At NYIT, we are constantly working to improve our connection with alumni all over the world. NYIT’s alumni can help enhance the NYIT experience by sharing their experiences, tips, and insight that have helped many students obtain internships, jobs, or other opportunities.
When Daniel Afrahim came to NYIT, he had a different vision and goal from his current career path that included a career in animation and motion graphics. He graduated from NYIT in 2009 with a BFA in Computer Graphics.
The unemployment rate was much higher back in 2009 when Daniel graduated and he faced many challenges with his job search process. However, the experiences and skills that he acquired in order to further his career are applicable in various job climates.
I had the pleasure to talk to Daniel recently about his job search experience while he was at NYIT.
Tell me about your experience at NYIT
When I came to NYIT my vision and career goals were different than what they are now. I wanted to do animation and motion graphics. Exciting work, and I liked it a lot since I was a kid, so I enrolled at NYIT in 2006 since it was offering one of the best programs out there.
I started doing graphic and web design in 2004 and slowly learned different skills by myself while I was getting my Associate Degree from Bramson ORT College. I started working as an unpaid intern for a local design firm in that year. Then I bought a domain name called DesignbyDaniel.com for few dollars and started my freelance business. Later on, I managed to get a work-study role at the Bramson ORT College to help design the flyers and advertisements, which later on became my full time job for 3 years.
While I was at NYIT, I tried to learn as much as I could about animation, but I was also very involved with the graphic design and web design courses. I had couple of amazing teachers whom I cannot thank enough. My goal was to learn any skill I could because I wasn’t sure what was in my future.
A few months before graduation, I realized getting into the motion graphics field is very hard, especially on the east coast. Many of my friends wanted to move out west to stay in this career path. That was not an option for me; I wanted to stay here in NYC. I couldn’t find an internship in my field with the little experience I had (there weren’t many internship opportunities to begin with).. The job market in general was really bad: people were losing their jobs, the market was crashing, no one was hiring that easily, and I was graduating.
Having graphic/web design skills offered me couple of different career opportunities. So I decided to take the safe route and create a backup plan just in case motion graphics couldn’t work out.
After graduating from NYIT, I got many rejections but finally I started working at Blue Fountain Media, a very small design agency. When I first started, there were only 7-8 people there. By the time I left, it had grown to about 80 people in our NYC office with two more offices. I grew with the company and learned many new skills.
Did you use Career Services at NYIT?
I sat down with someone my senior year and had my resume reviewed and I got some good feedback on my portfolio. One of the good things about NYIT’s Career Services is that they are always available and I knew where to find them if I did need help.
When I started looking for graphic design opportunities, the job search was easier. My portfolio was good and it was a lot different than looking for work in motion graphics. My situation was also a little different from most students because I was already out and working. I wasn’t afraid of putting myself out there to get rejected and criticized.
Where do you work now?
I currently work at Fidelity Investments as a Senior Information Architect. I really like the work and the collaborative environment. I work with an amazing team. There’s a nice, personal touch at our company in the solutions and service we provide for our customers. Financial industry is very complicated and therefore the issues facing customers are complex. We take the time to find solutions that help millions of our customers do a certain task easier and faster.
Early on in my career, I worked for different agencies or as a freelancer, which was very interesting yet never had a good opportunity to try out different design solutions and find the best design possible. Now, as in-house designer with the work we’re doing, I get to really go through the entire design process, research, usability, etc. whereas in the past I just focused on one section or one specific product or service. I think this makes all the difference and you can be proud of the outcome at the end of the day.
If you could do it over again, what would you do differently in regards to the job search process?
I think it starts with academics. I would not go after computer graphics and stay in general graphic and UX design. I also would have considered staying at NYIT for a graduate degree. I think it helps a lot down the road. I am currently looking to get a masters but it will probably take me a few years–more than the two years I could have afforded while I was in the school already.
I also would have only stayed with each company for only two years. I think no matter how happy you are with the position, you need to switch jobs to gain more experiences and get new opportunities.
Plus, I would’ve become an in-house designer much sooner. Working for agencies is exciting but I think you’ll rarely get to dive deep into issues and find creative solutions.
And always negotiate your salary. There’s always room to ask for more. Do some research and learn to negotiate.
Any thoughts / advice for current students in terms of career planning?
NYC is a big city. You would be surprised as to who needs what and what opportunities are out there based on the job that you’re looking for and the skill set that you have.
You have to keep going and keep pushing. I never waited for jobs to find me. I went after many different things and worked as a freelancer to gain experience.
Networking is huge. Getting and keeping in touch with people in the industry led to more projects and referrals. Some came later around 7-8 months later but it was all because of the networking. There are so many ways to network and you need find what works for you and the industry you are interested in.
I was always out meeting people, had my portfolio online (just Google my name), and was ready to talk to someone about any opportunity.
If you have the skills, you will be able to do what’s asked of you. But also remember to practice and work on your craft. Show any of your skills in any form you can. Show you can do this better than anyone else. Show that you offer variety and are willing to learn. Show value as a team member.
When I went to interview for a position at Infor, the world’s third-largest enterprise application provider, the creative director was looking for someone who had designed for enterprise applications. I didn’t have that specific experience but that didn’t stop me from offering to redesign one of their iPad apps right in front of him. I quickly redesigned the app in Photoshop into what I felt was a more user-friendly layout. All I had to do was to apply many of the best UX practices to the app, that’s all. It took under an hour and made a lasting impression on the creative director. After couple of days, he offered me the job. I simply earned his trust based on my work and my design thinking. Later on, he told me, some people had the perfect resume, great portfolio, and work experience but couldn’t do what I did on the spot. Whether they lacked the confidence or the motivation, they couldn’t rise up to the challenge. Never back down from a challenge or an opportunity to show what you can do.
Networking remains an important component of the job search process. Like Daniel, our alumni base can share their experiences with current students. NYIT Campus Tap is a platform that provides career networking and alumni mentoring communities to help students launch their career.
If you are an NYIT alum and would like to volunteer as a mentor or seek mentorship, please email Sabrina Polidoro at firstname.lastname@example.org.