For as long as I can remember I’d set a timeline for myself: Finish high school, earn a college degree, get a job, get married, buy a house and have babies. Sometimes I’d get so caught up following the timeline, I’d forget I had to, say, pick a major or decide on a career path. Luckily, one of my high school teachers suggested I go to art school. I was against it at the time — coming from a small farming community, I didn’t realize I’d actually be able to support myself with an art degree. Then I visited the School of Advertising Art (SAA) and quickly fell in love.
After touring the classrooms and getting to meet students, faculty and staff, I knew SAA was where I wanted to be. Everything about the school felt right, and I was accepted on the spot. I was in love with the atmosphere, the teaching methods and the curriculum, and didn’t see the point in looking at or applying to another school.
My mind was made up. SAA was where I’d spend the next two years.
Attending SAA turned out to be a dream come true. I was a part of a family, with the students all learning the same curriculum and working toward the same goals. Most of the teachers were ex-students themselves, and had completed the same classes and lessons we were working through. As such, the teachers and faculty were supportive of the students not just in our education, but in our personal lives as well. They understood what we were going through and they wanted us to succeed — not just because it made the school look good, but because they cared about each of us living our dreams and doing what we had set out to do.
Portfolio at SAA is one of the most stressful yet rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. Four months of living and breathing design projects, as you perfect and mount them for display at the portfolio show. During what was probably the most stressful day of portfolio, Marxent’s CEO, Beck, called me to discuss what Marxent was expecting during my 4-week externship. I remember almost not answering the phone because it was an out of state number, but remembering at the last second that Marxent had a Florida office and picked up the phone. That call was exactly the push I needed to survive the last few days of portfolio. I even finished early!
By the time portfolio was wrapping up, I was more than ready to start my 4-week externship at Marxent. Little did I know I was about to join another family. When I started at Marxent I was welcomed with open arms. During my externship I worked with 3D modelers, taking photos of designer shoes for them to model. I also worked on making icons and animations for the Hess app, and worked on the Hess Toy Truck website. Working side by side with designers, modelers and developers allowed me to expand my skill base and enabled me to be more versatile as a designer.
On what I thought was my last day, I gave a big speech about what I’d learned at Marxent and how much I appreciated everyone who had taken time to get to know me and explain how things worked. It was at a “farewell lunch” that my mentor, Ryan, pulled me aside to say that Marxent wanted to offer me a summer internship. To say I was thrilled is an understatement.
I’ve now been at Marxent for more than two years, and I’ve learned so much by doing a variety of things. I made the transition from creating assets for monthly content to creating comps and designs for websites, and I’m now working on finishing a skill jump — by learning to write HTML and CSS. Working at a startup really allows you to get to know the people around you on a personal level. At Marxent we’re more than co-workers, we’re a family.
Gabbi Hardin is a Graphic Designer at Marxent.
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