Reflections | The art of being like water

To be comfortable with being uncomfortable – this is one of the greatest accomplishments by this group of Customised Immersive students, who have ventured far and beyond their comfort zones in the past 8 weeks of UI/UX training. Find out how they uphold the mindset of resilience when navigating uncharted waters.

Our Stories
Choo Li Ying

“Be water, my friend”

Bruce Lee

Just like water which is formless, we should constantly adopt a flexible mindset, staying open to growth and change. Through the journey with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students, we have somewhat mastered the art of being like water – adapting along the way whenever opportunities arise.

The very first time I met the 7 animation students from ITE Central was in one of the staff meeting rooms. Seven pairs of eyes darted all over the room, with little idea of what lies ahead of them. Over the next 2 months, this group of final year Digital Animation students would undergo Hatch’s Customised User Interface, User Experience (UI/UX) Immersive.

Early beginnings

Everything started earlier this year when we met with Pavilion Capital, who was looking to pilot a program for young adults to develop their confidence and leadership skills through upskilling. Fast forward many months later, we started our very first Hatch Customised Immersive with ITE Central. Our goal was to supplement the student’s existing skillset in Digital Animation by equipping them with essential User Experience skills such as researching and interviewing.

From the start, the students were very quiet and reserved – probably the quietest bunch I have worked with. Naturally, they shared their hopes of improving their communication skills through this program. Since most of their animation projects revolved around individual work, the Customised Immersive was tailored to provide an opportunity for students to learn to work in teams and develop their interpersonal skills.

Customised Hatch Immersive
Creating user personas using post-its

A crucial aspect of User Experience (UX) is to conduct user interviews, of which a key characteristic is to remain neutral when asking questions. The purpose is to mitigate any forms of bias that can skew the research findings. This is a difficult skill to master even for those who have been in the industry for a long time.

The journey of growth

Needless to say, the prospect of having to talk to strangers was not met with enthusiasm. The first few interviews conducted by the students were generally rather awkward. They stumbled during awkward silences and rushed to conclude with abrupt goodbyes. Yet, they were determined to achieve the personal goals that they have set for themselves. Over time, through consistent practise, guidance and feedback from trainers and peers, everyone managed to conduct multiple interviews, with each practice better than the last. Unlike before, they were able to get the interviewees to elaborate on important pointers confidently, ask more neutral questions and navigate confidently through the silence.

Customised Hatch Immersive
Practicing interviewing with their peers

Towards the end of the program, the students worked in groups on a problem statement by MeshMinds to raise awareness about endangered animals to the online communities. Through brainstorming, interviews and testing, they devised innovative approaches to address the problems. One group created an interactive game called Pangolin in the Wild and another creating an animation video on Sperm Whales.

During Demo Day, the students had to present their problem statement in front of their teachers and potential hirers. As shared earlier, presenting wasn't something they are particularly excited about. The students put in the time and effort to perfect their slides and practice scripts. It was really heartwarming to see the students sharing tips with one another and encourage each other. I still remember that during the very first mock presentation, one of them got really nervous and started laughing during the presentation. The students immediately came together and helped each other with their practice scripts. During the subsequent mock presentation, there was a tremendous improvement and they could even maintain good eye contact.

With a little more practice, they managed to wow everyone during Demo Day, especially the MeshMinds team. I felt like a proud mama smiling and nodding while they presented to the guests. Even after Demo Day, the students were afraid to hear MeshMinds’ feedback, fearing that they may have underdelivered.

Customised Hatch Immersive

Student talking to a potential hiring company

The MeshMind team shared that they enjoyed:

“ the sensitivity the students employed in balancing humor and the seriousness of the topic, with the understanding that memes, pop culture help the message to be more appealing but also avoid the pitfall of diluting the original message.”

I met two of the students after Demo Day for their internship interview and shared about MeshMinds’ comments. I noticed that moment of pride as I caught their subtle smiles on both their faces. I hope that after hearing this, they are one step closer to building that confidence in themselves.

Besides being able to witness their growth in both their technical and personal development, I have also learned heaps about the animation industry through the program.

Did you know that there is such a role as a Colour Artist?

Colour Artists, in gaming and animation, develop color schemes in animations and design animation backgrounds. I never knew the time and effort put into creating an animation film until I got to witness the students in action firsthand. On top of that, I also learned drawing tips from the students.  Drawing on a Wacom is not as easy as you think! I’m still an amateur... but I like to believe that practice makes perfect.

A sneak peek of the start game page

I have a newfound respect and admiration for creatives who spend countless hours perfecting their craft. It’s amazing that at such a young age, they already have such fiery aspirations of pursuing their dreams to become animators. That said, they also understand that the animation industry in Singapore may not be the most dynamic. As shared in the beginning, they adopt the mindset of being like water, staying open to opportunities beyond Animation, and always keen to learn more to complement their skillsets.

Learning how to illustrate the expression for a pangolin by referencing from a fearful pangolin

Sneaking some pictures because it’s so pretty and detailed.

Guess what, this is not even the final product!

Many (myself included) often lament and wish that they were artistically inclined, but it’s easy to overlook the hard work put into honing a skill. The students told me they couldn't draw when they started as well. They constantly practiced to get to where they are today. When the process of learning gets tough, remember that when water hits an obstacle, it flows around it and creates a new path. As the saying goes, “A river cuts through a rock not because of its strength, but because of its persistence”.

Even today, these students are still learning and finding new ways to improve their art. I hope this inspires you to continue working on any old interests of yours. Don’t be discouraged when the going gets tough, we are constantly learning and becoming the best version of ourselves every day.

Currently, all of the 7 students have secured and started their internship. Despite some not doing entirely animation work, they have been making the best of the opportunity to learn and grow. After completing their attachment, they would have completed their Digital Animation journey with ITE. It has been a humbling past 8 weeks to walk alongside the students and be a part of their growth. I am supremely confident that they will progress even further in the field and am very excited to see what lies in their journey ahead.

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