Isabelle Soares is a stand-out SIAT student who is graduating this week with a Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Arts & Technology. During her time as a SIAT student, Isabelle was involved in the IAT student union and took part in an internship at LinkedIn where she was placed on the LinkedIn Learning Enterprise Growth team.
My time as a SIAT student went by in a flash. As a fresh first-year in 2016 I got involved in IATSU, SIAT’s student union, where I was welcomed with open arms to the SIAT community. I quickly learned I was interested in the design path and later found my interest in UX Design.
I completed two internships during my degree. My first being with Vancity at the end of my third year. The coolest part about this internship was that I created the opportunity by working on a student project with Vancity as a hypothetical client. My team and I were connected to a Vancity employee who helped us get a meeting with their Digital team, and then I landed my first internship as a UX Designer with them. This first internship was an amazing learning experience and went so well that I was offered an 18-month contract to stay on as a UX Designer. I did this part-time while I completed my degree part time. My second internship was with LinkedIn where I worked remotely during the pandemic with my San Francisco team.
Outside of SIAT I enjoy hiking and backpacking, I’m obsessed with music, and I’m currently exploring botanical dyeing.
Why Did You Choose SIAT For Your Studies?
SIAT was honestly a happy accident. In high school I was really focused on fine arts, everything from drawing, painting, sculpting and photography and I wanted to go into a creative but also technical degree. My mom suggested I check out SIAT and after an open house I was convinced I could go into game design.
After my first year I quickly realized I was not going into game design but into design design. After another year or two I found UX design, my perfect mix of creativity and problem solving.
What Was Your Favourite SIAT Course or Instructor?
IAT 233 (now 235) was THE class that made me realize I wanted to be a designer, so naturally Russell Taylor is one of my favourite instructors. His classes are unique in that they can inspire and push students in a way that facilitates growth and learning mindsets.
My other favourite prof is Will Odom, I took Speculative Design (IAT 431) with him in my second last semester. I really, really enjoyed the learning environment Will and his curriculum provided, another unique quality that when you’re in his class it’s exciting and challenging. Most of all I enjoyed how it was all about pushing the boundaries of design and our perceived world.
What Was The Highlight of Your Undergraduate Career or Your Best Learning Experience?
I think there are many small highlights I cherish from throughout my degree. Hours in the studios with teammates eating shitty mall food was a constant, going to Seattle for a design charrette for 233 was also an amazing learning and bonding experience. That post crit feeling when you’ve nailed your design project and you can sleep easy.
Some other personal highlights were the moments where I was in the recruiting stages for my internships. Being flown out to San Francisco mid semester for interviews at the LinkedIn office was a surreal moment in my degree. And especially getting the call that I got the internship.
What Did You Enjoy Most About the SIAT Community?
Early on in my degree I spent a term as the Events Coordinator for SIAT’s student union, IATSU. It was a super great way to expand the peers I interacted with, and better understand how we could make peoples' SIAT experience more fun and social.
The SIAT community is a rare thing you’ll find in degree programs. It’s filled with so many friendly, cool, nerdy, interesting people who’re all in it together. I can’t explain how fun SIAT students can make pulling an all-nighter on campus feel.
What is Next on The Horizon For You After Graduating?
LinkedIn was a really cool experience as an intern because I was given a lot of autonomy as the lead designer on my projects. I had a whole cross functional team of developers, marketing specialists, and a product manager that I worked with on my internship projects. Something I also loved was just how important design is at LinkedIn and how easy it is to be a designer there. It’s so tough being a UX designer when your company doesn’t understand your value and impact.
I’m extremely excited to share that I’ll be returning to LinkedIn full time in San Francisco after I graduate.
Any Advice For Incoming Students Considering SIAT?
I would say be open to all the classes you’ll take. You’ll probably end up finding a different interest than what you thought you were going to love coming in.
More importantly though, for all students, whether you’re starting out or in the middle of your degree, just focus on yourself and your growth and learning. It’s easy to compare yourself to other students or not feel confident in certain skills or classes. If you find something you love or are interested in, make it your priority to teach it to yourself. In my second year I had a lot of anxiety that I wasn’t as good as my peers and that I wasn’t doing enough. So, I took it upon myself to be responsible for what I learned and got good at on my own time. I read a ton of books, practiced, and learned from students above me, and I think that self-motivation to grow and learn is what got me where I am.
This story was originally published on the SFU SIAT website on Oct. 4, 2021.