4 things I learnt working as a designer for a small startup in Dubai 🏠
A bit of context: I officially started my design career back in 2016. Fresh out of college and eager to learn (like everybody else) , I joined a mid-sized company which had about 9 people at that time. My job was to design graphics and small animations for various clients social media accounts. The job was okay if not boring at times. The culture? way worse.
Fast forward a year, I quit and accepted an offer to go work for a start-up that was also based in Dubai. They seemed interesting, had a flexible work from home structure and promised a wider scope of work- so I took the bait. Here’s what I learned out of doing that.
1. Your hard skills develop fast 🧠:
Since I was the only designer/ animator- asides from the UX designer- on the team- I had to get my hands dirty and keep it there, in a lot of different areas, quick. The entire production process had to be handled by me. There was no luxury of just designing the storyboards and then handing it off to an animator. A classic jack of all trades situation.
Of-course, this also involved a ton of Google and You-tubing for stuff I knew how to do, but hadn’t really done in-depth before.
The experience however, resulted in me taking my skills up a notch quicker in all aspects which led to me becoming the creative lead within 9 months.
2. Prioritisation 📝:
This was something I didn’t realise until much MUCH later. Since you’re essentially a one person show 95% of the time, you learn to prioritise- both projects and people- and this develops subconsciously.
Example: that client that’s been badgering on about an Instagram post that’s due to come out next week versus a campaign that has to be delivered within the next couple of days but the client isn’t that pushy? Which one do you get done first? (the campaign).
The colleague that’s clamouring subtly for importance and attention versus the person who’s actually working on the project and is the direct lead? The latter.
3. Soft skills 🗣️:
Hard skills such as learning the rules of composition, technical knowledge of software and how to apply them etc are things you learn in university or on your own time.
Soft skills such as what/how/when to respond to clients and others around you are skills you pick up on the job. Working for a start-up exposed me to the entire spectrum. Add to this that the startup I worked for was housed in another start-ups ecosystem- meant that I met an entire range of people. Everyday. Some weird, some not 🤷
Communicating with strangers around you (because there’s only so many times you can sit next to a person and not say “Hey”) and developing relationships was something I slowly developed and actually started enjoying over time.
4. Diplomacy 🤨:
Unfortunately, not everything is fun and games when working for a start-up.
What I’ve learnt (and this is something I also heard from other designers working for start-ups) is that 8 out 10 times there is going to be a tussle for importance and attention from one partner at the cost of the others. This tends to become worse when the people are relatively close and are not able to objectively accept or step outside their shoes.
Learning how to work your way around that (or in my case- ignore that particular partner completely) is a skill I think everyone should develop- it was just something that I didn't personally want to.