Investing in talent: Meet Ranica, Finalist for Apprentice of the Year

Horizon scanning is fundamental for business, particularly in the digital and emerging technology sectors. But at Bloc Digital this isn’t limited to harnessing new innovations and capabilities.

At the heart of our company are our people; their talent, dedication to success, exceptional quality and innovative ideas. Which is why inspiring, recruiting and developing the next generation of digital creators from a range of disciplines and backgrounds is a fundamental part of our strategy.

Meet Ranica! In September 2018 Ranica Brown joined our team as a digital artist apprentice. Flash forward 18 months and she has been shortlisted for Apprentice of the Year at East Midlands Chamber’s Enterprising Women Awards.

We’re hugely proud of what she’s achieved so far – her fantastic work includes a 2D animation about the story of Bloc Digital and contributions to both animations and interface designs for international companies.

So with the final of the Enterprising Women Awards drawing closer, we took the opportunity to sit down with Ranica to find out more about her apprenticeship role at Bloc Digital.

Ranica interview

Firstly, what attracted you to Bloc Digital at this particular stage of your career?

I first came across Bloc Digital when I was searching for a week’s work placement. I was inspired by the work they created and the innovative approach they had to merging design and the latest industry technologies, particularly in Virtual Reality applications. The company stood out because they were unafraid of new possibilities and were willing to nurture my love of learning and design.

Before my placement I was originally planning on going to University. However, I hadn’t properly considered design apprenticeships as a route into the industry until I discovered that one of Bloc’s staff members had started as an apprentice. I enquired about doing an apprenticeship with the team because I knew gaining experience at a company like Bloc was priceless.

Having now been an apprentice for just over a year I feel it was the right route for me. I have been able to understand how the industry is developing from the front line, as it’s not always easy to determine what a role will entail until you’ve seen it in action. I feel that if I had gone straight to university I wouldn’t have been able to adapt to the rapid industry changes as effectively as I now can.

What has it been like doing an apprenticeship at Bloc Digital?

It has been amazing. I have been given the opportunity to explore, grow and develop my skills in an exciting and progressive environment. Within this environment I have witnessed how teams from different disciplines work together to elevate the knowledge base of the company and the standard of work that is given to clients. It’s really exciting to be creating work at the forefront of the tech industry, and with research taking place through university Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and work experience placements for young students too, it has also been a great place to learn.

What kind of tasks do you complete on a daily basis?

When I first walk into the office in the morning, I usually check my emails for client feedback and work out what projects I’ve been assigned to for the day. It’s a real mix of creative design and content creation. It may be getting a project off the ground or adding to its ongoing development and could be anything from designing how an app looks to adding graphics over an animation. It’s also a mix of independent working and collaborating with others as day-to-day I’ll be liaising with the team and/or project managers on the progress of a whole range of projects.

What do you like best about your work and what has been the biggest highlight of your apprenticeship?

Every day is different as the projects I work on cross over many departments which means constantly adapting to various working styles and processes. To choose the biggest highlight of this apprenticeship is somewhat challenging but what stands out to me is working on a product activation / showcase project for clients in Europe.

It was very exciting because I was working with new cutting-edge technology that combines transparent touchscreen OLED displays with Augmented Reality, allowing us to overlay real products with layers of engaging information.

I was delighted to be able to bring my own product design skills to design the product stand, which integrated with the display screens to create the finished installation.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to do an apprenticeship in your field?

Firstly, every designer is a kaleidoscope of experiences and abilities and this is what influences the work they create. With this in mind, I would say have confidence in who you are and bring it to the table because what you create cannot be duplicated by anyone else. But also, I believe that your work should be recognised above and beyond societal categories because everyone is unique.

For practical advice I would say do loads of work experience and research how both the top designers and industry works – this will give you a firmer foundation for when you do move into the creative field. Secondly, don’t be afraid to approach companies you really like and see if they would consider taking you on as an apprentice even if they don’t advertise it. I gained my apprenticeship after being on a week’s work experience at Bloc Digital. Lastly, if you do gain an apprenticeship (whether in this industry or not) make the most of every moment, ask questions and practise new skills as often as you can.

What are your hopes for the future?

Fundamentally, as a designer my goal is to be in a position where I can influence the direction of the design industry and contribute to projects that will have a lasting effect on societies across the world. I also hope to continue to challenge assumptions and misconceptions about the digital and tech industry, and who works in it, through the work I create. I would love to work alongside other creatives to promote the industry as a whole to young people like myself.

And finally, what does it mean to you to be shortlisted for Apprentice of the Year?

To be shortlisted for Apprentice of the Year is a huge honour because my company chose to put me forward for this award and East Midlands Chamber shortlisted me from a range of other candidates. Even if I don’t win I hope being selected as a finalist inspires others who want to go down the same route as me. I hope they can see that it is possible.