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Urska

6 min read

My Second year at Paper and why I'm a magpie

A photo of a magpie unsplash-logoSunyu Kim

Now that I’m in my second year of working at Paper, it is time to reflect on what happened in my professional life in 2019, what I learned, where I failed and what I am doing next.

In the past year (2019) I had the opportunity to work on a range of projects as a user researcher and facilitator. I had the pleasure of working on a digital transformation project, helped to assess and bid for new potential work, I supported my coworkers on projects as well as mentored girls in school to inspire them to work in digital and dipped my toes into the waters of service design. I learned more about my interests and professional aspirations, and I discovered there are many of them. On top of all of that, I tried to figure out what I want to specialise in and sort of failed. All in all, it was a good year and I’m excited to bring the learnings of 2019 to the new year.

The work I have done in 2019

I have worked on some big projects in the past year such as HI Future, Energy sparks, DfE Buying for schools, and Freshfields as well as Research & Design (R&D) projects: creating a new code of conduct for how we treat colleagues and mentoring with Innovate Her. The biggest difference to the previous year for me was that I felt very comfortable knowing what I needed to do and being 100% confident in my contribution to the projects. I was more comfortable leading the research and presenting the work I had done.

It’s hard to pick which of the last year projects was the most important to me, as they all gave me new knowledge and understanding. I have to mention HI Future, an ongoing project that we are working on with Noisy Cricket. In the first phase of the project we conducted research looking into business, charities and people with insights into homelessnes (our user groups) to uncover the user needs and barriers to employing people with lived experience of homelessness in a sustainable work environment. We are currently in phase 2 of the project, developing the first prototypes of the HI Future eco system.

Urska presenting the HI Future work

I always wanted to work on a digital transformation project and I got an opportunity to work on it with Freshfields. I have enjoyed working on it and challenging some assumptions about how ‘digital’ is just a tool and not the sole solution for companies’ problems. The change will happen with people, digital is just a tool that can support and help that transformation (if you want to learn more you can read my article about Digital transformation here).

With every project, Paper showed high standards of work and delivery quality that made me proud as well as think about how high my expectations were for clients to be responsible and do things with good intentions, but I realised that some clients need to take baby steps. I had to remind myself that design and research isn’t their day-to-day job and that is why I’m here to support and help them with it.

As mentioned earlier, I also got involved with Innovate Her ( a mentoring programme that helps inspire girls to consider a career in digital). For 8 weeks, I mentored a group of girls and showed them our ways of working. I enjoyed seeing their confidence grow and I hope we inspired girls to look at roles in digital and challenge the assumption that a career in this sector is all about tech and coding.

What I want to specialise in

In June I had my personal development review and one of the things I had to think about was what I want to specialise in. I’d had my walk around the design park and it was time to decide what part of the park I wanted to play in specifically. I tried to narrow it down and choose my specific playground but when new areas came along that sparked my interest, it made me want to explore new parts of the design park. Areas like digital transformation, organisational / systematic design, service design, strategy and team culture. Every time I tried to specialise, my heart couldn’t land on one thing that I felt like I could commit to explicitly.

I’d like my focus to be on a problem that I need to find a solution for through my design knowledge and my tools. I love to think about how tools can be used for different projects, see how I can adjust them and make the most out of them going into projects. In the design world, we use similar tools for different areas of design and, for me, it is more about shaping and adapting the tools I have rather than how I define myself as a certain type of a designer.

I’m more a problem-focused than a specialism-focused design magpie whose shiny new trinkets are projects that I have the pleasure of interacting with. I understand how what I’m trying to do is known as “Jack of all trades, master of none” and how it is generally considered as a bad thing, but it has worked well for me so far. That might change in the future, but luckily, Paper is very supportive of me and my love of design trinkets.

For a while I will be focusing on service design, but I won’t be just learning about it, I will think about how I use service design, what it means for me, as well as what kind of tool box service design provides for me. I’m truly blessed to work with people who let me be myself, and support me in my ways of thinking and working.

If I haven’t mentioned yet I STILL ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY JOB

It’s quite hearthwarming how many times it just hits me how much I love what I do in the supportive, encouraging environment with the team who are absolutely brilliant and still like me as I am, even though sometimes I threaten them. In the last year, Paper grew from 4 to 7. I got 3 Paper sisters who are all badasses in their own ways and I’m very happy we have our girl gang of amazing ladies working in digital. I am learning so much from Mark, Cam and Jon even if we don’t work on the same projects. They make time to mentor and support me. I love seeing all the different approaches to work, how we can support each other, learn from each other and grow together. I am truly lucky and privileged to work as a Paper person, it’s real proof that a strong team culture, a supportive work environment and great people can really make a difference! So here’s to another amazing year and I can’t wait to see what is next to come.

Thank you Rachael, Beth, Faye, Cam, Jon and Mark