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What I didn't learn in school

Jordan Symonds
14.03.19 16:27

It’s a school day morning in my hometown in Maine. The sun has not yet broken over the rocky east coast horizon and black crows are screeching outside my window, forcing me to wake. My priorities as a high school student included assembling a head-turning outfit for my strut down the locker-lined catwalk; Adding new French words to my vocabulary so I can someday confidently stroll the streets of Paris, beret situated expertly atop my head of curls; And attending back-to-back soccer practices, because a college soccer scholarship isn't going to happen if I’m not the best. As you can tell, academics were not my main focus, and although I was a student achieving As and Bs, I certainly could have invested myself more.

Florida Tech, here I come. 

High school graduation came and I was headed to beachside Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) on a soccer scholarship I sweat hard for and with intentions of becoming a broadcast journalist; I thought it looked glamorous and new I was good at presenting so it seemed like a good fit. 

At FIT I was introduced to graphic design. My entire life I had consumed fashion and interior magazines with a hunger that seemed manic; Spending my money on the glossy pages of Vogue, then covering entire walls with collages of inspiration. My first graphic design project was to create a magazine layout using Adobe InDesign. It felt natural to me; Where to place text, where to place images and graphics. I understood how to guide the reader's eye through the story and how to present things in a proportionately balanced way. It reminded me of putting an outfit together; Determining what top silhouette would best compliment the bottom and what accessories would express the same vibe, therefore creating a cohesive ensemble. I had a vision of what I thought was a beautiful combination and could created it.

I got it from my mamma. 

I’m sure I learned this concept from my consumption of high-end magazines but I believe my mother had influence over me as well. My mum, Paula, is an interior designer. Many times a year, usually with the change of the seasons, she would transform our home into another version of the homes featured in magazines. Always ahead of the game, next months edition of Home&Garden would actually resemble our home and she would sit there turning pages with a smirk on her face, proud of the fact that she did it first, bemused by her own genius. This eye for design, it seemed, was in my blood.

The more I learned about design principles, the more I was inspired by my mum. I was eager to return to Maine during summers to work with her and my father (who is the owner of a construction business) on new housing projects. I started imagining a mother-father-daughter trio team that would design and build beautiful homes; We would land our own show on HGTV and create peoples dream homes. The only thing was, I wanted more adventure before returning home. I had studied abroad at Oxford University during my junior year and loved living overseas. I wanted to experience living in a foreign place again; So I decided to go to Florence, Italy to study a master in interior design; A decision that would allow me to travel and enhance my design skills.

Buon viaggio.

During my time in Florence, I learned the importance of architecture and interior reflecting the entity in which a space is created for. My final project was to re-design the interior and three window displays for Gucci’s original flagship store on Via Tornabuoni. My team began by learning the history of Gucci and its relationship to the city of Florence; We studied the fashion archives; Read and watched interviews with the creative director, Alessandro Michele; Interviewed with employees of the brand. Our goal was to learn so that we could design an interior that reflected the brand right down to the smallest of details. (Little did I know, my future job would allow me to work in a similar manner.)

As I was profoundly learning about design, my parents were back in Maine, assuming my plan was to return home and contribute my latest knowledge to the family business. In fact, I did return home; But only for three months. Much to my parents' dismay, I wanted to move to Oslo. Now, some of you may be wondering why I chose to relocate to the north pole. The short answer is, my boyfriend is Norwegian and lives in Oslo. The answer I prefer is, I was chasing the Norwegian dream; I wanted to try living in a society that functions magnificently and to see why Norwegians are some of the happiest, healthiest, and most prosperous people in the world.

jordan blogg 3

So on August 8th, I moved to Oslo and immediately began searching for a job.

Despite having earned a bachelor and master, the job searching process has a way of making you feel utterly useless. Then add into the equation that I did (and still don’t) speak Norwegian. Almost every day, after hours of scouring Finn.no, I would cry. I’d cry because I was terrified. Terrified of being kicked out of the country; Terrified because I thought I’d never find a job that didn’t require Norwegian. Terrified because it felt like I was failing at designing the life I wanted for myself.

Simply sending resumes and cover letters clearly wasn’t yielding my dream job. So, I began doing the most un-Norwegian thing possibly ever; Picking up the phone and calling complete strangers. I was determined for people to hear my story and felt that I’d be more successful if they could hear me or, better yet, see me. I kept calling and saying, “Hi, I’m Jordan Symonds and I’m very interested in the position of blah blah and I’m wondering if Norwegian is required to be considered for it.” During this time I acted as though I did have a job; That job was a saleswoman and the product was me.

If only I had known about podcast møtebooking back then.

Finally, after weeks of calling and sending resumes and a few interviews, I saw the CompEdge job listing for a graphic designer. The listing, unlike all the others, had personality. It talked about the employee's love for coffee; I love coffee. It talked about the young and lively office culture; I’m young and lively! It talked about their need for someone who has a passion for design; I LOVE DESIGN! I called Adrian and he answered. I am so thankful that he gave me the time of day, especially now knowing what a crazy schedule he has.

Our phone call led to an interview. In school, I had taken interview prep classes that all made me feel like I had to present a professional facade of who I actually am in order to be considered. The questions asked were rigid therefore provoking a rigid answer from me where I would try and frame the response in a way that made the interviewer believe I had produced results. Boring. Luckily, CompEdge doesn’t roll like that. During my first interview, I was the one who asked the questions; A reverse interview, if you will. I came prepared with an extensive list of questions and found I never had to refer to them once because of how naturally our conversation flowed. Why aren't all interviews like this!? I was curious about who this company is, what they do, and how they got to the point of needing to hire a graphic designer.

In the second round interview, the tables turned and Adrian asked the questions, but still, the ease of conversation persisted. We talked about everything from my family to my design process and not once did I feel the nerves that normally accompany an interview.

The only time I got nervous was when I almost fell out of my chair when I got overexcited.

The third round interview was a case study in which I presented a potential brand guideline, thumbnail, and presentation template for CompEdge. The content vibe did not at all match the identity of CompEdge but, to the best of my knowledge at the time, I felt like it represented the company. I shared the story of my design process, shared my thoughts on how it conveyed who CompEdge is, and shared ideas on how to develop the look further. Technically, my answers were wrong; But my explanation was correct.

During this unique and surprisingly pleasant interview process, the skills that helped me the most were not at all skills I learned in school. My strongest assets I learned from watching my mother and father run businesses or are characteristics in my DNA. Luckily, CompEdge invests in the person. Yes, I have a bachelor and master from good schools but I’m willing to bet that Adrian can’t tell you what those schools are. Because he doesn't care; What he cares more about is who I am as a person. I was hired because I asked questions that showed interest in who CompEdge and its people are; Because I delivered a case study that showed the story of my thought process and how I believed it represented CompEdge. Yes, I used some of the skills I learned in school, but most importantly, I did what felt natural; Had conversations; Asked questions guided by my curiosity; And expressed a vision of what a collaboration between myself and CompEdge could accumulate to.

Now, watch this!

My first project at CompEdge.

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