18 | Portfolio School Application Secrets: Stand Out and Secure a Scholarship | Nikeia McMillon


Nikeia McMillon won a scholarship to portfolio school in Denver. Her passion for art and design paid off big time, and now she’s on her way to making her dreams come true. With talent and hard work, she’s sure to make a splash in the industry and inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

Nikeia McMillon: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikeiamcmillon/

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Alternate Titles For The Algorithm:

Ace Your Portfolio School Application: Tips and Strategies for Winning a Scholarship
Portfolio School Application Secrets: How to Stand Out and Secure a Scholarship
Maximizing Your Chances of Winning a Scholarship to Portfolio School
Portfolio School Scholarship Success: Insider Tips and Tricks
The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Portfolio School and Winning a Scholarship
Crafting a Winning Portfolio School Application and Scholarship Proposal
From Application to Acceptance: How to Secure a Scholarship to Portfolio School
Winning Strategies for Portfolio School Scholarship Applications
Applying to Portfolio School with Confidence: Strategies for Scholarship Success
How to Impress the Admissions Committee and Win a Scholarship to Portfolio School

Show Notes

Speaker 2: Hey, you all. This is your host, Elyse Robinson with Nobody Wants to Work No podcast. I hope these stories will inspire you to switch careers. I was an auditor in my past life and now I’m in tech, and let’s get to it.

Speaker 1: We are Switch into Tech. Tech resources.

Speaker 2: To accelerate your.

Speaker 1: Career in information technology. Monthly classes on tech topics. We offer free or discounted exam vouches, scholarships, free Udemy courses, free events, free boot.

Speaker 2: Camps, and more.

Speaker 1: You can find us at www.switchinto tech.

Speaker 2: Org. Hey, you all. This is Elyse Robinson with the Nobody Wants to Work the Hub podcast. Today we have Necaela. You can start us off with what your old career was and what you’re doing now.

Speaker 1: Definitely. I started off in property management. I was definitely in the residential leasing area and marketing for most of my career. I hopped around a bit, wore a few different hats and sales jobs, but a lot of it was always customer focused, customer face, like industry that I was always in. If it wasn’t a call center, it was definitely a leasing office or some sales or some customer focused thinking job. But a little bit about me and where I’m at now. With this career switch, I’m now making my career into art direction and advertising just because I’ve always had this creative interest and creative passion to do something a little bit more bigger than myself. And I feel like advertising was a really good start to navigate and figure out who I am just as a creative and where I can actually end up in eventually. So it’s still an exploration process, to be honest.

Speaker 2: All right. And what did you want to be when you grew up?

Speaker 1: I have wanted to be a lot of things, but I always remember wanting to be an astronaut. I’m really big on the solar system. I was always fascinated by outer space. I have NASA alerts set up on my phone still at the age that I am just to see what cosmic events are happening. Is the moon going to be pink tonight? I just love just love it. I love the outer space and just what’s out there. Again, blows my mind just because it’s like, how did we end up here? Don’t even get me started on how heady I can get with that. But as a kid, I was just definitely into science and outer space. That was definitely my vibe.

Speaker 2: I don’t know if Colorado has, I’m going to call it a dormitory. Observatory. Observatory. There we go. Observatory. They should. I don’t know if they do either. I’m getting old. I’m getting old. But Observatory. I went to one that’s in Arizona. It’s called Kitt Peak. It’s either Kitt Peak or Kitt Peak. I had a time in my life. I looked at Mars and the moon and some stars. You go up this dark place because you can’t have light, so they keep it very pitch black. I was terrified because I drove a little Prius at the time, and I thought I was going to fall off the cliff. But you have to go to observatory at least once in your life if you love astronomy. I don’t really care for it, but I’m like, Okay, I know it exists out there. I want to look at it. But yes, you must. They might have one at one of the colleges there, too, but you have to go. You got to go. It’s free, too. It’s free. I did it all for free. They have overnight trips that you can do, which I think is a couple of dollars and stuff like that.

Speaker 2: I didn’t do all that. They said it was going to be cold, but it ended up being like 80 something degrees. I had all these thermals on and other boots and stuff, and I was drenched in sweat by the time I was done because it’s supposed to be cold up there. But yeah, you got to go if you love astronomy. Let’s see. What was the catalyst that made you change your career?

Speaker 1: I would say that I went to school for graphic design, so I always had a very creative… I always wanted to do something creative. I always had that passion. And then the pandemic happened, and I really had time to sit with myself and explore what I wanted to do outside of that. It just really gave me time to really sit with Nikiah and figure out, hey, do you like this? Or where do you see yourself in five years? I really had time to plan out a goal. In doing so, I was able to take classes and workshops and things that interested me. I did clay, I did virtual shops and how to play with different programs within Adobe, Figma, and things like that. And then I eventually received a scholarship opportunity to go to portfolio school for art direction. It almost felt like fate. Like I said, again, the stars aligned and it just happened for me. It was really beautiful.

Speaker 2: Man, when you say the stars aligned, yeah, they do. I’m just thinking about, we’ve already had the conversation, but when I moved to Mexico and it’s like everything just aligned and it just felt so right. Except for me being lost that one day. But after that, it was cool. I didn’t have any problems, you know what I’m saying? Everything just went so smoothly and cool, you know what I’m saying? I just felt like this is where I was supposed to be in this moment. Then I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen little signs and symbols along the way. I told you I’m originally from Sacramento. I’ve seen a sign that says Sacramento. The cross streets were literally Sacramento, California. I’m like, Oh, okay. Well, that’s a sign. If you believe in whatever you believe in, the universe will come together when you’re on the right path to get you to where you need to be. I’m a firm believer of what’s meant to be, will be. That’s exactly. Outside of that, well, you did talk about what made you interested in that, but all things come out of cost. What did it cost you along the way?

Speaker 2: Did you have support from your family? They think you were crazy. Property management, that’s a decent career, I would think. I know sometimes you get free rent and stuff. You want to give up your free rent? Free rent. Then outside of that, people go lease. You know what I’m saying? That’s going nowhere. Did it come at a cost? Did your family think you were crazy?

Speaker 1: Oh, my gosh. I did sacrifice a lot. I have actually a funny story. Just along the way, I was definitely, again, putting on many hats. I thought I wanted to do psychology. I thought I wanted to do nursing and help people. So throughout this whole process of 2020 and trying to navigate what I wanted to do, my mom was definitely rooting for me. If I wanted to say I want to join the circus, she probably would have been like, I got you, girl. Where do we need to go? My mom was definitely my all star cheerleader, and I definitely would not have been able to do any of it without her. But just as a sacrifice, again, as I told you, I moved to LA, and that was a very exciting journey for me. Even though pandemic happened in between that, I really found myself there. And I really loved that I was able to come into the person that I feel like I am today and have grown into just for the simple fact that I got this opportunity and Denver was never on my list. It was a full ride scholarship. Denver was never on my list to go to, but I was like, I’ll never get this opportunity again.

Speaker 1: I feel like I have to say yes to this. I was very happy in LA, was very scared to make the jump to Denver. But again, my mom was so supportive. She flew out, packed the UHa with me. We took a nice little road trip from LA to Denver. It was beautiful. And it was a really fun experience and bonding experience with my mom, of course. But then when I was here in Denver just by myself, it was just like, I don’t know anybody here, and I feel a little bit out of place, and did I make the right choices, and should I go back to LA? And it was a lot of second guessing. And then as I kept getting, I guess, acclimated into Denver and the program that I was in with the scholarship, it all started to make sense. And I was like, I am in the right place. I did make the right decision. There’s definitely struggles that I’m having to deal with. But I didn’t. I always focused that I had this opportunity and I wasn’t going to get anywhere else. So it was really nice to just enjoy that process.

Speaker 1: It was a little turbulence, but I enjoyed it.

Speaker 2: Okay. You will find yourself in LA, I can attest. I can attest. I had the time of my life in LA and that was the first time I was single. I was dating and finding myself. That was the first time I was in a real career and I actually had to work. And so that was the first time I didn’t know LA had subways. I’m on the subway, I’m on the bus, I’m in Hollywood, and I’m everywhere. I’m living it up. I can totally attest LA. I’ve never been to LA. LA, I do. But it’s so expensive. It’s so expensive. I don’t know how people do it. But tell people what the process was for the scholarship, number one. And tell people what a full ride scholarship is, because I think there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand what that entails.

Speaker 1: Yeah, most definitely. So just in line of getting the scholarship in general, like I said, I was taking a lot of design classes online during COVID. Everything was virtual. So even though I was working full time after work, I would come home and I would be doing my little graphic design classes and doing my little workshops. My instructor, as well as a previous classmate of mine, told me about advertising and how to get into it. I was like, I never knew how to get into that. I think as black people, we don’t get the insider scoop on a lot of things. And that’s probably why there is such a very low number of us in some of these corporate spaces. We just don’t know how to navigate it. And thankfully, I had an instructor and a previous classmate help navigate me towards that and send me a whole bunch of portfolio schools. That is where you would need to start with this type of career is you want to get a portfolio. You need to show your work and be able to showcase how you concept, how you bring out insights. And so with my instructor and of course, another peer helping me, I was able to find a scholarship that actually catered to black creativs.

Speaker 1: And if you applied and got accepted, you got a full ride scholarship. You did not have to pay for anything. All I had to do was bring my tail to Denver. The scholarship did not include housing or anything, so that was a bit of a struggle for me. It was just like, okay, I have to go to Denver. This is also a full time program. How am I going to make my living situation work? So they did have some resources and you could do roommates and things like that. But I do wish that the scholarship, I know you talked about a full ride, it was strictly just the tuition. I had to come up with everything else as far as living, where I was going to live, how I was going to get to school. There was no dorm situation and things like that. So I would say with the full ride and how to do that, definitely obviously talk to people and just do your research and make sure that when I went on to the website of the portfolio school, I looked at all the students that had gone there previously. I had only seen one black girl on the website, and I was like, I need to get her insight and her POV of this place.

Speaker 1: Reached out to her and lo and behold, we went to the same high school, which again, I felt like stars aligned. And it was like, oh, I went to the same high school as this girl. Of course, I graduated way before her. But the fact that we weren’t from the small little stupid town in Georgia, and again, it was just stars aligned. And fate was just like, go ahead and do this. So I think definitely networking, putting yourself out there and letting people know what you’re interested in, you have to definitely talk to people and talk it up and share what you want to do. I think sometimes I was a little insecure because I wasn’t sure on how to talk to people and tell them what I did since I didn’t have the work to necessarily show what I wanted to do. So I’m glad that I took that initiative to just take courses and workshops. And then that just obviously opened doors for other things.

Speaker 2: Got you. Just FYI people, there are full ride scholarships that pay for everything. They send you a plane ticket, they send you the housing, they give you a stipend to live on, all that good stuff. Full ride is iffy. But yeah, if you can get one of those, then you’ve really made it. There’s another thing I want to touch on was reaching out to people. That is so underrated. One of my favorite models is closed mouse don’t get fed. You can’t be scared of a no too. Just because it’s no today doesn’t mean that it might be no tomorrow. Don’t be scared to reach out to someone and say, Hey, I want to know how you got here and how you did that. Most people will be open to it. Most people will really be open to it. Don’t be scared to ask questions to someone, but there’s a way to do it. Try to do a little bit of research on your own before you reach out to people because someone reaches out to me, Hey, I want to get in tech. Okay, well, tech don’t mean nothing. There’s 50 different languages just for software engineering.

Speaker 2: Try to narrow it down to a couple of different things. Next question. You touched on the process. Let’s see. What are some of the traits that you think someone would be successful? What do you need to be in advertising? You talked about the portfolio. Is there a certain way? Do you need a website? What do you need to do?

Speaker 1: Yeah. We live in a digital world, so definitely important to have a website. It also is important for that to be on the computer and mobile. Everybody’s on their phones. So if you’re going to obviously reach out to someone and talk to them, whether it’s via email, LinkedIn, you want to be able to have that link, and they’re probably on their phone if you’re sending something through LinkedIn. So just make sure you have your site set up for the way that person is going to view it. And then with my portfolio and just the traits that you… Outside of just portfolio, the other traits that you would need, I would say it has a lot to do with your personality. I know that that’s a little bit cliché in a way, but it really does go far, again, with networking and connecting with people. People want to talk to people that are enthusiastic, and people also love talking about themselves. So just really reaching out and being like, Can you tell me how you got here? People love talking about themselves. So you just like, even just inserting that, being able to, I think, network and also just be your authentic self throughout the process.

Speaker 1: If you don’t understand the way the career is set up, I remember emailing people and being like, This is a career switch for me, or I’m actually making a career switch right now. I know I’m going into this male dominated like industry. Can you tell me your perspective as a woman or as a woman of color? And they will be so happy and ready to just share their knowledge, connect you with other people. Just by me reaching out to one people, I was connected with 10 others. It’s just like that one person and just being yourself and being honest as to why you’re reaching out. If not reaching out for a job, I’m really just wanting to know your perspective. They take to that. Again, that odd thing that authenticity is very important and just that personality of being yourself with a very long way. I would also say you have to also want to know, obviously, you have to have some design skills as well. You have to know how to navigate these programs. But again, that’s why I took classes. You can take classes at a community college where it’s really cheap to just go in and do a little course on Adobe Photoshop.

Speaker 1: The next semester, go in and do a course on illustrator. Just those basic Adobe programs is going to get you in the door and help you navigate how to use those programs and then showcase your work. But if you don’t have work to show, again, it’s really just your personality and showing that you really are enthusiastic and want to learn something.

Speaker 2: Right. One thing I find and one thing I hate in tech is the whole showing thing. I would like in advertising to maybe UI UX design to an extent because I talked to a woman and she was like, yeah, I have to have a portfolio and people still and all this other stuff. And I’m just like, oh, my God. Because in tech, they want to do… There was one I did a presentation. Oh, my gosh. Is my computer trying to die on me? Let me see. Yeah, it is. It’s plugged in now. They had me do a presentation and it was horrible because I only had one day to prepare. And I’m like, these jumping through hoops is really crazy to me. It’s like, do you want people or not? That’s why I tell nobody wants to work, though. That’s another reason why I wanted to do the podcast is because, like you were saying earlier, is that I think a lot of people, more so black people, don’t know about these careers. The career that I was in at Microsoft was in the cloud, and that didn’t exist 15 years ago. There’s all types of new careers that exist now, too.

Speaker 2: And that’s another reason why I want to do it. I mean, there was a manufacturing scientist, and I’m like, What the hell is that I had on the podcast? Now he’s a process engineer. So they didn’t talk about that in school. So things like that. So yeah, advertising is cool. I mean, that’s something that I did hear about when I was a kid. But what does that mean exactly? Are you creating the Oreo cookie commercial or are you are you designing the Kellogg’s box or what is it? What are some of the subsets, the sub fields of advertising? Let me fix this. Oh, you can go ahead. I’m asking you, what are some of the fields why I put my computer in? Because it’s dying.

Speaker 1: Okay. Yeah. No, there’s a lot that you can do. I feel like in the creative space, you have obviously where the track I went towards, which was Art Direction, which is definitely more of the look and feel and visual, how you’re visually telling a story. So yeah, the commercials, that Kellogg’s box. When you think of Dove campaigns, when you think of Olympics, Super Bowl is coming up. Advertising is really huge on that. It’s the busiest day in advertising, I think. But with that, you also have not just the creative aspect, you have strategy, you have the researching, you have to know who your audience is and know who you’re talking to and who you’re trying to capture. You also have to have a copywriter, somebody who can actually whatever your visuals are saying, the copy or the writing actually correlates and connects that visually as well. So it’s a lot of little subsets you can do in that. But also there’s production. If you like video, you can just go into the production side of advertising. If you like script writing, you can just go into the writing side. If you like experiential, like concerts and doing live events, there’s an experiential side of advertising.

Speaker 1: It’s not all just this commercial shoot or these photo shoots. There’s a lot of different dynamics within that. But I think it all just starts with you have to want to be creative and you also have to want to have these big ways of thinking. And obviously it’s really hard to come up with ideas just in the simple fact, a lot of ideas have already been thought of. So the challenge of it is how can I take an idea maybe that’s already been thought of and make it even bigger or show it in a perspective that people didn’t see before? So a lot of it is sometimes recycling or just coming into your own inspiration, your own perspective of your own experiences and being able to tell that story. I think for me, as a black woman, I want to be able to speak to what I’m able to relate to. A lot of the things that I think companies miss is our perspective, especially as black women. I want to be able to be that voice. But it’s also scary because there’s so many ways companies can go left and you don’t want to be that black person in the room who let a campaign get that bad or get that far.

Speaker 1: And it’s like, Ewe, who was in the room for this? Excuse me. So I think it’s definitely going into just having big ideas, wanting to explore. But then also, again, you can go in any… If you like to write, if you’d like to journal, if you like to write poetry, you can probably go into advertising. If you like to make logos, you can go into advertising. If you like making package designs and making people remember the product that you’re actually producing, go into advertising. I think it’s a nice start. And then you can find your way, of course, into experiential and all those other aspects of production and things, too.

Speaker 2: Definitely. There was someone on Twitter and they were talking about the new society of forcing you to have to have a cell phone and use it. And I was like, yeah, that’s something that… I don’t want to say only in America because there’s other countries, but I lived other places and it’s like, yeah, no, people still physically go pay their bills. You know what I’m saying? With cash. I used to be scared because I would go pay my rent in cash. I literally would go to the bank and pay my rent in cash. It’s like, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to in the States. One thing that the Twitter person was saying, I said was that, yeah, that’s like an American problem. And they said for now. And I’m like, no, not for now because of the racism and the sexism that goes along with things. That prevents a lot of change. So when you say that there’s no people that look like me in the room, yeah, because of these concerns and it prevents a lot of change. And so, yeah, I think I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future with these things, but something has to give in order for that push to happen, if you want it to happen.

Speaker 2: Otherwise, it’ll never happen because of the isms. I don’t hold my breath on a lot of things that they say are going to happen because of the isms. Yeah, it always cracks me up. People are always like, Yeah, we’re going to go here. No, we’re not because of the isms. But outside of that last question, what will you tell someone just in general that wants to change their career?

Speaker 1: I think it definitely is important to really sit with yourself and you have I, for me, this is just coming from my own perspective. For me, in making my career switch, I really had to sit with myself and think about where I envisioned myself in five and 10 years. Did I see myself in the same position and role that I was currently in? I think if the answer the answer is no, then that’s when you can start exploring what some of your other interests are. And like I said, I took workshops and other classes to get my brain rewired into thinking more creatively because I wasn’t doing that in property management. So I think you can knowing yourself, sitting with yourself and again, navigating, like, where do I want to be in 10 years? Where do I want to be in five years? And then once you do that, obviously, explore your interests. I think LA was a great place for me to do that. Even though the pandemic was there, I was able to go outside, explore, talk to different people. I was living in Korea town, going downtown, just going and exploring whatever was around me just because I had access to it.

Speaker 1: And I know not everybody has that, so that’s why I always I’m really big on just sitting with yourself no matter where you are. It doesn’t have to be this beautiful city like LA necessarily. But definitely sitting with yourself and knowing who you are as a person, where you see yourself going. And then also, I think it really is important to have a support group. Don’t just keep it to yourself that you want to make a career switch. Tell other people you want to do that too, because by telling other people, you have support one and you have people excited for this for you so then you have people rooting for you, which gives you confidence to make the move. And then also you just never know who you meet along that way of making that career change. So I would say those are the two most important things. And obviously, just once you do make that career switch, I think it’s important to just still be yourself and be open to learning because it’s not… I still have so much to learn. It’s still a very new thing for me, but you have to be open to change and enjoy that process.

Speaker 2: All right, you heard it from Necaela. Thank you, Necaela. Tell people where to find you. You got your portfolio website out there yet?

Speaker 1: I do, yeah. You can find me at necaelmarie. Com. That’s N I K EIA marie. Com, where all my student work and what I did while I was in portfolio school. You can find me on Instagram at Solokey. That’s S O, L, O, K, E, I. That’s where the probably the two platforms I’m going to be mainly on is my website, emails, and things like that.

Speaker 2: All right, you all heard it from Necaela first. If you haven’t subscribed, please subscribe. We’re on Spotify, Google podcast, Apple podcast, and of course, on YouTube if you’re watching us. Thanks again. Until next time. Nobody wants to work, though. you..