For alumni

The Road to Resilience in New Media Design

This mentoring pair in service design talks to Aalto about the industry, the competition and being an international student in Finland. This article is part of a series highlighting Aalto’s Mentoring Programme and the players that form these collaborative — and imperative — relationships.
Pouyan Mohseninia & Ondřej Zajíc
Pouyan Mohseninia (Picture: Tommi Viitala) & Ondřej Zajíc

No matter what facet of design you happen to be in the path to success is not always clearcut. Aalto's Master of Arts in New Media Design is a fast-developing, dynamic field where innovation is needed just as much as resilience, making mentoring a crucial part of the road to success.

In sum, service design is about action! Designers engage the customer and a relevant team of experts to co-create memorable customer and employee experiences. Pouyan Mohseninia, a Design Lead and Aalto alum, and his ambitious mentee Ondřej Zajíc — a 2nd year grad student in Collaborative and Industrial Design — talked to the Mentoring Programme about their shared experiences in the field and how the Mentoring Programme helped them both move forward.

‘Designers are people who try to understand the perspective of the end-user — the people who use our designs — so we can design solutions that are better for them. Often businesses are focused on profit, but I would say that designers are the people who bring customer-centricity to the table. We try to make the product meaningful and useful,’ Zajíc explains. ‘We want to create things that take the people using our solutions into total consideration,’ Mohseninia adds.

Due to the nature of this design field the competition for leading positions is fierce. Mohseninia had a hard time moving from the university to career level even with his expertise, ‘Once I graduated from Aalto, I started looking for a job. This was not an easy process for a foreigner who doesn’t speak Finnish. I went through a lot of rejection and learned a lot in the process,’ Mohseninia explains. ‘When I was a student, I took part in the Mentoring Programme and that’s when I became acquainted with the programme itself. Once I became more confident in my career, I felt like it was time to give back to the Aalto community. I was invited to come give talks or help individual students and through word-of-mouth students ended up knowing my story. Then I made it official! Now, Ondřej is my 3rd mentee through the Mentoring Programme!’

When asked what made Zajíc reach out for guidance during his studies, he said, ‘I was trying to interview people in high design positions to gather research for my thesis, so that’s one reason I reached out to the Mentoring Programme. Pouyan helped me with my thesis by introducing me to other lead designers. As Pouyan mentioned, it’s very hard to get a job as an international student in Finland — especially on a design team — so I was also looking for help with the job-hunting process. I wanted to know what the industry is looking for and how I can shape my CV and portfolio to match the level of competition. Pouyan helped me with these practical things too.’

‘There’s been a lot of learning moving forward. Mentoring is a two-sided relationship and both participants must do their homework. Ondřej and I agreed on a very structured mentoring relationship while other students might just want to have a casual chat about the industry — making each pairing unique and different. Through this pairing with Ondřej I’ve learned a lot about current student life and Ondřej’s learned a lot about what’s happening in the industry. It’s been very positive all-around,’ Mohseninia says.

Rejection mining installation
Rejection Mining installation (Picture: Pouyan Mohseninia)

The Mentoring Programme was also a good place for Mohseninia to share his rejections and through those experiences he hopes to inspire others to discover their own path in the service design industry. ‘I think a lot of people reached out to me because of a project I did during my study time. It’s an installation about the struggles I was facing called “Rejection Mining” and it’s a compilation of 47 rejection letters that I received within a 6-month period, in Helsinki, only in the field of design. I did this installation to reflect on my self-confidence because you start to doubt yourself. This piece of self-discovery helped me to stay positive and maybe it helps others facing the same situation.’

Other than a place for shared experiences, the Mentoring Progamme acted as a bridge to help Zajíc cross over from university life to real time industry demands, ‘When you’re a student you’re spending all your time at the university, but then you need to go find a job. The industry is quite different than the university environment, so I think the Mentoring Programme provides a great bridge to help you overcome that gap, and because of that, I feel the Mentoring Programme is a crucial part of this journey,’ Zajíc says.

Text: Michele Lawrence
Pictures: Pouyan Mohseninia, Tommi Viitala & Ondřej Zajíc

Registration to become a mentor candidate is open until 31 August. Registration for mentee candidates opens 15 September.

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Mentoring programme for students and alumni

Students get to develop themselves with alumni during the mentoring programme.

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