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Unboxing my journey to service design

Jean Watanya, March 8, 2023

Jean combined her experience with her goals to find her way to service design, described her using two venn diagrams. The diagram on the left shows architecture, creative, fashion as overlapping experience. The diagram on the right shows career transition, career development, service design as goals.

Career transitions can be challenging. It’s also hard to shift from student to professional because most companies require years of experience. From my personal experience, I have been through multiple transitions. I found changing careers takes some time and a few experiments until you find a place that gives you the opportunity to ‘start.’

What's it like to shift career paths?

My journey started at architecture school where I was introduced to the design foundation and approaches like people-centred design. Then I started my career as an interior architect. Over 7 years in architecture, I learned about user needs and behaviours, understanding contexts, aesthetics, and awareness of restrictions related to the project.

Alongside my professional experience, I founded a fashion label. I learned about attention to details, customer service, and a service mindset. Most importantly, doing what I’m passionate about made me happy.

After a few years of working, I was intrigued by user needs, experience of the service, and awareness of the context. They led me to user-centred design and design thinking.

I moved to London for a master’s degree in service design. Being a student again refreshed my perspective. I learned a great deal about collaboration with people with different expertise.

The path to becoming a service designer isn’t linear. After graduation, I started out as a creative and graphic designer for a big tech e-commerce company in Manchester. I gained skills in visual communication, brand strategy, and an understanding of user experience on digital platforms.

After over a year as a creative, I found my way to service design. I reached out to service design practitioners and people in my network. I joined relevant design events, volunteered as a speaker for Service Lab London, and worked with Service Design Network UK. Finally, I got a job offer for a service designer role at Unboxed, where they encouraged me to learn by doing.

Jean followed a non-linear journey from architecture to service design

The Unboxed culture

Joining a new workplace can be difficult until you find the 'way of doing things', but it’s different at Unboxed. I felt surprisingly comfortable from my first week. People are very welcoming and helpful. What I like the most is that I'm encouraged to learn and try many things. My colleagues are passionate and driven about what they do. I found it very inspiring.

What impressed me the most is the company culture. Firstly, things are easier for me with the help of buddy and mentor. It’s an efficient way to learn from the best (and the kindest!). Secondly, we have many activities to improve skills and share knowledge among colleagues, such as Lunch and Learn (where we learn something from colleagues and eat sandwiches during lunch time!). At Design Club, we share design methods and interesting learning in an informal way.

Thirdly, there are internal ceremonies to strengthen the bond between colleagues. For example, Whines and Cheers: we gather in the kitchen (with wine, beers, cheese and snacks) to reflect on the week. Our innovation days allow people to take time off to explore any ideas they find interesting or spend time on personal development.

Unboxed is truly a people-oriented workplace. I feel grateful to be a part of their family.

Next steps

I’ve learned many useful practices in my first service design role at Unboxed. Three things that impress me the most, among other learnings and developments, are:

  • learning by doing
  • collaboration (not just with the team but also with clients)
  • career development

I’m looking forward to the upcoming projects and everything I can learn from this journey. Making a career transition is challenging. You may experience a few false attempts but you always learn something from the journey. Keep going until you find the right place with people you share values and interests with.