Batsheba Castro Martinez has much wisdom to share–even though she graduated from MSU just over a year ago. Batsheba was a dual-major in graphic design and illustration at MSU, and is currently putting those skills to use through freelancing. What follows is an interview with her, sharing how the pandemic has shaped her process, helpful career advice for students, and networking tips.
What have you been up to since graduation?
Truth be told, I had just started looking for a design job when rumors of the first shutdowns were only whispers. Though I took the threat of COVID completely seriously, I wanted to take full advantage of my last few weeks of ‘normalcy’ by attending as many social events as I could. A few of those events happened to be a conference and an AIGA KC (American Institute of Graphic Arts, Kansas City) board meeting and happy hour.
The connections I made there opened up a lot of doors for me. Though full-time, entry design positions were tough to come by in the following months, it was these connections and many others that kept me afloat [with] freelance projects throughout this time.
Apart from the freelancing I’ve been doing, I bought a 140-year-old house in KC before the pandemic and have been having a blast remodeling. I moved back home because I wanted to do A LOT on it. Basically, a full makeover.
I also joined the AIGA KC board and am a representative for them on the CFAD KC (College of Fine Arts and Design Board). I was fortunate enough to be part of a poster project called COGRID-19 which brings 19 designers from one city to create a poster whose proceeds benefit that city’s chosen charity. I’ve also been volunteering with Babes Helpin’ Babes on increasing visibility on issues of DEI+ (Diversity Equity Inclusion) more in the workplace. Overall, I kept myself semi-busy during some of the lulls of last year.
What does a normal day look like for you? Regarding work and life in general.
Honestly, there is no normal day. Every single day is different. As a freelancer, sometimes work is inconsistent and sometimes I’m too swamped and have to refer work to friends. Especially right now, working freelance has been completely remote. I usually spend most of the day working at the kitchen table since I don’t have a formal office. Often, you’ll see me with sparkling water by my side, looking wistfully outside thinking about traveling and a post-COVID world.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to students or even to recent graduates?
Networking is everything! But treat it like a friendship. I don’t consider myself an extrovert or outgoing by any means, but I found that it was easier to approach people who I admired in a room or online and connect with them on some similarities we shared. I was surprised at how open people were to just sharing a coffee over Zoom even if they had never met you before. If you do this, come with questions but also don’t be afraid to be vulnerable eventually!
What did you learn from your professors in the Art + Design Department that you still use/think about today?
From Masha, [graphic design and illustration assistant professor], I learned the importance of work/life balance. As someone who also has a chronic illness, practicing boundaries and realizing when to push myself and when I just can’t have been super important this year.
Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing after graduation? Do you think making expectations of your future is beneficial or not?
Not at all! I think creating goals is vital to keep yourself moving. But I could have never anticipated that COVID would take the world by storm in the worst way possible. So keeping myself and my mindset flexible has been important in order to continue looking for opportunities when there seemed to be none.
How has COVID shaped your life/work?
I postponed my move to KC, not only because I couldn’t find a full-time gig. Because of my chronic illness, I would be completely alone up there and though I’m quite independent, I do love people. Living by myself up there during this time would have been detrimental to my mental health and kind of risky because of my condition. Also because of COVID, I’m on Zoom/Teams constantly! But I think that goes for anyone who is doing remote work because of COVID.
Advice from Batsheba!
If you’re doing self-employed and freelance work, don’t forget to save a portion for quarterly taxes! That is something that caught me off guard when I was first starting!
Check out Batsheba’s portfolio!