“Your undergraduate major does not define you”

This one goes out to all those who might be thinking they’re not good enough for the Brandcenter. Funnily enough, I didn’t start thinking that until after I got here — but more on that later.

You can take any number of paths to get here. You don’t have to work in advertising, or know about all the top brands, or even have studied a related field in school. I did none of these things, yet here I stand writing a blog post for the best school in the biz. All you need to succeed are ideas, a willingness to work on your ideas, and a bit of grit to get you through some long nights and longer meetings.

I studied Foreign Affairs for my undergraduate degree. I can now say fairly confidently, five or so years later, that I know nothing about foreign affairs. If you weren’t already aware, know this: your undergraduate major does not define you nor does it lock you into a particular career path. After graduating in May 2014, I canceled my subscription to Foreign Affairs magazine, hopped over to San Francisco, and found work as a technical recruiter for startup software companies in Silicon Valley.

My eyes were suddenly opened to an entirely new world of technology and design, and I quickly fell head over heels. I started teaching myself to code with free online tools, building websites for friends, and eventually, over the course of a few months, working as a freelance web designer. It was one of the few things that stayed constant in the year that followed, as I changed jobs, lived in Australia for a year, and relocated to Richmond: I was always tinkering away on some website or another. I was in Richmond for close to a year before I heard of the Brandcenter, but as someone who had sworn to never go back to school, I didn’t think much of it. Luckily my sagacious girlfriend was also in the room, and immediately turned to me and said, Nicky, you need to do that. I likely sighed wearily, but knowing she is always right, I dedicated myself to the application process for the next couple of weeks (it was already March!) and made it in as an Experience Designer.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. But one thing that became achingly clear to me fairly early on was that I was different from many of my peers. I didn’t study design, or advertising, or communications. I didn’t use the Adobe suite of tools. I taught myself everything I knew, and I wasn’t sure that I could measure up to the rest of these smart, talented folks. However, looking back now as we near the end, I can say with absolute confidence that my particular background was essential in making me the designer I am today. We all take different paths to get here, and the one you’ve chosen will undoubtedly contribute to your unique worldview and the way you tackle problems here at the Brandcenter. Good luck! You’ve got this.

– Nick Tobat, experience design track, class of 2019