This is Me!!!
Amy Teresa Reister
It is still hard to believe that I am sitting at my desk in my little flat on Wood street, it is April and that I am writing my final reflective blog for my Design Thinking class. It seems like yesterday I said goodbye to my parents in California and boarded a plane alone to move to London to start a new chapter in my life. I have a habit of jumping into thinks without fully evaluating the situation. As the saying goes, jumping into a pool and then realizing there is no water. It wasn’t that I think I made a bad choice, rather I didn’t realize how hard it would be to say goodbye and embark on a new journey alone.
While in undergrad there were so many signs and opportunities that pointed towards London. Having grown up in a religious and spiritual household I am a full believer in signs, which has lead me to be here today. About half way through the flight to London I had a moment. What was I doing? Why was I leaving the comfort of family and friends to move halfway around the world? Why was I studying business? I was a psych major, I knew nothing of business. Would I be able to make it? After excusing myself and going to the bathroom I looked myself in the mirror and gave myself one of those you are a strong, independent woman speeches, told myself I have a right to feel sad and scared but I didn’t need to blubber like a little baby about it. I pulled myself together, stopped crying, walked back to my seat ready for my adventure to begin.
Before classes started we had to attend a week of orientation to acclimate ourselves to Kingston University. Many students in the International Business Management class came from different countries and therefore the schooling system was different. The way it worked with my major was that there was a set of core classes I needed to take, but then I could pick a pathway, focusing more directly on one area of business and pick an elective. I ended up picking the pathway of entrepreneur, which lead my major to be International Business Management with Entrepreneurship. And for the elective, I picked Design Thinking. The reason for my choices brings me back to a previous moment the summer before I applied to Kingston. The moment that I marked as the biggest sign, and the reason I should move to London and study at Kingston University.
It was the summer of 2015, I knew that I would be graduating from undergrad the previous spring so I needed to come up with a plan. Figure out the next chapter that I was going to embark on. Graduating with a BA in psychology doesn’t give one many options. My first option, was that I could work in mental health, in a stagnant position without much room for advancement. While studding at Seattle University I had taken the time to work with King County Sexual Assault program. It was designed to help survivors of child abuse overcome what happened to them and move forward with their life. Although it was very rewarding, it was also very taxing and I knew that it was something I didn’t want to continue long term. So that option was out. My second option, was to continue schooling. I had considered getting a master’s in psychology from Kingston University. While most US students go to Mexico for Spring Break I in 2015 went to London to tour schools that I thought I might want to attend for grad school. It was there and then that I feel in love with Kingston. The problem with getting a degree in psychology is that you must receive the degree in the state in which you want to work otherwise the degree is invalid. And I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live in the US much less what state I wanted to live in, so that option was out. That left me with my third and last option, to teach English in China. This was something I had always wanted to do, and my reason for going back to college in the first place. Although, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it permanently. One of my best friend from Seattle, Dai, lived in China and offered me the opportunity to spend the summer living with him and teaching English at a local school. So that is the option I went with.
After teaching for a couple months I knew it was not something I wanted to do long term, so now I was back at square one. What was I going to do? It wasn’t that I didn’t love my job, it was just that China was not for me. It was to congested, hot, humid and there was way too much rain for my liking. And that is saying a lot seeing’s as I had lived in Seattle for two years. Before leaving China and heading home I decided to do a little sight-seeing. I went to Xi’an, Shanghai, and Beijing. And Beijing is where my Kingston story begins. I was on a bus headed to the Great Wall and randomly the girl sitting next to me was a student at Kingston University studying Business Law and wanted to start her own company? Ok, let’s back up a minute. One of my best friends Luke and I had always talked about starting our own company. We wanted to get into real estate and flip homes, have vacation rentals or maybe even open a hostel. What bigger sign did I need? It was that moment that I realized I didn’t have to get my masters in psychology just because I got my BA in it. I could get a master’s in business. It was these moments that I thought upon during my week of orientation that lead me to make the decision to study entrepreneurship and Design Thinking. What drew me to design thinking was the premise behind it, the understanding that, “the primacy of the customer or user experience, and that the products, services, processes, organizational design, and business model should be designed to enable that compelling experience, rather than the other way around” (Boland, Collopy, Lyytinen, Yoo, 2008). The way in which customers purchase items has changed and so should the infrastructure and idea around it.
The first think I learned upon studying in a different country is that the educational system is very different. In the US teachers always seem to hold your hand and walk you through everything. Here, in London, it is completely different. At least, that has been my understanding. They seem to just through you in and it’s up to you to swim. At least that is how I felt at first. Before the Design Thinking class started we had an accelerated workshop that was all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The reason for the workshop was to give us an overview of what the class would go through over the next seven months. First, we had to break up into groups and create a character. Our character’s name was John Jacobs. We then had to give him a story, he was very close to his family but had just moved away to study at uni. Then we had to find a problem, he missed the comforts of home but was unable to travel the long journey on the weekends. We then had to find a solution, an app, like tinder, that allowed local families to open their homes to university students, inviting them over for a family dinner etc. We did all this in three days, and I was hooked. I loved the concept of what the class entailed, I loved that it was hands on, the class moved fast, and that there was good positive, creative, energy. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to launch me into my career that I wanted after school.
The first class was designed to give us an outline of what we were to cover and accomplish over the next seven months. We were required to not only attend classes, complete class work, and the larger picture assignments but write a blog and be active on social media. This was one of the hardest things for me, and the biggest challenge that I had to overcome in grad school. It might seem easy to some, and I am sure some people will read this and laugh, but for me the concept was so personal and evasive. To put your feelings and thoughts online for all to see. As the course went on it became even harder. I had many problems in my group, manly regarding communication, and I felt truly uncomfortable writing about it online through my blog. I didn’t want to stir up any trouble, but I didn’t want to get marked down. Looking back on what I wrote, I am sad to say, but it shows nothing of who I am and what my experience and journey was. I read it and look at it and yet I don’t see my anywhere. Reflecting over the months, that is my largest regret. Not being genuine and forthcoming through my blog.
Reflecting on this class and the person that I now am, it has completely changed the way in which I see the world. The first class to cover the material, and probably my favorite was How Designers Think. We analyzed Professor Kees Dors theory, to really consider the word and understand how designers apply it. It correlated with the material we were asked to read for the class that focused on the restructuring of design, “we saw a desire to do things better than before – addressing urge that compelled them to question and search for new methods, materials, and ways of organizing” (Best, 2015). We were asked to compare Analytical Thinking Vs. Design Thinking. In combination of classes and materials read I learned, “the first step towards a great answer is to reframe the question” (Kelley & Kelley, 2014). And that, “the concept of developing an idea is a continuous process, one that required feedback from the start to make sure one is on the right path” (Ries, 2011). Even going so far as to, “once a day, deeply observe the ordinary” (Brown, 2009). It was after the completion of my first class and after reading a few articles and starting a book, “Designing Brand Identity” by Wheeler, that I realized the intricate webbing of design thinking and psychology. They weren’t very different at all. In psychology don’t we often reframe the question to our patient? And once a patient starts therapy, isn’t a continual process that one must continually check in and regroup to make sure they are headed in the right direction? And my favorite class in undergrad focused on listening below the noise. Weren’t we asked to simply observe and listen to see the world in a different light? What was I so scared of?
From that moment on I tackled every challenge and opportunity with a courage I didn’t even know I had. The girl who took once took a math class multipole times before passing, was now flying through finance and helping others. I learned about Tim Browns, Core Design Activities and the Activity Theory. I practiced mapping people’s days and experiences, to better understand the customer journey. Attended a lecture by Adam Ramen that focused on, “Professional Selling.” Was introduced to Peter J. Thomas’s, “Lean Canvas and Business Models” by Dr. Richard Anson. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of my learning experience while at Kingston University. What I believe helped me the most was that all my classes overlapped. What I studied in my core classes was reinforced in my entrepreneurship and design thinking class, and vice versa. This allowed me to fully submerge myself into this field moving from one class to another.
The largest obstacle and challenge for me over the past seven months, other than the blog, has been the completion and presentation of my design thinking project, Chop-Plus. Alas, there are not enough words for me to fully explain the circumstances that have led to the completion of Chop-Plus. However, what I learned is paramount and is something that can never be taught in a classroom rather it must be experienced to be comprehended. I would say when I first started this class I was naïve and I would shy away from conflict. Yet, there were many conflicts that I as a managing director of our group, Chop-Plus, had to voice, address, and resolve. This was challenging for me because it forced me to have to step outside of my comfort zone. I am sad to say that I am extremely disappointed with our final presentation and outcome of Chop-Plus. However, I am appreciative to have learned these lessons in a safe controlled environment with the support of staff rather than in the real world where the outcome could be more devastating and the ramifications higher.
I now find myself coming to the completion of my reflection and take a moment to look up from my computer screen to view my surroundings. I am aware of the soft breeze from my fan, the noise of traffic as cars pass by my window, and I realize not only am I in a different physical place, but I am also in a different personal space. Meaning, I am no longer the scared girl that moved to London rather, I am a confident woman who has studied business and design thinking at Kingston University and I am ready for another chapter. But once again I fell that instead of my adventure being over, it is merely just beginning as I say goodbye to academia and hello to my carrier.
This isn’t the end, rather it is just the beginning.
Best, K. (2015) Design Management: Managing Design Strategy, Process and Implementation. AVA.
Boland, R. Collopy, F. Lyhtinen, K., Yoo, Y. (2008) Managing as Designing: lessons for Organizational Leaders from the Practice of Frank O. Ghery. Design Issues, 24(1), 10-25.
Brown, Tim. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. Harper Business.
Dors, K. (2016). Kees Dorst at What Design Can Do / Design Indaba. [online] Design Indaba. Available at: http://www.designindaba.com/videos/interviews/kees-dorst-what-desing-can-do [Accessed 7 Oct. 2016].
Hulme, Simon (2016) Lecture: Carl’s Café Financial Model. Kingston University.
Kelly, D. Kelly, T. (2014) Creative Confidence, p. 186. Williams Collins: London
Raman, Adam. Lecture: Professional Selling. Kingston University.
Ries, E. (2011) The lean Startup. Penguin, London
Thomas, Peter. J. (2016) Lecture: Value Proposition Canvas Template and Business Model. Kingston University.
Wheeler, A. (2012). Design Brand Identity. Wiley.