There is one word that keeps springing to mind when I meet the calm, confident twenty-five year old man that is Peter and listen to his story about his transition into his career: determination. Peter is currently working at Dolphin Products, in the role of Design Drafter, doing Industrial Design and his passion for his job is infectious.
A country boy from Kyabram, Peter says that in school he never knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“Nobody knows exactly what they want to do. You’re in Year 10 when you have to pick your subjects! … I grew up in the country. We don’t have the same facilities or the same jobs available. In year 10, you’re not even looking at becoming a designer because there are so few designer opportunities around …”
Peter says he still knew that what he wanted to do “was in the design area. So I just did every subject related to design – Art, Studio Arts, Multimedia, Graphics. It gives you a chance to use your mind, but be hands-on.”
Then, Peter chose his Industrial Design course at Swinburne “based on whatever covered a little bit of everything that I’d done … I knew from that [degree], if I wanted to change, I could and it would give me an insight into what else is out there.
“I moved [out of home] straight after school at 18. I stayed on campus at Hawthorn. Going from the country to the city is a big change straight away. It’s difficult when you lose your close support, your family … It also gives you the chance to grow up quicker, to be independent, to learn how to look after yourself. You know your Mum’s not going to feed you!”
Peter’s independent thinking shone through most clearly in his efforts to gain his role at Dolphin Products, a role that certainly didn’t fall into his lap. His perseverance is an inspiring story of hope for other young people trying to break into the working world, an increasingly tricky business.
“It’s challenging in every field… I remember thinking, just because I study industrial design, doesn’t mean that I can’t do similar things and work my way into industrial design… sometimes going off topic can help you get back to the topic.
“Of course, face to face interaction is always important – it builds your communication skills,” Peter says.
“Every time you have an interview, there is always something to learn. If one type of area isn’t working, try somewhere else.”
After going through about six job application processes with big corporations where it was necessary to sit exams, Peter says he learned what they were looking for.
“I started looking at my resumé and [thinking], since finishing uni I’m starting to get a gap where there’s not a lot happening.
“So, I went back and did three short courses in 3D CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) programs. I noticed, when applying for jobs, that the software I was working on at uni wasn’t necessarily what they were looking for. I thought, I could add this extra skill while in the process of still looking [for jobs].”
Peter suggests that “further education is the easiest way [to build your resumé] but obviously getting relevant experience is good. Get something relevant on there.”
His advice to job-seekers is not to be discouraged by setbacks.
“The hardest part is not necessarily doing the work, but getting a foot in the door. Every young person has that challenge. After I graduated it was a year and a half before I got my job here at Dolphin Products, which is my first industrial design position.
“A year and a half is a long time! I was constantly applying for jobs, and obviously after so long you realise it’s not working and you need to do something different.”
Peter then adopted an interesting approach by thinking outside the box, to present himself in a way that would ensure he stood out from the pack.
“I thought, ok, I’m a design student. How do I advertise to everybody that … I’ve got skills, rather than just saying it on paper?
“So, I produced my own business cards, I produced my own website with all my projects on it. Instead of just bringing in a generic resumé, I went for a more artistic one which had graphs, icons and a lot more images, rather than words. More colour, something that would be different to somebody else’s,” Peter describes.
“Then, after [about] a year in I decided sending emails wasn’t good enough.
“So that’s when I started walking around, going to places … and that’s how I managed to get a job here.
“I saw a sign out the front that said innovation and 3D printing and I thought, I think that’s what I want to do!
“It’s amazing… once you get in somewhere, it gives you the chance to then help out other younger people in the same position as you. You can say, it worked for me, why don’t you try doing this for you?”
Now that he has secured the role, Peter says he loves the work he does.
“My job is to come up with new product ideas for Waterdale, a new commercial brand sold under Dolphin Products.
“I’m here to spark an idea, to think about things differently, to innovate new designs and to give them something new to sell as their brand.
“I am the only product designer here at the current time which gives me a lot of open range … I get to do research, sketching, model-making, 3D printing and testing and from that stage I move away from industrial design to graphic design… It’s a very diverse position, I’m not just doing the one thing all the time, it’s always something different,” Peter says.
As he proudly describes the work and the products he designs, it is evident that Peter is in his element.
“The environment is nice in a way that someone is not constantly… watching every little thing that I do. It gives me freedom to explore and I don’t feel constant pressure. This then supports me to be self-motivated and gives me the freedom of always doing something different. I’m not just stuck on the computer, I get to build, print and test prototypes, and get to be involved in the manufacturing process… from start to finish.
“It’s a big learning curve … I have made mistakes. I had the chance to work on some tool design, just to get my brain thinking about how the parts are actually made, rather than thinking in open space and then six months into the project realising we can’t make it,” says Peter.
“Through that … I’ve made mistakes that the toolmakers have then had to fix. So it’s a good wake up call… about how important designing something correctly is, in speeding up the timeline of a project.”
Peter’s hard work in his role at Dolphin Products is evidently paying off with his achievement of runner-up for the 2016 Young Business Achiever Award from the Banyule City Council and Northern Business Achiever Awards.
The managing director of Dolphin Products credited Peter with the creation of “a fantastic range of new, innovative products for our home and office line.” He commended Peter’s “artistic flare and talent for product design,” as well as his ability to take on challenges.
Being a designer appears to be an inherent part of Peter’s identity as he unconsciously finds himself problem-solving in daily life.
“As a designer, there is always things ticking over in your mind – you go shopping and you see things and you go, why is that like that? … I’ll see a product with a problem and I know how to fix it.
“I think one of my skills is being able to predict … how someone is going to use something. I notice problems that other people don’t notice … in design, where I can fix problems, it’s perfect.”
Peter is still aiming high and his determination will undoubtedly see him accomplish exciting new things in the future.
“I think any product designer wants to see a product they’ve designed on the shelf, with customers actually happy with that product! I want to achieve something that others think is amazing or special, it’s about chasing the dream of your idea being what people want.”
Peter is very grateful for all the advice, support and time provided by his “family, friends, colleague, lectures, class mates and [his] wife”, as he says they have helped him to achieve all that he has and will achieve.
“I believe it is important to thank people who help you get to where you are, and to strive to return the favour”.
Words: Annabelle Pendlebury
Photo: Sean Porter