In this episode of the Gradual Podcast* series, Niran Vinod talks us through his journey from student to product strategist at Instagram/Facebook.
In the article below we sum up highlights from the 31-minute episode, including Niran’s advice for students looking to network their way into the creative industries.
*Gradual is a podcast that explores the big questions and challenges that many new graduates will face. In each episode, we share unfiltered stories from creative professionals who make a living doing what they love. Search ‘Gradual Podcast’ on popular podcast platforms to subscribe and listen. Created by UAL Careers and Employability.
Part One: Education is Everything
Niran describes himself as a born and raised East Londoner who used to work in advertising and now works in tech. At the beginning of the episode he says he owes a lot of his success to UAL, and that the “creative environment” itself helped him think in strategic ways about his career. That was important, because unlike some of his better-connected peers Niran couldn’t rely on a network of family friends to hook him up with an internship at a creative agency (his parents had immigrated to London from India to work in the textile industry).
Recovering from an Early Set-back
At 2.22 minutes in, Niran talks in detail about how important education is to his family – and that graduation was an emotional time for them all because Niran had previously dropped out of a different university. This had been a sore point for the Vinods, so his graduation with a 2:1 was an especially joyful day:
“I’m getting teary-eyed thinking of this… I think it was about being around my parents, because I’d never seen them so happy.”
Becoming an ‘Influencer’
While in his second year of university Niran and a friend started a website called Yin & Yang, so they would have a platform to share their thoughts and ideas. This was back in 2008 when the internet looked very different: there was no Snapchat, or Instagram, and smart phones didn’t really exist, so people became ‘influencers’ by blogging about their passions on platforms like WordPress. For Niran this was music, photography, design, and style. The blog took off and became popular in London. Niran was an ‘influencer’ before the term really existed, and before he had even graduated.
Part Two: Graduation and beyond
Thanks to Yin & Yang Niran got his first internship at an advertising agency called ‘We are Social’. You can hear Niran talk in detail about how he got this opportunity at 4:45. The internship shifted Niran’s perspective: “It was fun, it was energetic, I was learning on a daily basis…those two months just gave me the itch to work”.
Niran then explains how he formally started a career in advertising after being head-hunted by a creative agency (while in his final year). If you want to hear about the process of being head-hunted and interviewed for a graduate job skip to 6:29.
During his advertising career Niran produced work for major brands like Nike* at various London-based creative agencies, ending up as a senior creative with self-taught design and photography skills.
*If you want to learn about the structure of creative teams, and how they would cooperate on a brief from a company like Nike, skip ahead to 13.36 in the podcast.
The Two Year Itch
Niran generally looks to move jobs when he gets too comfortable, around the two year mark. The only reason why Instagram/Facebook has managed to hold onto Niran for longer is because he changed roles internally. If you want to hear how Niran got this job, including the interview process which included an epic eight separate interviews, you can skip to 15:10.
Part Three: Niran’s advice and tips for students
So what advice does Niran have for students looking to emulate his success? As it turns out Niran has plenty.
01) Ask potential employers questions:
Niran has refined a set of questions that he uses to network, and to figure out if a role is right for him. They are:
1) What’s the culture like?
2) Am I gonna grow?
3) And is there creative freedom?
02) Make your CV a reflection of who you are – make it awesome!
Niran says it’s really important to be creative in the way you structure your job application, and that he’s always put personality into his CV, like by including a quote he believes in which he can then build into a personal statement. The last one he wrote focussed on being ‘uncomfortable’. Skip to 7:55 to hear Niran expand on this.
03) Make the most of university:
We are going to finish up this article with some advice from Niran to all the future students out there:
When you get into the real world you’re hustling hard and it’s a struggle to make free time for side projects. You have time as a student – so do something with it! Build stuff together with your friends, create things!
Interested in Advertising?
BA (Hons) Advertising
BSc Creative Computing