Meet Kathryn George, Digital & Motion Designer at Stuff Media, New Zealand’s largest and most popular news media company, and a mentor through OneUpOneDown. Kathryn spent a large part of her career working in print media in London. As the media industry started to shift from print to digital, Kathryn knew she needed to reinvent her skillset to get ahead in this transforming industry. So she spent a year learning motion and interactive design, putting into practice what she learnt by starting her own animated video company, before landing her ideal job.
Learn more about Kathryn’s career transformation story and the practical steps that allowed her to land the job that she loves.
In 2-3 sentences, please tell us a little about you!
I’m a Digital/Motion Designer and Illustrator working out of Auckland, New Zealand. Yes, I wear a few different hats! I’ve also worked in a few different places throughout my career, which spans over 30 years. I suppose I’ve always been someone who enjoys a challenge and not adverse to taking calculated risks, so in my younger days, I freelanced around several newspapers in London before settling down at one in particular and stayed for almost 20 years! More recently, I returned to NZ as I missed my home country and set up a motion video business, but to make ends meet, I also worked part-time for Stuff Media as a Digital Designer. I loved it so much there that I’ve now gone full-time, but I still like to be active in the start-up scene, so enjoy creating Illustrations for OneUpOneDown.
Why did you sign up to be a part of OneUpOneDown?
I want to pay forward some of the support I’ve received from the mentors I’ve had in my life and career. I’ve also had some experience as a mentor myself, having led a team of creatives in London and would love to continue supporting others along their career paths.
What does success mean to you? How do you align with your definition at the moment?
Success almost always doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and determination. But if you love what you do and allow yourself to be open to opportunities when they come along, then everything else will fall into place. That’s what success is to me.
What prompted you to pursue the career you’re in now?
During my last job in London, we started to get into motion/interactive design, and I loved the results my team and I created. But as I was mostly over-seeing projects, I didn’t get to create the animations myself. When I came back to NZ, I started the motion design business, in part, to force myself to get up-to-speed using the programmes necessary to make animated videos. Because of these new skills, I got seconded to work for the special projects team at Stuff, and then they offered me a full-time position.
How did you know this is what you wanted to do?
It’s hard to say, but I did a lot of research about what was going to be the next big shift in technology, and at the time it was motion and interactive design, so I just went for it. I used to create illustrations by hand (back in the day), and now programmes are so advanced, I can create the same sort of drawings digitally, so I’m currently exploring this … it’s my new obsession!
Have you made any big transitions or changes in your career? What were they? How did you do it?
I suppose the most significant transition for me was coming out of a job I’d been in for 20 years and having to up-skill to be relevant in the hiring market. That was tough. One of the best things I did to bridge the knowledge gap was to go to meet-ups and listen to the jargon people used and also to create some contacts within my industry. I also attended a course through Mum’s Garage, which helped me to learn how to start-up a business, and I met some amazing people through that. I ended up sharing an office space with like-minded people and got to experience the start-up culture.
What is something that has been particularly challenging throughout your career?
I sometimes lack confidence in my decision making, and it can hold me back as I second guess myself instead of just going for it. I think it’s because I become stressed with the burden of making a decision. To overcome this, I take time out to think things through. I might go for a walk, make a cup of tea or do something else for a few minutes, which allows me to come back to the issue, viewing it with fresh eyes. After de-stressing, I can usually find the solution and follow through with a course of action.
What have been your go-to tools and strategies to overcome challenging experiences or people in your career?
I often allow myself to sleep on something that is bothering me because, in the morning, things can often seem quite different. I also try to listen to what someone else is saying and to put myself in their shoes. It doesn’t mean I will agree with them but helps me handle difficult situations with more understanding. I will always try to talk something out. Communication is vital in stopping issues from building up.
What is one personal or professional skill you’re working on at the moment and why?
Professionally, I am trying to learn how to use some new programmes on an iPad. Personally, well, I am trying to lose the weight I’ve put on during lockdown! But that is also about self-image and self-esteem, so I am working on improving those too!
What is something you wish you’d known when you were first starting out in your career?
I wish I’d known that things take time. Time to learn, to develop, to mature, to understand and to progress. It doesn’t happen overnight. I think when I was younger I was always wanting to get to Z without going through the alphabet first. When I realised it didn’t work like that (for me anyway) and doing some navel-gazing doesn’t actually hurt sometimes, then I became more productive and less stressed out that I wasn’t achieving results straight away.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone navigating their own career?
The fastest way to navigate your future career is to clear the path ahead of you, so doing what you love as opposed to doing something you don’t enjoy is the way forward. Understandably, there are times when this isn’t an option, but the more you can work towards doing what you love, the more accessible everything else becomes. I find being active in the communities you’d like to work within allows you to learn more about that particular occupation and is a great way to pivot your career. Attending meetups and conferences or volunteering at events extends your circle of contacts and you get to connect with like-minded people who may help you further your career.