Career Stories: Corinna Gage

Natasha McGowan
By Natasha McGowan under #TABLife 30 November 2018

Corinna joined TAB as a Contractor in our Design Community of Practice (CoP) in May 2015. After 3 months at TAB, we offered the talented designer a permanent role as Senior Product Designer, and she’s wowed us ever since.

As Corinna starts to whittle down her workload and begin maternity leave for baby number 2, she kindly agreed to tell us about her fascinating career story and her experience of being a working mum at TAB.

Dreaming of architecture

I watched a documentary on the BBC about Charles Rennie Mackintosh that inspired me to become an architect so I went to study at the prestigious Mackintosh School of Architecture at the Glasgow School of Art. During the course, I had the amazing opportunity to study in Paris. Afterwards, I worked in an architecture practice where I was able to work on some fascinating projects and learn continuously.

Unfortunately, the recession hit and many of us were made redundant. I loved designing for arts buildings and smaller spaces where I could let my creativity flow. At that point within the economy, the only architectural jobs that were paying well were those for large offices and skyscrapers. I felt like those projects weren’t what motivated and inspired me. They were all about maximising efficiencies and profits rather than creating an experience of a space.

Studying Architecture at Uni

A new career path

I analysed what I actually loved about architecture, which was the designing aspect. I’ve always been so passionate about finding out about a subject and then distilling it down to its simplest form and sharing this with others. After a few years contracting as a Designer for some great brands and teaching User Experience Design at General Assembly, I met a recruiter that changed my life.

He asked me who my dream client would be. For me, I admire the strong design and branding of Transport for London (TfL). It would be so gratifying to solve real-life problems and make people’s lives easier. He explained that he had the perfect role for me, working with TAB.

I went to meet Ian McConchie, Head of Design at TAB. I remember being dressed unusually smart because it was my leaving party that evening for my previous role. Seeing the office and everyone dressed comfortably, I felt like I had to explain that I don’t dress this extravagantly every day! Despite my dramatic attire, I was offered the role.

My #TABLife

Working at TAB was so liberating compared to my previous roles. I was given autonomy straight away and it’s such a flat structure. I was able to excel at what I do and was given creative freedom to do what I do best. My favourite project so far has to be working on the TfL Decelerator. Just as we thought we’d nearly finished the project we discovered a problem that drivers were facing and had to be creative to come up with a solution. I was able to get into my users’ shoes as I sat with a driver of a London Underground train to truly understand the problem first-hand.

Pregnancy

In July 2016, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were over the moon! However, I had no idea about what the company process involved. I was starting a new project and experiencing so many hormonal and physiological changes, which all contributed to it being a challenging and emotionally draining period of my career. My CoP and the People team ensured I was able to attend all of my appointments and work from home whenever needed. I had a wonderful 10 months of maternity leave to spend with my baby. I shared leave with my husband so was able to enjoy this amazing new time in our lives.

Coming back to work

When it came to coming back to work, I was so excruciatingly nervous. TAB had experienced a massive growth period so there were going to be many new faces. I was also conscious of the fact that I hadn’t used my brain in a work environment for a long time and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to think in the same way anymore.

I really had no reason to be nervous! Coming back to work was like coming back home. Comforting. The People team clearly explained all the flexibility that TAB offers for working parents. I was able to change my hours, as required, to work around me which made sharing nursery drop-offs and pick-ups with my husband relatively stress-free. As long as I’ve communicated my different hours with my project team, working whilst having parental duties was logistically fine. Emotionally, however, it was hard. Thankfully, I had other working parents at TAB to be able to talk to during the tough times.

I’m now ready to go off and have baby number two, and I couldn’t be more excited! This time around, TAB’s maternity benefit has more enhanced pay so I can spend even more time with my new family. It’s been a challenging journey but knowing that I have a supportive company behind me, working with me to ensure a flexible work-life balance makes life that much better.