Q&A: Alumnus and Variety graphic designer reflects on academic and professional journey

Stuck at home in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, life was looking bleak. Still, alumnus Andrew Phan (‘19, graphic design) used this time to reflect on his life and figure out what was next for him after recently graduating from Cal Poly Pomona. Phan knew he wanted to find a career — but even he did not predict what was coming his way.

As a first-year student, Phan was uncertain of his desired career path. But believing that having a career in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field would be fulfilling, he enrolled in CPP as an electrical engineering student. However, exhibiting interest and passion in art since high school, Phan eventually decided to change his major to graphic design at the beginning of his second year. As he began exploring his creativity in his new major, Phan knew that he had made the right choice.

Phan’s dream to work in graphic design came to pass on Aug. 10 when he was hired as a junior graphic designer at the American media company, Variety, known for its world-renowned entertainment news magazine.

Phan met virtually with The Poly Post to discuss his professional journey including his time at CPP and recruitment process in the COVID-19 era.

Alumnus Andrew Phan (’19, graphic design), who graduated just before a global pandemic swept the country, was recently hired at Variety as a junior graphic designer. (Courtesy of Andrew Phan)

When did you become interested in graphic design?

I have always been interested in art and photography growing up and would have never imagined that my hobbies could develop into a career. My involvement in yearbook during high school inspired me to pursue graphic design in college and the idea that work could be fun, only motivated me more. Before I knew it, the art department at CPP became my playground to refine my skills as a designer.

How did you first hear about the job opportunity at Variety?

A friend reached out to me in June and told me about this amazing opportunity. My dream has always been to work at a publication doing editorial work, so I was initially ecstatic to hear about Variety. Although I felt I wasn’t completely qualified for the role, I decided to just go for it anyway and crossed my fingers. Soon enough, I was offered the position, and I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to know that my hard work paid off.

What was the interview process with Variety like?

The virtual interview process was a combination of a phone screen test and a video chat. I participated in three rounds of interviews before I was selected as a final candidate. During the interviews, I had the pleasure of speaking to their talent recruiter, creative director and group publisher. They were all interested in my past experience, schoolwork, passion for design and ultimately my reason for wanting to join Variety. I made sure to do some research prior to the interview to learn more about their work and goals while also trying to envision myself fitting into their company culture.

Did the pandemic affect the job-hunting process?

The pandemic put so much of my life into perspective, more than just the job hunt. I graduated during December of last year, and the pandemic hit right when I was experiencing the effects of post-grad depression. Although it was a bit discouraging having to adjust to the new normal, I realized that this became a forced opportunity to take a break and figure out what I wanted to do moving forward. At the start of quarantine, not many companies were hiring, so I used that time to focus on my mental health.

How is working remotely?

Working from home has definitely been an adjustment. Prior to the pandemic, I (had) always been used to an office environment and enjoyed the social company of being around co-workers. But after redecorating my room and creating a space where I actually feel productive, I’ve been able to create a workday schedule for myself at home. As a bonus, I’ve been taking advantage of the perks of working in my pajamas or having a fully stocked kitchen to prepare my lunch.

What advice do you have for other students looking for job or internship opportunities during this time?

My advice would be to create opportunities for yourself, even when they seem unavailable or impossible. Whether it’s reaching out to your dream employer or taking an untraditional path, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. There will always be roadblocks on your journey to success. With the pandemic happening, I thought it wasn’t possible to jump into the workforce this quickly. But everything happens for a reason, and it’s about shifting the perspective to positively contribute to your success, despite what the circumstances may be.

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