Since childhood, I have been very fond of drawing. It fascinated me how I was able to express what is on my mind through drawings. Back then I didn’t have a passion to be an artist. I just liked drawing something whenever I had free time on my hands. When it came to A/L stream selection, I went ahead with Commerce as it wasn’t an option for me to make a career out of art. From there I continued to follow the Bachelor of Information Systems (IS) program at the University of Colombo School of Computing. It was a life changing decision that got me into designing.
The IS program at UCSC had a variety of subjects that taught students the business aspect of the software engineering process. But it was not my degree that got me into designing, rather the volunteering activities at university. One morning I got a notice that we would be having a meeting with seniors regarding university societies. I decided to go ahead and see if it was something that sparks my interest. It was at that meeting I got introduced to the IEEE society. They were about to organize their annual hackathon, “CloudHack” and wanted to recruit freshmen. I was pretty nervous as I had never participated in a hackathon, let alone organizing one. Even to this day, I remember eerily reading out the task delegation list multiple times to find out something that I could contribute to.
At this point, you would think that I went with graphic designing because I had a knack for drawing when I was small. Surprisingly, before I actually chose one on my own, I got unwillingly pushed into the Graphic Designing team as it didn’t have enough members. This reminds me of one of the famous quotes by the Self-made billionaire, Sir Richard Branson,
“If someone offers you an Amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say Yes – then learn how to do it later.”
Volunteering for “CloudHack” as a graphic designer was the first stepping stone of my career. That is when I discovered that I had this knack for designing as well. Be it my previous art skills or my interest in creating digital art, it was relatively easier for me to grasp the beginners concepts of digital design. To this day, I am quite proud that I was able to achieve a name for myself from my first gig as a graphic designer for “CloudHack”, as it created many opportunities later to hone my skills.
Managing designing work alongside the studies was a strenuous attempt that needed careful time management and dedication. I believe that it aided me to develop myself into a designer who could work under pressure. Looking back, if I didn’t have to push my limits during my university years, I would have never been able to cope up with the deadlines of my career now. Rigorous work ethics was not the only advantage that I received from volunteering as a graphic designer. I had to work with a lot of people who weren’t well versed in designing. It is far easier to design something for a person when that person knows what he wants. But the usual case is the complete opposite where people don’t know what to expect. I had to learn how to read people in order to understand the kind of output they wanted from a design.After two and a half years, we were about to face the final semester of coursework at UCSC, which was the internship. The internship process was designed in a way that you could choose upto three preferred areas of internships and where you’d end up after was out of your choice. At this point I was quite convinced that designing was what I was meant to do with my life and so I chose. After I gave my preferences, I was only getting offers for BA roles for a while. That is when I decided to take matters into my own hands. I crafted a CV myself with a custom design and started applying for internships through the career portals of companies. Soon after I got an interview with Zone24x7 and was offered a position as a UI Engineer intern.
“There’s a personality trait known as agreeableness. Agreeable people are compassionate and polite. And agreeable people get paid less than disagreeable people for the same job. Women are more agreeable than men.”-Jordan Peterson
The decision to seek a designer role instead of accepting a BA position shaped my career as a digital designer. Having completed the internship at Zone24x7 after 6 months, I got promoted to the role of Associate UI Engineer. This was a positive shift in my workflow as I got to work with various frontend technologies. I believe that it was not only my passion for designing that allowed me to be successful rather the mentoring that I received at the workplace as well. Sometimes I take out my old university laptop covered with event stickers. It reminisces of the choices that I made which got me into where I am today. And I believe that it was one of the best decisions that I made in my life when I chose to pursue what I love instead of what I was supposed to do.
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”Maya Angelou