Making the switch to service design; reflections on my first six months at Nexer
Junior Service Designer
2 minute read
Candy reflects on her transition into service design and the experiences, challenges and growth of the past six months
As I reflect upon my journey into service design, I am filled with a sense of excitement. From humble beginnings as a career changer to reaching significant milestones, this blog aims to share my experience, challenges, and growth in the vibrant world of user-centred design.
My journey into service design started with the Diverse and Equal bootcamp. Diverse & Equal is a Manchester-based Tech for Good organisation, which trains adults from under-represented groups to make the transition to a career in tech. The course provided me with an excellent introduction to user-centred design, and I'm thankful for the opportunity it gave me to begin my career. The idea of creating impactful services that generate meaningful experiences for users fascinated me. It drove my curiosity to explore service design further, fuelled by some personal encounters with terrible services that motivated me to strive for better ones.
Coming from a law background, I have found some interesting similarities between law and user-centred design. While they are distinct fields, both emphasise advocating for clients, users, and businesses, and supporting their claims with evidence. This realisation has ignited a passion within me. And I've found that my experience as a service designer has revealed several transferable skills from my background in law. These skills include critical thinking, adaptability to change, effective communication with individuals, and confidently sharing and articulating ideas. These skills have been extremely valuable throughout my journey thus far.
Though I was extremely happy to start at Nexer Digital as a service designer, the uncertainty of what to expect in a new role caused some nervousness too. But then I remembered I was not going to be alone - I had my fellow team members, now turned sisters from the Diverse & Equal bootcamp, and this reassured me.
Hearing their experiences and the opportunity to navigate this new role together felt like a real comfort. Additionally, the support from my line manager Francis and the service design team proved to be highly beneficial. The team displayed plenty of emotional intelligence, which made it easy for me to fit in and address any imposter syndrome I might have felt. I found solace in my daily affirmations, and all these factors combined helped me settle in.
The stepping stones towards growth
My journey had its fair share of stepping stones that led me towards growth. I dedicated hours to honing my skills through self-study, and reading the materials available on the Teams training channels - we have lots of good resources that can help you develop your role.
I made good use of these resources, watching past recordings of different ‘Show and Learns’ (bi-monthly sessions where team members share about a topic of choice) while experimenting with various design tools, and devouring knowledge from my team members and people outside of my team.
I also had my goals for where I would love to be in the next year of my career written down on my personal Miro board, where I write my reflections. I knew the skills I wanted to work on and looked out for any opportunity which would help me grow. Group check-in sessions with D&E Founder Annette also helped me stay in line with my goals.
I have been involved in several projects in the past 6months. While working on those projects I have been intentional in taking up tasks that are crucial to my professional growth as a junior service designer. I have done this in the following ways:
- I communicate with whoever I am working with about the skills I am eager to enhance - when I started my role, I was assigned to shadow senior service designers on some projects. We had a shadowing document given to us by our line manager, where we outlined expectations, preferred learning methods, and specific areas we wished to focus on. This document proved to be incredibly valuable, providing structure to my learning process as a newcomer. As I became more involved in subsequent projects during my role, the initial shadowing experience proved to be beneficial.
- I willingly offer my assistance proactively, without needing to be prompted. I believe that actively engaging in the work is a valuable way to grow and learn. I am open to making mistakes and I view them as opportunities for learning and improvement. This has significantly contributed to accomplishing most of the goals I set for myself within the first 6 months of starting my role.
- I constantly strive for deeper understanding by revisiting statement of works, ensuring that I thoroughly understand all the details before commencing the project. I have confidence in my ability to perform well when I am well-informed and have all the necessary information. If there are any unfamiliar aspects, I proactively research them to gain knowledge on the subject.
- I actively seek input on my performance from the colleagues I collaborate with on projects. I approach their feedback with an open and receptive attitude and make it a priority to implement any improvements suggested by my team on how I can enhance my work, and feedback I’ve received from both my team members and clients have boosted my confidence.
- I consistently capture my thoughts, learnings and observations for each project on my personal Miro board. I take great pleasure in sharing these reflections with my team members, and by engaging in these discussions become more familiar with projects and expectations, enabling me to better meet objectives.
- I cultivated strong working relationships with my team members while collaborating on projects. I wholeheartedly dedicate myself to the tasks assigned to me, which has been instrumental in establishing trust with my project partners. I hold great respect for my colleagues’ time, and working methods, and I try to regularly check in with them.
- Participating in internal activities at Nexer, such as co-facilitating a system thinking ‘Show and Learn’ session with my colleagues, which proved to be highly advantageous for building my facilitation skills and confidence.
- Taking part in Camp Digital, Nexer’s annual UX, design and digital conference, gave me a profound sense of belonging to something meaningful. It felt like being a part of something extraordinary and highlighted the importance of my role as a designer in contributing to positive changes in the world. I have carried this mindset into handling my other projects, which has greatly contributed to my personal and professional growth.
- Lastly, I make sure to be present and have fun while working!
Every path towards a goal comes with its own set of challenges, and I also wanted to share the roadblocks I’ve encountered, and how I managed to overcome them.
During my first few days at Nexer, I was assigned to shadow a colleague on a project. Being new to service design, I initially felt a bit lost, and joining projects partway through meant there was a lot of new information to catch up on. Around three weeks into the project, I was asked to facilitate a session with the client, which felt like a huge step, and quite daunting.
I found it tough to decide whether to facilitate the session directly or simply observe. However, I firmly believe that confronting challenges head-on is the best way to learn. So, I gathered my courage, faced my fears, and lead on the session. This experience allowed me to learn from any mistakes and learn more about what works when facilitating a session. I am thankful to senior service designer Katy for encouraging me to take up the challenge.
This boost in confidence also served me well later in the project, when I was tasked with facilitating sessions including high-level stakeholders. I knew if I could successfully handle a session only three weeks into my role, I was certain that I would do a good job in the future sessions too.
Battling imposter syndrome
During my first few months in my role, I experienced the imposter syndrome and it started to really affect me. I found myself battling with self-doubt and negative thoughts, questioning whether I could truly excel in this field, and worrying about fitting in with the team.
However, I found solace in talking to the senior service designers in my team who shared their own experiences of starting in the role. It was comforting to hear that they had gone through similar struggles, and it reassured me that it's normal to feel this way.
I also greatly appreciated the mentorship sessions with Annette from the Diverse & Equal alumni. She helped me stay focused on my career goals and guided me in creating an action plan for where I want to be in the next one year's time. To cope with the imposter syndrome, I made it a habit to regularly revisit my goals and write reflections. All these strategies helped me navigate through the challenges and maintain a positive outlook.
My main takeaways so far
I found that immersing myself in projects during my first week at Nexer was incredibly beneficial for my learning. One project I worked on introduced me to the concept of future thinking and speculative design.
I was able to witness first-hand how this approach can generate innovative ideas and spark meaningful conversations. This experience led me to have further discussions with my colleague Dani, who shares a passion for speculative design. I'm excited about another upcoming futures thinking workshop as it will provide even more opportunities to explore this fascinating area.
I’ve also had a valuable learning experience working on another project with the Department for Education, which allowed me to apply my service design skills across areas including design research, system thinking and speculative design. This project also included interviews with a range of participants including high-level stakeholders, gaining insight into their perspectives on processes, challenges and opportunities.
This was the first time I had worked with such many people and had the chance to synthesise complex data to identify connections across different touch points. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience, and my senior colleague Kieran provided excellent support and constructive feedback, which greatly boosted my confidence. Overall, this project was incredibly enriching and has allowed me to develop and apply my skills in a practical setting.
Going forward, my aspirations for the future include taking more of a leadership role in projects, and actively participating in more facilitations and Show and Learn sessions. I’m also keen to pursue additional training opportunities, to improve my service design skills and knowledge. Finally, I have a deep passion for the healthcare sector, and I hope to engage in projects which contribute to driving improvement for users of healthcare products and services.
As a service designer, my professional journey so far has been an exhilarating adventure marked by continuous growth and a commitment to evolving, learning, and refining my craft. I feel fortunate to be part of the Nexer team, where I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects in an inclusive environment. This has been incredibly rewarding.
I look forward to the future with excitement, knowing that I will have the chance to work on more innovative projects that will expand my horizons and allow me to design accessible, sustainable solutions and experiences. Cheers to what lies ahead!