Breaking into UX may not be as straightforward as you may think
Whenever people talk about career switching, securing full-time jobs usually come To mind. This was exactly what I thought when I signed up for a UX course a year ago. However, is breaking into UX really that easy? I’d say it’s not that simple if you don’t have any prior design experience like me. If you’re wondering if UX is really right for you, or if you’re just looking for a way to break into UX, do read on.
Here’s the story of how my career path went seemingly off track and how I ended up taking an internship (when I’m no longer that young).
How I ended up in UX
I was never a creative person to begin with — I did Life Sciences in university and went on to do Sales at an outsourced marketing company. Whatever little experience with design I had was making posters on Canva or Adobe Sparkpost for company events. Then came the pandemic, which made me think about life and such, like any other human experiencing a mid-life crisis. I quit my job without any offers due to stress (it’s all about mental health these days, right?). And then, signed up for a UX course on impulse because it sounded interesting and it was one of the most sought-after role at that time — so why not? And that was how I got into UX, and the start of an arduous journey. Read more about the struggles I faced when I first started over here.
Why I decided to take on an internship when everyone else looked for a full-time role after the course
I know what you’re thinking: an internship when you’ve already worked for years? Well yeah, I get it. When we think about internships, we think about undergrads and fresh grads with zero working experience. I admit that while most internships out there are reserved for students, many companies are open to having people of other ages join them as interns. Internships are particularly useful for career switchers like us to get our foot in the door of a completely new industry, or even give a glimpse of how it’s really like to go on a particular career path. I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to do UX as a career and was worried that my design skillset wasn’t adequate to take on a full-time role. Taking on an internship made the most sense to me since I could experience how it’s like to be a UX designer, while getting mentored by someone senior. So if you’re looking to break into UX from a non-design role, welcome to my life! Here’s some valuable lessons I learnt from my internship at Rakuten Viki and what’s next in my journey.
Valuable lessons I picked up from the internship
1. UX is not as simple as what’s being taught in bootcamps
Anyone that’s been through a UX bootcamp would have done at least one case study — either a redesign of an existing app/website or an app/website to solve a particular problem. I did a redesign of an e-commerce app for my capstone project during my UX course. Everything went well, from research to wireframing, testing and the final design. We only needed to consider the UX aspect, and didn’t need to speak with stakeholders or think about how our UX solutions would potentially affect the business.
When I first started working at Rakuten Viki, I realised that a UX designer needs to look at and consider problems and solutions in different perspectives — how will my designs affect the business and users? What do each stakeholder expect from this project? Will the designs affect the work done by other teams in the same or different swimlane?
2. Defending my design decisions
I struggled a lot initially when I worked on my first project as I did not know how best to articulate my design decisions. I designed “blindly”, without considering other possible alternatives, nor think through why I designed certain things in a certain way. To be honest, I was more concerned about the look and feel of my designs (the aesthetics), rather than how my designs could solve the users’ problems. Thank goodness I had a good mentor that made me realise my amateur-ish mistakes. Phew.
People say that you learn best when you make mistakes and that was what I did (yay to being an intern since people usually expect juniors to make mistakes and are usually more tolerant towards them). Through the whole internship, I learnt how to communicate better with stakeholders and developers about my designs and how best to balance user experience with the company’s business goals. I also learnt not to design blindly and instead, think through my designs — is whatever I designed truly necessary? How will my designs impact users? Do these solve the problem that users are facing? What are the alternatives and how do they compare against my current designs?
That being said, since I’m still relatively new to UX, I still have room for improvement when it comes to defending my designs. I recently came across this book by Tom Greever and I highly recommend it if you’re wondering how you can better articulate your design decisions.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions (and make mistakes)
As a junior on the job, and an introvert, I usually get the jitters whenever I have doubts that I need to clarify on. I tend to try to resolve issues on my own as much as possible since I did not want to bother my mentor or colleagues too much. However, this gave me a lot of stress and anxiety since I was worried that I would make a mistake (which I did). By the time I actually decided to ask for help, it was usually a bit too late and I had to make lots of amendments to my designs last minute. I learnt the hard way that I should always ask questions whenever I have them or get help as soon as possible so that I don’t create so much anxiety on my end and let things snowball. People are usually happy to help out when you ask.
What’s coming up next in my UX journey
I completed my internship that lasted 6 months last September and recently witnessed the product that I designed for get launched. It was definitely an achievement and I’m thankful to my manager and mentor that gave me the opportunity (and trusted me) to work on the project. This internship opened my eyes into what UX designers really do and provided me with many valuable lessons to help me grow as a UX designer. I also had the chance to do different projects ranging from user research to UI work during my time at Rakuten Viki and this helped boost my resume and portfolio — which ultimately helped me land a new role.
I am happy to share that I am set to start working at JP Morgan Chase as a UX designer this January. Wish me luck! And to you that lasted through this article, don’t give up and keep going! 💪
Thank you reading this article and I hope what I wrote has either provided you with some comfort for your upcoming UX journey or helped you gain a better glimpse of choosing to do UX as your career.
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I Took on an Internship When I First Switched Careers into UX – Here’s Why was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.