Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
A medical student leaves his old life behind to chase his dreams in creative design
It was what everyone wanted for him. In fact, it was what he thought he wanted for himself.
Mark Pagal was in nursing school, on his way to becoming a doctor. He had always loved helping people, and working in medicine was society’s classic example of the selfless helper.
But there was a part of him that wasn’t fulfilled. “I felt a sense of lost identity,” Mark says, speaking from his home in Vancouver. He had a creative side—he loved fashion design. When he would talk to his family and friends about his dreams, he felt as though no one believed in him. “I wanted to go against the grain, but I never had the proper support to feel as if it were the right decision,” he says. “My peers and my environment had very strong feelings towards the ideas I had.”
Their philosophies became Mark’s philosophies. “I was convinced that I wanted to live a very mediocre life,” he remembers. “Part of me knew I was living another person’s dream, but I was in denial.”
Mark was able to keep his true feelings at bay while in the school setting. But once placed in the field, where protocols and procedures left no room for creativity, he reached his breaking point. “I couldn’t suppress that side of me anymore,” he says. “I had to pull myself out of this hole I was digging.”
That meant doing something Mark had never done before—one of the hardest things for a person whose instinct is to help others. “I stopped caring about everyone around me and made a selfish decision to be who I wanted to be,” he says.
“I stopped caring about everyone around me, and made a selfish decision to be who I wanted to be.”
A new world of possibility
Mark’s creative side was set loose like a bull in the ring. By making the decision to leave nursing and become the designer of his own fashion label, he had unlocked the cage that had been confining his passion. Mark landed internships at fashion houses John Elliot and Adidas, and soon was bringing his collection to an audience at New York Fashion Week. Everything was happening for him, and it opened his eyes to a whole new world of possibility. “I realized that I was able to achieve anything that I could truly aspire to,” Mark says.
And those aspirations were changing. Visiting the MET Museum of Art in New York, Mark realized the power of design and the concept of influence. “I saw the impact that art had on the community, and how it was able to continue inspiring people past the days of it’s time,” he says. Suddenly Mark was dreaming bigger. “I wanted to impact the world around me, and I wanted to do it my way,” he says. “Having the opportunity to impact as many lives as possible.”
Reevaluating his current path, Mark realized that the static nature of fashion design wasn’t the ideal medium for his new ambitions. “I wanted to be engaged in everything that design would allow me to do,” he says. “So I looked to tech for the next major move in my life towards achieving my goals.”
Mark heard about RED Academy through a friend, who recommended UX Design as a transition into the tech world. “I needed to get into a problem solving course that focused on crossing sciences and arts,” Mark says. “This program sounded like the perfect approach to achieving my goal.”
After hearing great things about it from peers and alumni, Mark jumped into the UX Design Professional program. He was suddenly activated on all levels. “It was one of the most incredible times I’ve had in my life thus far,” he confides. “The community and relationships you build help grow every aspect of yourself.”
From the hands-on approach, to the realistic scenarios and the community partner program, Mark says, RED was teaching him to become the designer he wanted to be. “They would push me and test my limits in design to improve my skill set in the best way possible,” he remembers. “I couldn’t have done the amazing things that I was able to accomplish at RED without the constant support from everybody around me.”
Amazing things, indeed. While handling clients in the midst of one of the program’s intense three-week sprints, Mark added two separate hackathons to his plate. He won second place in both. “I never thought I would ever see myself competing at these kinds of events,” he marvels.
Through RED, Mark’s philosophies on design—and problem-solving—changed. “I was used to satisfying a niche target audience. I never really focused on an inclusive factor when it came to designing products,” he says. “RED taught me that good design is about becoming a part of the natural tendencies of human interaction, and developing products that benefit everyone—not just a single group.”
Happy, but never satisfied
Since finishing at RED, Mark is working as the Lead UX Product Designer at TBA Digital, a digital consulting and production agency. He’s enjoying building up his skills on his way to running his own design consulting firm. But, he admits, he’ll never be fully satisfied. “I’m happy that my personal goals and my career goals are in alignment with a successful outcome,” he says. “But I always want more from life, and that comes with hard work and will power. There’s always work to do or problems to solve.”
His long term goals call on an instinct that never really went away: to help people. “I want to change the world through design and I want to have an impact on my environment,” Mark says. “To be at the forefront of sustainable energy and development. I want to leave the planet better than I found it.”
As he works towards expanding his effect on the world, Mark looks back to RED frequently for ways he can give back to his new community. The experience affected his life so much, he even wrote a letter to RED Academy Founder Colin Mansell to explain just how much it meant to him. “My time at RED was both incredible and unforgettable,” he writes. “I was able to learn more about a profession I love, and become part of a community that will follow me throughout my professional career.”
That community, he writes, is the most remarkable thing about RED. “From my instructors, Jenny, Lindsay, and Tom, to my colleagues and everyone that is a part of this community you’ve built, everyone has been undeniably amazing,” Mark says. “I’ve been introduced to lifelong friendships, partnerships, as well as an entire support system by attending RED. As I look towards the future, these are people that I will always try to give back to one day.”
As far as his choice to pursue UX Design at RED, Mark writes that it was the best decision he made. “To me, it was more of a leap of faith than anything else,” he begins. “But since then, I’ve been opened up to a world that goes beyond what I had ever imagined design to be.”
Finally, Mark graciously expresses his gratitude to Colin. “I am truly grateful for all that I have learned and experienced over the past three months. I want to thank you for opening these doors, and for building an incredible system that fosters the potential in every individual, leading them to a world of opportunity.”
Self awareness is key
“Self-awareness is key. Don’t live in another person’s dream. You are more than capable in achieving the goals you set for yourself,”
When it comes to giving your true self the chance to shine, Mark has some encouraging words for others. “Self-awareness is key. Don’t live in another person’s dream. You are more than capable in achieving the goals you set for yourself,” he says. “It may not seem easy, it may not be apparent. But passion can take you along way.”
Written by Carly Walde
Find out how RED Academy can help you make a change in your life like Mark – speak to one of our career advisors today.