A year ago, if you had clicked on this page you would have found a pretty basic bio— where I’m from, where I went to school, all that good stuff. But not too long ago, I started getting an influx of questions, all along the same lines: “Hey, I love your site! It’s so helpful and informative— can you tell me how you got into UX and how you like it?” So now, on this page you’re going to find something a bit different— a sort of “FAQ” and “how it began” story all wrapped into one! So without further ado, here we go!
I graduated with a BA in Interactive Arts and a minor in Web Design. I was so sure all through college that I would be a web designer, working at my dream company and showing my pixel perfect designs to friends and family, displaying what I’d done on a live platform. But there was one major problem: many jobs in web design required coding experience, something I couldn’t stand! I dreaded the hours of coding and problem solving just to be greeted with more errors. And so I decided to take a different route: Graphic design.
I applied for several positions as a graphic designer and went on some interviews, but nothing really felt right. I got caught in that infamous hamster wheel of applying, interviewing, and not hearing back. So I stayed at my retail job, keeping an eye out and taking on freelance work as it came.
Here are some lessons I learned on my journey:
My first “real” job after retail was assistant for the VP of digital marketing at a major broadcasting company. It was a job I never envisioned myself working, and one that wasn’t in my major— a big problem for someone with over $100,000 in student loans. I would catch myself thinking “what am I doing working in a role that doesn’t fit me?” I began to doubt that the visual arts field was actually where I was meant to be.
But the answer was closer than I knew. When my boss realized I was interested in visual design, he allowed me to practice my presentation design skills for their decks. I researched the ins and outs of pitch decks, and developed the skills on how to properly design each one. It was these skills that eventually landed me a role at a large telecommunications company as a “Presentation Designer”. I learned a valuable lesson in my time as an assistant: that my path, no matter where I wanted to go, may not always be a straight one. It may be filled with twists, turns, and re-routes— but I was going to have to accept that truth and trust the process!
Hindsight is 20/20. If I’m really honest with myself, I know I wasn’t ready for that designer job right out of college. I didn’t have the skills I needed to succeed in that role— even if I thought I did! I can’t change the past, but what I can do is use it to inform my future. Taking the time to have my work evaluated by different industry professionals in my desired field gave me not only the feedback I needed, but the direction and drive to hone in on the areas where my skills were weak and improve them.
This revelation came to me at the same moment I realized I wanted more out of my career. I knew I had more to offer than just making something look pretty. I didn’t know what that was, but I felt that when it came forward, I would be ready to reach out and grasp it! When I expressed interest in the tech industry, my mentor told me to consider UX. I had never heard of it, so I researched the field, along with courses—then applied to a class the next day!
A few months after completing the UX course, I landed my first contracting role at Redbox as a Visual Designer. Just after that, I received a full time role at Caterpillar, the company I’ve made my home with as a UI/UX Designer! My main responsibilities include: information architect, user experience design, user interface design, and creative direction. I have a great work/life balance, I’m challenged every day— and see my growth because of it!— and, most importantly, I love my job!
I truly hope that no matter where you are in your own journey, mine inspires you to push forward and keep going. Keep looking forward, not back. Take what you might see as losses on the chin, and embrace your journey! It may be winding, but it’s uniquely yours.
I hold a Bachelors Degree in Interactive Arts and Media from Columbia College Chicago. I completed a UX Bootcamp a few years after graduating. I also hold a certificate in Women’s Entrepreneurial Studies from Cornell University.
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