The first-ever year of the Inspiring Digital leaders programme has now been and gone; 5 agencies, 5 months, 5 disciplines and 5 incredibly talented interns. The whole AD team has loved playing a key role in the creation and implementation of this amazing new programme - but none in our team have been more involved than our MD, David, and our Senior UX Designer, Rachel.

Rachel leads our UX Design team and was tasked with mentoring the interns as they worked alongside the UX team on exciting projects - with this programme being the first time many of them experienced UX Design as a digital discipline. Our MD David was involved in the initial discussions and co-creation of the programme . With this in mind, we wanted to take the chance to sit down and round-up the past 5 months from the agency's point of view and quiz Rachel and David on their first-hand experience with this revolutionary new programme.

image from closing presentations for the Inspiring Digital Leaders programme 2019

The interns and the agencies on the final presentation night

How did the Inspiring Digital Leaders intern programme first come about?

David: As with a lot of great ideas, it started around the dinner table and after a few drinks! I have to credit BIMA for bringing all together at the first agency owners dinner two years ago. During the course of the evening, the conversation turned to recruitment/talent and the challenges we all faced. Over the subsequent months, we continued the conversation, defining and refining what the programme could look like and what we wanted to achieve.

Why did you decide to get involved in the programme?

D: After being part of the initial conversation, I kind of had no choice put to put my money where my mouth was. After many months of discussion and refinement, we all agreed that the basic idea was a good one and the chance to collaborate properly with some other great agencies and to combine our collective resources was something we had to be part of.

What surprised both of you the most during these past 5 months?

Rachel: I think the most surprising thing was how each intern seemed to find a different aspect of UX and Design that they really excelled at. We had one very good at prototyping, another made really polished UI’s and then we had some excellent UX researchers on our hands.

David: I’ve genuinely been blown away by the 5 interns, all completely different but all massively impressive in their own right.

After watching the presentations all 5 interns gave at the end of their time here, what do you think their biggest takeaway or learning curve was?

R: In terms of a learning curve, I think every intern said they were surprised by how much research goes into designing, which is great as it means they’ll take that forward into their respective careers now, understanding that good design has purpose.

The Inspiring Digital Leaders interns 2019

The IDL interns from left to right: Eddie, Julia, Evan, Rosa & Paddy.

Was there a particular reason you decided to take on the UX Design module?

D: The assigning of modules like most of the conversations was surprisingly easy and with little or no argument. With Rachel being named in the BIMA 100 for UX it seemed like the obvious and easy choice for us and no one disagreed!

We had some marketers and developers within the programme - how do you think the UX design element will benefit them going forward in their career?

R: I think regardless of their discipline, each intern will have a new perspective when they approach projects in the future. At the end of each month, each of them was really passionate about advocating the end-user. They would run through their presentation saying things like “this was SO difficult for the user, so we improved it by…” and that’s the crux of what I do, so I think each of them has gone off now understanding that there’s someone at the end of the thing that’s being designed.

D: One of the core ideas of the programme was to provide rounded individuals who understood how all departments/disciplines interact and collaborate to achieve the end result for the client. So at a high level having that understanding of where UX sits in all of it is invaluable and I think they genuinely enjoyed it.

Thinking about your role here at AD, have you learned anything from working on the IDL programme?

R: I’ve learnt a lot in terms of mentorship. Everybody has different learning and working styles, so it’s been really good to have lots of different people in and try and teach them the same thing in different ways.

D: Yes, lots. I think we all have. One of the big revelations for me was that graduates don’t know agencies exist. We exist in this little digital bubble and assume people know that Glasgow/Scotland has all these amazing digital agencies but the reality is they don’t. So no wonder we couldn’t find the talent or they couldn't find us. So we have a part to play in getting out there in schools, universities and colleges.

Is there anything you would do differently in the office or on the programme to improve the experience for the agency or interns?

R: If I could do it differently, I think I’d have liked each of the interns to get a better idea how UX affects their discipline directly, but that’s tricky to do depending on where we are in the lifecycle of a live project to get the crossover right.

D: Let’s be honest it was a pilot and we were all winging it initially (certainly we were), but once we got into our stride it seemed to go pretty well. By the end of it, we have a pretty tight 4 week UX course out of it!

The office was actually under reconstruction for a large part of the programme which wasn’t ideal but all done now!

The 5 interns have all given their feedback and we will be taking all that on board. For me, I’d like to see a 6th month, where the 5 get to work together on either a real client challenge or be given a task to work on. Almost like a mini start-up/4-week incubator type idea.

Given the quality displayed by all across all disciplines, I think it would be fascinating to see them work together and bring to bear everything they’ve learned.

Top 3 highlights over the past 5 months?

R: I’ve loved all of the MD talks, and particularly enjoyed Jackie at Front Page telling us about her journey to MD. Watching each intern get lost in Hotjar for 8 hours, then telling me they thought they were behind because they got lost watching Hotjar sessions. Rosa’s wonderful surprise from the design team’s hero, Gerry McGovern!

gerry mcgovern holds handwritten note to After Digital's UX team from Inpiring Digital Leaders intern Rosa

Our fifth intern, Rosa, arranged for our UX team to get a special shoutout from their UX hero, Gerry, which she revealed in her final presentation.

How do you think the IDL programme impacted upon your own role within the company or the company as a whole?

R: I think the programme has helped my leadership, mentoring junior designers has been something I’ve always really enjoyed, so getting to do that for this length of time has been really fun. I think everyone was a little worried that I would struggle time-wise to deliver my work on time while teaching others but we worked that out pretty early on so minimal negative impact has been felt!

D: Massively positive and way beyond any expectations. The focus was obviously the interns but the entire team have all taken something from the experience and I think they have also been inspired by the enthusiasm and quality of the interns.

Have you enjoyed the experience and would you do it again?

R: Absolutely, meeting so many talented individuals in a short space of time has been a really good boost for everyone in the studio but I can say that personally it’s been a real joy to take each intern and do my best to impart an understanding of what I do to help them in their careers.

D: I’d do it tomorrow if we had 5 candidates ready to go. It was that good! We are all getting back together to discuss the next steps but I’m almost certain it will happen again next year.

Any closing statements on the first ever IDL programme?

R: Why didn’t we do this sooner!

D: It’s been unprecedented to have this level and type of collaboration between agencies in Glasgow and so thanks to BIMA for enabling it, and I hope it continues not just on IDL but in the wider context. Also, massive thanks to TRC, without them it may have still happened but I don’t think to the level that it has.

And finally just really privileged to have been part of the creation and delivery of this amazing programme!

Even though the first Inspiring Digital Leaders programme has come to an end, the future looks bright! We hope there will be many more years of this incredible internship and we can't wait to see more talented individuals come through our doors. Thank you to TRC, BIMA, Dog Digital, Screenmedia, Front Page and Equator for also making this programme possible. If you want to find out more information on the IDL programme (or sign up to find our when the next round of applications could open), check out the website!