This month we have an interesting blog post from Jade who is the Managing Director of HIROLA Group. Below she talks about her amazing journey from Graphic Design to Tech!
If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be Managing Director of a tech company at aged 29, I wouldn’t have believed you. Firstly because I never set out to be 'the boss' when it came to my career, and secondly because my interests initially lay in design. Why would a woman like me ever be interested in tech-y things like coding and UX?
Oh, how wrong I was. Today, I'm the MD of app and web development company HIROLA Group, heading up a team of developers, coders, UK and UI designers, and account managers. Yet a decade ago I was just starting out on my career as a Graphic Designer. So what happened, and how did I get here?
I began my career working as a Junior Graphic Designer in London, both for agencies and in-house for a variety of different businesses. I loved it, but I didn’t yet have a degree in it. So to expand my knowledge and understanding of the conceptual thinking behind design, I decided to head to uni to study graphic design so that I could continue my career armed with the technical skills needed to stay on top.
Working in graphic design exposes you to a range of disciplines, including the need to keep up with the latest tech advances. I found myself becoming increasingly intrigued with the tech behind many of the designs I was working on. During my last year of university we could choose our own project to focus on. Mine was very technology focused, based around the idea of creating an interactive menu for customers in restaurants. It involved designing a touch screen and I was lucky enough to present the idea at my end of degree show. The project really sparked something in me, so on graduating from the course I knew I wanted to create design which had more dimensions than what print could offer. It meant I couldn't see myself going back into the traditional type of graphic design jobs which I'd come from.
Getting to grips with industry evolutions was the most enjoyable part of my graphic design career and my new found interest in the tools behind it spurred me on to combine these interests. These days, we live our lives through digital platforms (I don’t know anyone who would leave the house without their mobile), and I began to realise that knowing how to code and good design were two parts of the same whole. To put it bluntly, in our modern world a lack of technological know-how hinders good design, and vice versa.
And so very quickly I found myself transitioning from traditional graphic design into a mobile designer role at HIROLA Group. To do this I had to grasp the fundamentals of code, and fast: needless to say, it was a baptism of fire. I convinced my interviewers that they needed someone from a design background to make their apps valuable to consumers. I was a novice, and I took a risk. But I knew there was no way of gaining the technical skills needed for app development other than to throw myself into a job whose specification absolutely required a certain level of fluency in this area.
This involved a few months’ of late nights, extra studying and self doubt, but I got there. Tech moves at lightning speed, and I didn’t want to get left behind.
After nearly four years at HIROLA Group my passion for the industry has grown immensely. My hard graft paid off: I'm now the Managing Director of the company, something of which I'm immensely proud and which without doubt has been the highlight of my career to date. I'm helping build technology that feels new and exciting, particularly compared to the more static outputs of traditional graphic design. I’m sure I’m not the only woman in this sector who loves the feeling of being at the heart of something that’s changing the way in which individuals and communities interact with the world.
There have nevertheless been challenges, especially as a leader. The dawn of apps made waves across all sectors. App-based offerings have been disrupting consumer monopolies and I was part of a team building them. But, recently, other technological advancements have started to steal the limelight. Consumer friendly, cost-effective connected devices, as well as an acceleration in the accessibility of VR and AR means that developers are having to up their game. Tech (and therefore coding) is expanding beyond computer screens and smart phones to wearable objects and real-world experiences. It’s incredibly exciting, but also daunting.
Companies like mine were the original "digital disrupters", but that doesn't make us immune from further disruption. Organisations like HIROLA, who had for many years felt ahead of the curve, have recently had to upskill to ensure we could offer clients (and their customers) what they wanted. As MD I have to make sure that we’re working as quickly and innovatively as possible. We are always thinking on our feet, and coding and design still go hand in hand every step of the way. Thanks to my professional background, I’m able to handle this.
I never saw myself as a leader in this sphere, but I genuinely believe that if you have a passion for something, whether it's design or dance, there are fascinating ways in which you can combine that interest with tech. I’d really like to use my perspective to help girls and women realise their potential and how they can get involved in the tech space. It can sound like a difficult impenetrable industry to an outsider - but it's actually a fast paced, welcoming and exciting world to be part of.
I’m expecting my first baby in September, and I’m looking forward to becoming a tech mum! I want to teach my children that this sector is as varied as the people who work in it, and everyone can build a career in tech if they want. In this world, the opportunities are limitless, so long as you stay agile and grab every opportunity that comes along. I can’t wait for the adventures yet to come.
Jade Warrington is Managing Director of HIROLA Group. She is expecting a baby boy in September.
Code First: Girls