From My Experience, What I Wish I Knew

Our #MoreThanCode UX TA Zalyia L. Grillet reflects on lessons learned through UX Design with our cohort.

Ahh! It’s time! Are you excited? Are you nervous? Don’t be. I got you.

Alongside your UX Instructor, Lensay Abadula, I, Zalyia, will be your Teacher’s Assistant. Let me tell you from very early on that I’m far from the type of person to just sit back and watch. I’m hands-on and openly ready to help you with anything you need — I really mean that.

Being a TA isn’t a small job for me. Not too long ago I was right where you are…a student. In my UX bootcamp, I was one of a handful who came from a completely different background. I didn’t have a tech background and felt like I knew absolutely nothing. I was so nervous. I literally fought with myself as to why I thought I was capable of taking this “techie” class. I ended up in a classroom where melanin wasn’t as prominent as I would’ve hoped but I didn’t let that stop me. It was far from an easy road but I learned so much in the process. Which brings me to what I want to share with you! Hopefully, these lessons can help you skip a few unnecessary steps. Check it out!

  1. If you don’t know something, find out!

Don’t sit there and wait for things to be explained because that won’t happen unless we know to explain it. There is going to be jargon that may or may not be familiar to you, and that’s okay. For example, for me, I didn’t know what “copy” meant in the tech space. I laugh at myself now because I always ask A LOT of questions but back then I didn’t want to seem behind so I never asked. Big mistake! But it’s a mistake I never made again. From that point on, I made sure to always ask questions, in public or private, no matter how “dumb” it may sound. How else are you going to learn?

2. Think “science”, not “pretty”.

One reason I was so nervous to learn, or even call myself a UX Designer, was because I am not a Graphic Designer or a User Interface “UI” Designer. User Experience Design may have some attributes that require some visual design skills but it’s so much more than that. One thing I had to break out of when I was in class was trying to master on the pretty rather than the science behind it all. Once I refocused my attention to the science (i.e. user research, statistics, personas, usability, information architecture), I realized that I was great at it! Maybe, just maybe, you will be, too!

3. Never forget about the user.

In tech, when you have to develop something for the user with HTML/CSS, it’s pretty black and white. A right and wrong to create it. However, when designing for the experience, you have to look at all elements from every angle. Ask questions and remain subjective.

Your main purpose is in the name — User Experience Design. As a UX Designer, I realized you have to be that “sweet spot” between the user and client. It’s up to you with using empathy and compassion, to see what is the best way to create seamless experiences.

4. If you want it, WORK for it.

Nothing worth having comes easy and let me tell you, UX is far from easy. From strategies to interviewing people, it’s not a walk in the park but it’s one of the most rewarding careers in the tech industry. As we are still a marginalized group in tech, we have to show them we are good at whatever we put our mind to. “Be the first one in the office and last one to leave”. Good work requires hard work and, with this class as your foundation, you will soar.

5. Learn, Grow and SLAY!

When I was in my class, I did the learning and growing but I didn’t have fun. I felt like an imposter stepping into the tech world and it sucked. I was so focused on trying to match someone else’s middle when I was only at the start. Know that this is your journey and everyone else’s journey will be different. Accept that and make sure that you don’t give up on yourself.

Quick fact: The “top” wasn’t meant for just one person. Help each other, motivate each other and SLAY…You get to change lives through creative technology! That’s powerful. Don’t forget that.

If you’ve asked me three years ago would I be here talking to you as a UX Designer, and your teacher’s assistant, I would of told you that you’re nuts! But here I am, truly and utterly in love (yes UXD = bae) and excited to begin this journey with you into user experience design. UX is all about cultivating meaningful, useful and seamless experiences — both digitally and physically. Don’t practice bad UX by missing the beauty of it. Have fun being able to create amazing things for people just like yourself.

I hope this list helps you prepare and let go some of the feels you were having that you didn’t want to admit. Know that I’m here as your resource and mentor to guide you to an amazing foundation as young designers in User Experience Design.

Don’t hesitate to add me on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. If you have any questions for me before, during or after class, please know that it’s highly encourage to take that HUGE step and just ask.

Like I said before, I got you.

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