Name: Ven Lai
Job Title and Description: Lead Creative Designer, Buick Color and Trim
College/Major: Academy of Art University, BFA Fashion Design & Applied Textiles
Her Campus: What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Ven Lai: I design color and materials for Buick vehicles — both interior and exterior. We do not have typical days in design and the day’s agenda are determined by what programs and immediate projects need the most attention. On any given day, I review strategies with our design teams to develop the stories and moods we want to create for the vehicles, meet with suppliers to finalize designs and prototypes, or evaluate samples with engineers to ensure our designs meet the rigorous tests needed for our cars.
HC: What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
VL: I always think so fondly of my design internship at Gap Inc as my first taste of working in the design industry. I submitted a collection designed for Gap Inc, along with my third-year portfolio-in-progress, and after a few interviews, I was offered an internship. It was such a good opportunity to have worked closely with designers in a professional and team-oriented environment, and I carry that experience with me from fashion to automotive.
HC: What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
VL: I started at GM not knowing very much about cars or the automotive industry and I’ve come to learn that’s okay. There are so many talented designers from a variety of backgrounds and industries, and these different perspectives allow us to each bring something different to our brands and products. I wish I knew earlier to have more patience with myself.
HC: Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
VL: My boss likes to remind me to find a good life and work balance. It’s easy to get caught up in work and let it take over your days, and even weekends if you allow it.
HC: What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
VL: There have been many times when I’ve felt I needed to know the answer to all questions or issues right at that exact moment. I’ve learned to say, “I don’t know the answer but I can check and get back to you.” That saves a lot of time of correcting myself.
HC: What is the best part of your job?
VL: The best part about my job is seeing a car, in all its bits and pieces, after years working on it. Seeing the final product is always the best part. Examples of a couple of vehicles I’ve worked on most recently are the 2012 Buick Verano (pictured) and the 2013 Buick Enclave.
HC: What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
VL: We look for designers who are able to articulate and visualize their ideas in a really clear and concise manner so that it’s understandable and relatable. We really value designers who are not only skilled in their area of study/ background, but are also flexible and willing to continue learning from others and looking at ways to improve their own work.
HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
VL: Work hard at your studies; the extra hours in labs and drawing sessions will pay off in the end. Take advantage of any project, whether you’re selected for a job opportunity or get the chance to practice interview skills. And ask lots of questions!