For Zach Derbecker, it took three go-arounds at post-secondary studies to find his right fit.
“After years of play in Adobe’s Creative Suite and a keen interest in critical thinking and psychology as a hobby, one day it just clicked—graphic design,” said the 34-year-old Kitchener native.
“It wasn’t long after enrolling in Toronto Film School’s Online Graphic Design & Interactive Media program that I knew I had found my forever career.”
In fact, Derbecker said, it was the excitement of that revelation that carried him through long days of working full-time in a weld shop, being a full-time dad to a newborn daughter, a full-time husband, and a full-time student.
Zach credits the “support, encouragement, extra time, and wealth of knowledge” from his online instructors at Toronto Film School for helping him land his dream job as an in-house designer at a local Managing General Agency just a few months after graduation.
If there is one thing this year’s Online Graphic Design & Interactive Media valedictorian could pass on, it would be this message: “Don’t underestimate what you think you can accomplish – just take that first step and start building momentum. You’ll surprise yourself.”
Derbecker recently sat down to reflect on his time at Toronto Film School, his passion for graphic design, and his plans for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
What brought you to Toronto Film School? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us?
After completing a post-secondary program in Corporate Media Production, I found myself reassessing what I wanted to do for a career. I took what was supposed to be a temporary welding job that ended up lasting eight years. It was after the birth of my daughter that I evaluated where I was and where I wanted to be in life. Knowing I had to continue working full-time to support my family if I were to continue my education, I began researching online graphic design programs. Toronto Film School’s online Graphic Design program adapted from their in-class program was the perfect combination of structure and freedom to be able to complete, while still working full-time.
What made you decide to pursue your passion for Graphic Design?
I love structure and organization and had always been a tinkerer with the Adobe Creative Suite. I’m not sure why or how, but one day a lightbulb in my head just switched on that I had basically been doing graphic design as a hobby without even knowing it. So, when I was contemplating a career change, turning what I liked to do in my spare time into a career seemed like an easy choice to make.
What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?
Aside from the obvious wealth of knowledge passed on from the tremendous instructors at TFS, the most important thing I learned was that you can do more than you think you can. You just need to have the right motivation. When I started the TFS Graphic Design program I was working 48 hours a week in a weld shop and had a one-year-old daughter at home. Looking at the situation on paper, I would have never thought I would have had the time to get it all done, but I did.
What are your plans after graduation, both immediate and long term?
I feel very grateful to have already achieved my short-term goal of finding an in-house design position. Only a few months after graduating, I started work in-house for a Managing General Agency in Kitchener. Long term, my plans aren’t job position or title specific. I’d like to always focus on improving and being able to honestly say, year after year, that I am a better designer now than I was a year ago.
If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?
Don’t hide or run from your unique interests or experiences. You never know where the next good idea will come from.