Design Diaries: Cat's journey to becoming a senior user centred designer at PDR
From in-house design roles to Senior User Centred Designer at PDR, we’re sitting down with Cat Taylor-Ferris to explore her career journey so far.
Let’s take it from the beginning…
Starting with her undergraduate studies in BA Product Design at Cardiff Met in 2010, Cat's passion for UCD became evident, and was cemented during her three-month placement at PDR as part of the Advanced Product Design Masters course.
“I was assigned a brief that specialised in user centred design methods because that was the type of design work I was interested in at Uni. The experience of being in a consultancy and research-based environment made me realise that’s the sort of space I wanted to be working in.”
After completing her masters, Cat jumped straight into the commercial end of the design industry, noting, “After my master’s I moved out of the area and had about six months where I was trying to secure a user-focused design job over market-research based roles.”
Soon after, Cat joined a smart pet product company where she gained diverse experience as part of the engineering team that handled everything from mechanical and product design to electronics and software development. Despite initially working as a Project Engineer, Cat's interest in user centred design led her to become the company's first usability engineer, emphasising the importance of considering usability in product development and how it would benefit the company she was working for at the time.
“This was when I first started to specialise in my career and thought, actually, yes – this is definitely what I want to do.”
Cat's journey took a turn when she decided she wanted experience in a more focused role at the forefront of the design process.
“I wasn't getting to do much of the upfront research to help determine the direction of projects and I knew that I wanted more experience in that area, so that's when I moved back to Cardiff and happily, I got a job at PDR as a user centred design specialist!”
After only five months Cat’s role expanded to Senior User Centred Designer, allowing her to manage significant projects, conduct research, and get experience of service design projects.
When asked about the transition from an in-house design role to a consultancy-level role, Cat shared, “In-house timelines tend to be longer, focusing on end-to-end project development. In contrast, at PDR we often engage at specific phases of projects, with multiple projects at one time; conducting research, creating concepts and/or running tests before handing back over to clients for implementation.
“The transition for me felt quite seamless! I like that every single project is different and being a user centred designer you get to become a little bit of a specialist in lots of different subjects.”
Reflecting on her career journey so far, Cat advises aspiring designers to focus on their true passion. “I never fully got my head around CAD when I was in Uni, but even if I had gotten better at it my heart would have still been on the research, usability and user centred design activities.
“Another thing would be to keep an eye out for the type of job you really want. I almost took a market research job which would probably have been interesting but I'm very glad that I held out for the design job which led me to where I am now.”