We profiled Cap Watkins, VP Design of BuzzFeed and talked about the struggles of being a recent graduate, existential crises and how he went from working at a coffee shop to where he is today.
The Struggle is Real
How many times have you caught yourself getting lost in a sea of BuzzFeed videos?
You start off with a tamed “Food facts you won’t believe are true” and 40 beautifully procrastinated minutes later...
You end up here:
Wait, let’s back up.
Cap went to College for creative writing: fiction, poetry, literary analysis.
After graduation, he found it tough to get a job.
We could *Insert joke about it being hard to get employment as an arts major* or use his own words, “Turns out it’s hard to get a job as a creative writing major”.
- The good news was, he got accepted into grad school in New York.
- The bad news was, he couldn’t afford it.
Annnnd, queue a year long existential crisis.
So, for a year he worked in a coffee shop in Louisiana (Do you think they let him hang his degree over the espresso machine?).
Since he was 15, Cap learned how to write HTML using photoshop and making websites (productive... unlike our hobby of collecting stamps).
Fun fact; he used those skills in college to build a blog, so he wouldn’t have to call his parents as much. Instead they'd read his blog.
This came in handy when a couple of his friends from LA who had their own startup needed a company website and he'd work with them.
Pack your bags, we're going to California
After they secured funding it was time to hire a full-time designer, so they asked Cap. It went a little something like this:
They asked and he said yes.
Cap packed his stuff.
“That’s when I realized I could get a job doing this hobby that I really liked. Before that I didn’t know that you could get a full time job doing web design.”
That was a company called PMOG, a Firefox extension game.
"Worked there for a while, then I freelanced for a bit in San Francisco, got a gig with a company called Zoosk, it ended up as an internet dating up but when I first got there they were experimenting with a ton of different apps.”
The founders were ex-microsoft employees.
Turning to Craigslist
“I did my first user session by going on Craigslist and giving out $20 iTunes gift cards to people who would come in. In retrospect it’s super dangerous, but it all worked out, everyone’s fine haha. That experience was super formative and eye opening, I worked there for a number of years.”
“Moved on to work at a company called Formspring, which was super hot for about 12 minutes on the internet, before Tumblr pretty much built Formspring as a feature and completely nuked us.”
A social Q&A app, where you’d ask friends questions about themselves.
It hit millions of users very quickly, then slowwwwly deteriorated and they started looking for acquisition.
E.g. “What’s your favourite movie?”
"So I left, and worked at Amazon, for a year and a half, was a UX designer on their R&D Team. Met some really great designers, but I wasn’t ready for the big company political structure I think."
"After that I left Amazon and moved to Brooklyn and worked at Etsy, as a design manager. That was super magical. I learned a lot about managing people, not just design."
"And now I work at BuzzFeed! I’ve been there 2 years, we’ve grown the team a little bit. We’ve instilled a lot of design principles and processes into the way we work."
If Cap was a student in 2017,
He'd be learning how to code.
"If I could go back, I would teach myself to code something that works by myself. Design is powerful but it doesn't mean anything unless you're able to bring it to the real world. I know designers who are strong coders, and they are heads and tails above designers who can’t code. They can have an idea on the weekend, and make it happen, they have a lot more freedom, a lot more knowledge and could make it happen."
For all of you who are still "unsure" of what to do in life, don't worry; everyone goes through that stage. You could spend years trying to find the right career...or you can save time, go to Legacy and discover your passion.
Just take Cap's word for it. Meet and greet Cap at The Legacy Conference. But before that, don't forget to grab your tickets.
Don't wait 'til the last minute. Seriously, stop procrastinating.