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Why did you choose to become a user experience designer?

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Daniel’s Answer

Hi Jersey!

I became a UX designer because I care about solving the right problems for people. My background is actually in computer science, but during internships realized that a lot of time and energy is spent building software that doesn't actually make people's lives better.

The great thing about UX is that it spans the entire software development lifecycle.

1) You start by understanding pain points and writing user stories (the requirements stage).
2) You then need to create workflows and wireframes to address those user stories (the design stage).
3) As the engineers start building the solution, you should regularly check back with users to make sure they're able to use what you're building (the implementation stage).
4) Once you're released the solution, it's probably not perfect, so you need to keep getting feedback from users and iterating on what you learn (the maintenance stage).

Because UX spans all of these stages, you can choose to specialize or generalize as much as you want! For me, because I love writing code, I like staying involved the entire time and even contributing to the code from time to time. In fact, you'll occasionally see roles that reflect these variations on the UX Designer role: User Researcher, UX Developer, Interaction Designer, or Visual Designer.

You don't have to be a great visual designer or a great coder to be a UX Designer. In fact, the only thing that all these roles have in common is an obsession toward understanding and solving a user's problem. Because I'm more technical, I'm upfront with employers that I'm not the best visual designer, but I enjoy solving technical problems for developers and so I've made a good career working at companies that build tools for developers.

Daniel recommends the following next steps:

The Design of Everyday Things is a great book if you want to learn more about the importance of solving the right problems for users.

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Anna’s Answer

Hi there! Many UX designers I know have had very different paths into the field, and mine has been a bit unique as well. As an undergrad, I studied public health because I was interested in public health education to help underserved populations get the knowledge and resources they needed to live healthier lives. At the time, I needed to get a job on campus and a friend helped me learn what I needed to know in order to get a job at the computer support center for the university. In this job I fell in love with helping people solve problems with technology.

When I finished undergrad, I wasn't quite sure that I still wanted to be a public health educator because I knew I wanted some sort of career in technology, but I also knew I wanted a tech career that felt a bit more meaningful than tech support. I ended up in a job as a technical writer for the university, creating tech-related content for the university's knowledge base. After a few years in that job, I found myself wanting something that was more aligned with my initial career goals, so I looked at what graduate classes were available.

I found a graduate class called "health informatics" which sounded exactly like what I wanted-- a mix of technology and the health field. This class showed me how the intersection of technology and health could lead to a wealth of different careers, and in this class I also met students who were in a graduate program called Human-Computer Interaction/design (HCI/d). This is what ultimately introduced me to the field of user experience design. Soon after the health informatics class, I started my M.S. in HCI/d, and the rest is history! I was able to combine my love of tech, design, problem-solving, along with my passion for public health education, to go into a field where I could apply tech and problem-solving competencies in a huge variety of problem spaces.

Anna recommends the following next steps:

Explore master's degrees related to UX and HCI/d (although a master's degree isn't absolutely necessary for a career in UX) - https://uxplanet.org/how-to-get-into-user-experience-ux-masters-degree-programs-in-the-u-s-19ec1701cee
Find one or more mentors who can help you find your path in UX - https://uxdesign.cc/connecting-with-mentors-in-ux-7db6ce68eb3b

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Lucy’s Answer

I think it came as an evolution of other choices that I made in my professional career. I wanted to be a cartoonist first, and then learned it wasn't going to pay much money. By the time I graduated high school, I chose Mechatronics Engineer mostly because most of my friends were choosing engineer school and because I thought Mechatronics would teach me how to do animatronics for the movie industry (I learned very fast it was not the case). Although I wasn't particularly interested in a lot of the curricula of Mechatronics, I did enjoy industrial design a lot (which is taught for one semester, so students learn how to prototype machines) and the visual aspects of programming. I participated on the design aspects of different engineering projects during my college years, both in software and industrial, and later decided to pursue a second degree on graphic design. Now that I'm reminiscing, I recall myself thinking "if only there was a career that could combine what I already know in engineering with graphic design" it was already too late for me to pursue yet another career like digital animation (which was just created back in 2008 in my university), and even though I worked a little bit as a graphic designer and a little bit as a manufacturing engineer, I often found myself incomplete in both of those fields.

I later started working as a freelance for web design and found that I really enjoyed it, and that it took me back to my early college years, where I would help out on the visual aspects of software design. I started helping out different startups and professionals on their digital needs, particularly because having a presence on the internet was just starting to have relevance. Back in those days the term "UI/UX designer" didn't exist, and on various companies I would have different titles like "technological improvement engineer" (which was nothing but implementing software solutions for automated processes, but with user-friendly interfaces) or "interactive designer" or "web/digital designer"... but in all of those roles I would implement methodologies and techniques that are now known to be of the UI/UX realm. I started being called a UI/UX designer in 2015 when I started working as a contractor for IBM in a project for digital banking and been called like that ever since.

I am very pleased on how my career has evolved now, and I think I had always wanted a role as versatile as this one, even before the name was invented (as hipster as it may sound). I believe no other career gives you the flexibility of interacting with software, marketing, creative design and even psychology, in all stages of a product and as hectic as it may sound, the process comes very organic and intuitive. I am glad I inadvertently chose it.

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Emma’s Answer

I wouldn't say I really chose to be a UX Designer. My career path just kind of led me in that direction and I discovered it's a really good fit. I've always been creative, but definitely in more of an analytical, problem-solving way. Visual design was never my strength and I used to stress about that a lot – looking up to designers who were constantly posting beautiful UI, logos, and graphics. Once I started realizing the value UX thinking can bring to digital experiences, I took advantage of opportunities that allowed me to explore that more. Eventually I ended up as a Product Designer at a startup, which is allowing me to do a bit of everything. Some don't prefer a generalist type of role but I like that I can keep both sides of my brain active – visual and analytical.

I also really like that working in UX places the emphasis on the effectiveness of a solution rather than a more subjective scale of success (i.e. "We saw 7% increase in conversion from your idea" vs. "that's a cool design"). It's more fulfilling to me and I end every day knowing I'm working toward making digital experiences easier and more enjoyable for people to use.

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Martina’s Answer

Becoming a UX designer was the natural path of my career development. I have studied and worked as a graphic designer, later I decided to continue my education and I studied Digital Interaction Design and later Master degree in User Experience Design. The reasons I followed this professional path were mainly based on the nature of the field - you can be creative, but it is also very analytical, based on data and objective insights, and observations.

Martina recommends the following next steps:

You can read a lot of very interesting and helpful articles here: https://www.nngroup.com/
Another great source is also this one: https://www.usability.gov/
Lots of in depth articles, books, and courses: https://www.interaction-design.org/
Books I recommned: "Change by Design" by Tim Brown, "The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman, and "Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction"