What does Digital Marketing Specialist want to know? Q&A: about becoming UX/UI Designer.
I am often reached out by new mentees because of the network and professional connection to help, guide, support, inspire and motivate newcomers in becoming UX, UX/UI or UI Designers or UX Researchers. Recently Digital Marketing Specialist working for a prestigious brand contacted me willing to be mentored in a career towards UX and UI Design. Below I share anonymously the asked question and my answers to help others who need a bit more than just any UX or UI Design course.
The Q&A is useful for any market. Few links as co-working places are recommended for Dublin. Apart from that, all can be applied worldwide. And even those co-working places, are indeed internationally well known. Enjoy your Transition to UX and UI Design.
1. How did you get into your job?
The standard recruiting process was through LinkedIn. Back in the day: through other job platforms, I also approached a long ago company directly by sending a postal letter and email or even visiting it). Be Bold if you want something, but be polite and do not approach directly a specific person (e.g. CEO, Owner) but the company/organisation as a whole through direct contact with a company representative (even owner if no HR, HR, recruiting agency etc.). LinkedIn - I highly recommended it more than any other platform. I also do recommend having a paid version when comes to looking especially for the 1st opportunity as gives the ability to network with potential recruiters, future colleagues, hiring managers, CEOs etc. Also, direct research of the career offers through consulting companies will be advised to explore together with other popular job market offers as jobs.ie. Premium LinkedIn is recommended but optional. The right position will come to you regardless of it.
Across 5 countries and many cities where I used to live (Poland, Holland, Belgium, United Kingdom and Ireland). Each job in all places where I used to live was self-found or I was approached directly by email, LinkedIn or phone call, including the recent UX/UI positions as Consultant/Contractor etc. I live independently in IRL since 2010, with no specific personal connections to get a career job offer.
I also, as UX/UI Design and Career Mentor, believe that a career must be found (or be allowed to be found by others) to be truly appreciated the effort and own success. Self-worth is growing within.
I have BA Honours in Design (also fine arts, computer graphics, photography etc.) completed back in Poland (2005-2008) with years in the industry although also exploring other paths of career from education to wellness, yoga etc. I completed Digital Marketing at Dublin Business School 2019-2020. I have a variety of other qualifications which defiantly boost UX and UI and leadership teams and projects within start-ups and tech giants.
Now I completed the IADT Master of Arts in Design "for Change". https://iadt.ie/courses/design-for-change/ I approach life, both professional and personal with a well-known sentence from Michael Angelo, at the age of 87: I am still learning. More about their postgraduate courses at the meeting in comparison to other colleges in Ireland, the UK and even Finland, or Poland.
2. Do you have any recommendations for portfolios?
Two ways can be taken into account:
A/ Diverse portfolio of various projects for different industries (from finance to communication, across any type of retails, transport, sustainability etc. and anything you like, including as well personal-hobbyists are of interest based on the previously conducted market research as per my 1st email). Including mobile apps, desktop websites, responsive design, iOS and Android etc. with a focus on the full UX and UI showcases (not just visual final design, but to show the design process using a design methodology and strategy from analysis of the direct and indirect competitors, across user interviews, testing, design style guide proposal and final mockups).
B/ Specific portfolio projects for a specific industry for example fashion retail shops or finance-insurance or education for 1-2 sectors: FinTech and/or EdTech etc. This is only recommended when you are certain which industry you will like to dedicate your upcoming career path to. Off course, this can change over time and as well you might add the first few projects focused on e.g. EdTech and then update the portfolio with a variety of different projects.
Minimum 5-7 projects with both focus on UX and UI. From the beginning to the end.
I suggest kindly to explore and create mood boards, and inspiration portfolios by researching Behance, Dribbble and companies' apps/websites which you consider could do better. Take time and be picky! Super picky while being the most elegant and a the same time most comfy high heels to run and to look classy. Being picky matters. In this industry, good judgment is half of the success.
Behance or Dribbble (one is enough) plus a professional website with an established domain or at least a good URL with the free, unpaid domain if not yet certain what how would like to call it. I do recommend keeping it simple when available, your full name or surname.
Recommending not including any previous work in other fields of the design if you really like to focus on UX and or UX/UI or just UI. You might add another type of design work (previous e.g. animation, 3D, photography which you had mentioned, but must be updated) but only if you like to apply to the general design studio, or advertising agency, where those skills will be needed.
too much variety speaks about broad perspectives but also shows no focus.
The best strategy will be to use your own e.g. photographs in one of the UX/UI projects in form of content for the specific app etc. That time, when asking about e.g. copyrights policies, you will proudly say that those photos are done by yourself etc. and you will show as well how well combined they are in your UX/UI showcases instead of using iStock or Pixabay, etc.
3. Anything else you would recommend I do, other than this UX course?
A/ Networking is key in a professional manner, without asking anything about the possible career position at the companies, but genuinely want to connect with like-minded people, not only UX and UI Designers, but as well UX Writers, Researchers, CTOs, CEOs, HR, Recruiters, Project Managers, Start-ups owners, Tech Folks, Developers etc.
LinkedIn offers to send a short note/message before clicking connect which I do recommend to my students and mentees as a form of work ethics instead of just clicking connect.
Go the gut feeling, intuition and proper logical worth of time and energy review of the person's professional and as well personal development (e.g. volunteering section, values, industry interest, a smiley positive picture speaks a lot too). Not everyone out there is worth being connected to. Some folks will wish the best to everyone even in the same position as they have an abundance mindset that for everyone is enough (career offers in this case). Others do not really. Connect only with those who somehow you really feel like it. Off course we will never know what life will bring, so go with the flow and if not getting a message or connection approval, let it go, and approach others with a positive attitude.
Also, clear all unwanted, discouraging connections which you might have. UX - Less is more, including connections. Off course all advice is just advice, it is up to you, and it is optional.
B/ I will advise you not to speak to anyone at work (who is not in the position of opening you a new door to UX/UI) about your career transition. People unnecessarily can encourage you too fast or the opposite, not encourage you at all. Choose wisely with who you share your plans. There are a few types of people: Talk and Do, Just Do (without talking/sharing) and Just Talk (without doing, mostly never do) and do not Talk and Do (mostly complain instead).
If you really like your company and do want to stay with the same company, why not review the company offers current or possibly to be created for you with the upcoming new qualification?
C/ Figma, AdobeXd, Sketch - get familiar with all programs, not just one. Plus plugins, and whiteboards as per the previous email: Miro, FigJam, and any charts such as Draw.io, and Lucidchart - do proper research of available programs and online tools. Tutorials matters, forums, Lynda.com, currently LinkedIn Learning etc.
D/ If you like o be part of Google then this course is excellent. Also, start-ups will appreciate it very much as they use Google much more often than MS Office etc. I had not chosen UX with Google, due many bigger companies do not use Google Apps due to security reasons. I did many specialisation courses with Career Foundry (UI Design, UX Design, Voice UI Design and Frontend for Designers). I believe UX Design with Google is a good transition to start after my previous research about this course, however, I do recommend going further and considering a Master's with IADT in Dún Laoghaire (or any other college, university - after proper again research and comparison), however, this can be done later on if needed and wanted. Also, I do recommend Springboard (not Irish but based in San Francisco, online courses: https://www.springboard.com/). Many other private education sectors offer similar courses so it is worth checking their reviews e.g on https://careerkarma.com/ etc.
4. Best types of jobs to go for?
Values, Mission, and Vision of the company, their product/service and teams. What they do, which industry and if it is aligned with your values, long-term vision and mission. Off course, this is initial and might change when you land it so give yourself time to adapt and accept and if the picture looked better than when actually is, then move on. Do not close recruiting process straight after signing up the contract. Let the time shows you if this is a really good place to be for a longer time.
Ethical design - check if their products do contain dark patterns. Establish your ethics as UX/UI Designer.
Glassdoor reviews balance well the positive with the negative as there is a bias in it too. Be aware, and investigate. However, I would not recommend approaching anyone from the company and asking for details. Everyone has a different experience. Although good to read, starting with the lowest as in Google Reviews. Look for professional feedback not too personal.
Well paid, so again research must be conducted as per the previous email. Compare current income with what UX and/or UI is offering and go for it. Do not go for less or equal than you have, must be much higher. Negation skills - good to learn it and/or refresh the negations skills: LinkedIn Learning courses will be great to do in this area. Compare Male/Female salaries if the company does share it or their employees, again Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Jobs.ie and other platforms.
Because of your long-term experience in design, upgrading your skills with the well-recognised course, extra skills in digital marketing, working for a well-known brand etc., I would recommend going for a higher level than Junior. Consider titles with career offers, which are titled: UX Designer, UX/UI Designer, UI Designer, Product Designer, Senior UX Designer, Senior Product Designer, Senior UX/UI Design etc. Mid-Senior Level. I kindly suggest leaving junior offers to those who had no work experience in design at all or are just after college etc.
Say No to Internship unpaid but do consider (especially if you really like the company) paid well internship. Unpaid internships are the worst enemy of the job market and candidates. Companies do have money to pay, even non-profit organisations, they just prefer not to. It is free labour which I was always against it. Volunteering (I did plenty and still do) and slowly I also started to have a different less positive opinion about it. I think everything that we do should have a form of reciprocation especially if done for well-known brands and even charities and our skills should have a form of exchange, payment, a form of contribution, advertisement, review recommendation etc.
Think if you like to be an individual designer or be part of a small or larger team.
Explore internally within yourself and externally within the matter of start-ups versus tech giants, and every other size of the company in between.
Become part of Dogpatch Labs, Tara Building, Talent Garden etc. any other co-working place with a focus on Tech to network, and reevaluate your own goals, needs, wants, and motivations, to network. Treat yourself as Persona and apply Human-Centre Design, Design Thinking, UX Lean, Funnel, and Double/Triple Diamond Strategy to your own process of career.
Participate in talks, and workshops in Long Room Trinity College.
5. where does UI fall into UX? I think with my skills and background, I am most suited to a more visual designer role instead of a researcher. Do some people do a bit of everything?
UI (interface and/or interaction) mostly focus on visual aesthetic following UX principles and often iOS and Material Guidelines for the companies which do aim for native (or hybrid apps, etc.), not web apps. Have a look more about it here: https://www.hasnik.com/post/what-is-the-difference-between-a-native-and-a-web-app
UI, in that case, will be ruled by those guidelines with customisation specific to the requirements of the provided service and/or product.
I recommend checking more about on iOS and Material Guidelines websites.
Most super creative apps will usually not follow iOS and/or Material Guidelines or have a huge customization option for the iOS and Metrail Guidelines design e.g. iconography, and typography.
In larger or established already companies where UI architecture, pattern libraries, and style guides are already designed or in the process of redesign, there will be less room for individual design ideas and creativity.
With start-ups will be much more, however mostly those startups which do not want or have e.g. enough resources to code native apps, will be much more room to design something based on designers' ideas.
On the other hand, UX design includes research and design which covers the initial stage of the design process including layouts of low-mid wireframes, testing, iterating etc.
UX Research and UX writing will most likely focus only on conducting research and writing analysis. It might be as well responsible for Content for Users, but those job titles might as well be called UX Content Strategist or just Content Strategist not necessarily related to marketing but the vocabulary used by Users and being tested by UX Researcher/Writer.
Product Designers most likely will be responsible for UI with less UX, however, will also redesign or design from the scratch layout of fidelity wireframes (low, mid and high) within mockups.
As in every industry and company, needs are different depending on specification, timing, and development level of services and products.
Many companies do offer position which combines both UX/UI Design. Some companies do not require UX research (most likely because they do not understand the value behind it and/or trying to minimise costs) and push products to market and then do research, which obviously is contradicting and in the end incorrect and often contradicting and negative practice.
It is worth checking what the company does actually required. Have your own well-prepared questions for interviews. Research about the company and its products must be done. It is an obligation.
Often, job offers, are written by non-designers, and non-techy (non-techie) people, but by HR or external recruiters (head design hunters etc.) who lack a true understanding of the company stage of project and development (coding stage) management, services, and product-level and have very limited knowledge of what is actually UX and UI, what is design versus research.
The good company (regardless of the size or brand, not necessarily the bigger or well-known means better) will be clear with its current stage, needs, goals, motives, and possible frustrations and it will be well prepared for interviews from initial calls done usually by recruiting (external or internal) and followed by hiring managers interviews (UX/UI Managers, Creative Directors, Senior UX/UI, Product Managers, Leads, Agile and Scrum Managers, Head of Designs).
Whiteboard challenge takes place during the recruiting process but not often. You can also be refused to take part in it. Also, check reviews of candidates on Glassdoor as some companies use this stage to get free ideas and do not hire anyone. As in every industry, we have good folks and bad folks. So be wise in giving your time, ideas, contribution and energy.
Honesty does apply to both parties.
What is most important, is to have a positive mindset that the right place at the right time will unfold in front of you. It does not have to be forever, but it might be for a specific reason to learn something important, to get the first steps into the industry and then move forward to something better, more fulfilling, creative and paid better, within much more like-minded people, colleagues as yourself.
Be open to receiving the best! Wishing you all the best.