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I didn't dream of being a UX designer, or even plan it later, it sort of just happened through natural career progression.

A photo of me at a design process workshop on my Master's degree.
A photo of me at a design process workshop on my Master's degree.
Monday 27 December 2021

Hello design world!

When asked how I became a UX designer, I often say it was accidental. I didn't dream of being one (it wasn’t even a job when I was 15), or even plan it later, it sort of just happened through natural career progression. I picked a degree because it was adjacent to media (TV and radio (my original intention)), what I ended up studying was Interactive Multimedia Design. My first two years were spent learning Photoshop, 3D modelling, video editing, web development, Flash (and ActionScript), and a few other Macromedia > Adobe tools and software.

My third year was a work placement year where I developed interactive Flash e-learning courses for schools. My final year was the culmination of my previous years, with the final project (the bulk of the marked degree) being a website I had to design and build and could apply any of the previous learnings to this website. I created a beginner’s guide website for indoor rock climbing called ‘Grab-a-Grip’. I wished I had the sense back then to back it up so I could see it in its full glory now, but thanks to the Wayback Machine there’s a HTML snapshot of it .

After my Bachelor’s degree I studied a Master’s degree in Multidisciplinary Design. This year and a half of study taught me how to promote myself, how to pitch work, and some of the fundamentals of thinking critically about art and design. This was a challenging time for me full of insecurity, doubt, and ultimately my mum’s cancer diagnosis and deterioration.

What is, is, not, what's meant for you

I firmly believe in the what is, is mantra. But looking back on my time doing the Master’s degree, I wished I did it at a time when I was ready to do it. A part of me only did the degree because I thought it would stave off that feeling of stepping out into the big bad world. In the end I failed because I didn’t rehearse my final project which was this live interactive environmental treasure hunt with graffiti and SMS/Google Maps/geocaching, thing... It still pains me to this day thinking about it. But, I still walk away from it with what I learned (and yes a postgraduate diploma). I’ve since come to appreciate that you don’t need a degree to prove to yourself you’ve learned something you just need it to prove to others...

And that’s a good segue to say, I never really needed any Bachelor's degree, or Master’s degree to be a UX designer. But, I wouldn’t change those experiences because it’s made me the designer I am today. Were it not for my Masters, I wouldn’t have applied for my first job when I did, were it not for that job, I wouldn’t have had the second, and so on. My trajectory (and life) would’ve taken a very different direction, I firmly believe that. And you know, I kind of like where I am today.

And so it’s all led me up to this blog post actually. I wouldn’t say I’ve had a whirlwind of a career, but (so far) it’s definitely been, interesting. I’m very much the jack of all trades type designer; from graphic design, to web design, to web development, to branding, to marketing, to email design, to landing pages, to print design, to e-learning, to fintech, to UX. I’ve worked on really fun projects and projects I’d like to not think of again. I’ve worked with some incredibly smart people, and some challenging managers. I’ve worked with brief’s, clients, and deadlines, and user data, research and OKRs.

As I think about the next few decades ahead of me and what I want to do with them, I keep coming back to people. I enjoy nothing more than working with people. I love great colleagues, encouraging environments, and supportive managers. I love the craft too – I love when hours have passed and I look at the clock and go, “Shit, it’s time to log off!” But I’ve recently had a taste at mentoring and helping others become UX designers. And I like that.

I want this blog to be the start of things I would tell my 25-year-old self, in the hopes that it will help other designers, no matter where they are in their careers.


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