KMDI Work Study Student Learns Valuable Job Skills

Hi Tarik.  Can you tell me about your education and work/graphic design experience?

My name is Tarik Haiga and I graduated as a student at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto specializing in User Experience Design (UXD). Before that, I completed my undergraduate education at University College London in the UK, specializing in Information Technology and Management.

When it comes to work experience, I have held multiple UX and graphic design positions internationally in Toronto, Germany, London England and China.  In these positions I did a variety of tasks including user interface, graphic deliverables and teaching UX/UI to professionals in Toronto and students.

What was your position and duties at KMDI (Knowledge Media Design Institute), as a Work Study Student?

The position was Communication Assistant (Graphic Design), which included a wide range of design-related and marketing & communications tasks. Initially, most of my work was focused on designing posters, brochures, postcards and event banners for print.  Overall my role was varied, and I helped move the marketing and communications branding forward within the institute.  I was able to understand all the different facets within KMDI which included the external and internal community.   For example, I helped write articles for speaker events which included professionals from MediaSmarts and academic communities.

Also, I focused on maintaining and improving KMDI’s website, such as working on the website’s navigation and the backend CMS (WordPress), managing KMDI’s social media channels and email newsletter.  I was able to help make important decisions including recommendations for the institute’s website and visual branding for the institute which was invaluable work experience.  The inclusive leadership style between myself and my managers’ helped me grow professionally.

How did you find the work, especially the marketing and graphic design experience assisted you with finding a co-op placement in Germany?  What type of position did you receive in Germany?

The most important lessons I learned during my time at KMDI were related to soft skills and communication. For example, I was able to become a better communicator when it came to presenting my work or getting feedback on my designs.  My supervisor, Rekha (Administrative Coordinator, KMDI), was really helpful in terms of advising me so I could progress in terms of my career goals.

Also, I used a lot of the software tools when I worked at KMDI (e.g. Photoshop and Illustrator).  This technical experience helped me receive a coop position as a UX designer in Germany, at a large engineering company. 

Did your experience at KMDI help you during your search for a full-time job?

Yes, of course. While the job offers I received were all for UX design positions, being able to design for both digital and print was seen as a pertinent skill by many employers. This is because many of the companies I interviewed with were small-to-medium-sized businesses, and they usually rely on UX designers to do graphic design work if that is needed.

As an international student getting work experience in Toronto was deemed valuable by employers.  The Director Sara Grimes was very flexible, and allowed me to work remotely in the summer while I was in Germany.  This prepared me for working remotely, which is what I am doing now as a UX Designer at a Toronto software company. 

What were your favourite parts about working as a Student Communications Assistant (Graphic Design) at KMDI? Did you find it fun and exciting?  

There are many great parts that come to mind. First, my supervisor, Rekha, provided me with a lot of feedback and advice on how to improve my work and my skills. This applies to both design and communication skills. She was always considerate of my own professional goals and what I wanted to work on, which made it easy to collaborate and produce much better work.

Also, the position is very flexible when it comes to both working remotely and job autonomy. I think this was another great part, especially given that creative work requires designers to exercise control over their work conditions.

Moreover, KMDI offers many different aspects as an institute.  I had access to the Makerspace which has cool innovative toys, such as 3D printers, Raspberry PI’s and a digital embroidery machine.   Interacting with the KMDI community that included other students, Research Assistants doing different projects was interesting and educational.  Attending events, like the KMDI holiday party balanced the workload with a fun and relaxed environment.  

Would you recommend working at KMDI for other work study students?   There are always a lot of exciting positions and projects at KMDI for work study students.  Currently, there is a Videographer, Podcast Assistant, and Makerspace Lab Attendant.  They can work virtually and do creative work in different fields.

My experience tells me that if a student knows their professional goals and they are interested in creative work, then it is possible to do that at KMDI.  Any student who has interest in design would find challenging and rewarding projects.

Being exposed to a diverse student community is an integral part of the U of T experience.  Working with other students that had different skills and came from different programs was really helpful to broaden my perspective.  Not only did I learn from them, but I made new friends and developed my personal network.