Ella McDougall: alumni profile
Through determination, ingenuity and personal growth came an unlikely career for Ella McDougall who now works as the acting Editor of trends and insights company, Stylus Media where she helps drive the development of beautiful and responsible products.
What has been your path since graduating from CCGS in 2012?
After graduating, I headed straight to university, studying a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). During my time there, I worked as a producer with a local radio station covering daily news and had an internship with the daily television news program The Daily Beast on SBS.
After finishing my degree, I realised that the relentless news cycle wasn’t for me and decided to combine my journalism experience with my love of design and architecture. I then cold-called publications that I liked and offered to work in-house or as a contributor. This proactive approach was a little scary, but it helped me get a foot in the door of different organisations.
I spent some time working for publications, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Habitus Living, Broadsheet Sydney and Bauer magazine title Belle, as well as producing for the ABC radio program Blueprint for Living and helping sub-edit The Local Project. After some time, I decided that I would venture off to the United Kingdom to work with publications further afield.
I got my current position with Stylus Media – a trends and insights company – while I was still in Australia, and after numerous glitchy Skype calls. I am a part of the Product Design team and have worked my way up from having a Researcher position to now acting as Editor. The trends industry is one of those weird modern jobs that didn’t exist when I was younger and was never on my radar when applying for university degrees. But it’s a fantastic opportunity to dig into important issues – like sustainable manufacturing, packaging waste and modern building materials – and help drive the development of beautiful and responsible products.
What has been the most challenging time for you in your working life so far?
The start of the pandemic was an incredibly bizarre and challenging time for me. Living in the UK, I decided to stay put and not head home to Australia, which meant that I would be stranded if my company were to have issues and furlough staff. No planes were travelling between London and Sydney, and I wasn’t eligible for government assistance if things went pear-shaped.
What’s more, our entire publishing schedule was upended overnight. I travel a lot for work to attend different design weeks, events and trade fairs, and so had to figure out a way to continue creating and selling content covering global design, without being able to see any collections or brands in person.
It was a daunting time, but it taught me to be flexible, think on my feet, and pivot when situations change.
What has been the most rewarding moment for you in your working life so far?
The slow nature of product development makes it hard to see a direct correlation between my work and commercial collections. But it is incredibly rewarding when a company redevelops its offering to be more inclusive or reduce carbon emissions, in line with the research and work that I have delivered.
What trait has been most vital in helping you succeed?
My interest in design, and my desire to dig deeper into different topics, has been essential to my career journey so far. If you find something that you enjoy and want to work hard in, then the rest – the money and success – will come naturally. Coming out of journalism, I realised that I needed to carve out a space where I could focus my attention and build my expertise. Pinpointing this helped me figure out where I wanted to go and what kind of jobs I wanted to have.
What inspired you to move to the UK?
I have always wanted to work and live abroad. And a few years out of university, I wasn’t tied down with a job or a partner, and realised that if I didn’t move then, then I probably never would. I think you need to put yourself in different situations to learn who you are and what you want.
Where do you see the next 10 years taking you?
The plan is to move to Los Angeles sometime in the next few years, and then hopefully back to Australia. I’d also like to work with companies in-house and have a more direct impact on building products that are beautiful, sustainable, and meaningful.
What CCGS experience or achievement most prepared you for where you are today?
I really appreciate the diverse activities that CCGS had on offer. From house family meetups that encouraged me to talk and make friends with people in different year groups, to the Cambodia and Vietnam trip that helped me learn how to manage new experiences. The school offered a lot of opportunities for me to challenge myself and step outside of my comfort zone. These experiences helped me appreciate that you need to embrace situations as they come.