…And He Lived To Tell The Tale

By Nolan Ether, iMedia class of 2012

We’re coming up on week 6 and the sentiment around the second floor of Powell seems to be the same amongst most of the students. We realize we’ve entered the grind. We’ve come to terms with the fact that we probably won’t get a good night’s sleep until June. Every professor seems to have assigned “project 1” within days of each other and they’re all on our plates at the same time. We love what we’re doing and are all trying to do everything we can to make the most of this year. Right now we could use a little encouragement.

Of all of the students that have graduated from the iMedia program over the past two years, one name seems to come up constantly; Conor Britain. According to our professors, it was Conor’s drive and determination that really made the difference for him. I recently had a chance to catch up with Conor over the phone to get some advice and encouragement and to hopefully get a glimpse of how things look on the other side.

Conor has been an Interactive Designer at RED Interactive in Los Angeles for over a year. It is the same job that he had lined up before graduating from the iMedia program.

What do you do at RED Interactive?

CB: I started out exclusively doing design but I started to become interested in coding. It’s ideal for an interaction designer to have a good foundation in code. It really opens up your creative opportunities. A senior developer here has taken me under his wing. Now I split my time pretty much 50/50 between design and coding.

Do you remember how you were feeling at this time while you were in the program? 

CB: Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been busier then when I was in the program. If you’re really busy, that’s a good thing. If you’re overwhelmed, that’s a good thing. It means you’re giving yourself a lot of opportunities. One year is not a lot of time.

For the fall semester I think 85% of your time should be devoted to your work. The additional 15% should be for informational interviews, feelers, research on your field, whatever.

For now, take some pressure off yourself in terms of having to figure out what it is exactly that you want to do. At the same time be very vigilant. Know where you want your skills to be and what the standards are for the fields you’re interested in. If I didn’t have a good survey of the field AND I didn’t know what I wanted to do, then I would be concerned.

In the winter and spring you should shift more time towards trying to find a job. After the winter fly-ins, you should ideally have it narrowed down to one or two things that you’re interested in.

What was the most important thing you learned during your time in the iMedia program?

CB: Utilize things like social media and blogging. I think it’s really valuable that you can contribute to your field and hear from all of these amazing minds. All of this before you even have a job. With interactivity, just by nature, there is so much more information and people willing to help you on the internet. It’s a great way to establish a reputation. Actively keep up with and sound off on changes in your world. This way the people in your field know you’re in touch, you’re engaged, and you care.

I also think it was great to learn how to collaborate with all different kinds of people. Rarely do you have an opportunity to collaborate on big, big things. Learning how to work with different personality types and with people that you may not have the benefit of being friends with.

What would you do differently if you could go back and do the program all over again?

CB: I wish I had managed my own projects better. I wish I would have used my time more efficiently so that I didn’t have to pull all-nighters. As weird as it sounds though, I kind of miss those times. It sucked at the time but it’s rewarding to know that you were all working towards the same goals. Often I found myself spending more time on the things that were fun and that I enjoyed like my flash projects. I would push the big papers and things aside. I kind of made my lifer harder.

I also wish, as I said earlier, that I had found more of a voice with my blogs for school. Try to force yourself to update it even more than you have to.

I would also focus more on mobile and app development.

How are you different now than you were when you graduated?

CB: One thing that never really goes away is the need to be a good writer. There are things I don’t have to know anymore, like I don’t have to do calculus anymore. But it is always helpful to be a good writer.

What was the best choice you made during your time in the program?

CB: I’d like to think that I got here from a series of choices rather than one choice. I can not stress enough to you how great Ross Wade is. I didn’t have the first clue of how to reach out to this company that I now work for. I asked Ross for help and he just ran it down for me. I followed his advice and it all started to fall into place.

You need to make sure you follow a good lead once you have it. And it will take a lot of leads. I first contacted RED right around the time of the Winter Fly-Ins. The work they were doing kind of inspired me. It reminded me of things I love to do and at that point it just kind of clicked for me. I had a few informational interviews with people there and I kept in touch. I started to gear my portfolio toward what my ideal job would be. I started using Flash for every presentation. You know, instead of using Powerpoint. I used Flash with good interactive features.

Once I got my foot in the door I just kept in touch and did whatever I had to do to keep my foot in the door. Things didn’t work out with the other companies I had contacted but they worked out with RED and that’s where I really wanted to be.

What trends are you seeing in the field of interactive media that excites you?

CB: There’s a lot to be excited about. Mobile development is very exciting to me right now. HTML5, Javascript, and CSS3 too.

Actionscript is very similar to Javascript. Even though there’s a lot of talk that Flash is on the way out, I don’t think that’s going to happen for a long-time. You can’t go wrong learning actionscript if you’re interested in development.

This was something I was worried about and had heard a lot about even when I was there so I would like to do what I can to qwell those fears if you all are having them.

Flash is simply a platform. You’re always going to be able to refactor your skills for the new platforms that come out. It’s your intellectual capital that’s important. You’re ability to think creatively.

I’m not a Flash designer, I’m a designer. Flash is just one of the tools I use. Animation, color theory, motion, that’s what desigining is all about. The tools are temporary. The skills are what’s important. If you run into a problem with the tool, the answer is usually just a Google search away.

What other advice do you have for this years iMedia class?

CB: If you can find the time to do so, have a social life with each other. You need the time to de-stress. I miss the experience a lot. It was really special.

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