My background is one that seems as far as possible from any type of technology. I studied Interior Space and Furniture Design as a part of my undergraduate degree and I always felt like something was missing.
After a lot of reflection, I came to terms with what I wanted to achieve for myself – both professionally and personally, and made the transition to UX, finally, a career that made sense to me.
It’s been 2 years since I made “the shift” and I have had time to reflect on my journey. I’ve broken down the process of switching to UX into 6 simple steps — for all those who might be facing dilemmas similar to what I did, or are at the start of their journey:
This one is a bit odd, I know, but I believe this should always be the first and the last step for any major life decision.
You need to ask yourself why you want to make the change. Is it because UX design is the new hot thing in the industry right now? Have you heard from someone that it pays better than your current field?
Or are you doing this because you genuinely love solving problems? Because you are a great storyteller and love finding the answers to the “whys”. Maybe because human behavior both baffles and amazes you at the same time and you wish to use that knowledge to recreate a story by constructing delightful experiences for your users.
For me, being honest was liberating. It helped me enjoy what I do. It brought with it some challenges, but those were my challenges — unique to me and my personality, and helped me create my own path and opinion, instead of following others.
I believe that it is “wiser to dip your toes into the water before jumping in.”
Though there are many UX design degrees out there, you don’t have to enroll right away. If you don’t want to jump into a full-time course yet, just start with reading about it.
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman was the first book I picked up and it really changed my perspective on design and helped me understand what makes a design good–or bad. I also started reading blogs like UX Planet, Neilson Norman, and UXmatters, and it helped me learn about the trends and some really interesting insights about the industry.
After this point, you can decide to invest time and money and get into a crash course, online course, or a degree. If you would rather prefer to be self-taught, you can also enroll in Skillshare or Udemy.
Start building a portfolio right away.
Don’t shy away from creating something quick and simple. Include student projects, personal projects, or give a spin to an old project that you really enjoyed doing.
You can always include product reviews of some popular applications or websites, where you analyze and redesign them based on your research and key findings.
Show your process and how you reached the final solution. From my experience, I have seen that companies are not as interested in your final concept or how beautiful the screens look, but more in the kinds of questions that you asked (and answered) to reach the solution.
This one sounds like common sense but as they say: common sense is not so common.
Getting into the field you will be bombarded by terms like UX designer, UI designer, Interaction designer, Service designer, UX strategist, Visual Designer, UX Researcher, Information Architect, etc.
It could be so overwhelming and confusing but it is important to know what each of the titles stand for and specialize in.
I once gave a 6-hour interview for the role of a UX designer only to have them list out job descriptions for a Visual designer.
This taught me that:
a) Not all companies really understand what they are looking for and hence, place ambiguous and vague advertisements.
b) Most companies just want pretty looking screens and completely sideline the importance and need for strong research that backs it.
Don’t forget that when a company interviews you, you interview them too.
So it is important that you really understand what your focus is to avoid getting lost in unclear titles.
“No man is an island” and growing your design career is going to involve a lot of other people, which means networking.
Meetups and UX conferences are places where you will find companies to work for (or not), cool agencies, and maybe a potential UX mentor.
In addition to other designers, building a network is going to involve people from other disciplines and positions, such as product managers, engineers, recruiters, startup founders, business owners, etc. so make sure to branch out.
Additionally, don’t just network within the tech industry.
These days, UX Design is ubiquitous because it allows for a human-centered approach to technology, and technology is everywhere, so build your network across different industries because career opportunities can come from virtually anywhere.
Whether you come from a different design field or from a non-design field, there was something within you that drew you towards UX design. Instead of looking at it as a weakness, harness it into your strength.
Your journey is important and unique to you, and it makes you stand out from everyone.
When I started out I used to think that my portfolio should show no trace of my past and I now understand that it’s about the journey and not the destination.
You are going to be asked at every interview about why you decided to make the shift, so try to understand it, reflect on your journey, and use it as a strength.
“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”
-Winnie the Pooh