Where Are They Now: Alumni Update on April Soetarman
In Fall 2013, we started with 5 students. After 12 months of learning through experience, our first class graduated this past September.
Since then, they’ve been keeping busy. Muffadal is developing a regenerative tourism ecosystem in Nicaragua, while Dane is working as a freelance digital storyteller with friends and creatives. Carisa is on her way to a yoga teaching certification and starting her own business. Back in Fargo, a city he dearly loves, Joe is working on supporting and nurturing culture creators. And April is back in Seattle where she completed her second apprenticeship last year.
Over the coming months, we’ll highlight stories of previous students. Today, we begin with April.
A YEAR OF DESIGN AND LEARNING
When April first spoke to Victor about Experience Institute, she was skeptical. She had a stable job offer on the table from the company where she was working at the time, and the prospect of rejecting that in favor of an educational startup seemed risky.
“It won’t be easy,” Victor told her, “but it’ll be worthwhile.”
“That sold me,” April later shared with us. When her acceptance came, she packed her bags and headed to Chicago.
After studying music and architecture in college, April joined Experience Institute with the goal of becoming a better designer. During her year with Ei, she pursued and completed four experiences:
- project manager at Doejo where she interfaced with clients
- designer at architecture firm NBBJ where she created experiences for civic and corporate projects
- strategist at Leo Burnett’s Department of Design where she worked on an arts education campaign
- designer with Latent Design and arts agency Curmudgeon Group where she spanned the entire process of building a public storytelling art installation
Not only did April put both her education in architecture and music to use, but she also developed the communication skills and creative confidence to push her career forward.
“I’m learning how to own my career as a creative,” April said, “rather than being owned by it.”
Watch her capstone video to learn more about her year with Ei.
WHERE IS APRIL NOW
After backpacking solo through Europe where she spent the fall sketching famous sites, April returned to Seattle this past November. She was asked to return to NBBJ where she’d completed her second apprenticeship with Experience Institute. “I did a good job and enjoyed my time there,” April told us. “The apprenticeship was a perfect fit because of its music and architecture project connection (sound art installation, gong wall, etc). Using both of the fields I studied in a creative and problem-solving way, and getting paid for it, was really awesome.”
She’s working once again with her Ei mentor Sam Stubblefield at NBBJ’s Studio 07 on a continuation of the sound/architecture project, "the world's coolest substation", and a couple other experience design projects.
After completing her learning plan through Ei, April has experienced a “huge increase in creative confidence going forward.” Due to the experience she gained throughout her time at Ei, she also has the project and portfolio work to back it up.
Since returning to NBBJ, April continues to learn through experience. As she dives deeper into old projects and begins new ones, she’s learning more about exhibit design and brand storytelling. The work is both creatively and intellectually challenging, and she’s growing immensely.
REFLECTION AND MOVING FORWARD
“Not all of the experiences were perfect fits, though that is totally understandable,” April reflected in one of our email conversations. While all of the apprenticeships were good learning experiences, it was the individuals who really understood Ei’s mission that were especially important to April’s growth as a designer, rather than any particular company or industry. Although establishing the connection with a mentor or company and determining the project/skill fit is a lengthy process, the value gained from that connection is beyond compare.
We’re so proud of April and all of our Alumni. We can’t wait to share more updates as they create new spaces in the world, tell important stories, and share what they’re learning as they go.