Ravensbourne meets Elia Maniscalco

Elia Maniscalco speaking at an event prior to 2020
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Article by: Ravaé Richardson

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Our Communications Manager, Ravaé Richardson, sat down with Ravensbourne SkillsLab UXPM Programme Director Elia Maniscalco to talk all things UX/UI, creativity and inspiration. Elia teaches the Online UX/UI Design Bootcamp course at Ravensbourne Skillslab. Ravensbourne Skillslab offer online, part-time, vocational courses that take 24 weeks to complete. Students receive a PGCert qualification, subject to validation.

Elia maniscalco

So, what inspired you to enter into your career path in the first place? 
Working just for a paycheck was never an option for me; I’ve always felt the need to leave some form of a contribution to society, to leave my footprint. I started off as an industrial designer because I was fascinated by how the cold logic of industrial production was able to coexist with the values of beauty and aesthetics. I’ve realized that UX design is all about putting humans at the centre of technology instead of the opposite. That's why I just fell in love with UX design in the first place.

If you could give your 18-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be? 
I would definitely suggest holding on to one’s values, because that is what really defines us. I would say: do not compromise your values for a better salary; money comes and goes, but our values are what make us unique.

Then demand more; more knowledge, more change, more rights, and the sooner you will realise that design is not just about building fancy stuff, it’s about inspiring change. And most of all, I would suggest staying humble and appreciating feedback.

How do you imagine that the tech world will evolve in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? 
I think the world has changed a lot already. I think that technology has taken the lead driving this change. It hasn't just supplemented our work-related needs, but it has also allowed us to stay connected and spend time with people we love. I guess that technology is going to be more and more about people.

This is why it's so important to learn how to get to know the people we design for. Today, even more than yesterday, the pandemic is forcing us to reimagine the world around us and our interaction with the world. 

Elia Maniscalco speaking at an event prior to 2020

It can feel like a genuinely scary time to begin your career. What can young people do now to prepare themselves for their dream jobs?
First of all, remember to keep on breathing, that's for starters. Remember that no matter how challenging the moment is, we have everything that we need to succeed in our projects. It is crucial to keep an open mind and open eyes. Read as much as possible. It's all about staying ready so you don't have to get ready when opportunity comes. I would say most of all, try to find the fun in the process, since design is a joyful activity, and it really feeds on good, creative vibes. 

The idea that you constantly learn by doing is a fundamental philosophy at Ravensbourne SkillsLab. We guide students through the creation of a good portfolio, working on real deliverables and assets, using the latest tools, giving students an understanding of what potential employers might be looking for. It's not just about getting the technical skills, it’s also about empowering people, feeling confident and ready to take their next steps.

Has the industry been negatively affected by the coronavirus?
London's tech sector is still booming, no matter what happened in 2020. It has been booming and accelerating over the last decade. There are plenty of opportunities for the people who are planning to be the designers of tomorrow. Specifically, UX designers and managers are becoming more and more valuable. 

Every company, big and small, is looking for them, because it's all about once again reimagining the future. It’s a cross-industry phenomenon, everyone is looking for a new way of looking at the way we interact with the world and being a designer means being at the centre of the story. At the end of the day, it's no surprise that many people are deciding to change their career because it's like having the option to be a spectator or the main protagonist of the story. 

SkillsUnion workshop prior to the pandemic

Have you ever had any times in your career where you were feeling quite demotivated? What advice would you give students right now who are finding it difficult to feel creative?
I would say get in contact with other creative people. I mean, that is the magic for me. When I moved to London from Italy – in the beginning, I was totally out of the creative environment. It was very difficult for me because I was working jobs just to survive, and there was nothing creative about that. What really helped me was getting in contact with creative people like me, who shared the same vision and values. I understand that would be more complicated today, but there are plenty of forums and websites that can put you in contact with the creative industry.

I think that networking, now more than ever, is the key to success. To be inspired, to have someone that you can relate to and learn from. People who might be a bit more experienced than you. A crucial aspect of Ravensbourne SkillsLab’s philosophy is about building that network. We strive from day one of every new course to build a safe space for people to express their opinions and point of view.

Which books, films, or podcasts have helped you throughout lockdown?
I'm a big podcast fan and I have to say that I've really enjoyed listening to the Spotify design podcast, ‘Past lives’ It’s so cool because it really gives you a perspective on how exciting it can be to change your career. In terms of books, I really discovered a goldmine for design and workshop planning. The title is Design Doing, and it's like a collection of tools that you can adopt and use in your design workshops. 

You can find out more about Ravensbourne Skillslab on the dedicated website. Ravensbourne students and alumni enjoy a £900 scholarship, with a £450 scholarship available for women and gender minorities. You can access the eligibility criteria for the gender diversity scholarship on the website.