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A Year as a Product Design Apprentice

October 10, 2022

A Year as a Product Design Apprentice

Eniya marks her first year by blogging about her experience so far.

In honour of passing my 1-year mark at Auto Trader, it's only right I blog about what I got up to these last 12 months. I'll be talking about my experience so far as a product design apprentice and all the cool stuff we get up to here at Auto Trader.

At college I studied A level graphics, psychology, and media. Then I worked as a freelance graphic designer for a year before joining Auto Trader as an apprentice. It's a Level 6 digital user experience (UX) degree apprenticeship affiliated with Manchester Metropolitan university. Although I work 9 to 5, I split my time 80% working and 20% studying towards my degree.

University life: In the classroom with course mates

Originally, I'm from Birmingham, so entering the world of work and moving out to Manchester for the first time were two very daunting transitions. It took some time for me to adjust to the new environment and find my feet in the city. Thankfully, Auto Trader were super supportive, even down to finding me a flat mate. Shout out to Sophie Foots on the grad scheme!

A handful of grads and apprentices at the annual Auto Trader conference

The first few months was about getting familiar with the wider business and life at Auto Trader. There's so much going on, every day I learn something new! During induction I met many fellow new starters, including Ryan Pitt, another product design apprentice. I felt grateful I was around like-minded people in a similar boat as me. Early careers make up around 10% of the business and very quickly I felt like I belonged to a community.

The team at design day

Settling into the design role, I enjoyed learning about all the different products and systems we design for consumers and retailers. As well as having access to the Interaction Design Foundation courses to build my UX knowledge. In no time I jumped onto my first project: deals messaging. A work stream that directly feeds into Auto Trader's exciting transition to digital retailing.

Working closely with developers and seeing it built to go live was a great feeling! It exposed me to the many hats a designer wears and I've learnt that designing is simply the tip of the iceberg.

A capture of our critique ground rules

The design team at Auto Trader has a great collaborative culture. Initiatives such as crits and design days encourage knowledge sharing and make it super easy to ask for feedback on your designs.

Also, king pinned by Lee Jeffery, I've had the chance to get involved with Design Club. It's a rewarding workshop that sparks creativity and product design thinking early on in children. It was super fun and I was blown away by some of their app design ideas!

The team facilitating a design club session

I have plenty of support in my day-to-day role as an apprentice, especially to balance work and study. As well as frequently catching up with my manager Tracy Smith, I have weekly mentoring sessions with my mentor Chris Bailey. I also have check ins with Ryan Pitt every Friday as a time for us to focus and reflect on our 'Off the job' progress.

Eniya and Ryan delivering a talk at the Festival of Apprenticeships

There have been many other exciting opportunities dotted throughout the year. Design conferences, volunteering and getting involved in educational outreach to spread the good word about apprenticeships.

Most recently I have joined as a facilitator on the Career Kickstart Network and held a session to welcome the new apprentice cohort to Auto Trader!

In short, this year has taught me:

  • Change can be unsettling at first, but embrace it and don't hesitate to ask for help... If I didn't ask, I might still be looking for a flat mate!

  • You won't be totally prepared for everything, so try not to set too many expectations. Applying my design knowledge to real a business scenario opened my eyes to what it really means to be a product designer.

  • Balancing work and study may seem overwhelming, but trial and error what methods best works for you and have that conversation with your line manager.

  • Don't shy away from asking questions, yes even the ones you think are a bit silly!

Thank you for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out!