Staying in hostels throughout Colombia, I’ve met a number of inspiring people. Over dinner one night, a fellow traveler shared how her sister became a veterinarian after years of trying.
“How many years?”
So this chick got rejected from vet school four years in a row and still kept pushing on. That’s insanely admirable.
“Yeah, most of her classmates are 19-22 (they do it differently in Canada?) and she’s 27.”
This makes me think about my own path into design. Even though it pales in comparison to this girl’s journey, I’ve met a number of good folks who are struggling to enter UX Design. For months, years, sometimes longer.
The reason why the vet student inspired me so much wasn’t just her sheer determination, but the personal network that supported her career decision for years and years.
So with that, I’ll share with you who I did and didn’t listen to into my transition to UX. Then I’ll share how finding my tribe made all the difference.
unheeded advisor #1: my mum
I don’t know why you’d leave a perfectly stable job to do something random like that. Also, you don’t know computer programming, it’s going to be difficult to catch up.
Aw, parents… they want the best for you, but they often hail from a different generation with a different mindset. It’s hard to explain to them about a field they don’t understand.
My mum was more assured after I told her that becoming a UX Designer is not only more engaging of a job for me, but also would give me more hard skills than staying as a business analyst.
unheeded advisor #2: ux manager from a previous job
Okay, you’re into UX and have some previous work… but you have a degree in Economics. I don’t know how that’s going to work.
This was the surprising one, as I would have thought a UX professional would be more encouraging of new entrants to the field. Econ degree or not, I still became a UX Designer.
My friends were a mixed bag, but mostly on the positive side. They were in their early twenties like I was. The world was (and still is) ahead of us with the wind behind our backs. Anything can happen. People were switching jobs, going to grad school, or taking a year off to travel. So they took my desired career change very openly.
The only roadblock I had was in explaining UX Design to my friends. However, that wasn’t enough. The biggest difference was when I started talking to actual designers.
finding my tribe
To some of you, this quote may be quite familiar:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn
Mr. Rohn claims that lot of life is made up by who you spend time with. I think it’s even more so about who you choose to listen to. I wouldn’t have gone far by just listening to my mom (bless her heart) or the discouraging UX manager. So who better to listen to than young UX Designers themselves?
Instead of trying to get Jony Ive’s attention, I looked for low-hanging fruit. AKA Facebook friends. Turns out that there were a couple of really amazing designers in my network, such as Jason Hsin (of At the Pool / Yeti), who were instrumental in validating my interest in design.
Next, I expanded my networking to Meetup groups. Luckily, Los Angeles is an amazing place to be a budding UX Designer with robust meetups like LA UX and UXPA. There, I really found my tribe. Everyone was already working in UX or trying to break into the field. In this environment, people didn’t questioned the value of UX, but rather sought to advance the field.
Lastly, I took UX classes. One of the benefits of learning UX in a more formal, educational setting is to be surrounded by people who are immersing themselves in a new field. They’re paying good money to spend weekends and after work hours to learn. These are people I wanted to be around.
If at all possible, take a class offline, in person rather than online. The personal connections are worth their weight in gold.
Over the course of several tough, difficult months, finding my tribe has given me the motivation and mindset I needed to transition into a career in UX Design.
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