Sarah's story: From journalist to researcher
Sarah's story: From journalist to researcher
Could you tell us a bit about your career journey?
I started off studying international relations and politics in Brazil, where I'm from. Then I studied journalism at the same university. My first job was as a trainee at the Reuters News Agency. Then, I went on to become a foreign correspondent.
It was a fascinating life. I was 23 — super young — and I was doing a bunch of really interesting politics and economics reporting. But it became too serious. Then I realized that what attracted me to journalism wasn’t what I was doing. I loved getting to know people and talking to them. So, for that, and many other reasons, I came to Spain to study Spanish. At the time, I didn't speak any Spanish and I took a sabbatical. Then I decided that I needed to do something else, and got a job as a journalist at a studio that designed newspapers.
I got involved in a cool project designing a newspaper called Publico. That's where I first learned about all sorts of things that I still use today like typography, design, hierarchy, and information architecture. I was learning from those designers, and they were learning from me. So it was a fantastic exchange of knowledge. Then, for personal reasons, I had to move to the UK and decided to do a master's in something I loved — understanding people and how they behave. That's what brought me here, to be a design researcher, and that's what I've been doing for the last 13 years. It's been an incredible journey.
How have these changes helped you in your career?
I often get asked about transferable skills. And it's funny because your life is the story you write about yourself. It reminds me of a conversation I had the other day with someone who described himself as a lazy, ambitious person. I felt pretty identified with this because I think that the changes I’ve made and what I’ve done in my life were a bit inspired by that way of being. I can spot an opportunity that I know will get me out of bed in the morning and jump on it.
Knowing what I like to do and not being afraid of making mistakes were the main transferable skills I’ve brought in from my different careers. But obviously, there’s also the technical side. I struggled when I started working as a journalist with all these incredibly experienced journalists around me. And I was just a girl. I got trolled, but I also learned a lot from them, you know?
Some tiny bits of conversation I had in the past, that I had no idea would be helpful at the time, have become extremely useful. Like when my boss would tell me in an interview to remain silent until someone confesses or if a politician was giving an evasive answer. “If you're in silence, they will say something,” I learned. I still use that every day in my job, which is super cool.
I could give loads of those examples. It was a brilliant experience. But I didn’t conceive of them as transferable skills at the time. They are just things you learn, put into practice and eventually get comfortable with.
How does Sngular encourage learning?
Of course, there are formal processes. We have a personal budget for training. You can choose whatever you want to study and spend your budget on it. That's great and very stimulating. You don’t get those kinds of perks everywhere.
But I think that the main way Sngular helps people who want to learn is by mixing people that are really good at what they do. Even today, I met a group of incredible professionals, and I had no idea what they did.
On my team, we mix with other departments all the time. When I started here three years ago, I didn’t know about basically anything that Sngular does, for example, in terms of data and artificial intelligence. Since then, I've worked with people that know how robots work and how amazing high-definition cameras work. I've met people who know a lot about training, and I think all this mixing has been the main way I’ve learned.
Just being in contact with this incredible variety of humble and incredibly knowledgeable people has been fantastic. And if I ever have a question, they are completely accessible.
How do you encourage those around you to learn new skills and adapt?
Considering what we do on the Design team, I think it's impossible to work if you’re not up to learning. We have many selection criteria for the people that come and work with us. Curiosity is definitely one of them. And after they arrive, I am responsible for forging close relationships with my peers and my team — it’s the only way to know what makes them tick. That way I can continue motivating them.
If you say you’re a designer that also means you are a researcher. And of course, there are parts of their jobs that people love doing, and other parts they do because it's their job. That’s why it’s so important as a manager to get to know what drives people. So you can have conversations and learn how to keep them moving in a positive direction.
When you come to work every day for eight hours, you might as well be doing something that you're good at and that you like doing. So I think the way we stimulate people to continue learning is by having open and non-judgmental conversations about learning and curiosity.
What would you say to someone considering working at Sngular?
Before I joined Sngular, which I did in a very particular situation, I must say I was pretty resistant. That’s because my partners and I had our own business. Maybe people here today don't know that. But I was the one resisting. I liked how things were. I enjoyed my studio and the brand we were building. But three years later, and I can say this was the best possible choice.
As a researcher, watching the things that we research and the knowledge that we bring to the table actually applied to something that walks down the street or that somebody uses is a little bit like magic. It is amazing and what I most love about working here.
But in general, I think that Sngular is a company where everyone is accessible, willing to teach and willing to learn. There are no frills. But there is this constant hunger for finding new, better ways of working. As a designer — what more could I ask for?