Success Stories

For our alumni, a Harrington College education is just the beginning. Read the stories of a selection of graduates of our interior design, photography and graphic design programs to find out where their career paths are taking them – and how they got there.

Rebecca Otto

BFA Interior Design, December 2005
Company Name:: Plank Interiors
Job title:: Interior Designer, Principal

How did you get this job?
After several years at Gettys doing hospitality design, I was laid off when the economy took its turn. As a result, a friend/co-worker and I started our own interior design firm. We focus on residential, commercial and hospitality design.

What do you do?
As small business owners, we do everything. We chase down new business, meet with clients and contractors, write proposals, do AutoCAD, make selections, meet with vendors, do paperwork, go to the Mart, move furniture and attend networking events. You name it. We do a little of everything and whatever it takes to get the job done.

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington:
Get an industry-related internship or job while still in school. It makes the classes and material covered more relevant. And be prepared to start working in an entry-level position performing tasks that are not necessarily glamorous. That’s how you learn the business.

Recorded April 20, 2011

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Annie Houston

AAS Interior Design, August 2009
Company Name:: Ebanista
Job title:: Showroom and Territory Manager

How did you get this job?
I worked as a design intern and then design assistant for Frank Ponterio Interior Design. That firm sourced Ebanista a lot, and I developed a great relationship with the showroom. I have a sales background and was looking to apply my sales experience with my passion for fine furnishing and design. I was recruited by Ebanista last summer and joined their team in Chicago as a sales associate. I was then promoted to Territory Manger in October 2010.

What do you do?
Showroom Manager and Manage a territory of 11 states

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington:
NEVER GIVE UP! I'm a firm believer that if you work hard good things will happen and the right opportunities will present themselves. I had to work at Restoration Hardware for three months before my break at Frank Ponterio, which lead to my dream job now. Staying positive is key!

Recorded March 1, 2011

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Julie Logan

BFA Interior Design, December 2009
Company Name:: Eckroth Planning Group, Inc.
Job title:: Healthcare Design Programming / Planning Consultant

How did you get this job?
Cold Call

What do you do?
Healthcare Design Programming / Planning

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington:

  1. Do not wait for jobs to be posted.
  2. Send cold letters/calls/emails to hundreds of companies. Try to find someone who might relate to you – a prior Harrington grad, same gender, the head of the department you want to work in, etc. Find their direct email, address & phone – you can – it is all on the Internet.
  3. Personalize each and every letter, follow-up, thank you, etc.
  4. Follow-up after two weeks, four weeks, then monthly.
  5. Attend networking events.
  6. Stay in touch with Harrington.
  7. Continue learning. I was LEED Green almost immediately after graduation and before I was employed.
  8. Stay humble.
  9. Keep smiling.
  10. Keep healthy & work out.
  11. Go on any interview you are asked to, at least for the interview experience.
  12. Do not be surprised if good firms have bad websites, as a lot of their business may come from word of mouth and not marketing.
  13. Stay honest.
  14. Ensure your portfolio is perfect, but do not wait to do any of the above even if your portfolio is not perfect yet.
  15. Create your own website.
  16. Look in the mirror in your interview clothes. Would you hire you if you were 10+ years older than yourself? No? Then change whatever needs to change because 23-year-olds are not hiring, but 30+ to 50+ year-olds might be hiring.
  17. Get your hair cut, reduce the makeup, cover the tattoos, lower the heels. Do not change who you are, just be smart enough to know what is and is not acceptable in an interview.

Recorded March 2, 2011

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Christopher Gerke

BFA Communication Design, AAS Digital Photography, April 2010
Company Name:: Creative Go- Round
Job title:: Executive Director

How did you get this job?
I started this nonprofit while I was still a junior in college at Harrington.

What do you do?
As Executive Director, I run the day-to-day operations of the company as well as managing all the designers and the grant and donation intake for the company.

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington:
If you are not qualified for a job, and you want it, GO FOR IT. The worst thing that could happen is you don't get the job; then you are right back where you started.

Recorded March 3, 2011 —
This graduate story is unique and may not represent typical experiences or outcomes for our graduates. Graduates should expect to pursue entry-level opportunities in their chosen fields. Examples of such entry-level opportunities are listed in the Harrington Career Guide.

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Linda Bergonia

AAS Digital Photography, May 2010
Company Name:: Bergonia Photography
Job title:: Principal

How did you get this job?
I wanted to pursue Chicago food photography after graduation. I met a number of chefs from a project I did at the Chicago Gourmet food festival (on a press pass) during my photojournalism class. I have pursued those contacts in an attempt to access the food industry from a slightly different tack. Thus far I have shot for a number of Chicago chefs as well as for commercial clients that I met through these contacts. I network quite a bit -and send out slideshows of recent work to potential clients. I worked with a social-media company and re-did my website to include a blog, and I try to Twitter and Facebook often (probably not often enough).

What do you do?
As of late, I am adding HDSLR video to my workflow and am currently shooting my first still/video commercial shoot. I am also doing a bit of demonstration/doc/storytelling -- and shooting a promotional piece as I pursue my first cookbook assignment. (Wish me luck!). I feel that the combination of still and video will serve me well in an industry that is moving more and more into Web applications. I hope to develop a niche that will take me farther afield than just Chicago.

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington:
As I am just starting out, I don't know that I am qualified to really give advice at this point -- but in my portfolio class, one statement (from a fellow student) seems to have stuck with me. I was presenting some of my work with chefs and lamenting a bit that I wasn't sure how I could really make a career financially feasible pursuing this avenue -- as chefs in general have great food, but not much in terms of a budget for photography. A buddy in the class said to me that it was obvious that I loved what I was doing, and that I could figure out how to make it work. I think that it is true. Perhaps I may have to balance it out with other jobs to make the numbers work, but if you truly love what you do, give it all you've got, and you can figure out the angle to make it work. Passion, joy -- and commitment to doing the job right -- will shine through. Clients will recognize it.

Recorded March 11, 2011 —
This graduate story is unique and may not represent typical experiences or outcomes for our graduates. Graduates should expect to pursue entry-level opportunities in their chosen fields. Examples of such entry-level opportunities are listed in the Harrington Career Guide.

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Lawrence Lau

AAS Digital Photography, April 2009
Company Name:: Lawrence Lau Photography
Job title:: Owner

How did you get this job?
Last year, I decided to go into business completely for myself actually when I got a promotion at my other job. What I had originally thought to be detrimental to the photography side of things was actually a blessing in disguise. With the increased hours, I knew I had to make better use of my time on the photography side of things and actually get jobs that counted considering I had less time available for assisting. I began doing more tests with the agencies to build up my portfolio and also diversified my portfolio to attract more corporate/advertising clients. I also recently self-taught myself how to shoot and edit video, resulting in picking up Red Bull USA as one of my first video clients.

What do you do?
I have expanded my business to include not just shooting photographs but also shooting video. I focus on fashion, beauty, editorial, lifestyle, and portraiture. I used to assist quite regularly for some commercial photographers in the city and out-of-town photographers when they were in town, but not so much anymore.

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington:
My biggest advice to any further job seekers and students at Harrington would be to have some sort of idea of what field of photography you would like to pursue and start gearing all your homework assignments toward that goal. On top of that, start looking for assisting jobs or internships immediately while still in school. Professional photographers always need a hand no matter what job they are working on. Get that hands-on experience even if you have to do some manual labor and menial tasks for them just so you can see their workflow. I started assisting my second semester into school, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Recorded March 2, 2011

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Elizabeth Greve

AAS Digital Photography, December 2009
Company Name:: Elizabeth Greve Photography
Job title:: Wedding and Portrait Photographer

How did you get this job?
It wasn't until I took the wedding photography elective at Harrington that I knew what I wanted to do. In that class I was able to venture outside the 'studio' and really capture candid moments (one of the main things I strive to capture within each shoot). I began freelancing my last year at Harrington. I began to venture out a little more and through referrals, I've created a very successful wedding photography business. I shoot from two to five weddings each month, and it only continues to increase. I originally searched and tried to work under other photographers in the business, but the word got out and before I knew it, I was too busy to work for anyone else. :) This in itself was a learning experience.

Each shoot, I get better and continue to do so. I research to get ideas from veterans in the business and work off of those ideas and creative techniques to improve my own. I knew I could be my best teacher at the point I went off on my own. I know what I want to shoot and how I want to and therefore, working for myself has only brought me positive feedback. I love what I do and never have I regretted the path I've chosen.

What do you do?
I am a freelance wedding and portrait photographer. I own my business and work solo as of right now. In a few years, if my business continues to grow, there could be a chance and/or even need to hire assistants.

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington: DO WHAT YOU LOVE - No matter what! It's as simple as that. No excuses. It took many years, a few colleges and a lot of hard work, but I finally do something I love and don't consider 'WORK'. I get to photograph people on what many consider the happiest day of their lives. I create my own schedules and make it known that I love what I do by how I shoot and interact with people. I never change my personality or self-image to please others. I get each of my clients because of the praise I receive for being myself. I've never regretted any of the process that I went through to get where I am today and never will. I can only imagine where my life will be come 5-10 years from now. All I know is that I've learned to never give up and always strive for your best in everything you do. Everything happens for a reason, I believe, and if you are meant to do what you love, it will happen. Good luck! :)

Recorded March 2, 2011

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Renee Pilarski

AAS Interior Design, August 2010
Company Name:: Holly Hunt
Job title:: Manufacturing Team Lead for Holly Hunt Manufacturing

How did you get this job?
I already had a BFA in Woodworking and Furniture Design [from a different school] and worked at a different furniture design company in Chicago for four years. During that time, I decided to attend Harrington to expand my education so that I could become a more well-rounded designer. After graduating I was recruited by Holly Hunt after a former colleague referred me.

What do you do?
I started this job as a brand new position within the company. Holly Hunt Manufacturing started with the idea of creating the first-ever Holly Hunt owned workroom. A small team of others and I built our facility from an empty warehouse space. I spent the first several months on the job creating the facility space layout, buying equipment and working with contractors and vendors (all things I couldn’t have done without the invaluable education I received while at Harrington).

Now that we are fully operational, my job has shifted to production manager of the workroom. We build prototypes as well as produce production items in the Holly Hunt furniture line. Some of my duties include working with the design department on new product development from initial prototypes to market-ready pieces, creating AutoCAD frame/construction drawings to document all the items we manufacture, working with the craftsmen and corporate office to maintain an accurate and manageable production schedule, sourcing supplies and working with vendors, etc. There really isn’t anything that isn’t included in my job description.

Biggest piece of advice to further job seekers at Harrington:
First, don’t take for granted anything you learn at Harrington, because you never know when you’ll need to call on that knowledge in the future … Absorb as much information as you can! Secondly, NETWORK!!! I can’t stress this enough. Believe it or not, design is a small industry, and you will be amazed at how the people working within it can move in and out of your life. Build good relationships with these people and guaranteed, they will help you out when you need them.

Recorded June 23, 2011 —
This graduate story is unique and may not represent typical experiences or outcomes for our graduates. Graduates should expect to pursue entry-level opportunities in their chosen fields. Examples of such entry-level opportunities are listed in the Harrington Career Guide.

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