This week we feature Janine Montgomery, a Digital Skills Academy graduate (BSc (Honours) Degree in Digital Technology, Design and Innovation) based in Dubai, UAE. Janine is an award-winning designer who currently works for MW Creative as a Lead creative. View some of her design work here.
What inspired you to join the International Degree Programme?
I was looking to expand my skillset but remain within the same kind of industry that I have been involved in for over 12 years. Having worked in advertising for my entire career, it made perfect sense for me to choose this route. As advertising started focusing more on online, social media, website development and eventually app development, it made perfect sense for me to move into digital product development without the need to stray from the chosen career. As an Art Director / Designer, it was the perfect evolutionary step for me.
What skills did you learn on the programme?
I learned a whole host of skills through the Academy, some more obvious than others. Academically speaking, learning how to code and how to apply UX methodologies to my designs were at the top of my list. There were certain theory classes that were incredibly interesting as well, like Cognitive Bias, which opened up my eyes to a whole new dynamic on human thinking. My personal favourites were working as part of an international team and learning how to function effectively using agile methodologies within my team. These skills can be used across the board for all projects going forward in my career.
How are you using the skills you learned in your current career?
I was part of the Digital Designers and Developers Stream, which is for designers, and essentially the role I would like to get into would be a UI or UX developer. I am currently in talks with various companies and agencies to fill that role within their organisation, so I will be applying all of my learned skills to my career. I had the goal at the outset of my journey into these studies and one that is coming to fruition in a very short time indeed.
What are the advantages of studying in a flexible online and part-time programme?
Well, I guess the most obvious advantage is being able to work a full day while studying. Full-time learning is just not an option for some of us and so having a degree course that has the same weight and merit as a full-time course is great. The other advantage is being able to go at your own pace and manage your own time to suit the way you prefer to work.
Some Examples from Janine's Portfolio
What benefits have you gained from working in an international cross-functional team?
Patience! Ha, ha, ha! No, but seriously, I gained the benefit of learning how to collate everyone's opinions and perspectives and constructively using those to create a great end-product. In addition, because the teams are small every person has a role to play and is responsible for their own part in the project. It also forces you to speak up about your beliefs, which has made me a much better communicator.
What do you think is the most important thing Digital Skills Academy teaches?
How to develop innovative digital products through thorough processes and methodologies while asking the right questions along the way in order to guarantee its success in the hands of a user.
What Industry Partner Project did you work on?
We worked on an EP project called Furlife, which is a pet adoption App that functions in the same way the Tinder does, matching people with pets.
What did you learn from working on the Industry Partner Project?
I learned that what you contribute to a project isn't necessarily confined to your designation. As the designer in the team, I found myself arranging meetings, helping with market research and being actively involved in tasks that aren't traditionally reserved for a designer. I learned that a designer can be a team leader, that a marketer and project manager can have a lot of great input for design and that an international team can have the same meeting of the minds in terms of vision for their product.
Was your portfolio piece helpful when you graduated? If so, how?
I had a number of portfolio pieces by the time I graduated and, by showcasing them on Behance, they helped me land some very nice interviews recently. The final project was not just a typical college piece. It was a product that was tested, functioning and just about ready to go onto the market. That is very attractive for potential employers in the industry to see, especially given the background research, processes and thorough documentation that are involved in developing it.