The University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications Master’s in Mass Communication in Web Design and Online Communication is an online graduate program for students interested in learning the design, coding, and strategic communication skills sought after in today’s digital marketplace.
Our students learn the knowledge and skills necessary to create dynamic websites to increase engagement and improve user experience. One of the ways we make this possible is through feedback from our Advisory Council who help ensure our students are gaining the knowledge they need to succeed by recommending the skills employers are seeking from graduates of our Program.
Recently I asked two of our Advisory Council members about the skills our graduates will need to be successful. Brian Holt is a Senior User Interface Engineer at Netflix. Ryan Stewart is a Senior Product Manager at Adobe.
What’s the best way to stay current and innovative? How do you try to keep your ideas fresh?
My favorite way is talking to lots of different people. I’m able to talk to customers quite a bit, but even meetups or conferences where creative people are gathering are great. I find that talking to people helps me discover answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. And it’s also incredibly valuable to walk in users’ shoes as a way to generate empathy for their problems and a sense of what’s important to them. Having that conversation over and over again and being able to adapt means I have a plethora of new ideas or interesting concepts to think about.
What skills do you think are future-proof?
Code. Even if you want to be heads-down in Sketch or Photoshop every day, you should learn to write some code in this industry. For developers, learning your language in-and-out will translate to whatever direction you end up going in. Learning to write clean, readable, and maintainable code will serve you your entire career.
What is the best lesson you have learned in your career to-date and how has this impacted your work?
I’ve found that it’s incredibly important to remember the human element to our work because it turns the problems or questions from ones about technology to: how do we make people’s lives better/easier? How do we create a team dynamic that’s engaging and fun? Tackling those challenges through that people lens ends up being an incredibly rewarding experience.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to pursue a career in design or coding?
It’s hard. Don’t buy into the line that coding should be easy. We as engineers have short memories and don’t remember what it was like to learn to code. We learn a new concept, and instantly start building atop of it with new concepts and we forget was it was like to acquire that foundational knowledge. So if you don’t get how to use IRC, the arity of the JSON.stringify function (or what arity is,) or what a ternary function is, don’t worry. And tell the person that’s telling you it’s easy to shut up. We were all there once and you’ll get it too if you keep going and don’t get discouraged.
Just start sharing your work. Whether it’s sharing a design or sharing some code, rolling up your sleeves and putting yourself out there will reap huge benefits. Whether that’s contributing some code to an open source project or sharing a design on Behance, getting real feedback from other people in the industry is a great way to improve your skills and build a network. I find that people are incredibly accommodating and helpful with people that are just starting off or are just curious. If you don’t have anything to share yet and you’re curious what it’s like, I’d reach out to people who you admire in the field and see if you can talk to them over coffee or over the phone for 15-20 minutes to ask questions. People are definitely busy, but I think a lot of them are very accommodating if approached in the right way. And the more high profile folks may be harder to get, but cast a wide net and keep trying.