Posted 19 March 2018

Reach out, don’t compare, learn from everything: Eight creatives on starting a career well

Last month, Lecture in Progress teamed up with Ravensbourne’s Digital Advertising and Design course to co-curate ‘Untitled’, a one-day creative conference. Touting a sophisticated identity, designed by the second year students, the stage was primed for a hugely inspiring and insightful day.

Course leader Derek Yates kicked things off by setting context for the day’s mission. “Education needs to change,” he began, “it needs to respond to the world around it”, before introducing the panel – a stellar line-up of up-and-coming creatives from across the different disciplines, and a discussion with ustwo founder Mills.

Each took to the stage to reflect on their career journeys with honesty and humour, talking through work and sharing the challenges they’ve faced. Followed by group discussions, the students then got the chance to probe our panel with further questions, with the creatives offering up their tips, tricks and hard-won advice. Here, we’ve rounded up some of what they had to say...

Rose Pilkington

Rose Pilkington, digital artist and motion designer, on taking scary steps
“I had a very unsure beginning at the start of my career. I moved to London very young. I didn’t finish my A-Levels, and I started work as a secretary. But then I was like ‘No, this isn’t happening.’ So I just watched a shit-load of tutorials one summer to learn computer programmes.”

“Working at Studio Moross taught me to be headstrong. And after a year, I had a burning desire to go freelance. Working there truly prepared me for going it alone, and equipped me for the dynamics of working in other design studios. It was a big jump going from a fun, busy collaborative studio to being plunged into isolation – but you get used to it.”

“Being in a sea of established creatives, things can be scary and stressful. Working solo toughens you up; you’re the only person looking out for you, protecting yourself from making mistakes. It’s something I’ve learned over time. From graduating to getting your first job – everything comes with its own stresses. But just know that everything will click into place. You’ll get on the right track.”

Read our interview with Rose here

Ronan McKenzie

Ronan McKenzie, freelance photographer, on network and confidence
“Instagram is amazing for work and finding people to work with. But no matter what stage you’re at, we can all feel insecure on social media. Nobody see things like you do, so comparing yourself isn’t useful.”

“I’m still winging it, and I’m still learning. I don’t know how to process my own film, but I’m learning how to next week.”

“Reach out to the smallest people, because at some point, they’ll be huge. I started out by borrowing clothes from graduate designers who needed images of their products.”

Read our interview with Ronan here

Esrael during the panel discussions

Esrael Alem, director and creative at AMVBBDO, on passion and determination
“My career has all been about side-stepping from different positions. As a creative, you can do anything. But you need to have three things: you have to want to think creatively, have an appetite to solve problems and a passion for the thing you’re working on.”

“Once you know the career you want, look around to understand all the jobs related to that role, find ambitious mentors, call people, hand in your CV, have a chat over a coffee and seek out opportunities where you can showcase your skills. Use social media, enter competitions. And remember that the most valuable thing you have is your time.”

Read our interview with Esrael here

Ellen Ling

Ellen Ling, copywriter at LOVE, on growing your voice
“The industry needs you, don’t be intimidated by it; you have so much power in your fresh perspective. Have confidence in your inexperience and don’t be scared off by others with more experience.”

“Don’t waste any time on being someone you’re not.”

Read our interview with Ellen here

Liv Siddal during the panel discussions

Liv Siddall, writer and podcaster, on taking initiative and learning from others
“The reasons why creating Rough Trade magazine worked, was due to a complete lack of budget and time, plus complete creative freedom. It was a weird, rare thing; stressful to make, but looking back, it was a sweet cabinet of time.”

“People, people, people, all the time. Look at what everyone else is doing and try to learn from them.”

Dem Gerolemou

Dem Gerolemou, UI designer at DeepMind, on career growth
“Learn how to grow. The best thing you can do is to be picky – don’t settle. Set yourself a list of things you want to achieve.”

“Make things to change things; we all have the ability to transform and shape things in a small way.”

Read our interview with Dem here

Akwasi Poku

Akwasi Poku, creative at Wiedenn+Kennedy, on perseverance
“Keep going; the second you give up is when your journey stops. What you’ll realise is that even in bad moments you’re learning so much.”

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I approached a Blue Peter presenter when I saw him on the train, and ended up interning at the BBC.”

Listen to our podcast with Akwasi here


Matt ‘Mills’ Miller, ustwo co-founder, on valuing your time
“A job has got to deserve you. Find a place that resonates; you don’t want to be in a place where you have to act like someone else. Be yourself. It’s more fun that way.”

“For 14 years, our only passion was ustwo. I believe you have to go all in and give [your passion] everything you’ve got. But it took over our lives – and in the end, the very thing I loved was the thing that was bringing me down. It’s important to be passionate about your job, but have a passion outside of your passion; dual passions that will support each other.”

Read our interview with Mills here

Ellen Ling
Mills and Derek Yates
Esrael Alem

Mention Rose Pilkington
Mention Esrael Alem
Mention Ellen Ling
Mention Ronan McKenzie
Mention Akwasi Poku
Mention Dem Gerolemou
Mention ustwo