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Reina Kim

she/her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology
Co-operative Education

Organization
Position Title
Location:
Working with the Nokia Design System Components Team, I gained practical experience working with design systems and learned the significance of creating design system libraries that simplify design workflows and ensure consistency across different applications. The experience also provided valuable opportunities to practice soft skills such as collaboration and presentation.
Experience Details
Semester
Spring
Year
2024
Skills
Application and Interview Tips

Application

  • Ensure your portfolio is clean, fully functional, and presents its content clearly.
  • Link your portfolio to your resume and make your resume downloadable from the portfolio.

Interview

  • Be ready to talk about yourself, your projects, and the company you are applying for.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch that highlights your skills and experience.
  • When presenting your projects, clearly articulate your contributions. Present them in a chronologically organized manner so the interviewers can easily follow the project development.
  • Demonstrate that you possess a collaborative personality and a proactive approach to taking initiative.
Introduction + Preparation

I prepared for the position by researching design systems from different companies such as Google Material Design and IBM Carbon Design System. Creating and managing a design system in Figma requires knowledge of creating different states, tokens, and global components, so I watched tutorials on YouTube regarding these topics. I signed up for external online education on digital accessibility, which came in handy when working on the design systems.

Previous Experience

I worked as a Graphic Designer at a realty marketing company for 5 months, where I created marketing brochures for housing sales. I communicated directly with realtors to seek approval and apply feedback until the customers were fully satisfied with the design work.

I also worked as a Customer Service Representative at a local credit union for 4 years, serving customers at the front desk with daily financial tasks such as deposits, withdrawals, and bill payments. I assisted them with products like credit cards, TFSA, and RRSP's. I had to be meticulous with every step of the work while also being friendly and helpful to all the customers. Following instructions with no error and adhering strictly to security protocols were also very important as mistakes could lead to serious financial complications.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

Prepare to actively engage in team tasks and demonstrate initiative. Students will be expected to take on responsibilities they are interested in and propose new ideas while working alongside the team leader. Students are also required to share their design work with the team and gather feedback. The ability to present design work convincingly with appropriate proof of design thinking while remaining open to new feedback is very important. As for technical skills, knowledge of design systems, including components, tokens, and states in Figma, would be helpful.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The first week was primarily spent watching mandatory training videos and attending online meetings scheduled for trainees. These sessions provided detailed tutorials and instructions on designing with the existing components of the design system library. The company-wide training videos were helpful for understanding the the organization's common rules, policies, and overall company culture. I was also assigned an onboarding task that allowed me to personally test the design systems libraries and use them to create an application interface.

Day to Day

As a member of the Nokia Design System Components Team, my daily tasks include managing our component library in Figma and their documentation on our website. This requires close collaboration within the team. We hold weekly stand-up sessions to discuss our progress on monthly tasks and share updates on individual contributions. Currently, we are preparing for the public launch of our documentation website; therefore, most of our efforts are focused on thoroughly reviewing and refining the content on the website to ensure accuracy and consistency in the information.

Learning and Adaptation

This co-op experience came with a steep learning curve. I had to familiarize myself with new functions in Figma, Nokia's current design system components, as well as the software used for organizing tasks, resources, and learning materials. Understanding the structure of the company and integrating into its culture required time and effort. By actively reaching out and asking questions, I have learned to adapt appropriately over time. Participating in virtual coffee chats and engaging in both work-related and casual conversations greatly helped me connect with my coworkers. Seeking assistance and guidance when necessary was very important for my learning and for completing work-related tasks, which ultimately contributed to my growth as a designer.

Accomplishments and Challenges

As my first accomplishment, I successfully populated the specs tab for each component on the documentation website. This task demanded a solid understanding of the existing documentation, the design system's components, and how users would interact with the resources in the specs tab. I worked closely with my supervisor to discuss content variations, aiming to meet the optimal balance between informative and easily updatable content.

I also contributed to enhancing the accessibility of the design components, ensuring they align with the touch target guidelines outlined in the WCAG Accessibility Document. This required a comprehensive review of current accessibility standards and an analysis of our existing components. I delivered a 10-minute presentation on touch target accessibility standards and our library’s compliance, which was a memorable part of my ongoing process to overcome my nervousness about public speaking.

Recently, I have been tasked with managing our design system's icon library, which includes handling requests for new icons or modifications. I am expected to take the initiative in my upcoming semesters as well, expanding the icon library by introducing new features such as micro and animated icons.

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Nokia has an open and friendly culture. Our team mostly operates with employees working remotely from home, so the existing culture is well adapted for coworkers to connect virtually, such as through weekly virtual coffee chats. Scheduling a separate time for help, advice, or a chat is easy to do and is encouraged by leaders.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Working virtually and participating in social and extracurricular activities can be challenging due to the limitations of not being in the same physical space. However, Nokia organizes several hybrid events featuring social activities and guest speakers so that the co-op students can get the most out of the experience.

Wrap Up

My time at Nokia was filled with engaging tasks focused on managing the design system libraries and their documentation. These tasks offered hands-on experience that was both challenging and rewarding, significantly contributing to my professional development as a designer. I hope to bring even more value to the team in my future semesters with the company by taking more initiative and further growing both my professional and soft skills.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

This term offered a learning journey filled with diverse opportunities for growth, including developing technical skills in Figma, gaining a deeper understanding of accessibility standards, improving public speaking, and enhancing team collaboration skills. I found it meaningful to contribute to the team's overall goal and am eager to participate more in the upcoming semesters.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

The direct involvement in enhancing the design system has been incredibly rewarding. The team's effort to involve everyone in areas they're passionate about made the work more enjoyable and engaging. This opportunity not only improved my design abilities but also strengthened my confidence as a UX designer.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

Initially, the concept of a design system was unfamiliar to me, as it hadn't been covered in my academic studies. However, by applying fundamental design principles learned during my studies, I quickly grasped the importance of design systems and the skills required to complete related tasks. My familiarity with industry standards and tools, gained through school projects, proved valuable in this co-op role. This experience has solidified my interest in pursuing a career in UX design, with a focus on developing accessible and user-friendly digital products.

Advice for Future Students

To make the most of your co-op term, view each challenge as a learning opportunity. Don’t be shy or nervous about your lack of skills; they understand that you are a student and that you are there to learn. However, being active and willing to take initiative is a must. Speak out and communicate what you are passionate about. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek guidance. There will be many opportunities to practice your soft skills, such as presentation and communication skills, so make use of those chances to grow. In addition, participate in company-wide co-op activities to build your professional network.

Author

Reina Kim

she/her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology
Co-operative Education
visibility  138
Apr 30, 2024