Aalia Coovadia: A launch pad to London
For alumna Aalia Coovadia, a degree from the Creative Academy proved to be just the preparation needed to succeed – whether at work, in awards or beyond our borders. The UX designer shares how her training made the difference.
A graduate of the Creative Academy’s School of Interaction Design, Aalia Coovadia was drawn to the field because of its multiple facets. “I was really interested in interaction design because it’s a mixture of computing and design. I’m quite a creative person but my family is very academic, so I wanted a bit of a mixture,” she explains.
Not even two years after graduating, this UX designer has already given her CV a makeover. In this short timespan Aalia has taken on her first full-time professional position, participated in a prestigious digital competition and moved to London to study further. It’s a potentially daunting list of challenges, but this go-getter has trusted her instincts – and her training.
The foundations to fly
The Creative Academy is all about nurturing inquisitive minds and instilling a desire to break new ground. For Aalia that meant stretching herself with further study abroad following her degree. Her choice: Kingston University in London. Although her results met Kingston’s stringent entry requirements, there were several administrative hoops to jump through. She had to pass language tests to prove her English proficiency and apply for a student visa.
“It was such a long process, such a stressful process to get here. I was worried that I wouldn’t be equipped for London,” she admits. But before her classes at Kingston even started, she decided to enter the User Experience Awards UK. Even better, she was selected as a finalist in the student category. “I was one of six finalists from across the UK, the others were all from one of the top universities. It actually made me think that I do have the skills as an interaction and UX designer to make it in the industry.”
Aalia since has completed her masters of science in the UK. “London was a great place to come to because it’s so diverse, it’s so international.” As a result, learned about different cultures and how their personalities are shaped by their countries of origin. “What you want to know in interaction design is how people behave. It’s all about behaviour change and what you want to add to the world.”
Learning to create
Reflecting on her journey to becoming a fully-fledged UX designer, Aalia recalls that it wasn’t easy at first. When she enrolled at the Creative Academy, she initially found the approach to exploring the creative process unsettling. It was a world removed from the purely academic nature of high school. “At the Creative Academy the way of teaching, of learning, is very open. It’s very much what you think, how you feel… I didn’t really trust myself to think that way, but as a creative it’s so important,” she says.
That’s where the school’s supportive structure helped this high-flyer to find her feet and spread her wings. “We were in small groups, which was really nice, it was quite intimate. The lecturers had time with each of us, they sat with us and gave us good feedback on our projects.”
Another feature of the Creative Academy that Aalia treasured was the opportunity to develop other creative skills. “The way the courses are structured, we were allowed to take other subjects, so other than Interaction Design, I took Motion Design.” Because of that decision, she’s advanced in her career. “In my job, when a project needed a quick animation or an illustration for a client presentation, I had those skills. I could just design it myself, they didn’t need to hire someone else.”
The world of work
Aalia credits her education at the Creative Academy for empowering her to take on her first job with a certain amount of confidence. By the time she started working as a UX research consultant for Interact RDT, she had already completed internships at some of South Africa’s leading creative agencies.
As valuable as the creative and technical skills she learnt were the abilities developed in other areas. “We had a lot of design projects, but we also had research projects and business study projects. That was so good because it taught us other skills. When I started my first job, we had to write articles and write about the company. We were often presenting to clients or giving them research proposals and it had to be in a certain tone, a certain kind of voice. If I hadn’t developed those skills at university, I would have had no idea how to structure things.”
Business studies also helped her navigate the office environment. “When you get a job it’s all about developing relationships with people. In business studies, we learnt how to talk to clients and how to present yourself and that helped me in communicating with my co-workers.”
Of course, these days she’s communicating with an even bigger audience. We can’t wait to see what Aalia does next.
If you’re feeling inspired by Aalia Coovadia and want to launch your own creative career, speak to us.
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