We at FlowMapp are fond of discovering world-class talents and inspiring a new generation of digital creators. But how should you act if you want to advance in your career and get to the next level? Well, that’s exactly what we discussed with Sarah Foote, an enthusiastic designer and health advocate based in Chicago who has successfully moved to a Senior Designer position several years ago and was kind enough to share her story.
Sarah works as a Senior Visual Designer at Rightpoint. She grew up in Florida, where she studied Fine Arts and Business Management with Florida Gulf Coast University. Soon after freelancing, she began her work in brand experience design, where she found a niche and also found her love for branding and the importance of how we experience design every day, as well as the impact of branding. Outside of design, she is a yoga instructor, endurance athlete, advocate for all in the health and wellness space, and dog mom.
SARAH, DO YOU REMEMBER THE EARLY DAYS OF YOUR CAREER AS A DESIGNER?
When I just started out in a junior role, I was constantly second-guessing myself and would just break the surface with what I could offer. But when I started getting more experience under my belt, I felt so much more confident in what I had to offer and what I learned.
Being able to walk or zoom into a meeting with high-level executives and speak on my expertise and owning the confidence behind that was the epiphany I needed. That's something only time and experience in the field can give you.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, WHAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A VITAL SKILL FOR A DESIGNER IN THESE EARLY STAGES OF A CAREER?
Trust your instincts. You know when something looks good or bad, or just isn't quite right. Speak up if you're able to. I feel all good designers have that gut feeling. It's not a skill that other people can teach you. But it's also important to know when a project is at its best and it’s time to move on.
FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW, ASIDE FROM TIME AND EXPERIENCE, WHICH FACTORS CAN BOOST YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE IN A HEALTHY WAY?
It is important to know everything about your role and understand your responsibilities. You want to feel confident and comfortable with where you're at. Having that foundation is imperative to continue moving towards a more senior position. Once you feel really well-settled in your role and feel like you have the time to take on more responsibility – ask for more! Ask people where you can help.
And, please, be communicative. I can't count the amount of time I spend sitting around waiting for an email to continue my work or get approval to submit a deadline. It drives me crazy. So I always try to be extremely communicative, and give estimated timelines when needed so people know what to expect from me. I've also learned to be patient and that not everything is needed ASAP (but let's be honest, the majority of deadlines are due yesterday).
WITH AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF DEADLINES AND THE SHEER AMOUNT OF STRESS CAUSED BY DIFFERENT EVENTS FROM THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, HOW DO YOU STAY PRODUCTIVE?
Over the years, I have learned the way my brain likes to function throughout the day. Paying attention to how you feel each day is very important, and making time to find what you truly enjoy is also very important. I enjoy my morning workouts, have my coffee, read my emails, and take care of the tedious busy-work items. This helps my brain get going and prepare for any meetings I have. Come afternoon/evening time, this is when my creativity comes out.
Granted, it doesn't always work that way every single day, but I know that I need certain things in my day to stay productive and have a fresh mind. Also, having a dog helps me take forced breaks to play and take a nice walk outside.
Great for mockups, and presenting to team members and how you want things to function
When working with your development team
Shocking, I know. Not typical for a digital designer. It's good for e-books, white papers, etc. InDesign has SLOWLY become my best friend.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PERSONAL RITUALS AND TECHNIQUES THAT HELP YOU GET THINGS DONE MORE EFFICIENTLY?
If I'm in a really bad design rut, I'll sketch. Either something I'm working on or just doodles. There's always something satisfying and brain-activating when I break away from the computer/phone and break out a sketch pad and a pencil.
YOGA IS SARAH FOOTE’S WAY TO KEEP HER BRAIN BALANCED AND CREATIVE
Another thing that has helped my work/life balance and kept my creativity fresh is fitness. I teach yoga, now I'm training for a triathlon, and I have another marathon in the fall. This helps keep my brain balanced and not constantly focused on how I can keep being creative.
LET'S SAY YOU DON'T HAVE TO MAKE MONEY ANYMORE (YOU HAVE ENOUGH OF IT FOR YOUR WHOLE LIFE). WHAT WILL YOU DO THEN? DO YOU HAVE AN ULTIMATE DREAM?
Painting, for sure. I would also love to experiment with bringing digital design into traditional fine art media. Paintings, canvases, drawings, and combining the digital design in how we experience everyday life.
Design touches everything we do. Being able to show that to people in a different way would be an exciting experience. Something to help designers realize how valuable their own work is and show non-designers the importance of art and design in daily life.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR THOSE WHO FEEL LIKE THEY’VE BEEN STUCK IN THEIR WORKPLACE FOR A WHILE ON HOW TO EMPOWER THEMSELVES FOR NEW CHALLENGES?
Typically it has always taken me about a year to feel stuck or bored in my roles. It was like clockwork. I'm a competitive goal-oriented person. I am always wanting to keep pushing myself.
Now I know that even at a senior level role if you have goals, it’s normal to ask yourself: am I still enjoying this? What exactly am I enjoying about this? Is it who I work for, or is it the actual responsibilities I have? If I know I'm ready to move on and know the type of work I want to be doing instead, I research the role that I want, and look at the roles/responsibilities listed, the skills needed, and take the time to learn them.
How can you freshen it up? How can you change up the layout? Also, finding online design challenges is another way to take yourself out of the day-to-day and challenge your design skills. Learn something new. Take on freelancing work. Again, the more you learn, the more you have to bring to the table to potentially take on more responsibilities or find a new skill/challenge you want to work on.
IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE JUST ONE, WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE SKILL THAT YOU'VE DEVELOPED SO FAR WHILE CLIMBING THE CAREER LADDER?
There's no way there's just one valuable skill…but to sum it up: Always be curious.
Learn everything, ask questions, find your confidence, take a public speaking class (but really). Learn something to step outside of your day-to-day. Ask yourself, could this impact your role in a positive way?
For example, I've worked on marketing teams for the majority of my design career. I've stepped out of my normal responsibilities to take on more work to learn about something else. Over the years, it really adds up, whether it’s learning software, coding, analytics, email campaigns, ads, etc. With all this wealth of knowledge, I'm able to provide insights/advice from an educated place and help influence my design decisions.
The design field is constantly changing! You can find something you really love and make it a niche for yourself, and it can easily turn into a career.