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THE TRUTH AND LIES WITH HAVING A DEGREE IN PRODUCT DESIGN

By Weaam Hassan Published in Journal, Product Design Journal

Product-design-graduation

When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild these plans, and set sail once more towards your coveted goal.
– Napoleon Hill

When I stepped into University to do my degree in product design, it was a shock.

Why? Because I was the only women from my community doing a degree in product design.

I was surrounded by students from wealthy family background support with finances, and I was already getting doubts from advisors in university. However, the lecturers and tutors encouraged me.

“You were chosen out for a reason. You have the talent, passion and love for product design. Forget what someone else thinks and believe in yourself Weaam.”

But it was difficult when I was getting these doubts in the university and also within my personal life too.

The first lesson I learnt was the hard way…

#1 EVERYONE ISN’T GOING TO BELIEVE IN YOU. INCLUDING YOUR FRIENDS.

In my community, women didn’t think about dreams, ambitions and having a career. Sure, it be about marriage, maybe do a teaching job but nothing in the arts and design world. Art, product design and anything creative weren’t taken seriously.

There weren’t any examples in our community of someone achieving success in the design industry.

So everyday, I’d hear from people in the community saying…

“Weaam, it’s only a degree. It’s only going to lead to a job. You’re always sketching, designing, and busy with product design. Always trying to apply for jobs…jobs…jobs…”

I had this when I was the first woman in our community to play football for Sheffield United Academy and Sheffield Wednesday.

I had this negativity and poverty thinking from day one.

However, I believed in what I was doing. I love product design because I can create, solve problems and impact lives.

I can work for hours on end and feel great, because it’s what I love to do.

I knew what I wanted to be even before i stepped into school. Design is part of me.

design-is-a-way-of-lifeProduct-designing-from-a-young-age

But I believed in a lie.

#2 A DEGREE IN PRODUCT DESIGN DOESN’T GUARANTEE YOU A JOB.

It took three years (plus doing four years in A Levels and GCSEs) of knuckling down and I finally completed my degree. Seeing mum and dad sitting there was amazing.

As I walked on stage with my graduation robe, I felt I’ve done them proud. I did what I said I’d do. It was one of my proudest moments to see my mum and dad smiling.

product-design-graduation-ceremony

I collected my certificate, walked down the steps and then life hit me between the eyes.

While most students got internships, some got jobs; I applied every week and still didn’t get a job. Gradually, I began to doubt myself.

Maybe the other people were right.

Maybe the industry sees a woman with a scarf over her head and, that’s it. Maybe, I wasn’t good enough.

I remembered these sentences that I heard so many times, “with a degree, you’ll get a job. The world is yours.”

The reality is…

#3 A DEGREE ISN’T ENOUGH TO GET ANY JOB.

As the letters of rejections and phone calls flowed in, I felt stuck. Signing at the Job Centre hit my confidence.

I felt like a failure. All those assignments, products I’ve created and some big companies making money out of them and I cannot even say I designed them.

No credit and a job.

I began to get ill often.

The negativity I found wherever I went was bringing me down.

There wasn’t anyone I could talk to about product design and finding a way to get that dream job.

I would get it from friends who I slowly began to drift away from. Well, what’s the use of being with anyone who doesn’t believe in what you do and striving for?

It’s enough I get it from the Job Centre.

“You’re not trying hard enough. I never heard of anyone who has a 1ST CLASS degree and hasn’t got a job yet.”- Job Advisor

#4 IT’S NOT ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW

What happened to the people I knew? The Nike designer. The Gillette company. What about all the product design students who got jobs. What happened?

It’s not about who you know.

It’s about the relationship we build with who we know. You can have 10,000 fans on Facebook, but it will still mean nothing if you didn’t connect with some of them in a meaningful way.

I applied every week for product design jobs. It got to such a stage that I started applying for any jobs.

I even went to interviews for general vacancies. Vacancies like packing. I’m not knocking packing, but it’s not what I did a degree for. However, you can’t just sit and wait.

Still, the rejections kept coming, “Sorry but…” and that’s when you know you can’t even get a job as packer in a warehouse.

It is not true when you hear people say…

#5 IF YOU WANT IT BAD ENOUGH, SUCCESS WILL COME.

I began to think maybe this is where it ends. Maybe it’s time to throw in the towel, get any job and just say,

“Well Weaam, at least you tried. It was great while it lasted…”

Wanting success bad enough doesn’t attract success. Wishing for it to come doesn’t do a darn thing.

You can have the passion, the heart, the love for what you do but it doesn’t bring you success.

Sure, aim as high as you want. Aim past the stars but if we don’t know how to market ourselves, it’s not going to happen.

And knowing how to market my talent in the right way which I was never taught to do.

But that was about to change.

I didn’t know it back then, but just around the corner, something was about to happen.

It would change my life forever…

weaam-bio-photoABOUT THE PRODUCT DESIGNER

Weaam Hassan, passion in product design is focused on the human perception of beauty and interaction with the consumer. So not only must the product be pleasing to the eye, feel, smell, touch but also comfortable in the daily life of the user. She documents her journey in finding a job with an agency, while sharing the process of her product design work on her website.

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