, I still felt encouraged to learn and be bad at it before I got better.

This course was also one of the courses where I didn't feel like I was being thrown in to the wild with some scary foreign looking software that I have to learn without any background. I felt so supported in learning MAYA for the first time, which doesn't always happen with some courses.

What was your favourite project that you worked on while at SIAT?

If it wasn't obvious from the previous answer, I would say it's the 3D animated short film I worked on a few years back. I had a great team with amazing chemistry and we were able to work amazingly together. Not only could we handle the bumps in the road with compassion but we built a cute and unique story! I'll include a link for those curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue5aWvCnii0&t=32s .

I also have a soft spot for a 2D solo animation project that I did speaking about the experiences of feeling both fortunate and isolated during the 2020 pandemic. This particular project was for IAT 344 Moving Images. In this project I put together a lot of the skills I already had in order to tell a story in a thoughtful way that only I could. 2D animation certainly wasn't the standard for such projects, especially alone, it simply takes far too long. It was challenging, I spent more time drawing than I ever have in one time period—but it did pay off in the end. My finally video was something I was very proud of.

Shayla Pal in the process of drawing.

Tell us about your time in co-op.

One of the most fun things about my co-ops was getting to know all sorts of great new people. Networking and even making new friends can be scary when you transition from high school to post-secondary. I wasn't always excited to reach out to people because I was a bit shyer and quiet. However, after getting my first role as Communications Assistant at the TD Community Engagement Centre I was able to establish the confidence I couldn't quite build from course work alone. Being surrounded by a kind and caring environment that wants to see you grow in your career is one of the greatest gifts you could get from a great co-op.

In my most recent role at Precision Nanosystems I was able to experience working in a company that had many moving parts. It was more challenging that usual, because instead of me being the sole creative worker, I was part of a team. There was already some professional branding, so I had to learn to make new unique visuals with the rules of the brand already in place. Evidently, I found myself finetuning the essentials of graphic design skills like typography, alignment and spacing. I came out of this role ready to take on even more challenging roles.

Any advice for incoming students considering SIAT?

Don't be afraid to ask for help! One of the things that had me feeling easily intimidated was almost every time I didn't know something. I was constantly scared (for whatever reason) that somehow I'd be the only person in the room who didn't know how to do something. Once I let myself be a little vulnerable whether it be to advisors, counsellors, friends, or even TAs, I learned that I wasn't anywhere near as alone as I thought I was. There is always help available to those who ask!

I would also like to mention that SIAT may not appear this way, but it can be high maintenance. As opposed to constant studying, students need to bring their A game to every deliverable and hand in top notch work on a regular basis. Time management and communication with your team members are really valuable essentials that can make your life much easier. Without carefully managing yourself and learning how to work with others, you might find more roadblocks.

This program isn't about just going through the motions, there is so much more to be accomplished. Students must put in the extra mile outside of coursework to really set themselves up for the best success. However, don't let this discourage you. Instead, best prepare yourself for an exciting and dynamic academic career! Don't forget to have fun, make friends and get ready for a wild ride!