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Confidence in Bloom: my Platypus' journey as a Design Innovation intern

Reflection on my internship at The Blooming Platypus.

A bit of background

I am Baraa Albaqali, known to some as the person who enjoys having iced coffee no matter the weather! I’m originally from Bahrain (a tiny island in the Middle East) and I came to pursue higher education in the United Kingdom around 6 years ago. I initially got a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology, but then decided on a career-change and opted for a master’s degree in Multidisciplinary Innovation – the first step into my Design journey. This was just after the pandemic’s lockdown. Due to that, my experience in design innovation and facilitating workshops was somewhat limited, as I had to practise in a hybrid environment with some pandemic-related constraints.

About the internship

I started my 12-week internship at The Blooming Platypus in November, with the aim of familiarising myself with Dr Justine’s PhD thesis. Through this familiarisation, my task was to transform her PhD findings into business assets, thus aiding the business by serving its clients with academically researched artefacts and services. My secondary tasks included participating in the preparation and facilitation of workshops. To put it simply, I had a very enriching time at The Blooming Platypus. I have learned a lot about myself, as a design facilitator, alongside cultivating confidence in my abilities. In such a safe and nurturing environment, I was allowed to Bloom (& become a platypus...).

Familiarising myself with the thesis was incredibly valuable for me, as someone who is interested in pursuing a PhD, but also as a Novice Design Facilitator (a concept that the PhD explored). Through the in-depth literature review & rich findings of the thesis, reading it thoroughly equipped me with knowledge that has informed not only the rest of my internship at The Blooming Platypus, but also my current and future practice in the design community. These findings became the basis of my internship - I found myself using a lot of the jargon in the thesis, and relating a lot of the experiences I had with these findings. Although I was in the presence of an Expert Facilitator, I felt as though we were both learning together throughout the workshops we attended and facilitated.

Me in action - facilitating a workshop

During the period of the internship, I was able to help with the design and preparation of three workshops for two separate clients, and co-facilitate one of them with our founder. This was an incredibly valuable experience which has certainly boosted my confidence in my ability to prepare workshops and workshop materials, as well as expanding my knowledge of facilitating a workshop - from taking notes of the ongoing conversations, to facilitating conversation between attendees. Being in the presence of an experienced facilitator also aided me in capturing what this looks like as I had very limited experience of both workshop preparation and facilitation respectively – due to conducting my studies during the pandemic. I certainly enjoyed being able to make connections between different points of the conversations - it feels like putting together a puzzle! 

I also had the opportunity to conduct my own mini internal workshop to share and build on the outputs I had been working on. Being able to have a go at preparing my own workshop & then facilitate it was an extremely enriching experience. I was able to improve on my preparation and facilitation skills respectively, and it aided in learning how to structure a workshop and try my best to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness within a time constraint. As it was a mini (it was only 2 hours!) workshop, it was challenging to fit all the content I wanted to discuss and build upon with our founder. However, Justine created a safe space, which put me at ease when facilitating the workshop. She was encouraging and enthusiastic throughout the workshop, and that instilled so much confidence in me! The conversation flowed and we were able to come up with fruitful ideas for The Blooming Platypus that I had then the privilege of building on!

Our mini internal workshop featuring Justine & I

So what's next?!

I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but upon finishing this internship, I find myself wanting to pursue a PhD in the near future, and continue my career in design and consultation. As a junior design innovation strategist in the industry, it instilled a lot of values in me that I intend to carry forward into my career. This internship has helped me be more resilient, by putting me out of my comfort zone and enabling me to experience consultation and workshops, sharing outputs that are still a work-in-progress and not be so anxious about their incompleteness. I’ve also learned how to communicate with clients, and ensure everything they need and want is accommodated to. 

It is hard to include and talk about all the positive experiences in a (hopefully!) 5-min read blogpost. My experience at The Blooming Platypus has certainly allowed me to Bloom. Justine is an incredible Designer and person - she created a safe space for me to learn, adapt & implement. The entire experience was liberating as a novice designer and I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to work at The Blooming Platypus with such an incredible & supportive team. I now certainly feel a lot more confident (word of the day) knowing I was able to not only expand on my knowledge but also adapt it. I will carry forward everything I have learned here & build on it. It is saddening to have this internship end, but I’m looking forward to both my future as well as The Blooming Platypus’s.

Thank you!

Special thank you (again) to Justine for this opportunity & everything that came with it! Thank you also to Northumbria University and The Susan Dobson Memorial Fund who awarded fundings to The Blooming Platypus to make this internship possible.


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