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Targeting a Dream Job

Rebecca Robledo_800x450

Rebecca Robledo_

“It is the best thing ever! It is definitely a dream job,” Rebecca Pezdek [BID ’04] animatedly says as we discuss her love of being an industrial designer. Currently she a lead industrial designer at Target. We swap shopping stories and wholeheartedly agree that Target is an iconic brand and it would be hard to find someone who hasn’t shopped there. “Target offers such a fun shopping experience,” Pezdek says. “If you speak to anyone, they all share that they love shopping Target—to just walk down the aisle and take in all the products.”

As a lead product designer, Pezdek is intimately acquainted with many of Target’s home goods merchandise, including frames, lighting, clocks, mirrors, and wall decor under the brands of Threshold, Room Essentials, and Xhilaration. I ask her what its like to see products she designed on display in the store or in someone’s home. “I used to get really excited. I’m still excited, but it is not as surprising,” she says. “I still go to Target, but I know what I’m am going to see.”

In high school, Pezdek knew she wanted to do something creative and artistic, and it was then that she learned “about this thing called ‘design.’”Pezdek says, “I didn’t know what that meant—I just knew that I might actually be able to have a job.”

“Luckily, at the time when I applied to NC State [College of Design], you didn’t have to choose or apply to a specific discipline, which was great. Then through the first and second year, I learned about product design and loved it.”

As a product designer, Pezdek appreciates that there is a balance between creativity, process, and analytics. Being a designer makes her feel “special and valued” in her job. Through the process of design thinking, Robledo says, “you can take in 50 different inputs and some of them can be on the design side and some can be very challenging, with not only manufacturing but also with the business aspects. As a designer, you solve the problem and you come up with the perfect solution that is not only beautiful to satisfy one side of your brain but with form and function, and the two together, is what makes it magical.”

Throughout her career, Pezdek has designed a variety of product types. Of all of the design work she has done, Pezdek says that medical product design is one of the most challenging environments for her, as a designer. “There are a lot of complicated products in the world, but the complexity with medical design is huge,” she explains. “The impact that it makes is huge and the amount of people that interact with the product is so vast.” Medical products are used by so many people, including doctors, nurses, and patients, that a lot of complicated functions and variables need to be considered in addition to the material design of the product. Medical product design is “the ultimate brain teaser,” Pezdek says.

Her transition to work at Target, specifically on home decor was purposeful. In her previous role at a consultancy firm, Pezdek worked on a variety of designs, including medical products. “I wasn’t the type of designer who could just focus on one type of product and want to do shoe design or transportation design and do it all day long,” Pezdek admits. With Target, “I thought I would focus on home decor because I wanted to get closer to more natural materials. I was tired of sheet metal and injection molded plastic and the thought of working with glass, metal, or woven materials seemed really exciting.”

Pezdek attributes her career successes to a relentless drive and pursuit of learning—skills that new designers can use to achieve their goals. She says, “I’ve experienced so many people that when they start, their talent is at a certain level—that may not be what they think is good—but this doesn’t matter. What matters is your drive and how much you want it. And how much energy you are going to put into it. And not give up. Because, you know, there is no such thing as failure really. It’s not until you stop doing something or going down a certain direction that you officially failed or are done. So, if you don’t stop, you never really failed.”

“It is so amazing to see how fast your skill can change and evolve if you are passionate about it. It doesn’t matter where you are today, it just matters where you want to go.”