Finding Your Path: An Interview with Designer Jenny Lam
By KELSEY MATTHEWS
Kelsey: Please elaborate on why you made the decision to choose the creative path that you chose.
Jenny: The path wasn’t chosen. I tried many different things and took every opportunity (even if it wasn’t right), to inform my next step
. My parents were restaurant owners and immigrants from China. Every day, I helped afterschool with almost every aspect of the business: front of house, packing take-out orders, washing dishes, bussing tables. When I had to create the menus using desktop publishing, there was something there - Communicating with type and fonts, and paper. That was my first taste of design. Creating something that does not yet exist to express a certain narrative. I later worked while as a student at the University of Florida, for the newspaper as production manager. This is where I learned about production and execution. I quickly learned that it’s not good enough to have a great design, you have to execute with quality and detail.
Kelsey: Describe your experience studying at M.AD.
Jenny: Hard. Rigorous. Connecting. Rich and full.
Kelsey: What was the most valuable thing you learned in school that you still use today?
Jenny: Presentation and storytelling from the M.AD critiques. The way you present your work in a substantive and clear way is still something I use in the board room with the c-level executives.
Kelsey: I am currently in my 2nd quarter and I want to make sure I am always putting my best foot forward and giving my best efforts. What would you do differently if you could go back to your early Portfolio Center days?
Jenny: Creating more relationships with schoolmates. You will cherish it for the rest of your life. I wish I had done that early on as far as finding that support and diversity in thinking, collaboration and thought. A new mindset. I was focused on what was in front of me and didn’t see the bigger picture. I would be less panicky and focus on the work in front of me with knowing there was a bigger picture.
Kelsey: When you look at a young creative's portfolio what stands out to you the most? Is there anything specific for each discipline: Copywriting, Design, Art Direction?
Jenny: The attention to detail in the portfolio. Is the navigation understandable? Is it presented in an organized manner so that I can get a sense of what they’re about? They should show that they put thought into it and not use generic templates. Play up your unique skills and what makes you different and special.
Kelsey: What are your top two tips for students interviewing for their 1st role after graduating?
Jenny: Know your audience. What are their top priorities and concerns? If you don’t know, ask them. It’s about you; but it’s also about them. Find their pain points and figure out how your skills can solve them. Network. Meet with as many people as possible. A lot of jobs are received through word of mouth.
Kelsey: I am a millennial who has worked on teams with business professionals three times my age. I have often taken the lead on projects. I must admit that it momentarily feels surreal. Have you ever experienced impostor syndrome where you feel like functioning within your job role feels surreal? What do you do to get through it?
Jenny: Everyone has felt that. Accepting that vulnerability and be your authentic self. I think it’s ok to expose it too. You earned your position and it’s a superpower to be vulnerable with your team and creates a collaborative environment. Be your most confident and creative self.
Kelsey: What can companies do to assure diversity and inclusion within their creative departments?
Jenny: Big companies must sink into their practices further than training and hiring. Creating an environment that’s inclusive that represents everyone and their points of view. There is also an issue of lack of sponsorship starting with k-12. Most underrepresented minorities don’t even realize that Design/Creative is a career path. So creating awareness and sponsorship at a very early age is key to creating a healthy and diverse workplace.
Kelsey: When you go into work each day, what are you most excited about? Least excited about?
Jenny: I cannot get into the office fast enough. My nose is to the dashboard on the way in. I’m most excited about the people and the amazing team I hired. Worst thing at work are expense reports (but now I have an assistant who helps with that ☺)
Kelsey: You've worked Fountainhead Advertising, Microsoft, Jackson Fish Market, Amazon and now Oracle. What are the pros and cons of working at a small regional agency, huge global companies and at your own agency, Jackson Fish Market?
Jenny: In house vs agency: Agency, your customer is the client. In house, your accountability is to the end user. I believe you can iterate and learn much faster in-house.
Kelsey: What advantages do you feel you have in the marketplace after attending M.AD?
Jenny: The biggest advantage are all the connections. The friendships. All the friends I made during my time at M.AD are still friends. They are my network. We lean on each other for support. Just the other day I was in contact with some of them. We reach out to each other for jobs. I call it my “Bat Phone.” You pick it up and someone’s there. They are very responsive, and I am in return.