Validation through an unexpected opportunity - Student Ambassadors

Open Window Hackathon 2021

So this was kinda hard for me to write, cause for those that know me, talking sometimes also can be a struggle. Now imagine writing! Please have patience with me and don’t judge.

One of our Student Ambassadors, Stacy, asked me if I could go to Open Window because I went to school there, and I think she thought it would probably be a great idea for me to intermingle with my lecturers and some of the people I attended with. My first thought was, uhhh, no! Just no! Then she told me what it was all about and why I was going! And then I blocked her everywhere, and so she reached me on someone else's phone and told me she’d pay me for the day and that's when I was like oh okay, why didn't you say that in the beginning girl? So all these things didn't happen. I just wanted to make this blog kinda spicy.

The truth is, I was kind of dreading it because I wasn’t the best student in school. To say the least, I was just troublesome. And seeing my lecturer for the first time in a year kind of made my stomach go a bit. Not that he was a bad person, but he was so critical of every design move and thought one made. Rightfully so. It just made me nervous — I was always messing up with him. But today I can honestly say I wouldn’t have been the designer I am if it wasn’t for him. I knew I had to put that aside and I decided to go anyway. I knew this was way bigger than me and it really isn’t about me. I think I had to swallow my pride because for once I wasn’t the one under the microscope. I wasn’t the student receiving the heat. I am a working woman now. So I took the opportunity for what it was and treated it how I treat my work today. I was given the opportunity to be a judge at a hackathon hosted for their UX department. I spent the week just planning in my head what I could talk about with my lecturer because I think it was quite important for me to show him how serious I am now about life in general. I don’t know why, but I think I needed that validation from him.

But when the day came… it was actually so chilled! Because all the anxiety that I had in preparation for that day, just kinda dissolved into thin air. Seeing my lecturer turned out to be quite a refreshing experience. We spoke about how I found the degree and what I thought was missing from it, now that I have some kind of industry exposure, and a whole lot of deep stuff. Seeing him as, I almost want to say friend but not really, put him in a different light in my books, and it makes him a not so terrible person after all.

This hackathon was an opportunity to learn, grow, share and reflect a bit on my experiences in the field and at school. The next batch of interaction designers are coming in hot guys! Listen to me when I say, they are on design steroids, development steroids, and 3D design steroids. Some don’t even really like the field and they pulled through and their efforts were crazy. You’d think for someone that doesn’t like their field they’d just present a potato, but not a whole child development toy that incorporates all 3 fields.

There were 7 teams, and basically, it was a 3-day hackathon where each team had to come up with a child development toy idea and bring every aspect of it to life. So they looked at things like the practicality of the product, user experience, storytelling, how polished the product was, and a whole lot of other things. The biggest challenge was the time constraint and listen… The pressure was on! I actually almost felt sorry for them but I remember being in the students' shoes where no one cares about your feelings, it's part of the experience, you just need to do what you need to do. I don’t mean to sound like I was born in 1954, and matriculated in 1972 or glamourise these minor struggles, but it was hell; but now that I look back I just laugh at myself for some of the things I did. And now that I think about it we had to do the build from our own money, but the tech part was sorted by open window. But this year's group was twice the size we were, and they had material supplied to them for the build. I’m low-key jealous. If you guys saw that school now, I want to go back! It has grown so much and they’ve utilized the space so well for the library and stuff. But being back there took me back to memory lane.

Also, they gave us pizza and I was so embarrassed because I ate like it was my mom's house… The real highlight of the day was seeing the end results of the students' hard work. Sweat. Blood. And tears. They all did such a great job at making their projects work, even though some of them felt they shot themselves in the foot with these crazy, elaborate ideas, I think it was worth it.

Going back to my old school and seeing how my field has grown has given me hope for this field. With Covid and all, I thought I would have lost my job or that would have been the end of UX. But you won’t believe it. We are wanted. That's a pretty good feeling.

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zinzi gwebu