HYPER ISLAND – The “school” review
Hyper Island educations have an extraordinary reputation within the communication and the digital industry. The school is present in Stockholm, Karlskrona, Brazil, Singapore, UK and the US. Hyper Island has been called the “The Digital Harvard” by the CEO of TBWA (link). Does the school live up to it’s reputation and what am I really learning during my time at HI?
It has always been a bit confusing to explain about the school to people and how it really works. So I hope this article will help you to make your decision if the school is a fit for you. I first heard of Hyper Island during my time working with SEO at NetBooster, where this previous alumni who was super into it explained about her positive time at HI. So I started to read about it and chose to apply for the “Digital Data Strategist 15” program because it was focusing the most on digital advertising.
I’m now studying the program ‘Digital Data Strategist 15‘ Aug 2014 to December 2015 in Stockholm and it has really been a journey into personal development and growth.
The application process was quite simple to understand, but not easy at all. I started out with the application task called “Creative Task” where the brief was to create something within the keyword “movement”.
The Creative Task submission would be assessed on the following criteria:
- Innovation & Feasibility and Originality
- Presentation and Effective Communication
I created Myvo – a ‘movement’ / community to engage young people in Sweden’s politics for the Swedish election.
In the next step I was invited to the “Admission Day” which was a full day with ca 80 applying people. In the morning we received some general information from the “program managers” and previous students. Then I had a personal interview, an individual task and a group task in the afternoon.
The personal interview was very special, they hardly asked me about anything technically related. The questions were more psychological and personally related to past difficult experiences and so on. One of the questions where the typical: “If you were an animal, which animal would you be and why?”.
The individual task was fun but stressful, I was given the brief to choose some keywords from a wall and then come up with a new tech application or service related to those keywords. If I remember correctly I had the keywords: rain, Africa and water. Not sure what I came up with during the 90 minutes.
The group task was very hectic. We were a group of 4-6 people and was given a task that required heavy teamwork. Of course, we kind of ‘failed’ on the task. But it’s important to remember that they are not assessing you on the task itself, but on how you communicate with team members and on how you listen and reflect.
starting the education with ‘way week’
The school started in August 2014 with the Hyper Island “Way Week”, kind of similar to Swedish universities “nollning”, but then again, no. It is a very special and intensive(!) week where we go to school from morning till evening. Most of the activities during this week is to bring our class together and get to know each other, but also to get to understand The Hyper Island Way of learning.
At first I was confused, the activities were very unique and kind of hipster. This video below is not mine, but it shows the type of “Energizers” that we had daily. To keep our energy level up 🙂
A big part of Hyper Island’s culture is openness and reflection. We focus a lot on group dynamics and self-reflection. In practise this means that we do regular Team Development Sessions where we give each other (and ourselves) feedback, do different types of team building tasks. Many times this feels like a therapy session, because we go deep into personal stuff.
Does it work? Yes, in my experience this has been the best way to solve conflicts, become closer as a team and get the maximum performance out of the team. “Team is everything” – one of school’s motto’s.
We also do several exercises where we focus on you as a individual. Such as setting up long term goals and milestones on how to reach them. I mean, a majority of the speakers during the first weeks are inspirational and focus on how you can learn to understand yourself better, and get out of your comfort zones. For me, I did amazing personal growth during these weeks in the beginning.
the modules (courses?)
The actual learning are built upon different modules. One module at a time. We have no teachers, no books. So the school is really different compared to regular ‘schools’. This didin’t actually feel like a ‘real’ school.
Lectures from “industry professionals” are a big part of the modules. For every module we get a brief, most likely from a real client. The learning happens in the practical work, supported by relevant lectures and workshops. It’s not really about how good you are, but how much you evolve during your time at HI.
Most of the lectures were amazing and really inspiring, and sometimes we were given full-day long workshops to actually get to use what we learned in practise, directly the day after the lecture. This was a really good way of learning fast.
You always work in teams, and the team members almost never learn the same things. Because you are personally in charge of your learnings. This means that you choose on what you want to focus on, as long as it’s within the brief and the client can benefit from it. Some people wanted to learn coding, so they spent a lot of time learning this individually. Some wanted to focus on Google Analytics and some wanted to focus on planning… It’s really about what you want to do. So “use your time wisely” and keep focused – to make the most out of it.
This is also where many students lost their energy, not only do you need to do a lot of stuff, but you need to become good at planning and scheduling your time. No body (most likely) is going to push you to do something. Only you are in charge of pushing yourself.
For me personally, I had a quite extensive background in digital before I started at Hyper Island. Most of the lectures were at a quite low level or just ‘inspiring’, so it was up to me to make sure I was learning something all the time. This took a lot of my energy, and I must admit that I dropped out of focus towards the ‘end’. I had/have my own company, the digital agency Bevace on the side, and sometimes I switched my energy towards the company. I just had to prioritise where I wanted to focus and it worked out fine for me. Even if it meant that sometimes I delivered lower quality work at HI.
Most of the criticism from the students were exactly about this. Hyper Island didin’t “push” them enough, give them hard briefs enough to keep growing, practical lectures and workshops enough. But this was also the point, freedom so that you learn to push yourself to learn what you want, to do what you want to reach your goals. But many couldn’t really handle this, at least I know I couldn’t do it all the time. When I didin’t have anything to do, the school or the client didin’t push us a team, we had to figure it out ourselves, and sometimes this caused me to focus on another stuff.
This is both negative and positive, but in my experience this was really positive. Hyper Island isn’t just a school about digital, it’s kind of a “life school”. You learn to push yourself to the limit, to steer your personal development into the path you wanted to go.
Hyper Island is a practical school, in Sweden called “Yrkeshögskola”. This means that about 5 months would be internship. I haven’t started my internship at Microsoft yet. But I want to write about the network. The network you get from Hyper Island, according to me, is the most valuable “thing” you get. So usually it ain’t a problem to find an internship or job.
You get to meet so many people from the industry, become friends with so many, that towards the end it feels like you know at least one person from most of the digital companies in Sweden, and globally. This is worth more than gold.
This network is one of the most valuable things I will bring with me from Hyper Island. I mean most of the students continue their career within digital. So the connections will be amazing :-).
summary & the future
I haven’t yet graduated from Hyper Island. The graduation party is in December, after the internships. But so far, to summarise my time at Hyper Island with 4 words, it would be: Crazy, Fun, Network & Personal Growth.
I recently also read an interesting article from Nina Amjadi “Advice I Would Have Given Myself Six Years Ago”. She is a module leader at Hyper Island in Karlskrona and shared two things which really breathe the Hyper Island culture:
“1- What did I learn?
2- How can I apply that learning?
That’s all you need answers to, forget about everything else. Don’t stress over life and certainly do not stress over your career, you’ll figure it out. Just ask your 85 year-old self about it, I’m sure he/she will smile in agreement.”
The future for Hyper Island seems to look bright. The school is growing in popularity, and most importantly the industry needs more people specialised in the fields that Hyper Island offers.
The future for me personally also have opened a lot during my studies at Hyper Island. Thanks to the connections and the hyped reputation the school has, I have received so many interesting offers that it became really challenging to choose the “right” one. This is just one of the perks of being a Hyper Island Student. 😉
Therefore my rating will be 4 out of 5 stars.
“Data is the new oil” / David Erixon – One of the Founders of Hyper Island