Mentoring career switcher into Service Design

Featuring the transition and navigating the great unknown of Service Design in Singapore through the SDN mentorship programme.

Venturing into the field of Service Design can be daunting, especially in a mid-career switch. In my case, I took a leap of faith to transit from Graphic Design to Service Design and had my fair share of challenges to overcome. This was the same for my mentee, Clarissa, an ex-teacher who took up a Specialist Diploma in Service Experience Design and Innovation from NYP. Today, we hope to be able to share our mentoring journey with the readers.

Navigating the great unknown of Service Design in Singapore

The Service Design scene in Singapore is relatively new and the scope of work consists of Product Design, User Research, Design Strategy, and Change Management. It can be rather complicated for someone to navigate through the different roles in service design and find what is best suited for them. In fact, most would probably feel compelled to be the jack of all trades or to work on all these competencies. Instead, it would be good to first ask yourself a few questions to scope your interests and find out how to fit in your next role:

Are you interested in understanding how user-facing services are delivered and implemented regularly?

Are you interested in navigating and connecting the dots between processes and within systems?

Do you enjoy facilitating co-creation workshops and aligning stakeholders' expectations?

Do you enjoy conducting usability testing with users and finding valuable insights?

These questions, though not exhaustive, would provide a glimpse into your ideal Service Design role. For instance, my ex-classmate from RCA shared that he was frustrated with the pace of Service Design projects and the inability to implement them quickly. He found that joining a startup allows him to continue to work on service design strategies and product design, where he can continue his creative outlet. I was fortunate to have a conversation with my manager(shout out to Lynette Ong). She has guided me on how my current role can help to achieve my aspiration and professional development while fulfilling the organisation's KPI. By understanding your interests and strengths, you will be able to find or craft a role that will be able to bring joy to your work.

Our weekly meet up
Our weekly meet up

Welcome to the world where the entry-level role requires experience

Another common challenge faced by many career switchers is a lack of required Service Design experience for the role. Not to mention that they are competing with fresh graduates for a similar job too. You may also consider working on technology-related domains from your previous industry. After all, you have the domain knowledge that sets you apart from your competitors.

A tip I’ve shared with Clarissa is to look at your current job scope and find opportunities to embrace service design in all aspects of your work. This will allow you to build some relevant experiences in Service Design. For example, you can develop design facilitation skills by leading small teams in discussions using the design thinking approach. Take small steps towards what you are achieving and measure how design impacts the organisation. Also, remember to document all your work in your portfolio.

"I thought that I was armed with the foundational understanding of Service Design from the NYP SXDI programme and was eager to put them into practice in my current role. But I felt so restricted as it seemed too daunting for a new joiner like me to suggest and implement changes without having established any credibility within the organization yet. Jia Xiang helped widen my perspectives by providing me with different lenses to look at the work that I do, which helped open my eyes to potential opportunities for which I could embed elements of Service Design in my day-to-day work. He also offered suggestions and concrete examples for which I could take actionable steps to achieve what I had set out to. This was a boost that lifted me - from feeling crippled to empowered, from a place of doubt and hesitation to action." - Clarissa Ng

Making the leap of faith in Service Design less scary

I could not stress more about the importance of having a mentor or a peer coach in your professional journey. They will be able to point out pitfalls and help to guide you towards your goals and setting. Finding the right mentor/coach in the your relevant or aspired industry will help you to better understand what is required for the role. My personal experience with my mentor, Tamsin Greulich Smith, from DesignSingapore (and an ex-Chief Smart Health Leadership Centre, NUS) was amazing, her experience in dealing with design innovation in Healthcare and beyond allowed me to reflect on my challenges at the workplace.

Making the switch can be unnerving, but hey, you do not have to do it alone.

Wishing Clarissa all the best in her Service Design journey.

Jia Xiang Chua
Jia Xiang Chua - Lead Service Designer

Jia Xiang is currently the Lead Service Designer in Kaizen Office at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and the team harnesses the power of design innovation to make things better. He also manages the Centre for Healthcare Innovation (CHI)’s makerspace — a collaborative work space called the CHI Living Lab (CHILL). In CHILL, healthcare professionals can work together with designers to translate ideas and concepts into working prototypes for patients and staff for proof of concept and value.

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