As this summer is coming to an end, I’ve had time to really self-reflect about where I stand as an aspiring UX Designer. If someone asked me three months ago, whether I knew what that really meant, they would’ve found me a little blank faced and confused, but eager to find out. With the help of my internship at Zappos this past summer, I have really come to know myself a little more in this role, as my definition of what being a user experience designer, although still developing, has become increasingly more concrete with time shadowing one of the best teams I’ve come to know. Here are the top seven things I’ve learned at my internship this summer:
1. It is okay to not know everything.
From being at Zappos and analyzing whether my curriculum at university has really taught me anything about the work place, I would argue that curriculum did not really prepare me for the work place at all. However, it is the tools that I’ve learned in curriculum, and the approach to problems that really helped me to drive my process working on real projects at Zappos. In the beginning, I felt blindsided by how unprepared within the workflow I was. I did not know cross-functionalities between user experience, development, marketing, or business. However, my team assured me that it is normal to not know everything. In fact, many of them stated they are still learning as they go, and that the learning doesn’t stop from the day you launch your career. It’d be pretentious to say that any team was perfect, but the team never tried to fool anyone that they were. And with that, brings me to my next lesson learned.
2. Ask questions.
Being a naïve college student, it is easy to let your spirits be led by fear. Unfortunately, through some time of my internship, I was guilty of this. I was afraid of not being efficient enough, not knowing my tools enough, overall, just not being right or having the right answers. And it was foolish for me to assume that I always had to know the right answers, as mentioned before. But from this fear, I’ve learned that it is vital in any role to continually ask questions. Questions will always lead you to a source that knows, and with that comes growth in your own work.
3. Team dynamic matters.
I could go all day bragging about how amazing the Zappos UX team is, but there wouldn’t be enough time to do so. The team was not only exponentially invested in my growth, but they were also invested in each other’s. It was evident in the conversations they had, always wanting clarity in each other’s thinking and process, and being open to constructive critique and opposing logic. There were endless discussions about how to be better as a unit. This dynamic has set the foundation of my desires in my future team. Keep in mind I did say amazing, but I didn’t say perfect. Because no team is perfect, but as long as team members want to drive growth, that is all that matters.
4. Work for a company that matches your values.
Having been part of an amazing team, it is important to analyze the driving force behind the team itself, which is the company. Zappos gives many teams the freedom to exercise their craft in forms that they desire. Whether it be simple team bonding events, book clubs, or team trips to conferences, the resources seemed endless. This type of treatment is important as companies should drive growth within teams. With happier teams, comes healthier minds to drive the business forward.
5. Design isn’t about making things pretty.
Throughout this article I have brought up my naivety because again, I simply do not know everything. One of those things I didn’t know was that design decisions are not as black and white as curriculum puts it out to be. Being that my major is in graphic design, it is easy to say that with a simple re-skin of a product, people will, right-off-the-bat, have a better product. Throughout the internship, I have learned that this is so far from the truth. Solutions to design problems vary in complex ways, with the user driving many of the final decisions. However, with billions of people on this planet, humans are not as simple as they seem. Their brains function in a completely different ways than designers assume. This is why products and their functionalities continually evolve, as problems become more complex.
6. Everything will always change, and so will you.
In the months at Zappos, the amount of change that happened was eye-opening. Whether it be tools in the workflow, meeting dynamics, or employees coming and going, there would always be something changing. Although this concept isn’t new to me, I have to remind myself that things will always change not just in my role, but in life. I will have to continually roll with the punches and the blessings that I am given throughout my career.
7. With drive to learn, drive to build skills, and time comes confidence in your craft.
One common theme that has come up throughout the internship, was my confidence, or lack-thereof. Thinking about this, I’ve realized that my lack of confidence has come from a place of curiosity. But instead of reflecting this in a negative light in myself, I should use my curiosity to exude my confidence in my ability to learn and grow. I will never know everything, but I can always try and work hard to reflect what I learned in the projects that I work on and put my best foot forward in my approach to design problems. Confidence in my work will come with practice and in time.
So, with all that talk, what does it really mean being a user experience designer?
With everything I learned this summer, the most important thing that I’ve learned is that there is no concrete definition of what user experience designer is. Because user experience designers are continually evolving, much like the customers themselves, so will the definition. However, if I were to put words to describe what it means to me right now, I would say that user experience designers speak for the customers through smart design within products. With heavy research, customer feedback, and continuous iterations comes even more ideas. It is all a cycle.
My time at Zappos has been a rewarding and amazing experience. In the short three months there, I have been able to gain immense amount of knowledge about tools in the work place and in life. I have learned to always be hungry to learn, no matter what point in my career that I am in. This experience has been a catalyst to my career in user experience and I am excited to continue to be a contributor in the UX design world.