My passion for UX explained through my other life passions

Today, I had a mind-changing interview.

And it all started with the simple question of…

“What makes you stand out as a Designer?”

I blurted out some cookie-cutter response like “I am someone who is extremely empathetic and detail-oriented.” 
Suffice to say, my interviewer was not impressed. 
Suffice to say, I did not stand out to him as a Designer. 
Suffice to say, I was not invited to continue down the application process.

Even though I got rejected, I walked out of this interview feeling more confident in myself as professional than I ever have before.

“How? Why?” You might ask.
Let me explain.

A Paper Cut-Out

As a recent graduate who has become so accustomed to following what a professor says, I am wired to following instructions and guidance to a T. I am sure that a lot of people in my situation are the same in this respect.

So, it’s only natural that when I began my job hunt, I followed whatever advice I saw online.

I looked up examples of great UX portfolios on Google. 
I read through dozens upon dozens of job requirements. 
I browsed the various summaries of UXers on LinkedIn.

And unfortunately, this is what I modeled myself after in my application process. I wasn’t portraying my honest self to prospective companies. Instead, I was showing them the same kind of resume, portfolio, and applicant that they’ve seen hundreds of times. I literally made myself a sheet in the stack.

I realized that I needed to dig deep down and figure out who I was. I needed to figure out my own personality reflected in my work as a UXer.

My Passion for Team Sports

Any of my closest friends can tell you that I love team sports… 
Basketball, Volleyball, Baseball… you name it.

Why team sports instead of individual sports? Well, to put it simply: 
the camaraderie.

There’s nothing that motivates me more than helping people I truly enjoy working. There’s nothing more exhilarating than progressing toward a common goal with my team. In a team sport, it doesn’t matter how great a single player is. Unless the team effectively works together, they all lose. Everyone needs to play their role, communicate well, and pursue a common purpose together.

Why does this passion make me a great UXer? Everyone in the company (engineers, product management, marketing, UX) must play their role, communicate well, and pursue a common purpose together. Sound familiar? It’s because to be a great UXer, you need to be a great team player. 
You need to know how to lead. 
You need to learn how to follow. 
You need to be able to work together.

My Passion for Music

I listen to music when I work, when I relax, when I eat… nearly all of the time. However, I’m not only invested in listening to music, but also sharing music and discussing music-related topics.

Whenever I’m in the car with my friends, I’ll always ask them to “pass me the aux” so I can show them new music I have been listening to. I share with everyone the positive impact that music gives me.

If you’ve known me for a while, you can probably tell that my favorite genre of music is Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop gets a bad rep for being non-sensical, unartistic, provocative, and all sorts of things. I’m not here to argue whether or not Hip-Hop is a great genre, but I will say that there’s more to Hip-Hop than what’s on the surface.

I love the way that Hip-Hop lyrics usually have a deeper meaning. Rappers frequently use things like double-entendres, wordplay, similes, metaphors, and all sorts of tricks. I find myself constantly browsing music forums, watching music breakdowns on YouTube, and discussing with my friends. I do all of this to uncover new insights about a song that I would’ve never understood on the first play-through.

Why does this passion make me a great UXer? Like Hip-Hop, there’s more to a user’s feedback than what’s on the surface. When conducting research, I browse documentation, watch informational videos, and hold discussions or research sessions. A UX Researcher needs to continuously ask questions, dig deeper, and hold discussions to uncover new insights about a product that would’ve never been revealed at face-value.

My Passion for Cooking

I wouldn’t say that I’m a great cook, but I am definitely a brave cook. My girlfriend could tell you that I experiment with the weirdest recipes. However, I always make sure to follow established cooking etiquette like heating up the pan before the oil, letting my meat sit, etc. The experimentation comes in things like the mixture of ingredients and seasoning.

It’s amazing how many times I’ve gotten this reaction from those who have tasted my food.

Regardless of this, I continue to experiment. Why? It’s because I live for when my recipes bring this reaction.

How does this passion make me a UXer? Well, UXers must be familiar with making mistakes.

“Fail fast, succeed sooner.”

To create a truly innovative solution, UXers cannot be afraid of failure. They cannot be afraid to think outside of the box. However, there are definitely UX best practices that should be considered in the midst of experimentation. From my passion as a chef, I’ve realized that UX best practices are more like guidelines, not necessarily strict rules to follow. UXers must pursue amazing experiences in the same way that chefs pursue a delicious dish.

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