I’m a self-taught UX designer. After months of exhausting UX design job hunting, I landed my very first full-time UX design job at Avvo, as a UX design intern. I was a bundle of nerves on my start date. Honestly, I was not that confident and felt insecure because I come from a non-academic UX design background and had limited industry experience.
1. Build up your relationships with your peers, that’s the trustworthy foundation of your success.
2. Embrace your newness and be eager-to-learn. Don’t be afraid of asking “silly” questions, and proactively seek out feedback to improve your designs.
3. Collaborate with people across the team. Actively listen with an open mind. The team is here for you.
1. Build up your relationships with your peers
During my first week, I was eager to hit the ground running and put what I had learned into practice.
My supervisor told me,
“Don’t rush yourself into projects right away. Spend some time to get to know the business, products, and people you are going to work with.”
My first week at Avvo was mostly learning, which gave me a great opportunity to have a comprehensive understanding of products/business from different perspectives, get to know my peers in person, and also find out where/how to find UX resources. The product team at Avvo is super welcoming and friendly. Everyone is happy to share and talk.
Scheduling 1:1 meetings with people across the team is a great way to break the ice. There is so much rich information you can take in and learn from them.
- Have a question list and prioritize your questions to make the most of your 1:1 time. There must be something you are interested in or curious about.
- Ask about their personal UX journeys; how they started out and go to where they are today. The UX team at Avvo is diverse and multidisciplinary. Their stories inspired me and gave me insights to figure out what career path I might want to take.
- After a 1:1 meeting session, send out a thank you note and share what you learned from the person. Continue the conversation with what ignited your interests.
2. Don’t be afraid of asking “silly” questions and seeking out feedback
There were so many things I didn’t understand when I started out. A lot of techniques were new to me. But, don’t freak out. It’s normal. The solution is to ASK! Asking questions helped me grow faster and kept me on the right direction.
- Don’t be afraid of asking “silly” questions. I still remembered that the first question I asked was, “ What does PA stand for?” It means practice area at Avvo. People causally use acronyms in workplaces. If you don’t understand, ask for an explanation. Don’t make assumptions yourself.
- Before asking a technical question, my recommendation is to prepare your question and think it through. It shows that you have put thought and effort into solving the problem before seeking help, and it helps people give you better answer.
During my Avvo internship, I led 3 design critique sessions to seek out feedback.
In my first critique I was overwhelmed. It was not easy in the spotlight.
Design critiques can be a nerve-wracking experience when you are new to a team. Getting lots of feedback can be overwhelming especially when you are challenged by questions that you can’t answer. But seeking out feedback is one of the most effective ways to help you iterate on your designs and drives you to think outside the box. So, bring your designs to your peers and ask for their feedback.
- A good format to introduce your work is:
“I am showing [early/mid/late] work around [the problem], because [why it’s a problem]. And am looking for feedback around [specific focus for feedback].”
- Be prepared for the critique. Research the project background before bringing your design to critique. It helps you answer questions that come up and makes for a better discussion.
- Be clear about what feedback you are looking for. Otherwise, people could go to a different route, not providing suggestions on the problem that you are focusing.
- During the critique, ask questions about the ideas people suggest so you can understand the reason behind the suggestions. This can be more useful than the idea itself.
- Don’t feel pressured to accept every suggestion. You don’t have to agree or disagree with others’ opinions right away, but take notes to write their feedback down for your improvements later.
3. Collaborate with people across the team
UX designers work with people across the team very closely. Design is essentially a collaborative process. And remember, your team is here for you.
“Be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you.”
— Amy Poehler
- Collaborate with your team along the way. Book 30-minute meetings to communicate with people. Have a conversation with the product manager to understand the business background/goal; talk with a UX researcher to map out testing plans and define research goals; collaborate with a content strategist to improve your copy and advance narratives to a next level.
- Involve developers early and often. They will provide you good insights and help you understand potential technical constraints before you get invested into your design solutions. You have no need to worry about understanding all programming languages. At Avvo, I sat with developers right next to each other. This sitting arrangement gave me exposure to developers’ day-to-day work and their commonly used terminologies.
- Stay open-minded and listen to people’s opinions and ideas. You don’t have to use every idea, but approach it with an open mind. Everybody likes to be heard. Their feedback can be very valuable and is often right on-point.
Starting a UX career is not easy, especially if you don’t have an academic UX background. We need to devote much more effort to expand our knowledge and practice technical skills. But don’t let those insecure feelings stop you. Try these 3 strategies which helped me succeed to beat your fears. Let me know how it goes. I am looking forward to hearing your personal experience and feedback.
If you have any questions about my Avvo internship, and my career transition to UX design, please feel free to reach out. I’m more than happy to help!
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