Conquering a Career Change

Julia Chang took charge of her career goals and worked her way to a global success story

Career change is never easy. It takes education and training, work, a belief in self and—sometimes—just a spark of confidence.

Julia Chang had that kindling moment while working at a retail store in a marketing position. She saw a window display, and thought, “That doesn’t speak to me.” The space between that flicker of an idea and today has been filled with a lot of hard work, both in the classroom and in the office. Still, Julia doesn’t regret her new path in life. “Interior design is a very rewarding career,” she shares. “In the beginning, 99 percent is grunt work, but it’s through that work that you're exposed to the various stages of a design project.”

Global Experience 

When Julia first talked to us about her experience in the Certificate Program in Interior Design and Interior Architecture in 2012, one of her goals was to “travel for work in the commercial field.”

Seven years later, it’s clear that she has accomplished that milestone and more. Her career path is more like a globe trot. After completing her certificate studies, she landed an internship with architectural powerhouse Gensler, and then moved on to a job at boutique architecture firm Polytech Associates and then a job opportunity in Taiwan.

It was in Taiwan that Julia’s career really kicked off. “From designing Taipei 101 Observatory to corporate headquarters for tech companies, I was lucky to experience a lot of different types of commercial interior design projects while working in Asia.”

Human-Centered Design 

After getting married, Julie moved back to San Francisco where she concentrated on environments design at Tesser and Starbucks. She continues to grow and evolve in her career; a favorite recent job was working at IDEO Tokyo as a contract environments designer.

Julia Chang portfolio photo of Arcadyon HQ
Julia Chang portfolio photo of Arcadyon HQ

“The experience was unique because the team is composed of design specialists from different fields—from interactive design to research design. Everyone brings their specialties to help create a human-centered spatial experience for Google Japan. I learned so much from my team members and what human focused-design approach is all about.”

That focus on giving the customer what they want remains a core function of Julia’s design philosophy. While times and trends change, Julia knows the one constant is the people who get to live and work with her designs.

“I always adhere to studying and understanding end users first before I begin my design process,” she asserts. “They often spark new inspirations and help shape the direction of the design.”

Getting Started In Design 

Understanding what the customer wants is one thing, but a designer also needs to have the tools and experience to guide the design. Julia picked up the first examples of that in our Certificate Program in Interior Design and Interior Architecture.

She had been researching architecture schools when she came across the program. For Julia, it just clicked.

“It was perfect because I was looking for a program that was taught by industry experts so I could learn more practical knowledge and skills,” she says. The instructors were always there for knowledge and inspiration. One of Julia’s favorite memories is getting sketching advice from Jennifer Mahoney in Design Communication II. “She encouraged me to sketch more often and provided great feedback. Now I sketch regularly to convey design ideas to clients and contractors.”

A Professional Portfolio 

See more of Julia's work on her website, Environmental Design.

By now, Julia is well settled in her career, with an impressive list of jobs spanning several continents. She’s now an independent contractor, focusing on retail and environments design. On the side, she runs Juju Sprinkles, a site focused on design ideas ranging from food to party ideas. She encourages those interested in a career in interior architecture and design to give the certificate program a try.

“Whether you are seeking residential or commercial design, the program is flexible so you can select courses that match your interest.”

Take your first steps into a new design career with the Certificate Program in Interior Design and Interior Architecture.