The easiest and most difficult decision of my life: moving from Sales into UX
In this article, I would like to tell you an important chapter of my story: how I quit my sales job in order to pursue a career in UX Design.
Motivations, fears, struggles, doubts, personal reflections, and ideas on the exciting world of UX. In the paragraphs that follow there will be a healthy mix of all of the above.
The Mental Hurdle
I would like to start with a personal reflection that over the past year has forced me to think more deeply about my existence. A thought that just as easily has sometimes turned into a mental hurdle, maybe even keeping me up a few nights.
Personally, I believe it is easy to find the motivation to turn your life around when things are obviously not working out for you. On the other hand, making life-changing decisions is not so simple when everything is working out just fine.
If everything is going well, why would you change anything?
This has been the entrapping question that I have been asking myself for longer than I should have.
To give you some context, in my life, everything was going “all right”. I had a good job. I was living with an amazing partner in a nice apartment, affording comforts that I never had before, feeling loved by my community, and making more money than I needed in that stage of my life.
In fact, life was good. I had reached all the objectives that I thought were important to make one’s life happy.
Unfortunately, something was still missing and I could feel it. Every time I found myself complaining I inevitably felt shame for not giving the right appreciation to the life I had built for myself.
On one hand, it was clear to me that I was in the wrong place. On the other hand, I had no idea what else I could do. After all, I had already found a job that I was good at, that the world needed, and that was offering interesting career prospects.
I felt that just because I was good at something, it should have not defined the rest of my career. I felt I could have been good at other things too. In fact, I could not help but feel that there were many of my natural strengths that went completely unutilized.
So, I started researching other jobs and roles that I thought could be more interesting for me and finally provide me with a stronger sense of fulfillment.
Not only I had no idea what I was looking for, but I also did not know what the possibilities were.
Tapping into the inner self
I began to think about times when I experienced the most fulfillment in my current and previous jobs. I realized that I liked solving problems. I also enjoyed getting to know my customers intimately, and I loved sharing their feedback with the product team to improve the product. It felt good going to sleep knowing that I had been able to contribute to the improvement of something that was bigger than me.
At this point, those of you who are familiar with UX design would probably think that I had a natural inclination towards the subject. In hindsight, I would tend to agree, but at the time I had no idea what UX was. I did hear about it, but always assumed that it was something too complicated for a sleazy salesman such as myself.
Then I contemplated all the educational options that I thought about pursuing before going into business but did not pursue them out of fear of not being able to achieve my financial independence (along with a healthy dose of discouragement from my family).
Perhaps, my greatest “regret” was not studying psychology. The study of the mind and human behavior. Understanding people and why they do what they do is something that to this day genuinely fascinates me and motivates me to learn new things.
So, from my desk, I continued my research and tried to solve this puzzle, putting together all the pieces.
· Piece 1 — I am a salesperson and a relationship builder (I am good at understanding my customers and learning about their needs and desires)
· Piece 2 — I do enjoy solving problems in a creative way and always try to challenge things for the sake of improvement.
· Piece 3 — I am genuinely interested in psychology and human behavior.
At this stage, every search I made screamed UX design to me and so I got interested in the topic. I started reading about it and the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn.
Until I had to face the very real question: how can I become great at this so that I can turn it into my job?
I planned to take a course online and start my own project so that I could learn a lot, create an amazing portfolio, and make every recruiter fall in love with me. Eventually, become a UX professional and live a life full of professional fulfillment.
That did not happen.
I took some courses, but they were barely enough to scratch the surface of this extremely vast discipline. Obviously, I did not have the means to build my own thing and I found myself somewhat stranded in an ocean of great ideas and lots of motivation that I had no clue how to channel.
The leap of faith
That’s when I realized that my conservative approach was not going to work. I was not going to be able to gradually transition into a UX career. Not from the “safety” of a 40h/week commitment.
UX is as interesting as it is multifaced. Therefore, it is not something that can be learned with a course. There are no shortcuts. For me, at that time, there was no easy way in. I needed to commit and dive deep into it.
That is where I found a 1-year full-time Master in User Experience Design at Barcelona Technology School and there I would have had the chance to learn the foundation of UX in a more structured way, balancing theoretical learning with practical skills.
I have to admit, decisions like these are not for the faint-hearted. It can be incredibly scary. However, to me, the prospect of settling into my sales career and looking back one day, maybe 10 years from now, knowing that I could have tried something different, but did not out of fear, was scarier.
I applied. I got accepted. I quit my job and relocated to Barcelona. Finally, I am a UX designer in the making.
What is UX?
At this point, for those who are still reading and are not entirely sure what UX Design is about I would like to dedicate a couple of lines to explain it in my own words and share what I understood about it so far.
Simply put, UX design is a field of study concerned with the creation of useful products (both digital and physical) that are easy to use. When UX design is done properly, the experience of the user is not only easy and successful but also delightful.
In short, it can be seen as a counter approach to what has been the standard way of building products and services so far. In the past, it was more common to start with the problem, then build a product that would offer a solution. Only then, the user would have the chance to evaluate his experience with the newly created solution.
With UX, everything begins (and ends) with the user. UX designers need to have a deep knowledge of the user’s needs and desires and every step of the way is made taking these elements into consideration.
What do I bring to the UX table?
I bring some relevant experience. I realized that not everything that is UX-related needs to be necessarily done by a formally appointed UX designer.
While I cannot say I that have worked as a UX designer or a UX researcher, I can say I have conducted user interviews and collected and shared valuable feedback with the product team. I also participated in usability studies, usually organized and structured by other professionals, but carried out by me because of my knowledge of and proximity to the user.
Finally, in my professional career, I was trained to develop different commercial skills, mainly communication and the ability to empathize with my customers.
I believe that these skills would be extremely useful in the world of UX and would enable me to deliver extra value once combined with the understanding of other fundamental UX elements.
Why do I think UX is the right choice for me?
When looking back at my tech startup life, I realize that most of the problems that the company encountered, arose from a gap between the product and the people and that many resources had to be employed to fix the resulting issues.
I chose to move into UX in order to become one of these resources, one of the people with the capabilities of bridging such a gap. The problem I want to contribute to solving is that much of the design, especially in early-stage startups, is done by engineers or other technical figures. People that are knowledgeable about technology and usually trained to think in a very logical way, but often limited in the understanding of people.
I like UX because is a field that focuses on human behavior and accepts it for what it is, and not for what it would be ideal to be.
Why do I think UX is the hero that we need?
I think UX is one of the necessary heroes of modern civilization because it is a field where not every decision is made with the direct intention of making more money.
However, that does not mean that UX is disconnected from the business. At the end of the day, I believe that UX is very much linked to sales.
UX is there to improve the experience of the user. A better experience usually translates into a higher degree of customer happiness. Finally, happy customers are more like to shop more and more often.
Therefore, UX is also there to increase the number of sales, while making the world a better place.
Personally, I decided to study UX to learn how to design amazing products that people will actually enjoy using. To put it in a more poetic and visionary way, I have joined the quest to bring beauty and joy into people’s lives, one product at a time.
As my program coordinator Germán León eloquently put: “This world is bananas, and UX Design is one of the heroes that can help us save it”
#UX #UXDesign #CareerChange #FromSalesToUx #PersonalDevelopment