Switching industries is never easy, but going from finance to interior design is a particularly big leap. But CPE alumna Jessica Stephans made it happen. She opened up about how our Interior Design certificate set her up with the skills to pursue the creative career of her dreams.
Jessica Stephans recently started as a lead designer at Christian Siriano's firm Siriano Interiors.
What attracted you to the Interior Design program at Parsons?
I wanted to complete my interior design program at Parsons because it is a reputable school. I had a career in finance since I graduated from college and while I was proud of my resume and career history, I knew I needed strong credentials from a design school to make the career shift since I had not had any formal training or design education previously. When I researched the program and the available classes I knew it would be the right fit.
Why do you think it was well-suited for someone new to the Interior Design industry?
This program sets the foundation for those looking to get into interior design, particularly if you're coming from a different industry and did not go to design school. While likely everyone going into the program has an eye for design, the foundational classes truly set you up for success.
Inn of Chagrin Falls, one of Jessica's projects for Siriano Interiors. Photos by Tim Lenz.
What were some of your most memorable lessons and/or courses?
My Residential Interior Design class was most memorable because of the wonderful professor who is an interior designer. She shared with the class many real-life stories of running a business. Her stories helped me get a real feeling for being an interior designer.
How did the skills you learned help you start your new career?
Learning the textbook basics of interior design in the program helped me more than I thought it would. Concepts such as scale, for example. My Color Theory class also really surprised me and literally opened up my eyes to see color in a new way. Coming from a finance career where I felt my creativity had been suppressed, or at least unexpressed, I was astonished by how my mind and eyes expanded while taking these courses. On a more technical level, AutoCAD is very important if you're going to work at a design firm.
When did you start at Siriano Interiors? Do you use any of the knowledge you learned through the certificate in your day-to-day work?
I started at Siriano Interiors a few months ago and I'm enjoying it so much. I love having a creative career and I've never once looked back. I'm thankful for all of my experiences. Both my business background and my design education have helped me in my current role as lead designer.
How soon after you completed the Interior Design Certificate did you find a job in the Interior Design industry?
I completed the program while working full-time in my previous finance career. During that time, I (somehow!) was also able to complete a mini-internship with a local designer where I designed a pool house and pool patio in the suburbs outside of Manhattan. This helped me add a little something design-related to my resume in addition to my certificate. Just before completing the program, I wrote a long email about myself, my career history, why I wanted to switch careers and why someone should hire me. I researched all the top design firms in my area, sent the email to all of them and then connected with a wonderful designer, Martha Vicas, who made a similar career change earlier in her career. She liked my design work, my skillset and my ambition and she hired me. I'm forever grateful. Making this career change wasn't an easy decision but I was thoughtful, strategic, and committed and it happened. I'm so happy.
Registration for our Fall Interior Design courses starts July 6. Browse all courses.