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A former fashion designer finds career happiness in an unlikely place

For Jill Dickieson, fashion school had been a breeding ground for creativity. Working in fashion, though—that was a different story.

“You’re going in as a designer to a company, and you’re kind of sectioned off into designing something like ‘Women’s Daywear Dresses’,” Jill explains of job life in the fashion industry. “And that’s basically all you design.”

It was six years of fashion school only for Jill to become disillusioned by the ho hum grind of a day job. “I felt really limited,” she says. “Like doing the same thing over and over again was going to turn something I really enjoyed into something I hated.” Starting her own label or becoming a fashion entrepreneur? Not her jam. She wasn’t into the idea of the lifestyle it required. “You can be successful in fashion, but it’s very hard to find balance,” she says.

So Jill thought a move into the business side of ecommerce would save her love for fashion design from becoming a monster. “I had a moment to myself and decided it was the better path for me,” she says. “I figured I could pursue design on my own time.” It worked—she didn’t end up hating fashion design. But room for growth in her new role was nonexistent, and Jill craved using her creative side again for more than just the extracurricular. “I found myself taking on additional work just to get a small amount of creative decision-making into my work life,” she recalls.

An itch like that never goes too long without needing a scratch.


Option A or Option B


Sometimes it’s the employer that needs switching up. Jill began job searching in ecommerce, but a new bullet point was coming up. “Ecommerce job descriptions kept mentioning UX/UI design as an essential skill,” Jill says. She had to ask a friend who worked in User Experience (UX) to fill her in on the subject. The fact that it combined creative design with practical thinking intrigued her. Her friend even recommended a good school where she could to learn.

“I wanted a more balanced work life that combined creativity and design with logic and data.”

So Jill came to a crossroads. Option A: stay in ecommerce and look for a management role. Option B: drop everything and level up her skills in UX design. The latter was riskier, but seemed more likely to lead to her ideal job. Option A was safe, but didn’t solve her problem of missing creativity. “What I was looking for was a more balanced work life that combined creativity and design with logic and data,” she says. UX certainly seemed like the way to go. “The only thing stopping me was the risk of quitting my job and taking six months off, with no guarantee of a job or income at the end.”

Not everyone chooses to take the leap of faith when it calls. Jill isn’t sure exactly what made her decide to do it. “I just had to believe it was the right move for me,” she says. “How timing and stuff worked out, I think it was just time.” And so, Jill jumped into RED Academy’s UX Design Professional program.

Rapid growth

As she quickly settled into the small class atmosphere, Jill realized she had made the right subject choice. “I discovered it was a really great way of bringing my schooling and work experience together,” she says. “I could use all of those approaches to come out with a new product.” She had found a way to use her creativity again, this time for a thriving and exciting job market.

With a welcoming and supportive community behind her, Jill’s growth was rapid. “The instructors were awesome and super helpful,” she reviews. “Their feedback was constructive and allowed me to progress significantly in a small amount of time.” Plus, real world experience from working with real clients in the program built up her confidence for the inevitable transfer to the workforce.

She had found a way to use her creativity again, this time for a thriving and exciting job market.

Three quarters of the way through the UX program Jill decided to level up and take on the UI (User Interface) program as well. “UI started to pique my interest,” she says. “But I also felt the experience would give me an edge when looking for a job when I finished.”

As the program neared the end, Jill was hopeful about job searching. She wasn’t doing it alone this time. Career coaching, Personal Professional Development sessions, resume and cover letter writing workshops—they were all there for her at RED. “They give you everything you need to be successful once your finished,” Jill says. And more importantly, she could actually wrap her head around the workforce she was entering into. “RED helped me gain a better understanding of how to market and position myself in a new industry,” she says.”


The last place you’d look

Jill had the perfect job in mind. This time she was going to love what she did every day. “I had this idea of where I’d want to work and the type of company,” she says. “That’s always a little tricky because the question is, do you hold out for that role or do you open your mind for something else you might not have considered?”

“What helped my search was keeping an open mind, and I was certainly pleasantly surprised.”

Jill’s ideal employer was an agency or startup. But it turned out that even the booming tech industry can be a competitive job market. “You’ve got to knock on a lot of doors before one will open with a friendly face on the other side,” she says. “What helped my search was keeping an open mind, and I was certainly pleasantly surprised.”

An unexpected place for a creative spark

The friendly face whose door Jill walked through and stayed for a job? A bank. She’s now a UX/UI Designer at CIBC. “It’s not at all what I thought it was going to be—a stuffy corporate bank—not at all,” she says. “Company culture is great, my coworkers are all around my age and super passionate about what they do, and there are lots of opportunity for growth and movement.”

She loves the work life balance that she has in her job. “The expectation is that you’re putting in your daily hours and above that is considered extra—it’s not expected,” Jill says. “If you do any overtime, people are very thankful and appreciative.” That means she has more time to spend practicing with her aerial silks, straps, and hoop/Lyra. “For me, it’s a stress reliever,” she confides. “I don’t think about anything except for what I’m doing at that time, so it’s like a good night’s sleep.”

Best of all, Jill is combining her essential creative spark with practical thinking on a daily basis. “Finding work that doesn’t feel like work is important to me,” she says. “I love what I do.”

Written by Carly Walde


Find out how RED Academy can help you make a change in your life like Jill – speak to one of our career advisors today.

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