Nick Petzing, From Firefighter to Graphic Designer

Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds so recent Shillington New York graduate Nick Petzing was certainly not the first student we’ve met looking to radically change their career path. Relocating from Los Angeles to New York, Nick traded his Firefighting background for pastures new. 

Now back in the sunshine state we caught up with Nick to see what he’s been up to since Shillington and how he found studying design in New York. Read on to learn about Nick’s love of app design, the humour he found in late-night designing and advice to current students. 

Can you tell us a bit about what you were doing before Shillington and what made you want to become a designer?

I wasn’t the best student growing up so when I went to college I started studying design since it didn’t involve any History or English classes. It was great! But my dad was a fireman so I was always curious about that world and started volunteering for a local department. Pretty soon I was spending all my time at a firehouse and no time in school. I went on to be a wild land firefighter for 10 years. Eventually, I realized I wanted a different lifestyle and my interest in design never faded.

You studied on the full-time course at our New York Campus, tell us a bit about your experience of the course, any stand-out moments?

It was an amazing experience. I’m from Los Angeles and had never been to New York until I went to the Shillington info session before the course.

So, for me, just living in New York for three and a half months was a great experience.

Exploring the city on the weekends and taking everything in—the people, the food, even the subway was all such a novelty. As for the full-time course, I really embraced how immersive it was, how it pushed me to be a self starter, made me stick to deadlines and taught me how to take constructive criticism positively. One thing I’ll never forget is during portfolio time just being so sleep deprived but loving every minute. My classmates and I would come in and laugh about what time we were up until… 2am, 3am. Whoever said a time before midnight just had to be lying.

What made our design course stand out from the rest? Is there anything you’d say to those skeptical about Shillington?

I wanted to make a change in my life and make it quickly. The full time program allowed me to do that.

Shillington prepares you for working in the industry better then any “school” could.

From the minute you get there until you leave, you are treated like a professional graphic designer. With deadlines and revisions as they are teaching you the fundamentals of design. They teach you how to be a fundamentally good designer, on top of the programs i.e. photoshop, indesign.

Your portfolio demonstrates that you have a strong grasp of digital design, was this an area you really enjoyed on the course and something you’d like to specialize in professionally?

I really did enjoy it. Apps and website (mobile and full size) they were just fun to make. It didn’t seem like work, more like playing on your phone.  Especially app design in Sketch. You can connect your phone to the program and it mirrors what you’re doing on the computer. As for doing it professionally I want to be a well rounded designer first. Maybe down the road I can specialize in something in the app space. That would be fun.

What are your plans now that you’ve graduated from Shillington? Do you feel well-prepared to enter the design industry?

After the program I moved back to LA and am still trying to land that big designer job here. I’ve been freelancing a bit on the side which has also taught me a lot. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to jump into some of these projects without my experience from Shillington. I am definitely prepared.

What advice would you give to students currently on the course now that you’re a graduate?

  1. At portfolio time, put in the extra effort. It really is one of those things… the more you put into it, the better it turns out.  All the teachers will tell you the last 3 weeks you don’t sleep. Its true. Not because they making you change something (well they are) but because you’ve learned so much up to that point and know you can make it better.
  2. Network, network, network.
  3. Have fun.

Big thanks to Nick for answering our questions. Be sure to head over to his website to check out his full online portfolio. 

Are you thinking of switching careers? We’ve interviewed several #Shillumni who traded dramatically different roles for a design job. Read about Meg Walker who was once an auditor, Louise Hamer the former actress and Katrina Scott a marketing manager.