An Exciting Career Begins at WNM Ideate Conference
Academy of Art University School of Web Design & New Media alumna Angela Alarcon. Photo courtesy of Angela Alarcon.
BY ALEX MADISON
Last month, Angela Alarcon began settling into her new job as a user experience designer at Ancestry.com. Alarcon graduated with an M.F.A. from Academy of Art University’s School of Web Design & New Media (WNM) last fall, but it wasn’t her summer internships or many job applications that directly led to her employment. Instead, it was a connection she made with an Ancestry.com official at WNM’s Ideate Conference in December 2016 that sparked the beginning of her career in web design.
“We created a connection at Ideate beyond mentoring and showing my portfolio, but an actual connection,” Alarcon said about her interaction with her now-colleague at Ancestry.com. “We talked a lot. We had a lot of the same similarities, he liked what I liked. We really got along.”
This one-on-one interaction really paid off for Alarcon. “I got an interview the same week as the conference,” she said.
The impressiveness of Alarcon’s portfolio didn’t hurt either. She spent countless hours all semester long preparing it for the Fall 2016 Ideate Conference. The conference, which happens once a semester, brings together web design and new media students and industry professionals from top companies like Capital One, Google and Airbnb for an all-day event that encourages networking, education and the opportunity for students to showcase their best work from coding, motion graphics, product design and more.
Angela Alarcon working on one of her projects. Photo courtesy of Angela Alarcon.
Alarcon’s portfolio was chosen among 50 of the most impressive student portfolios of the semester to be presented at the conference held at the 180 New Montgomery building. Ryan Medeiros, director of the School of Web Design & New Media, said it really was Alarcon’s dedication to a portfolio preparation theory he teaches his students, which encourages them to “test, fix, repeat.”
“She is so hirable because she works with the process,” he said. “A portfolio is never done, it can always be improved and Angela really took hold of that and the results show in her work.”
Medeiros talked about the way Alarcon embraced the in-depth process that a quality portfolio requires including robust case studies and the ability to adapt to a company’s wants and needs.
When looking at Alarcon’s portfolio it’s easy to see why it was chosen among just a handful. Her portfolio included three case studies, the first being the creation of a wearable app which displays a person’s aura in a selfie, the second, a rebranding of San Francisco’s Curran Theatre, and lastly, the logo and branding of a jewelry company. Jewelry making is also a passion for the 30-year-old whose undergraduate degree happens to be in fashion marketing.
Alarcon spoke proudly of her portfolio and the everyday dedication it took to get it there including the time spent in her senior portfolio class. “I hacked away at my portfolio for months,” she said. “I was really happy with what I showed and excited to show it off.”
The work it took to get to the Ideate Conference was guided by many of the School of Web Design & New Media instructors’ teaching styles Alarcon said. She learned how to proficiently use web design tools and software, like Sketch, work independently and was given countless opportunities to grow.
It was one teacher in particular, Tom Walter, a master’s portfolio instructor, who Alarcon said inspired aspects of her work. Walter spoke of Alarcon’s work ethic and insatiable desire to learn.
“She was wonderful,” Walter said of his student. “She was always ready to put in the extra work. She had a hunger for knowledge and always asked herself, ‘What can I do better? What can I do to make this stronger and put the best possible foot forward?’”
Now at her job at Ancestry.com, Alarcon couldn’t be happier. She has found a job with an established company where her passion for user experience can be fostered.