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Daily Inspiration: Meet Rebecca Chan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Chan.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
As a child, I did not have access to all the cool new toys, cable, or internet (until middle school). And so, my sister and I would often play pretend (everything a kid could think of—grocery store, school, fashion shows, fairies, etc.), make pillow forts, go biking, and draw with our late uncle. Although I had all this creative energy in me, it was not until I took an introductory Adobe Suite course at UC San Diego that I realized, wow, I really do enjoy making things.

As a freshman, I entered Warren college (one of the seven colleges at UCSD) with an urban planning major. Warren is known as the “engineering college” and so I found myself surrounded by engineering students (duh!) and other STEM majors, which persuaded me that maybe engineering might be the right move to make my parents and my future wallet happy. However, I dropped out of the first chemistry class I had to take and ultimately felt that that was not for me. Still feeling pressure to find a happy medium between me and my parents’ happiness, I ended up majoring in public health.

Even with the final switch, I never forgot about design and the arts. Taking visual arts and urban design courses to fulfill my college’s heavy general education requirements for non-engineering majors allowed me to eventually add my former major and speculative design as minors. Reflecting back, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the intersections between health, planning, and design.

With my newfound interest in graphic design, I started doing work on campus as an intern for UCSD’s performing arts presenter, ArtPower, and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (which I joined during my burst of excitement for STEM). From then on, I’ve been able to pick-up several other graphic design-related positions including: marketing strategist focusing on student health, instructional assistant, graphic design intern for San Francisco Planning Department, and Senior Marketing and Graphic Design Assistant at ArtPower. Throughout this time, I taught myself graphic design by experimenting with the different software for hours and of course watching YouTube videos. To this day, I am very grateful for all the different people and places that took a chance on me and gave me a supportive environment to cultivate and showcase my skills. Looking towards the future, I hope to expand my creative boundaries even further. As a recent graduate, I am now a full time designer at Tijoh and I run social media strategy for The Asian American Foundation.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not, but currently, it feels like things are coming together as I start to think more about what I want in life. I mentioned this briefly before, but coming into college was a little rough. I didn’t have a mental picture like many of my peers who aspired to become doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, and other cool careers. That resulted in me using the first half of college as a huge experiment to answer a super tough question: what do I want to be when I grow up? Looking back at this time, I feel relieved and happy that I did some soul-searching every year to take proactive steps in creating a mind map for how I can be successful, but also happy with what I am doing. Even now, I cannot confidently say that I know 100%, but it’s fine to not know. And I kept blaming my parents for the pressure, but it was really me pressuring myself to go into STEM and make big bucks. With this realization, I was able to let go of those unrealistic expectations I had on myself and just feel safe and at home with the idea of pursuing a career that I truly wanted to. Doing work for different organizations on campus was a great way for me to learn, but also provided me the motivation and opportunity to explore design. As I gained more experience and exposure to the different creative fields, I grew more confident and was able to convince the people in my family that being a designer is my true calling. I guess the biggest takeaway from my story here is to learn and grow as much as you can and prove your doubters (especially if you are one of them) wrong.

Nowadays, the struggle I’m dealing with is more external. When looking for design jobs, qualifications often list BFA/MFA, which I don’t have (haha). Besides that, pay is mediocre at best. I think as creatives, we appreciate each others’ hard work and know that there is a great amount of time and skill that is poured into even one graphic. Maybe it’s because I see mostly postings for smaller firms and companies, but I think there is a need to make unpaid internships and full-time designer wages of $20/hour a thing of the past. Unfortunately, this has made me sometimes doubtful of diving head into graphic design because financial stability is something I am yearning for (but also who isn’t?!). I tell myself that being happy with the work I am able to do, the art of process and the reception of it is worth the risk. I am hopeful that by gaining experience, connections, and adulting experience, I’ll be able to live comfortably as a visual designer in the near future.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a designer, I specialize in graphic design and social media management. After starting an Instagram account dedicated solely to my work, I have come to be known (at least to my friends) for typography, 3D rendering, illustration, and branding—with many of my posts usually having a combination of any of these skills. I love trying out new software and creating things with an aesthetic that is clean, edgy (kind of trendy), and abstract. Although I may not have a set style or niche defined yet, I am enjoying this period of experimentation and growth and hope to continue to do so in the future.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I believe that risk-taking can be a good thing. Although it can be scary to delve into something uncertain, this in itself takes courage and that is something that you should be proud of. Sometimes when you propose an idea that is completely out-of-the-box, you can get rewarded with positive outcomes and maybe even be able to overcome personal fears. Even if you don’t, that becomes its own learning experience that you can drawback on when you make future decisions and recover faster from any potentially ‘bad’ consequences. Either way, it leads to success, in my opinion.

In my case, I am typically not a risk-taker, but jumping over the hurdle of public speaking was necessary for me to grow out of my comfort zone in college. Growing up, I was never the best public speaker. I remember having to give a speech in front of a huge crowd of people after winning an art contest in 4th grade and absolutely not killing that speech. From then on, I just got worse and worse at it. I would dread getting picked for popcorn reading or going to parties where I knew no one. Combined with my introverted personality, I developed some form of social anxiety if I had to speak in front of unfamiliar groups of people. In college, all these things would become much more difficult as I felt more self-conscious about the way I spoke in front of professors and very capable peers. By forcing myself to get a job and interact with classmates, I was able to mentally prepare myself more when it came time for presentations. Now, after many presentations, interviews, and job opportunities, I’ve become better adjusted to the idea that not being eloquent doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. No one actually cares more than me (most likely). As long as I feel that my ideas are getting across and assure others who may have similar fears that they too can speak up then I am doing my part in making my workplace or other team setting a more inviting and welcoming environment. So ya, take risks. Get a little uncomfortable. People cannot hate you for being genuine. You’ll definitely grow from all the hard experiences you go through in life.

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