Design and UX

Liam Coxon, Senior Product Designer at Narrative

Liam shares how a seemingly mundane job selling cash registers, born out of the financial crisis, sparked a passion for design. Liam's story is a great example of how a growth mindset and following your interests eventually pays dividends. Enjoy.

Firstly, how would you explain to your Grandma what it is you do?

I design software that helps professional photographers save time in everything they have to do after a shoot (picking their final image selection, organising their files and promoting their work etc).

Was working in tech something you dreamed about doing as a kid and if not, what was?

Not at all! I really had no serious idea what I wanted to do when I was a kid. Maybe a rally driver? I just assumed that if I did what I was told, studied hard, went to uni and got good grades things would work out and I’d get on a cushy graduate scheme at a bank or something like that (without thinking if that’s what I really wanted). Things didn’t work out that way thankfully!

“the cash register sales job gave me an opportunity to dip my toe into marketing which in turn exposed me to design – and I finally discovered my calling.”

Tell us a little bit more about your career journey and ultimately about how you ended up working in tech?

It’s fair to say I’ve had a bit of a circuitous journey to where I am now.

I studied Linguistics at Uni back in London. I graduated in 2008 during the height of the recession and found out to my chagrin that there’s little to no demand for linguistics grads in a major global recession. So I floated through several jobs including bar work, theatre usher and cash register salesman. It was a hard period, at times I felt in a totally hopeless position. However, the cash register sales job gave me an opportunity to dip my toe into marketing which in turn exposed me to design – and I finally discovered my calling.

I realised that design was by far the best part of that job, and I was good at it too. I started off attending a few night schools, then took a plunge and studied an intensive 3 month graphic design course at Shillington College in 2011 which quickly led to some design internships. Then, to my extreme surprise, I was offered a job at Toaster, an in-house design agency at Google. During my time there I transitioned through graphic and creative concepting into digital design.

Since moving to New Zealand in 2015 I worked at Colenso for a couple of years then Isobar (Little Giant) and honed in on UX/UI, and finally into product design. Last year an opportunity to work at Narrative came up and I’ve not looked back.

“On the one hand it felt weird that you could actually get paid to do something fun and creative”

Can you share some more insight into what that transition was like?

On the one hand it felt weird that you could actually get paid to do something fun and creative, but it also felt like a natural fit for me. Since switching to design I’ve always followed the path that suited my strengths and personality, and that’s led me to where I am. Without wanting to sound too new age, I started to follow my heart rather than my head.

What is it specifically that you like about working in tech relative to past jobs?

There are very few industries that allow such a small number of people to make such a large impact. It’s also really exciting to be building things that have never been built before and seeing people loving them.

Do you have any advice for people considering tech as a career path and how they might get there quicker?

It’s the advice I’d give anyone looking to get into anything. Really work out who you are as a person, what you like doing and what you are good at – and be honest with yourself. This can come from any part of your life, not just work – include hobbies, specific skills and general areas of aptitude. Is there a role in tech that fits those things? Then go do that! If you’re not sure what roles might suit you, consider reaching out to people in the industry on LinkedIn, most people are more than willing to give at least a few words of advice.

What kind of character traits and attributes do you think are necessary for people to thrive at Narrative?

We’re looking for authentic people who are passionate about doing something cool. You’ve got to be great at what you do, adaptable, and be able to see things holistically and creatively. You also have to be a ‘good’ person who cares as much about their colleague and customers as much as their own work.

Lastly, for candidates interested in working at Narrative, what is your experience of the company culture?

At Narrative you have a stake in the game and everyone is genuinely passionate about being here and about what we are doing. I’ve worked at places before that felt like a family, but working at Narrative feels like a family that actually gets on with each other.

We’re all different as individuals but it feels like we are all on the same journey going in the same direction – so you can trust that everyone is doing their best. There’s also not a day that goes by where I don’t laugh my head off.

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