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A career abroad: Three alumni look back on the experience

A career abroad: Three alumni look back on the experience

Since 1998, L’École de design has trained more than 1,500 designers from Associate to Master’s level. Two-thirds of graduates hold a position in a global field, or work abroad to further their career development. What prospects abroad lie ahead for them? What made them opt for this direction? How has it impacted their job and life? Alternating interviews with three international designers, Cynthia Bodin, Jean-Christophe Naour and Marie Piet.

What is your professional background?

Marie Piet (2002 alumnus): I currently head up the Design Department of the Chocolate Centre of Excellence in Broc, Switzerland. It is a Nestlé-owned R&D Center dedicated to chocolate. We are an innovation center whose aim is to offer our consumers new experiences using a holistic approach. Previously, I worked at a Nestlé research center in France. Before joining Nestlé, I spent two years at a food design studio in Paris called Enivrance. We were a small team of designers and graphic artists, and our client base consisted of major European food-processing industries. And before that, just after I received my degree, I did freelance work in a variety of fields.

Jean-Christophe Naour (2007 alumnus): I have been Senior Designer (UX Division / Visual Display Department) at Samsung Electronics in South Korea since 2012. From 2007 to 2012, I was Interaction Designer (Team Leader / UX Division) at Innoiz Interactive, also in South Korea.

Cynthia Bodin (2001 alumnus): I currently work at Lego in Billund, Denmark.

Poly Export - Jean-Christophe Naour

Does this match what you had in mind when you were a student?

Marie Piet (2002 alumnus): What I do today is not quite what I had in mind originally, especially with regard to food design. When I was a student, there were but a handful of initiatives here and there, and design really had not yet made its mark in this field. As a result, it was hard to look that far ahead in this category of products. For the in-house designer part, I have to admit that the role struck a chord in me. “Experiencing things from the inside, grasping how a brand takes shape and bonds with its consumers, and also experiencing real-time production of its creations without a middle-man are quite an eye-opener.”

Jean-Christophe Naour (2007 alumnus): “When I was a student, I did not have a clear idea of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. One thing, though, was always certain: I wanted to be in a field that combined art and technology.” After a stint in college in Science and IT, I started at L’École de design where I discovered my true calling. Looking back now after all these years, I guess you could say that I did not stray too far from my dreams back in college, although this desire is still alive and kicking today.

Cynthia Bodin (2001 alumnus): Back in my post-grad days from my fourth year onwards, I started to shift my attention toward children’s design, and show a real interest in toys. Never did I think I would land a job at Lego; not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined working here.

"Life of George" Lego - Cynthia Bodin

Could you describe some of the highs and lows in your career?

Marie Piet (2002 alumnus): The hardest part was after graduation, and trying to get a foot in the door without any real experience under my belt – it wasn’t easy. You have to be prepared to knock on a lot of doors before someone gives you a chance. You only need one to open, though, and from then on, you’ll be well on your way, and the opportunities will unravel before your eyes! My current position is a personal victory because, first of all, food is a field I love, and secondly, being Head of design in an R&D center in a company like Nestle means a lot of responsibility. The breadth of what we do extends worldwide, and we’ve got a lot of visibility.

Jean-Christophe Naour (2007 alumnus): Working in South Korea, both the language and culture have always proven a bit daunting. Over time, although I’ve gotten used to them and can toy with them more easily than before, these differences have taught me, more than anything, to take risks and never take the easy way out.

Cynthia Bodin (2001 alumnus): There were a couple of hiccups related to the language barrier, not to mention the corporate culture, which differed from that in France. My highs were a handful of personally-designed products whose innovation, although deemed “risky” in Lego’s eyes, stood out from other competitors, and earned awards. I am also grateful to my managers who believed in me.

In light of your background, what advice do you have for up-and-coming generations of designers?

Marie Piet (2002 alumnus): First of all, you have to be curious and have a well-rounded background in order to troubleshoot. This curiosity should always be intact. In my eyes, the thirst for knowledge should anchor a designer’s character. For this, you have to like working in a team setting or in conjunction with fields other than your own, for without them, there is no creation. Next, you have to be patient once out of school. You can’t expect everything right away; you have to make your way up the ranks, one step at a time. Competition is fierce in the market, and you have to remind yourself that five years of studies do not make you an experienced designer. There is a still a lot out there to learn when it comes to putting theory into practice! Lastly, have fun. We are lucky enough to love what we do, so we should make the most of it, and convey that message in every project we undertake.”

Jean-Christophe Naour (2007 alumnus): Be curious, experiment, take the scenic route.

Cynthia Bodin (2001 alumnus): I’d say: dream, believe in what you do while being open to others’ ideas. Don’t be afraid to take risks and march to the beat of your own drum. Build up your local and international network, and know when to take hold of opportunities.