Hi. My name is Mandee Thomas. I’m 27 years old, and I’m a graphic designer…or die cut designer…or some kind of designer at least. And today I am simultaneously ecstatic and super nervous. I am doing something big—something I’ve hoped to do for a long time, but never actually had the guts to pull the trigger on. But, a series of events, big and small, have led me to the decision that it’s time to go for it: it’s time to make Designs By Miss Mandee my full time job!
This news may get you excited (as I hope it does), because it will mean more of everything:
- More Freebies
- More Intricate Designs
- More Tutorials
- More Products in my Etsy Shops
- More Content All Around!
Or, you could be thinking, “I wasn’t even aware that you had another job in the first place.” Which would make a lot of sense. I’ve pretty much always kept my day job and my design blog separate, and haven’t really talked about what I do outside of this realm. So, if you’re interested, feel free to take a peek behind the curtain while I share a little bit about my story and what has led me to this point.
Springtime often represents new growth and change, and that certainly was true for me in 2014! I had just graduated from college with a BS in Psychology and a BFA in Visual Communications (a fancy term for “Graphic Design”). I was excited to trade in my part-time, campus design job for a real life, full time career!
Even though I had hopes (like every naive Graphic Design major) to work for a business to consumer company marketing amazing, universally fun products—like ice cream, or bubble gum, or needle-felted llamas—I realized pretty quickly that the likelihood of finding an ice cream-selling confectionary, that also happens to dabble in the needle-felted llama market, to work for would be pretty difficult. And even if such a place did exist, that they probably wouldn’t be looking to hire a full time graphic designer.
But, just because I wasn’t likely to land my dream design job right out of college, didn’t mean that I couldn’t still find a way to express my creativity and do the “fun” kinds of design I had hoped to do. My solution (as you can probably guess): Designs By Miss Mandee. I had no idea exactly what my goals were for this website or if anyone would ever care to visit it, but I figured I’d give it a shot.
And, as it turned out, my suspicions were correct: the first full time design job I landed out of college was in the…wait for it…the ATM industry. Yes, that’s right, the ATM industry is alive and well, and I had the privilege of being right in the thick of all the exciting financial institution action!
In the midst of all this: graduating, starting a design blog, and making a name for myself in the world of automated teller machines, I also gave birth to my first son! Becoming a mother came with a whole new set of challenges.
But, by starting Designs By Miss Mandee, I had something for myself, and I was determined to hold onto it.
2014 – Fall 2017
When it comes to small-talk, there are a few questions everyone is prepared for with a concise, and at least partially optimistic, answer. You know the kinds of questions I’m talking about:
Q: How is your family?
A: We’re doing well! Same old same old for the husband and I, and the kids are enjoying school.
Q: What have you been up to lately?
A: Not too much. But we did take a vacation to ________ recently, and that was fun!
Well, while I was employed at the aforementioned ATM company, my answer to the question “How is work going?” went like this:
Good! The subject-matter isn’t thrilling, but I really love the people I work with.
And that was the honest truth.
I went into that job thinking that I would just use it as a stepping stone, and stay there for one year or less. But, I ended up really enjoying the marketing team I was on, and found that the executives at the company actually had a really great sense of humor that we were encouraged to implement in our projects. It was nice that, even though we were a part of a less than riveting industry, we were allowed a surprising amount of creativity and autonomy as a department. I even had the opportunity to travel to Kenya on a humanitarian trip while I worked there.
The other great part about that job was that I had the best mentor I could have ever hoped for in my boss, our Marketing Director. Not only did he recognize my strengths, go to bat for me with the higher-ups all the time, give me plenty of space to grow/develop my position, and trust me to get my work done, but he also just happened to have his own side-project (like me)!
I was able to learn a lot from him in the years we worked together, and much of it helped me further realize my ambitions with Designs By Miss Mandee.
Winter 2017 – Fall 2018
Like any job, working at the ATM company wasn’t always awesome. There were times that it was frustrating, there were times that I felt stuck; but, for the most part, things were pretty great. And then the company went through a restructuring. Our marketing team got split up without any of us having a say in the matter, and we were all left pretty dejected.
My (now former) boss left the company soon after; and, one by one, so did each of my marketing team members.
Suddenly, I just didn’t enjoy work. Don’t get me wrong, I still had some good friends, but I didn’t have a team anymore. I was the last one left on the island almost one year later, and things weren’t looking up. It was time to build a boat.
I began applying for other jobs, hoping to find something closer to my house (I was commuting about 35 minutes at the time). And, one day, I happened to stumble across a graphic design opening at a company in the same city I lived in!
After interviewing and being offered the job, I decided to take it. The industry was even more dull than ATMs (believe it or not), but it was more money, and cut my commute in half.
Winter 2018 – Fall 2019
Although I would have loved to snag a job in the ice cream/confectionary/needle-felted llama market, I wasn’t too worried about doing design work in a non-fun industry. After all, I had been doing that for the past four-and-a-half years, only now I would be doing it for more money!
There was just one problem…the job wasn’t actually graphic design related at all.
Every once in a while, they’d throw me a design project, but, for the most part, I spent every day writing articles. And I’ll tell you, designing marketing materials for a very serious, not at all exciting industry is one thing—writing articles for such an industry is a whole other thing!
My new, optimistic answer to the standard question, “How is your new job going?” became:
It’s a shorter drive and more money.
But, as the months wore on, this became more than a standard answer in a small-talk situation—it was a mantra I repeated to myself every morning in order to drag myself to work.
While a great place to work for most everybody else, this job began to wear me down with each passing day. Other complications started to pile up, and I sank into a fairly constant state of depression.
During this time, I continued to keep up my side-project (this awesome website), but I found myself tapped for energy, and barely keeping up with my personal goals.
It turns out that a “reasonable commute” and “more money” wasn’t enough to compensate for everything I was going through. After working at this company for just under a year, I knew that I needed a new exit plan: one that I knew would help me feel fulfilled and truly happy. I decided that it was time to go for it and transition Designs By Miss Mandee into my full-time job (cue the angelic choral music)!
Here’s the issue, though: I’m a complete chicken.
See, I had two kids (soon to be three), and my family depended on my income. Sure, my husband had a steady job and health insurance now, but I’d started as the main “provider” in the family, and it’s not like we’d come to a point were I could just call it quits without drastically impacting our family.
So, I made one last-ditch effort to find a different job.
I was successful in this endeavor, but my excitement was short-lived. The new company/position turned out to be a disastrous mistake in every way but one: it made me realize that I have nothing to loose and everything to gain by pursuing my dreams.
And that brings me to the here and now!
Today is the Day
Today is the day I stop being a chicken! Today is when I finally do what I’ve wanted to do for more than five years. Designs By Miss Mandee has been my creative outlet, a place where I’ve developed design skills and marketing know-how I would have never developed at a traditional corporate company, and an amazing passion project for me; and now it’s time for me to take it to the next level and give it the time and attention it deserves.
A graphic design professor I had in college would often say, “The worst mistake you can make in your career is to go off on your own right away. First, you need to make all of your mistakes on someone else’s dime.”
Even though I’m sure there are still many blunders to be made in my future, hopefully (fingers crossed) I’ve put most of my rookie mistakes behind me.
At any rate, you have to take the leap sometime if you really want to achieve your dreams, right? So, here is my “leap into the dark.” It’s time to go for it!