How I built my profile for MS HCI degree as an international student

Ashish Durgude
Jul 4 · 7 min read

Hello everyone. My name is Ashish Durgude. I am from India. Previously I worked as a UX/Product designer at Red Hat. This is my first ever article and I am very happy to share it with you all.

On August 19 (Fall 19), I will be pursuing masters in Human-Computer Interaction at IUPUI. In this blog, I am sharing how I built my profile for MS HCI program.


Why did I choose to do MS HCI even though I was working as a UX/Product Designer?

Well, there is a small story behind it. I had my bachelor in computer engineering from Pune Institute of computer technology, Pune. Before a 3rd year, I had no idea/knowledge about UX/HCI domain and career opportunities in that field. From my 3rd year, I was a front-end guy and I was really interested in designing the websites, but later I realized that it’s not coding that I am passionate about, It’s a design, how it looks, how it works, etc. So in 4th year, I did 3 months UX course. After that, I developed an interest in UX and then I decided to do MS in HCI or related design field.

What was my process for building a profile for MS HCI?

During undergrad college after gaining some fundamental knowledge about UX, I decided that I want to go for MS studies in the UX field. But I wanted to get some industry work experience before going for MS study.

The reason behind getting work experience is if you have relevant work experience in the field that you are going to study, It makes you a strong candidate for applying to that program. Of course, there are other factors like GRE and TOEFL marks, but relevant experience will help you boost your application.

To achieve this MS studies goal, I had a series of goals I wanted to complete. Those goals were:

1. Getting an internship/job in the UX field.

2. Writing at least 1 research paper on HCI.

3. Start networking by attending events and conferences related to design and by LinkedIn and meetups.

4. Starting at least 1 side project related to UX and HCI.

5. Winning at least 2 design competitions.

These goals were not mandatory for my application process but I wanted to complete them and there was a reason behind it.

For the application process, universities have specific requirements for your undergrad GPA, GRE, TOEFL, and relevant experience. I completed my undergrad in 2017 & I can’t change my GPA. I was not sure about how much I will score in GRE and TOEFL but one thing I knew that I could get relevant experience in the UX and for that these goals were important for me.

Also, UX is a very competitive field all around the world. Most of the students who come for MS studies have job experience in UX & tech related domains and I didn't want myself to left behind everyone. I wanted to fight fair and square (you know what I mean..). It was a part of the profile building.

1. Getting an internship/job in the UX field.

To achieve this goal, I started working on UX projects to get a job/internship in UX. I created my portfolio website from scratch and uploaded those UX projects on the website.

It was not easy to get a job/internship in the UX field in India. There are some big design colleges in India that I was not aware of. Almost every company wanted to hire students from those colleges and not from engineering colleges.

After lots of rejections and hustle, I got a UX internship at Red Hat in September 2017. This was the first time I was doing a UX project under such a big organization. I also got promoted to a full-time position as a UX/Product Designer in March 2018. It was really inspiring to work with Red Hat. I got a chance to know more about open source and how it works. I got to know about how remote team works, how collaborations works, what is design culture, and so many things. Red Hat helped me build the network and image as a UX/Product designer which will help me in my career. I worked on many projects under Red Hat. you can check them on my portfolio.

Last day at Red Hat, Bangalore, India

2. Writing at least 1 research paper on HCI.

From March 2018, I started working on a research paper. It was 3 months of intense research. My topic was,

D3-Collab — Bridging the collaboration gap between designers and developers on the enterprise level

I published this research paper under the “International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (IRJET)” in June 2018. The research paper is about the research on collaboration methods between designers and developers and how we can improve them.

3. Start networking by attending events and conferences related to design and by LinkedIn and meetups.

If you are a design student or a designer, you know that networking in the design field is very important for a successful design career. I started attending design events in Bangalore, India.

1. TCO18 India Regional Event

The first event I attended was a “TCO18 India Regional Event”. This event was a hackathon formatted event where I competed with around 20 designers and won 1st price.

2. Google + IXDA Event on Designing for India

The next design event was “Designing for India” which was hosted by Google+IXDA. 4 great speakers talked about design in India topic.

3. DevConf India 2018

3rd event was “DevConf India 2018”. This is Red Hat’s own conference. There were many design talks on topics related to UX, design systems, open-source, etc.

Other than the above three events, I attended other events like Open design dialogues, Sketch App meetups, etc.

LinkedIn is a very powerful tool if you know how to use it. I connected with designers all around the world and started discussing on the UX related topics. Even to get inside a review of universities and their HCI program, I started communicating with current students via LinkedIn. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated. It’s really a good platform to share your work experience and professional life with everybody. I really helped me build a good network. You can check out my LinkedIn profile here.

4. Starting at least 1 side-project related to UX and HCI.

I wanted to get more involved with UX and for that, I started thinking about the ideas for my 1st side project. I wanted to create a side project which will also help me in my MS Studies and every design student and researcher out there. Then I came up with an idea for my first side project.

1. HCI HUB

The idea behind this side project was to create a personal collection of resources on HCI. I started collecting links of articles, research papers, and videos on HCI and overall UX which were already present on the internet. On the website, I created separate cards on specific UX/HCI topics. for example, Designing for special needs, UI Patterns, etc. and sorted them based on 3 categories (Articles, Research Paper, Videos).

I am not earning on this side project. This was done purely for research and study purpose. This side project will also help me during my MS studies.

2. Visual Design Directory

I wanted to contribute something from my side to the open world and that’s why I started this side project where I upload visual designs and anyone can download Sketch file for free. Those sketch files are shared under a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-SA 4.0 International license).

5. Winning at least 2 design competitions.

As a UX designer, I wanted to explore other design domains and for that, I started participating in online design competitions.

Topcoder is a great website if you want to participate in design competitions. I participated in so many design competitions out of which I won 3 competitions on the final level and 6 competitions on the Checkpoint level. you can check them out here:

In 2018 before applying to universities, I achieved much more than I expected in a short amount of time. I was really happy with my work and the things I did to improve my profile.

After June 2018, I started focusing on the university application process.

Thank you for reading this article.

Ashish Durgude

Written by

HCI Grad Student at IUPUI | Seeking Summer 2020 UX/Product Design Internships Opportunities.(www.ashishdurgude.com)

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