Design intern to sustainability consultant in 1 year

26th June 2019

I’ve been with SR now for just over a year, and it’s been a pretty exciting journey so far. I began my time here as an eager intern, ready to soak up all the knowledge I could find from industry professionals. Since February 2018, I have worked my way up from design intern, to junior designer and now I’m Studio Republic’s sustainability consultant. This is a division of the business that I established and lead by myself out of my office in Florence, Italy.

It might seem like a once in a lifetime experience, or that I’m lucky to have achieved all that I have achieved in such a short period of time - and I certainly am! However, it wasn’t just luck that led me to where I am today. My successes are down to a lot of hard work, an alignment in ethics and ideas between myself and my employer, and a progressive, inclusive working environment that nurtures talent, idea sharing and career progression. It’s rare to find a company who encourages you to shift your professional role, but it’s even rarer to find a company who will support a cross-industry role change!

One year on, I’m just as eager to continue my professional journey with SR as I was to begin my professional journey with them back in 2018 - although my career aspirations since then have completely transformed.

What were you looking for in a design internship?

After graduating from King's College London with a First in English Language and Literature, I was looking to begin a career that was creative beyond the written word; a career that would enable me to inspire positive change in the world. I thought at least the first part of this ask could be found in a career as a Graphic Designer, but I was still unsure about how I could find work that allowed me to change the world for the better.

To get the ball rolling, I set about searching for an internship opportunity that would allow me to gain more industry experience. I was a self taught designer with only a small amount of real world experience, and I’d worked really hard to build a portfolio from zero. I just needed an opportunity for a studio to take me on, so I could show them my talent and really begin my journey into the creative industry.

What do you love about design?

I’m one of those people who takes pictures of a good logo on a napkin rather than using it to wipe the crumbs away from my fingers.

I love the supposed simplicity of design, and the hidden work and skill that goes on behind it. I love the diversity of design, the inclusivity, the juxtapositioning of styles and the story that can be told simply through colour and composition.

Design to me is like a poem. Each one of us reads something new and unique into it. It’s powerful and it really does have the capacity to change the way you think, and the way you feel. Good design can change the world.

What encouraged you to apply to Studio Republic?

When I found Studio Republic, I found the right fit. I knew it immediately. A creative digital agency with ethics and a real drive to do good in the world? Me, me and me. I loved their openness about their values, I found their content inspiring, and I really just warmed to everything they said they were about.

I spent time reading their blogs to find out more about the team and how they treated their staff, and it was Han and Harley’s internship experience blogs which really won me over (plus a blog that said they turned down work from a hunting company - the vegan within me was over the moon!).

Overall, I felt my morals aligned perfectly with Studio Republic’s, and all of a sudden, my desire to find a creative job that inspired positive change in the world was less unattainable. I just knew I had to work there.

How does a designer become a sustainability consultant (what triggered the transition for you)?

To put it simply - it was passion. I live and breathe sustainability and I think everyone at work could see it. My own personal ventures into the world of sustainability really meshed well with the team’s ethics, and in many ways my actions inspired the company and some of my coworkers to make sustainable changes in their work and personal lives.

I think just talking about sustainability and sharing your passion in a positive way really is beneficial to the propagation of the sustainability message. In general, I think that sustainability needs a facelift, and who better than a designer to do that? I want to talk about the things that matter, but in an engaging way - not the usual, “Oh, not that climate change story again” type of way.

For me it was an easy transition from designer to sustainability consultant because of my reasons for wanting to be a designer in the first place - to inspire change and do good. I suppose my bosses and colleagues saw that too. When I suggested incorporating our values and company dedication to sustainability into our service offering, it was an immediate yes. It took a little bit of time and a lot of hard work to brush up our own credentials. I took a University of Cambridge Course in Sustainability Business Management and began to lay down the details of the SR Sustainability Service. In February 2019, we finally got there. To top it off, I got the job I set out for in the beginning - a creative job that lets me save the world.

Any advice for interns looking to begin their professional journey?

Be passionate and be bold. Find a company who meshes with your personality, and a place of work where you feel at home. Feeling safe and comfortable within the workplace is a really important component for feeling the freedom to share your ideas, to think big and to take company (and maybe even world) changing actions - especially if you’re a little bit tentative and haven’t bloomed into your fully confident self just quite yet.

It’s crucial to stay flexible because you never know what the future holds for you. Be open to opportunities and take risks for things you care about and are good at. When I started at SR I thought I wanted to be a designer for the rest of my life, but I changed, things became more important to me than others, and my ideas about my future developed into something new. If you’d have told me 12 months ago that I’d become a sustainability consultant, there’s not a chance that I would have believed you.

It’s important to follow your heart and your gut. Do things that are right for you and be confident enough to say no. If you have a dream, stick to it and work hard for it. It’ll pay off, I promise you.

Final thoughts?

Working with SR has been a breath of fresh air, they believe in you and your capabilities, and give you the freedom to test out your ideas and run with them if they’re a success. Working in this type of environment is what allowed me to drive the sustainability changes that SR have made in the past year, taking Studio Republic from an agency with ethics to a B Corp with sustainability at its core.

It’s not often that you find an employer who will allow a junior member of the team to upward mentor them, and effectively expand the scope of their business. I’ve been entrusted with a lot of responsibility early on in my career, and have been provided with a great amount of freedom to explore and develop our sustainability offering to the point it is today.

Reflecting upon the past 15 months has really made it clear to me what the effects of working in a truly ‘sustainable’ workplace are. It provides a sanctuary away from home, filled with like minded, supportive professionals who want you to succeed as much as you want them to succeed. This type of environment allows you to grow and flourish into the professional you want to be - with many happy and unexpected surprises along the way. As you grow, your colleagues grow, your bosses grow and the company grows. It’s an ecosystem bound for success.

I’m one year on at Studio Republic, and I’m excited for many more.