Interior Design Alumni Share Experiences
The Clover Park Technical College interior design program received a special visit Friday morning. Four recent alumni returned to campus to share their career experiences since graduation and answer questions from current students.
“Students need to hear from industry professionals other than just their instructors,” CPTC program instructor Julie Watts said. “The interior design industry is so vast and diverse that no one designer’s career experiences will be the same as another’s.”
Watts organizes alumni forums during the summer and winter quarters. She requires sixth-quarter students to attend and invites all program students. Friday’s forum featured 2005 graduate Kelsey Mitchell, 2010 grad Suzie Stakhovich, 2013 grad Christy Pollard and 2014 grad Justine Wiggins. All spoke highly of their time at CPTC.
“I loved my experience here at school,” Pollard shared. “I loved collaborating with people and participating in every part of the process – the customer service, design, CAD and everything. Your work here at CPTC is not just to get that degree. These instructors are a tremendous support. I’ve gone to every one of them multiple times since I graduated, and they’re the ones the business owners and potential employers will go to looking for a designer. You should soak up everything that you can learn here.”
Pollard works as an interior designer for American Design Firm. Stakhovich is a showroom manager at Pental Granite & Marble, while Wiggins is a project manager at Sound Kitchen & Bath and Mitchell is a Senior Interior Designer at Staples Business Advantage. Each alumnus shared her experience in the workplace, including successes and difficulties, and offered advice for students.
“You always have to be thorough from the very beginning,” Wiggins said. “From the first consultation, make sure to document and double-check everything. Attention to detail is the most important thing.”
Mitchell echoed that sentiment.
“There’s almost always a measurement you miss,” Mitchell said. “You get everything you think you need, but then you start drawing it and wonder why you missed that one corner or that one wall.”
They also reminded current students to prioritize time away from work in an industry that can easily lead to 24/7 commitment.
"What I’ve learned is you need to value your time,” Wiggins said. “You can’t bend over backwards for everyone. Be flexible, but know your time is valuable.”
Friday’s forum marked the third such session, with Watts inviting different alumni to attend each.
“It’s important that students know that graduates of our programs here at CPTC are successful members of their industries,” Watts said. “It gives them confidence and lets them know that there are others out there who are supportive and have worked through the same fears they may be having as they near completion of their programs.”
Finally, Pollard left the current students with one more reminder about networking and positive interactions.
“You never know who you might come across and what doors they might be able to open,” Pollard said. “Always think about your conduct, how you present yourself and your work ethic, because people remember that.”