Brit Ali didn’t stray far from her hometown of Williamson, New York to attend college at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)—only about 30 minutes. She chose to live on campus her first year, though, and enjoy the immersive college experience instead of commuting between school and home. In 2014, she graduated with a BFA in new media design, and puts her degree to use now as a UX/UI designer.
Q. Did you always know that you were going to go to college?
Yes. Both of my parents have their master’s [degrees] so it was more a matter of where I would go to college, rather than "if" I would go.
Q. How did you choose your college? What did you like about that school over others?
I honestly didn't research it much. Many of my family members went to RIT and it has one of the top design schools in the country—and it was close to home—so it was the obvious choice. I actually only applied to two colleges (RIT and the local community college).
Q. What's one piece of advice you wish you had before applying to college?
I have a few…
1. Apply to a bunch of colleges. Although I pretty much knew where I wanted to go, I learned afterwards that if I had been accepted into multiple other colleges, I could have potentially gotten my financial aid [award] matched by my desired college—which would have been awesome, especially for a private school.
2. Research what jobs are available for your major. I went into this blind and picked my major solely on whether the classes looked fun. I got lucky that we had a 98%(ish) job placement for the major, that top companies came to recruit us, and that the jobs that I could get with this degree paid well. [It] completely could have gone in another direction.
3. Pick your major based on what YOU want, not what others tell you. I was always very artistic and wanted to do something creative, but I got push back [in the form of] "You won't make any money, blah blah blah". Although I do think you need to be realistic and smart about what you are going to go for, choose something you are passionate about, because you are more likely to excel at that compared to things you don't like doing. For example, I went into a technology-related field for design, rather than being a "fine artist" or a "graphic designer." It allowed me to get the creative outlet [I needed while still being practical].
Q. What was your favorite experience in college?
Overall, I really liked living on campus my freshman year and being exposed to many different types of people and cultures. Coming from a small town, I never had that exposure growing up.
Q. Did you work during college? What positions? Do you feel like you were adequately prepared to enter "the real world?"
During the school year I worked as a designer for RIT's housing and dining services on campus. I also had two design internships, one in New York City and one in Rochester. I highly recommend getting internships as you will get a lot of real world experience, but with less pressure. You can also get a feel for the kinds of companies you would like to work for once you graduate, but without the commitment.
Q. What is your current career and how did your education prepare you for your position?
I currently am a Lead UX/UI Designer—I design websites and apps. I pretty much do exactly what my major was. In terms of technical skills, it prepared me very well for the real world. Most of the learning on the job was for soft skills, as well as adapting to the process of whatever company I worked for.
Q. Do you have any advice for students who want to pursue a career similar to yours?
1. Keep trying new software as it comes out! The industry is constantly changing and most likely you will end up using new tools on the job that you didn't learn in school. Don't be afraid of change!
2. Learn how to take critique well. Your work is never "done" and you can always improve!