During high school in Hefei, China, Youyou Gao had a keen interest in designing digital products like websites and mobile apps. After moving to New Zealand in 2014 she wanted to continue her passion for design at the University of Waikato - a place she says she could reconnect with old friends and study papers that directly aligned with what she wanted to pursue.
At Waikato, Youyou found the ideas she had while she was at high school were brought to life. “The design degree at Waikato not only introduced a variety of tools and methods I could use to visualise my ideas, but the coding paper also helped me to have a deeper understanding of the feasibility of those ideas in a practical sense,” she says.
Youyou says the Bachelor of Design offered a good combination of design and coding, which she found helpful in starting her career in digital product design. “It was challenging at the start, but there were lots of demonstrators and tutors offering help outside of class time. Our learning was purely based on projects, so it included a variety of practical skills which were really useful.”
The University of Waikato was more than just a place to study for Youyou. There was always something to look forward to, such as meeting friends between or after classes, week night hang outs in the design department to take full advantage of the iMac facilities, and travelling to nearby cities together. As an added bonus, Youyou also found her English skills improved through her interactions with classmates and friends.
To complement her studies, Youyou worked part-time as a demonstrator for design papers, and during the semester break picked up shifts at local restaurants to further add to a rounded student experience.
Now, Youyou is living in Auckland as a user experience designer at Westpac where she designs software to help the bank’s customers manage their money better. “User experience was a relatively new career in New Zealand a couple years back, so I feel like this role is a great accomplishment to have so soon after finishing study,” she says.
Overall, Youyou believes it was a combination of passion and dedication to get to where she is today. “I went to lots of meet-ups with my peers while I studied to expand my network, and worked on several freelance projects to build up my portfolio, and with that under my belt I was able to break into this area that I have always wanted to be in. I’m loving it so far.”