I definitely didn’t find UI and UX right away. When I first moved to San Francisco, I was in a self directed learning program called Uncollege. The point of the program was to dabble in what I'm interested in or good at and then eventually turn that into something valuable. I set goals together with my mentor once a week and then he held me accountable by checking my work and giving me advice the next week. I started doing all sorts of projects based off of my interests in design, art, and psychology. I went where my curiosity lead me. I redesigned logos, created short-films for my youtube channel, then I got into packaging design and made some boxes along with a line of breakfast foods. At that point, I wanted to be a packaging designer.
Then my dreams got crushed a little bit.
I had coffee with a UX designer and she was nice enough to talk to me for over an hour. The biggest take away from our conversation was that I needed to do something that was demanded. As much fun as I had doing packaging design, it was only a niche, and I was new to the game with no experience.
After coffee with the designer, I took a UX Design intro workshop at General Assembly in San Francisco. I went to the class not knowing what UX and UI design even meant.
The class was strenuous. The instructor was trying to weave in all these processes in only an hour and a half. We were assigned the task of making an app for a music festival. We worked in groups to fill out a worksheet and drew our prototypes with pen and paper. I remember after the class I said to myself, “That is definitely not for me.” I didn’t know what could be strategized and created. I didn’t understand the process, the growth, and the impact it can make on a product. I was uninspired because I dove in too quickly.
I had learned all these different things and worked on projects I was proud of, but I had no leads as to what to do next. I had no idea what role I should go after. None of the companies I had interviews with wanted to hire me. One of them said they would love to have me, but they didn't know exactly what I would be doing for them.
It lead me to the conclusion that I needed a skill that would help me say, “I can come into your company and solve problems, create value, and improve your product.” But I had no idea what that skill would be.
Eventually, Uncollege ended and I came home for the holidays. I was underwhelmed by my hometown and I was willing to do almost anything to move somewhere else. I started researching bootcamps all over the world that were teaching anything related to graphic design. To try and narrow down my options, I created a spreadsheet with all the schools, listing the starting date, price, location, and what they were specializing in. Out of the five I had listed, four of them were UX and UI based. It seemed like my only good option.
So I decided to give it another try. This time I eased into it. I started googling UX and UI design. I found Mike Locke, a UX and UI designer, on YouTube. He explained the difference between the two and gave insight on what his daily routine is like while working in the industry. When I googled the market for UX design, I found that 30,000 jobs were available across North America. This was definitely a role in high demand, and I concluded it wouldn't be a waste of my time and money to study.
It seemed to be all coming together as a great next step, so I talked to Brainstation in Toronto. I had never been to Canada before but I had always wanted to visit. I signed up for their 10 week course and paid my tuition. They sent me some work to do before I started the course. Each task got increasingly challenging, but I remember staying up until 5 in the morning multiple nights until it was finished. That’s how I know I like something, when I don’t feel the time go by. Next thing I knew, I packed one big suitcase and got on a plane to Toronto two weeks later. It was a quick decision, but it felt right.
I’ll never forget my first day at Brainstation. I was the youngest person in the room but everyone was very nice and welcoming. The building was gorgeous and the location was right in the middle of downtown Toronto. Everything about it was exciting to me.
Our first project was to work in groups to create an app that helped reduce food waste. I was in a group with 3 men, all had worked in a similar industry before the course. Despite my lack of experience, I was the one creating everything on Sketch. I loved strategizing, solving problems, and coming up with solutions that were both functional and beautiful. It was the first time I really understood what it meant to design.
As the course went on, it was so nice to get feedback from instructors that worked in the industry. I felt like I was really growing and learning. I was inspired by the real world problems we were solving, the aesthetics we could play with, and the process to get to the solution. I could be proud of my work because it was valuable. UX designers make products that every single person with an internet connection uses. We form the relationship between technology and user. We make things understandable, personable, and beautiful.
The more I've learned about UX design, the more I've wanted to learn. It's a perfect match. I'm inspired by others work on Dribbble and Behance. I read articles every day on Medium about UX. I look at Muzli’s interactions and designs of the week almost religiously. I still watch Mike Locke’s videos on Youtube, he gives great advice. I finally found something I love to learn about, practice, and improve on. There are so many talented people and companies to inspire me. I can’t wait to see where my next step takes me. I can’t wait to be a better designer and watch the change I create in a business.