How One Design Course Radically Altered the Path of This Investment Banker


Ina Estrada ditched corporate life for a creative one.

Nice working room with table and laptop on it.Despite a successful career in banking, Ina Estrada of the Philippines knew she wasn’t cut out for corporate life. “I was finally honest with myself, and accepted it wasn’t for me,” the young entrepreneur, who got a student visa to study at Shillington’s New York campus, explains. “I wasn’t seeking a career, I was looking for a calling.”

Many of us have found ourselves engaged in that familiar rhythm of the daily grind: clocking in, clocking out, and watching time pass until we can finally head back out into the world. “If you feel like your work is a job, maybe you should rethink things,” suggests Ina. “I saw my bosses happily staying up in the office while I was always itching to finish work fast so I could leave right away. I really couldn’t do it anymore.” These days, Ina travels the world, taking her design business along for the ride.

We chat to this entrepreneurial design guru about how she managed a total career turnaround (and why she isn’t looking back).

What inspired you to leave Manila to study design in New York City?
I can still remember it like it was just yesterday. Two years ago, I was with my former boss having my annual employee evaluation, and while he was telling me how good of a team player I was, he also did say that he felt I was unhappy with the role. Having heard that, I suddenly burst into tears. Not kidding, it was one of the most humiliating things ever because he and I have always kept a very professional relationship. Good thing he encouraged me to actually look for what I wanted to do!

Why did you choose to make that change at Shillington?
At that time, I had been freelancing for about a year. Some of my clients had been asking me to create logos and to get into packaging briefs, but I just couldn’t say yes immediately because my knowledge was so little. I chose Shillington mainly because of the short time frame that would allow me to learn so many things right away. I had heard from fellow Filipinos who took the course that Shillington felt like working at a design studio. Teachers focused on design thinking, rather than just on skills. That was what I needed the most.

Ina Estrada

What was the most important thing you learnt?
To always be open to change, criticism and suggestions. I had to be open enough to ask my classmates and teachers what they thought of my ideas. Sometimes by doing this, I was able to also get collaborative feedback and suggestions, which really improved my design work. Being shy was never part of the design game. I had to be open to tweaking design plans to create something better.

What is an average day like for you now?
I’m really loving my new schedule now, and long hours staring at the computer doesn’t feel like work to me anymore. I usually wake up by 6am to start my day by working out. I make sure I have a heavy breakfast because I usually have a meeting with my design associate before lunch to discuss what briefs and deliverables are due that day.

If I’m not on the road, I make sure I start working right after breakfast, so that I can end the day early as well. I love design so much that I am not just a branding/packaging consultant these days; I actually recently also launched an online store that sells accessories. Here is where my own business solutions impact my other company, Kera & Co.

After lunch, I make sure to spend time creating content for this other company. I also art direct most of the shoots for this store to make sure the look and feel of the brand transpires even with photos. Dinners are usually when most clients are free, so most weekdays are fully booked with dinner meetings. Work has been really busy these days, but I can’t complain!

What’s the best part of a career you can take on the road?
If there’s one thing my heart beats for the most, it’s travelling. I love the feeling of actually getting to explore a different city, country or neighbourhood. This year, I took a time off working just at my Manila desk and actually worked in Bali for two weeks. Other than that, I took my work with me around Singapore and Seoul. Next year, I want to take my work with me to South America.

Want to become a designer in three months (full-time) or nine months (part-time)? Discover your visa options to study design abroad at Shillington in London, Manchester, Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Go to for info.


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