On Wednesday 10th February, the Arts & Humanities Digital Skills & Creative Arts event saw four panellists gather to discuss the growing value of digital skills to the cultural and creative industries. Marcela Kopytko was one member of this panel discussion. I followed up with her after the event to discuss how her studies at King’s prepared her for her future, and to gain advice for students who aspire to join the Creative Industries.
Marcela Kopytko is a User Experience Designer and Researcher; in other words, an expert focused on interaction between real human users, like you and me, and everyday products and services. Marcela undertook King’s College London’s MA Middle East and Mediterranean studies course between 2009 and 2010.
Since graduating Marcela has held several positions inclusive of Research Executive at Research & Consulting at Repucom, Freelance Designer at Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange, Freelance User Researcher for Kantar Millward Brown and Director for From Data to Insights. Most recently Marcela has joined the start-up company Go Instore, where she works as a Senior UX Designer, driving the product development of video-powered retail and humanising the digital shopping experience.
Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions for me. Firstly, Why did you choose the MA Middle East and Mediterranean studies course? And why at King’s College?
Before joining King’s College I completed MA in International Relationships at Wroclaw University, and been offered an opportunity with the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv. It was an admin role and I found it a bit repetitive, so I thought it would be much more exciting to become a diplomat instead. But with the fierce competition and no connections in Poland, I knew I need to improve my English proficiency first before submitting diplomatic application. I thought there’s no better way to do this than doing another MA program in the UK. I knew it would be very difficult with my barely advanced level of English, but I felt that I need to give it a try. I would either swim or drawn, I thought. And so I’ve decided to study what I was genuinely interested in, Middle East and Mediterranean region. It seemed like a great idea to expand my knowledge in conflict resolution, and with my not-so-great English at that time, I was hoping I would be a little bit more familiar with the subject of this program. Soon after that I’ve discovered that two of my tutors were Irish – it took me a good month to get used to their accents 🙂 King’s College was, and still is, one of the top universities in the world. It has a great reputation, fantastic tutors, so initially that was my reason for choosing it. I absolutely loved studying at King’s. In fact three years after completing my MA I was still studying there, in Modern Language Centre, this time working on my French, Spanish and Italian.
I noted during the A&H Digital Skills & Creative Arts Panel discussion that you appear to favor working for start-up companies. Why is this? and how did the MA or your time at King’s help you prepare for these roles post-graduation?
I’ve experience working with both small start-up companies (3 to 10 people) and big corporations. What I’ve noticed is that due to a very agile character of start-up companies you have the opportunity to wear multiple hats, think outside of the box, learn to prioritise, be creative, resourceful, decide on your own what will have the most impact with the last amount of effort on the product / service you’re working on. This doesn’t happen in big companies, where things have already been defined, there’s a certain structure and much bigger constrains for your decision-making process. You’re more likely to work in the same role for a longer period of time (I’ve met people working 20 years doing the same thing!) If that doesn’t scare you, then I would say go for the big companies. But if you’re like me, want to be creative, committed to continuous learning, particularly in digital world where things are changing so fast, than start-up companies could be your perfect opportunity to do just that. Create work that you are proud of everyday. And if you’re not decided and would like to experience it for yourself first, try freelancing instead. There’s plenty of Junior freelance roles which are not only better paid than perm but also give you the first insights into company without the need to commit to a longer contract. The MA program at King’s definitely helped me to think outside of the box. It’s been a very different experience to the MA program I’ve done in Poland. I was encouraged to come up with hypothesis, different scenarios and always ask ‘why’. This is very similar to what I’m doing in my daily work at the moment.
If you could give any advice to students currently enrolled on a course at King’s, but with aspirations to join the Creative Industries, what would it be?
Experiment with different things. Do things that you love, and do them often. Be creative everyday. It may not make sense now, but the dots will connect as you move forward. Consistency is the key. Do the work everyday. And don’t listen to haters. I’ve been told many times that, e.g. I won’t ever get in to the top university in Poland (I did), in UK (I did), get an internship with the Embassy (I did). I also had doubts myself if I’ll ever use the multitude of seemingly unrelated interests like digital art, research, copywriting, psychology, and make money of it (spoiler alert, I did!) So keep going for your dreams.
Finally, name something exciting that you are currently working on or have planned for the future
I’m currently working on a dating app (hopefully you’re next favourite!). The project is in its final research discovery phase. I feel very excited and connected to this idea as I’ve personally experienced dating burnout. The goal is to design a product that will help people make great decisions in their dating life, so they can build great relationships.