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Joel Bowman: My Bigwave Experience

Joel Bowman joined Bigwave Media in June 2012 after moving to the UK with his wife Melissa. Here Joel explains what it was like to enter the UK job market and his experiences at Bigwave Media?

I moved to the UK with my wife in search of a new experience as she completed her Master’s degree at Exeter University. We knew we would be here for at least one year but hoped to be able to stay on as long as our visa allowed so we could travel and experience as much as possible before returning home. Having never been to South West of England and with no friends or contacts closer than London, we stepped off a train in late 2011 with nothing more than a few suitcases and high hopes for surviving for at least one year.

Several months before arriving in the UK, I had graduated from university in California with a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design. While completing my education, I worked as a designer at several businesses and founded a paper goods company. Through those experiences, I accumulated a nice variety of experience that nicely complemented what I was learning in the classroom, which I hoped would make me a good candidate for a design job here in the UK.

I knew that the process of getting into work would be hard, but I never considered the fact that I was in fact a foreigner, trying to get a job in a world connected to mine only through language and to some degrees culture. I never considered how much I relied on a strong network of friends, family and former colleagues at home to help me find work or job openings until I was left without them. This became a real test of my ability to network and find creative ways to get my CV in front of studio managers and creative directors.

Once I was hired at Bigwave, I didn’t find the day-to-day work or working atmosphere too different from what I had previously experienced in the US. Although the process of applying for a job itself isn’t much different from home, the names we have for things can be different, so learning what an interviewer was asking was initially a real challenge. Examples such as being “shortlisted” instead of being selected to interview, or sending a “CV” with an application instead of a resume were tough to wrap my mind around.

One of the biggest challenges all designers face is translating the written design briefs of a client into an organized, communicative and aesthetically pleasing visual. My colleagues often found it amusing when I would need to ask their opinion of what they thought a client was after when a brief said something I found particularly foreign.

I found that the open layout of the office encouraged a collaborative vibe and friendly banter. I really like the atmosphere Bigwave has created for workers, especially considering the creative work we do.

Some of the skills I’ve gained since working with Bigwave are an improved ability to meet deadlines as well as time and project management. Working with fellow designers and senior design staff has helped me better understand the larger picture of design in a commercial studio setting.

Looking back on the past six months, I don’t really think that the differences in working in the US or the UK are much more than having an open mind. For me, working here is more of a matter of being willing to adjust to a different culture and being open-minded when talking and working with co-workers and clients. I trust that the time I’ve spent working and living here will allow me to take some of that open-mindedness with me when I return home.

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