Career Conversations: Denhue & Natalie
Career Conversations Series, creates a positive image for young girls to refer to, by having conversations with different business owners, entrepreneurs and creators. Denhue and Natalie are founders of Little Scholars Playground. Little Scholars Playground is a diverse children’s book publisher and early years hub. Little Scholars Playground creates diverse, engaging children’s books and learning resources. Denhue and Natalie have between them 20 years’ experience of working in the STEM industry.
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Job: Aeronautical Engineer
Studied: BA (HONS) Aerospace Technology
My early years of passion for STEM started with a visit to Gatwick airport as a child. What followed years later was a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Technology, a branch of aeronautical engineering, studying how aeroplanes fly and much more. In the real world, I applied this knowledge for 15 years in the airline industry, travelling to countless destinations globally, applying all that I had learnt to ensuring that we upheld the highest levels of safety in airlines.
Job: Product Designer and Developer
Studied: MA Web Design & Content Planning
I started my career working in marketing for 8 years in the retail and publishing sector. I changed my career and then studied for my Master’s degree in Web Design & Content Planning, which also taught me how to develop websites myself. Once I finished my Master’s degree, I then worked as a visual designer
and then a product designer working on web and app designs.
What are your primary responsibilities as a Product Designer/ Aeronautical Engineer?
N: As a product designer, I work on both web and app design, with a focus on visual and UX design. I am not only responsible for the look and feel of the website and app, but also the user experience of these mediums, always considering the business goals and user needs. As a product designer, the key areas include creating prototypes, wireframes, mock ups, user journey maps, user testing to ensure I create an excellent product experience and finally, the visual design.
D: By profession, I am an aeronautical engineer, which I apply as a safety and compliance auditor within a UK airline. My number one responsibility is to keep passengers safe. Behind the scenes, I hold others to account for maintaining the high safety standards within airlines. On a practical level, this involves; inspecting aeroplanes one day, flying across the globe to audit a service provider employed by the airline the next.
What are some common career paths in this field?
N: Working as a product designer, it’s a profession that allows you to work for any company that has a website or app. Or you can work as a freelancer/ work for yourself, which has many benefits. What’s also great about working as a product designer is it’s an industry that is forever developing, so you’re always learning something new in the creative world. This has recently led me to also becoming an illustrator and I now create all the illustrations for the books and learning resources for our company Little Scholars Playground.
D: Career paths within the field of aeronautics and aviation are broad. You could work as an engineer, maintaining aircraft physically; or working behind the scenes, solving complex problems related to flight. Some take up designing aircraft, flying aircraft, or even directing aircraft as Air Traffic Controllers.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
N: Working as a product designer is unique. It’s not only creative, but there are also ‘techie’ aspects to my role. I’m also a web developer. Therefore, I not only enjoy the creative aspect of my role but also the techie elements, too. I enjoy the fact that being a product designer and developer allows you to freelance and work for yourself if you wish and has allowed me to create all the branding for our business, as well as design and build our own website without having to hire anyone else. As a product designer, you have to be an advocate for the customer and be confident in speaking up when a business decision could negatively affect the customer. This fits in well with my business values, as I worked in marketing for 8 years, prior to becoming a designer. In marketing, focusing on the customer needs is important, so it’s been a great transferable skill for me.
D: I totally enjoy working and collaborating with people globally. Flying to new destinations, contributing to keeping airline operations safe, and keeping up to date with the advancements in new aircraft technology.
Do you have advice for young aspiring Product Designers / Aeronautical Engineers?
N: I recommend getting as much design experience as possible. Unlike other professions, a degree or good resume isn’t enough to land a good product design role. Similar to architects and writers, examples of previous work are very important. If you have little experience, you can also create your own personal projects or create designs for friends and family to add to your portfolio. The design world is forever changing. There are always new trends to keep up with and new things to learn. I advise reading blogs such as Smashing Magazine and Creative bloq to keep your skills up to date.
D: Simply enjoy what you do. Your craft will be made easier if you have a genuine interest in your chosen field. My passion for aeroplanes started with a simple visit to an airport as a child. I remember being awe-struck by the hustle and bustle of the airport and, in particular, the spectacular aircraft. That early interest set me off on a journey to pursue learning everything I could about aviation. Always start with your interests, rather than a specific job title. What should follow is something natural, interesting, and hopefully rewarding.
What’s currently on your reading list?
D: As the co-founder of Little Scholars Playground and now a children’s book author, next on my reading list is Julia Donaldson’s Writing Children’s Books. Julia is a UK bestselling children’s book author, and I hope I’m able to pick up additional skills to put towards Little Scholars Playground’s future titles.
3 facts about your role
- Although I have a Master’s degree in Web Design & Content Planning. You do not have to have a degree to be a product designer (although it helps). Many designers are, in fact, self-taught.
- A product designer’s role is to visualise, design and create solutions to a problem
- My role as a product designer involves designing for web and/or apps.
- In the first year of my role, I travelled to 15 overseas destinations.
- Aerospace / aeronautical engineers work on aeroplanes, space shuttles, satellites and even missiles.
- Some Aerospace / aeronautical engineers are afraid of heights! This is perfectly acceptable.
Visit littlescholarsplayground.com for more information.