One of the things that I find incredibly interesting about people is finding out how they got to where they are now career-wise. What is the path they took to success?
There is always something about the different paths that people take that is really insightful and gives you applicable lessons that you can apply to your own career.
I know I’m not alone in this obsession, as one of the questions that I hear quite a lot from other people is “How did you get started in UX?”
So, in this post, I’m going to take you on a journey through my UXD path, from where it all began to where I am now.
And that’s not all! This is just the first in a whole series of content that will feature different UX designers, so that you can see the variable paths that people take and learn from some of our mistakes and successes along the way!
But first, let’s start with me!
My UX Design Journey
It’s really interesting to reflect on your career path and see the choices you made and how things worked out. Looking back, here are some of the main things that jumped out at me:
Putting yourself out there is key, demonstrating your value is a golden key
I never expected that I’d get much response from companies if I wasn’t offering anything for them in return. I did things like speculative 3 page taster usability evaluations for a number of companies to show them what my value could be for them. Yes, it takes some upfront effort and there is no guarantee that it’ll pay off, but it gets you noticed in a sea of other emails that they’ll be getting.
Build on each success
I started with nothing – no portfolio, no experience, no clients. I was willing to get scraps of experience for no pay from any company at the beginning because I knew that as soon as I had just one bit of real experience, I could sell the crap out of it to the next company. I did an unpaid internship stint at Moo that resulted in me having a piece on research and personas that I could put into my portfolio as a real client project. Once you’ve got one, and you sell it well for the next company, you then have yet another project that you’ve been hired to work on. And then it just snowballs from there.
At the start, go where you can be supported and learn
The real making of me as a UX designer was at JustGiving, at my first in-house role. Why? They had a mature UX team with senior UX designers who were able to mentor me as a Junior UX designer and give me space to grow and learn. At the very start of your career, if you’re able, prioritise roles where you get that supportive environment.
Try everything once
Its tempting to stay in your comfort zone. If you’ve always worked in agencies, or always freelanced, it can be difficult to want to break out of what you know. One of the best pieces of advice was given to me early in my career by a colleague, who told me “try everything once and then see what you like”. Freelancing vs being in house at a startup vs being inhouse at a large company vs working at an agency – each experience is so different and you’ll learn a completely different skill set. I recommend trying as many different environments as a UX designer as you can so that a) you learn more and b) you get to see where you truly thrive and come alive.
I’m working on a great line-up of different designers who will share their UX design journeys with us. Watch this space! 🙂