It’s fair to say I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today without the RSA. As a student, the RSA Student Design Awards used to be this hallowed trial of briefs which every student went through in their third and fourth year of university. I didn't really know the gravity of it all until being shortlisted. Some students chose briefs for their cash prizes, some because of certain sponsors and some to try and do the right thing. I had no idea choosing the brief ‘Improve Hygiene, Improve Lives’ would lead to the experience I'd like to share with you here.
Being thrown into the Student Design Awards (SDA) interview process just four days after your final ever hand in at University was a little tricky; most of the lucky bunch at Northumbria groaned at the thought - we wanted a week of uninterrupted sleep! However, when you walk through that grand entrance to the RSA House for the first time, you know they mean business. The interview, oddly enough, was an incredibly pleasant experience, the judges weren’t there to grill you but simply to hear what you had to offer.
Several weeks passed until I received a life-changing email saying "you’ve won!" The whole experience was a whirlwind: Richard Howarth as a keynote speaker, opened by a video from Sir Jony Ive, 90th year celebrations and the first year to be awarded with physical awards. And what an awards ceremony it was!
I’ve used some grandiose ‘life changing’ terminology so far but it really is true; the sponsors of this certain award were Unilever and fancy that, they had a new role needing to be filled in one of their design teams.
It’s now one year on and what a challenging, uphill learning curve of a year it has been. It's not what I expected as a first job out of university, I even nearly gave up once - you soon learn very quickly about the realities of the world when you're in it without the safety net of education. However looking back I wouldn’t change it for a thing, some of the projects I was part of were amazing and this experience the RSA has elevated me to has already started to define me as a person and my career.
Obviously I can’t talk shop, but the RSA Great Recovery is sighted and referred to a lot at the moment, we even attended a few of their workshops which were incredibly useful and insightful.
On top of all this I was fortunate enough to be nominated as a Centenary Young Fellow (CYF) for the North East. Being a Fellow doesn’t just allow you to put some letters after your name, you become part of a greater community who are together for the greater good. There are many times I wanted to capitalise on being a Fellow through CYF events, although it never seemed to line up with work. However I was lucky enough to attend several functions and networking events as a representative, the greatest being invited to the Royal Designer for Industry award ceremony (which was on par with the Student Design Award as a mind blowing experience). Sitting in a room of inspiring, world changing people truly reinforced the notion of how deep and how far reaching the RSA's mission for good is and how I want to be part of it.
More students and institutions need to hear about and be involved with the RSA, an organisation over 260 years old, but by no mean is it an old or backwards institute. The RSA is a doorway, a forward-looking helping hand and a fountain of knowledge spanning centuries. If you’re lucky enough, getting involved with the RSA can transform your life.
I still have a heck of a lot to learn, but I know I want to be part of something great, to help others and try to make a difference. Going forward I hope to help and be part of the RSA in any way I can; the next challenge is, figuring out where you fit it all in!