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Yara Assaf

SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology › Design | Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Position Title
Working at Samsung has been valuable to my learning experience at SFU due to the dynamic and collaborative work environment that is encouraged in every aspect.
Experience Details
Application and Interview Tips
Introduction + Preparation
Preparation Tips for Future Students

A clear understanding of prototyping, UI design, and UX research and its application supersedes graphic design skills in software such as Adobe Creative Suite in the role of a UX Designer at Samsung Electronics. While possessing foundational skills in Adobe Creative Suite can definitely be helpful, it is not as crucial as expertise in Figma. If applying to this position, make sure to prepare a portfolio that consists of a variety of projects that focus on a combination of user interface design, and application of user experience research to the formulation of the final product. Most importantly, you must be a team player and willing to compromise on certain things – even if you truly believe that your approach is the right one. Your opinion will not always align with the goals of the project, or who you are working with. Compromising and truly taking in the feedback of more experienced designers will support the learning process, and make sure you’re getting the most out of your experience in this professional setting.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

On my first day, I attended an orientation event that involved all the other Co-op students at Samsung Electronics as well, regardless of their team. We were provided with our work laptop of course, alongside a branded Samsung backpack and each of our very own employee cards! In the several weeks after that, all of us Co-ops spent some time getting to know the other members of our respective teams, and committed time to the onboarding process.

Day to Day

With my hybrid work model, the two days a week I work from home are pretty standard in terms of the typical remote structure. I most often work 9 to 5 or 8 to 4, depending on when I get to my computer or office. When I do go to the office, which is three times a week, I start my day off with grabbing some coffee or tea from the kitchen, and head straight to my desk to respond to any Slack messages or e-mails I may have missed from the previous evening, and take a look at my schedule for the day on Outlook to have an idea of what I should prepare for all of my meetings. I have a personal to-do list that I keep up to date with my individual progress on certain projects, in addition to daily notes that I often review the morning after to understand where I am in relation to various projects. Throughout the day, I work on my tasks according to their priority, especially if I will have to attend a meeting relevant to that specific task later in the day. I work closely with my colleagues throughout the day as well, exchanging chit-chat relevant to the work we share to make sure we’re all on the right track. Focusing on one thing at a time works best for my capabilities, rather than multi-tasking. It saves me from feeling overwhelmed, and potentially confusing my tasks with each other.

Learning and Adaptation

Something I had to adapt to during the first half of my 8-month Co-op term at Samsung was the hybrid work structure that I was not used to, as all of my previous internships and Co-op terms had been wholly remote. My previous Co-op specifically was also in a completely different time zone, which contributed to a disconnect between myself and others in my team at the time. Actually embedding myself within my team was crucial to maintaining confidence in my work. Seeking the input and advice of my team members in my work at every stage is not something I’m used to in my academic experience. Rather, iterative work that is routinely shared with an instructor or teaching assistant on a weekly basis is often the standard of my process with academic work. I do not often seek assistance from teaching staff during this process, except during this weekly update. In the professional setting that I am in at Samsung Electronics, the full-time designers that I often work with provide consistent input on my work at every stage.

The hybrid dynamic incorporating in-person meetings and real-time collaboration is something that is new to me in terms of my professional career, and taking advantage of that opportunity has helped me flourish significantly in the progression of my design career.

Accomplishments and Challenges

Significant accomplishments I have made so far at Samsung Electronics has been further developing my design skills in software such as Figma, to contribute to the design system that I and my colleagues have been progressively working on. Understanding the importance of standardization and consistency across the implementation of the design system has been crucial to my learning throughout this Co-op so far. The software we are creating a design system for works across various products that are managed by designers across different countries and teams, and ensuring a consistent visual language is one of my central responsibilities within this Co-op role.

Reflection & Tips

A concluding reflection on my experience so far at Samsung Electronics is that committing to efficient time management in collaborative projects is crucial to productivity. While you may have individual ideas that you believe strongly in, the ideal approach is to integrate your relevant team members in every step of the way with your work. Always ask questions; not having all the right answers is a part of the learning experience. During my previous work and academic experience, I was often worried about being right rather than learning and expanding upon my previous skills. Dispelling what you previously understood to be the right approach to design is a key element in the process of actually progressing within your Co-op career.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

The most valuable aspect of this experience was the collaborative dynamic that fostered a significant development in my user interface design and prototyping skills, specifically in Figma. My capabilities in Figma have become a lot more intuitive, and my improved understanding of the auto layouts, prototyping, and grid-based features has improved the efficiency of my work altogether. I also tend to design independently and within my own headspace – while this may work in specific situations, working alongside your colleagues is a lot more efficient as it will prevent yourself from progressing further with individual mishaps.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

In regards to the connection to my career goals, I will look into potentially a more design-focused career path once I wrap up my undergraduate degree. The most stimulating aspect of my Co-op term so far has been the collaborative work on a design system, which involves a heavy focus on design and accessibility. While I did dabble in user experience research as well, the research aspect of the design process does not align as strongly with my interests and passions within the design space. Since I have just a few courses remaining in pursuit of completing my undergraduate degree, I will commit as much as I can to pursuing courses that support my path into visual design.

Advice for Future Students

Most importantly, be confident! Being afraid to share your ideas or input could put you in a tough spot when it comes to getting to work on projects that you’re actually interested in. Ensure that your ideas are actually heard, and your opinions are being valued by those that you work with. Striking a balance between supporting yourself and your ideas in the design space, while also equally considering the opinions and contributions of others, is crucial to making the most out of your learning experience.

My advice for future students would be to try out everything within the scope of design before committing to something specific. While you may potentially have an idea of your future path the moment you start your academic career in design, it may not always work to your expectations. Keeping an open mind, learning as many relevant skills as possible, and keeping your portfolio and skillset diverse during the earlier stages of your career ensures that you can dip your feet in various endeavours and truly understand what path works best for you. Network with professionals in the spaces you are most interested in, to further your understanding of what to expect from pursuing those paths. Do not be afraid of trying out aspects of design that may be out of your immediate comfort zone. While you may be inclined to pursue what you are ‘good’ at, ultimately stepping outside of that boundary is what will assist in your progression in the design sphere. You never know what could end up speaking to you, which may stray quite far away from the path you preemptively carved out for yourself! Co-op should be a learning opportunity more so than trying to prove yourself, or what you think you know. Expertise comes after.