How do you move into service design without a background in service design? Fortunately, it’s not as much of a Catch-22 as it sounds. In this post we’d like to share the story of one Service Designer who carved out her own career path by leveraging the right skills along the way. Now a specialist in global migrations and social justice, she sees great potential for the benefits of service design to continue paying off no matter what turn her career takes. 

An interview with Harriet de Wet, Service Designer at Tesco Bank, Glasgow, United Kingdom

Product design to service design

“My degree in product design was very heavily geared towards service design which is what really piqued my interest in the profession. I had never heard of service design before I began my degree, and I must admit that my understanding of it had a lot of gaps. I think what really got me interested was the social aspect—designing for people, not just for profit or ‘sexy’ design. Real needs, essentially. 

After I graduated I did an internship with a small UX agency, Bemo, in Edinburgh that specialised in app development. I came in as only 1 of 2 designers in a sea of developers, and only 1 of 2 women that the agency had ever hired. The work was commercial, working primarily with startups who needed our agency to do the app design and development. My role here was mainly UX/UI, but there was a fair bit of user research involved and I learned a lot. 

I then moved on to my first proper service design role at an agency called Snook in Glasgow, who worked primarily within the third and public sector. It was here that I really began to shape the service designer I have become and it was both challenging and interesting to get the opportunity to work with such a diverse range of clients. I would work with multiple clients at the same time. An example of the range of clients is everything from the National Health Service, the Scottish Government, NGOs such as Welthunger Hilfe and Oxfam, various councils in Scotland and the UK, universities, among many more. In this role I also frequently ran service and design thinking workshops and events, as well as would pretty much single handedly plan, design, fundraise, and run the Glasgow legs of 2 annual hackathons—the Glasgow Service Jam and the Glasgow Cyclehack. 

Service design and social justice

I then decided that I wanted to pursue a Master’s degree in a subject area that I have always been very passionate about, so I completed an MSc in Global Migrations and Social Justice at the University of Glasgow between 2018-2019. This is ideally the subject area I would want my career to turn to at some point. I have always felt that design thinking/service design is well matched within the international relations/development sector; however, it is proving a challenge to find organisations within the development field that see the benefit of service design, I think because it is still a very new profession. I think many employers outside of the creative industries still view ‘designer’ from a stereotyped, traditional viewpoint of—for example, graphic or product design.  

Service design in the corporate world

So in the meantime I am working in a service design role at Tesco Bank in Glasgow, mainly working to improve outcomes for the banks vulnerable customers, e.g. debt management and designing their products to be more sympathetic and flexible to individual customer needs. It’s definitely a challenge for me working within such a huge organisation and working within an extremely corporate environment, however I am taking it as a welcome opportunity to diversify my knowledge and understanding of a more commercial industry, as well as the world of financial design and fintech. 

As far as where I thought I would be during my first degree and where I am now, I think I originally thought I would be working in the commercial ‘flashy’ world of corporate design. After my internship, however, I knew that that was absolutely not at all where my interests lay and is what encouraged me to work for the likes of Snook and to pursue the Masters in migration. I am now back to working in corporate design, and to be honest, I’m just taking it in stride. There are good things about the work I do at Tesco and it’s actually a lot more human-centred than I ever expected it to be, although working in a hierarchical organisation across departments that are still very much separate is probably what I find the most challenging. 

Climb the ladder—or build a bridge

I think very often we view our careers as being tactical and that you should be working in roles that will strategically help you to climb some kind of ladder, but very honestly I think most people, myself included, accept roles because there aren’t as many options. I think this is particularly true when you’re someone like myself who is trying to merge two quite traditionally different lines of work—design and development. I’m definitely not bitter or anything, though! I’m very grateful for the job I have and the work I get to do! I’m sure I will be able to find my way to something more in line with my own ethics and interests in time.”


Want to kick start your career in Service Design. Explore our full-time course that comes with a Job Guarantee (T&Cs apply).

Author: Saga Briggs. Saga Briggs is a journalist covering trends in learning, creativity, intelligence, and educational technology. Follow her @SagaMilena 



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