Stories
March 2, 2022

🍨The Inside Scoop — Olivia Wheeler

🍨The Inside Scoop — Olivia Wheeler

I had the pleasure to chat with Olivia Wheeler about her story and experiences as a mentor. I hope that this article will inspire you to reach out to Olivia or any other ADPList mentor!

What’s your favorite emoji? 🤪

What’s your favorite book? The Bible

What TV show are you currently watching? Abbott Elementary

What was a pandemic hobby that you picked up? Gardening 🌱

Hi Olivia, can you share a little bit about yourself?

I always knew I wanted to be a designer as a kid. I was really into arts and crafts. Then moving into high school, I wanted to make money with my art. I heard of graphic design as a career option, and when I entered college, I knew right away what I wanted my major to be. In college, I did a lot of freelancing and applied to jobs on Craigslist. I was doing various types of jobs and was working on campus as a designer in different departments. When I graduated, I worked for various in-house marketing teams and a small agency. My most recent job included working at a startup called Everlaw. I led the marketing design and product design team for a little over three years. From that point, I needed a more flexible schedule, because I was starting a family. I told myself that I can start my own company. I really want to work with companies that are super purpose-driven and help the world. So I founded my creative agency, Acton Circle, and that’s what I do now.

Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own design agency regarding finding clients?

Yes, definitely reach out to your network. Find companies that you would like to work with and that fit your ideal customer persona and then email those people. Just start a conversation and remember that you don’t need to sell to people on your first email. It’s really about building a relationship with someone.

What kind of mentorship do you wish to provide and why?

I want to be approachable, welcoming, and especially to people just starting out. They might be afraid to reach out for help to someone who may be further along in their journey. So I always want to make myself approachable. People can ask me whatever, and I’ll provide the best answers that I can. I try to share a lot of the things that I’ve learned along the way with other people so that they can learn from them and not make the same mistakes or make more informed choices about their own design careers.

What’s a mistake that you made in your career?

I don’t want to call it a mistake, but maybe an improper mindset. Feeling like an agency designer is better than an in-house designer, or a designer that works at Facebook or Instagram is better than a designer that works in-house at a company you’ve never heard of. With that kind of mindset, you get stuck and you’ll feel like you’re not good enough, but I found that everyone has their own unique journey. Not everybody can or should work at Instagram or Facebook because everyone has a different sort of purpose for their life. So it’s okay to be where you’re at and to accept that. Also, you don’t have to compare your skill to anyone else’s. You can use that to push yourself to improve, but you don’t have to look at yourself as less.

What are the three most common questions you get as a mentor, and how do you usually answer them?

  1. “I just graduated and I’m trying to get a job. Can you look at my resume and portfolio?” So I review their portfolio and resume. I first ask what type of job do you want to go after and if they have the job description. Then, we can customize the resume and portfolio to match exactly what the job description is looking for.
  2. “Can you help me with mock interviews?” I will, again, find out what the job description is that they want to apply for and then I’ll just pretend I’m the employer. I’ll go through different sets of questions. Sometimes things will come up and the designer will be like: “Oh, I never thought of that”. I’ve actually had someone do a mock interview with me. I asked a strengths and weaknesses question and how they would approach that. Then, that came up in their interview, and they’re felt more confident because we talked about that.
  3. “How do I transition from a completely different field into design?” The way that I approach that is to figure out why they want to get into design in the first place. Then, talk about how you can get more work samples, how to build a portfolio, how to customize the resume and any other specific questions they have.

What’s your number one advice regarding portfolios?

If you’re applying for a user experience designer role, make sure you have the different skills that you say you have. For example, if you put wireframing on your resume, make sure that your portfolio demonstrates that skill. Make sure that your portfolio matches the role that you wish to pursue. Focus on telling one cohesive story.

If there is one thing you could tell every single mentee you meet, what would that one piece of advice be?

Proofread your portfolio. Attention to detail will set you apart from a lot of people. Can I read through your portfolio and not get caught up in a small grammatical error or typo. It shows that maybe you’re a little bit careless. How would you treat projects at a business that you want to work for?

What are your thoughts on the format of a design portfolio?

It’s good nowadays to have a website. But if you have a killer PDF, that’s cool too. As long as you show how you got to the design solution. I don’t want to see just the final product. I want to know what you think.

Could you maybe talk more about your design studio, Acton Circle?

Acton Circle is my design studio. We serve purpose-driven organizations and nonprofits. We help them amplify their mission and tell their story through design. The various areas we specialize in are marketing collateral, presentations, infographics, web design. We really set out to fill the gap where companies are in their early stages and don’t have the resources to hire a full-time designer.

What do you mean by purpose-driven organizations?

Businesses that are set out to make more than revenue. It’s not just about revenue to them, but it’s how are they impacting the world in a positive way. It could be providing an app that helps people with mental health or providing programs to underserved youth. Or, creating a more sustainable product to decrease the waste in the world.

Any advice for students to make the most out of their college?

Get plugged in with other students in your major and do projects together. I just remember the connectedness of my classes and also studying with people outside of class. Even after we graduated, those are the same people that would support me on LinkedIn. Just keep in touch with them and see where their design careers are going. Because you never know if maybe they’ll refer you to a job at their own place that they’re working at. It’s all about who you know.

If you want to learn more from Olivia, feel free to book a call with Olivia on ADPList.

Thanks for reading this article!