Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This Is How We Do It - Hyper Island's CD Meets Digital Media Alumnus Nina Amjadi

What is it like to attend a school without teachers? How difficult can collaboration be and how does it feel to fail? Åsa Silfverberg, partner and Creative Director at Hyper Island, sat down with Nina Amjadi, Digital Media student, to find out how the Hyper Island methodology works in practice.

Åsa: As a student, how do you interpret the world that you entered at Hyper Island and how do you look at being a part of this, Nina?

Nina: When I think back to the first couple of months when I started at Hyper Island, it felt kind of obvious already: I had a self-awareness and I had been working in groups before. But then when it came down to me actually taking an hour to reflect, and to really think about how to make things work better, to listen to the needs of someone else and how that person could make things better. It gives you a better view and understanding of the group process and self-reflection. You get a much better understanding of the importance to understand other people; the collaboration and communication.

Åsa: What challenges have you experienced this year at Hyper Island?

Nina: You have to face your demons, and you have to dare to make mistakes. You do something right, then maybe you make a mistake again, but then you get it right again. It’s like a roller coaster ride in a way. Up and down a lot.
You get rocked at the core in a way, but you always come out of it stronger. You face the demons, and you get feedback in a very honest way. You leave and go home thinking about it all. Not just in school, but you carry things with you all the time. It’s there with you, a constant reflection.

Åsa: What is your view on the fact that we don’t have any teachers, but instead have lectures and workshops from external industry people, while the learning journey is supported by Project Managers/Facilitators?

Nina: You are exposed to some kind of personal development and that’s the same for everyone. In these situations you know that the Project Managers/ Facilitators are there if you need any support but you usually find your own solutions and answers.

Åsa: What do you think around those situations when you have a Facilitator that’s leading a feedback session?

Nina: I don’t think we would have had the conflicts that we have had, or the same discussions, if we had felt that we had a supervisor, like a teacher. The Facilitator supports the dialogue with a format. When we had a feedback session everyone was at the same level, no matter if you had worked 10 years in the industry, or if you recently graduated from high school.

Åsa: We want to inspire people, teams and organizations/companies to live up to their full potential. The basic value behind that view is about trusting people’s capabilities and trusting people’s ability to take responsibility for their own learning and development. That is a value platform that we all share and work with actively. As a student, what do you find frustrating about meeting a new environment where you are not “spoon fed” anymore, but instead you get the mission presented to you and have to navigate towards the solution yourself?

Nina: The hardest thing is that with a teacher and in the traditional school you always know what is expected from you: You are supposed to answer ten questions, or you get homework. At Hyper Island you do not get measured and you’re not judged on the final result. In the beginning it’s really frustrating to not know how you are supposed to approach things. You get a very ambiguous target. It is frustrating to be in new groups all the time, to go through the same process, each time. But the biggest frustration was to not knowing what was expected from you in detail.

Åsa: Yeah, we are so used to getting all the answers when it comes to the why’s and the how’s from the ordinary school where you get clear directives. This is in some way a mental shift that can be very frustrating to go through.

Nina: It’s like; you don’t feel like a student any more, all of the sudden you are in a new role at Hyper Island. It’s a work place, where you have to solve problems every day, and you have to find new ways to solve these problems every day. You have to reach out to people and ask for the help that you feel that you need, instead of being “spoon fed” with 10 different solutions to the problem, many of which you don’t think that you will need.

Åsa: What are the biggest things that you take with you? What do you feel you can use in your professional life at your internship in New York?

Nina: I feel that it’s a way of thinking; how to approach and tackle a problem, rather than a more concrete, exact and theoretical way of looking at a task. Towards the end of a project, I find myself automatically reflecting and analyzing the way that I’ve been working, taking notes of things that I could improve to the next time.

Åsa: It’s like a constant learning rather than just trying to find “the one” right answer...

Nina: Yes, exactly. I never feel scared about what someone else thinks about my process. I’m very open to sit down and talk about it, since I’ve been through it so many times already. I could have my own company, with three employees, and I would just use this process, because I know that it works.

Åsa: When I listen to you it sounds like you’ve got an amount of both competence, and confidence. That there’s a balance between what you feel that you can achieve and courage to face what- ever that’s coming your way. There is a company in our industry that talks about ”failing faster” and that is also a part of Hyper Island – that there is something re- ally constructive in learning from failing.

Nina: A specific example from Hyper Island is the time my group failed
completely, but it was meant to happen the way it happened. We got stressed and we failed completely!
But we had the most fantastic reflection after that, we wrote like 3 pages each with feedback. And then the client really celebrated us for doing that, because this was something that was so important, to reflect and be mature about our mistakes. We felt proud, even though we didn’t do a thing right, and we knew that we were thinking the right way, so that next time we would do it much better.

Åsa: At my first job after graduating from Hyper Island many years ago, my boss told me: “You’ve got five major fuck-ups to do this year. If you don’t go for it, if you don’t set your bars and goals high, and don’t do any major fuck-ups, then we will know that you are a person who plays it safe.” And that was so nice, to know that I was encouraged to push the boundaries and not play it safe. That is what we want to achieve here at Hyper Island; to really understand the industry and to have clear frameworks that have massive amounts of responsibility, power and freedom to enable students to make their own decisions. We hope that this maximizes the learning journey. It also creates a great spirit within the group, between the people that are doing this “journey” together.

Åsa: One final question; why Hyper Island, Nina?

Nina: I would say that it is a forward- thinking way of learning and that it is much more adapted to suit how we actually learn. It’s an opportunity to get to know other people who will work in the industry one day, who are really good at what they do. There will also be lots of opportunities to meet people from the industry and work on real-life projects too.

We caught up with Nina Amjadi recently, almost a year after the above interview was made, to see what's been going on since.

What's happened in the last year?

The last year has been super exciting - all of the puzzle pieces from Hyper Island and my life finally came together! I started my internship as a digital producer at the wonderful creative agency Your Majesty in NYC, back in in November 2011. Little did I know, that I had started a journey that would open my eyes into the future. During my internship, I learned a whole lot about New York, the creative industry, the challenges the up-sides and the down-sides, but most importantly, I learned a lot about myself and what I had to offer and what I needed to work on. During this great journey, I was happy to get the chance to extend my internship to a full year and then even more excited to accept a job offer from Your Majesty, and then flattered to receive a promotion right before I headed back to Sweden for my visa process! It's been a great year!

What is going on right now in your life?

I'm currently still working with Your Majesty on many exciting projects from Sweden, as my work visa is still being processed. I've also finally opened up my own jewelry line "Rough by Nature" which will launched shortly!

Do you have any idea of where you will be in year?

After realizing what one year in a creative and boiling metropol such as New York can do and how much your eyes can be opened up to opportunities and to your own abilities to accomplish great goals - I'm absolutely unaware of where I will be next year. I think it's fair enough to say it's impossible to know! All I know is that in a year from now, I want to be happy at work, excited to get up each morning and challenged just about enough to not get bored or disappointed with my own growth.

Our deadline for fall 2012 programs is approaching fast (April 16) - get in touch with us or Nina on Twitter if you'd like to know more! 

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