My journey to UX, so far..

My name is Ben Mook and I am coming to the UXDI (User Experience Design Immersive) program after spending the bulk of my post-college career as a journalist.

I started in journalism at 29, after knocking around at a few sales jobs with, sadly, lackluster results. I had always been interested in being a reporter and was fortunate to finally get a shot to prove myself despite not having any clips or experience.

My first job was covering cops, courts and local government at a small, weekly paper in Ocean City, Md. I left there after six years having been promoted a few times to a position where I ran the small newsroom, laid the paper out and reported crime stories.

From there, I went on to focus on legal and business coverage covering beats like energy, finance, banking, biotech, public media, appellate courts and civil and criminal litigation. I usually worked at smaller papers, which I preferred since it gave me the chance to work in all areas of news production from writing and editing to designing and running news websites.

I built my first “ news website” — in big quotes — in the early 2000s. I had no budget, and not much in the way of skills, but I cobbled something together working with the tools of the time, mainly Yahoo Sitebuilder followed by an early version of Dreamweaver.

Hard to believe one can achieve something this awesome in the early aughts with only a rudimentary WYSIWYG editor.

When things are good, there aren’t many jobs like journalism. You’re always learning new things and you get the kind of access to people and events that lets you see how things really work.

But, journalism is an industry hit hard by disruptive forces. It still hasn’t figured out what a profitable, stable future will look like. While news outlets scramble to figure it out, the ramifications are that newsrooms get reduced in size, budgets shrink and for many who have spent a career doing something they love, it gets hard to see how they’ll be able to keep doing it five-, 10-, 15-years down the road.

Especially once you start seeing headlines like these pretty regularly:

Newspaper industry lost 3,800 full-time editorial professionals in 2014
Newsonomics: The halving of America’s daily newsrooms

And, charts like these also don’t help:

So, after receiving my master’s degree in Interactive Journalism from American University in May 2015 I started thinking about where I wanted my career to go. After a lot of soul-searching, I came to the realization that my next job would probably be one outside of traditional, daily newspaper-type journalism.

Needless to say, an answer didn’t crop up right away. I started looking at jobs in communication, PR, brand content — pretty much anything that relied on the writing, interviewing and analysis I had experience doing. I started exploring UX after a colleague and friend left journalism and took a job heading up a UX team of a major tech company.

Then, last fall, I happened upon a 2014 post on Medium from a former journalist who was trying to break into the UX field. It was really eye-opening to read about a vibrant, upbeat industry that shared many of the things I loved about journalism that would also have a use for the skills I’ve picked up over the years.

The more I researched UX and read about people in the industry, I knew it was something I had to try to break into. With no small amount of trepidation I finally decided to part ways with journalism, enroll in the General Assembly UX Design Immersive program and spend the next few months gaining the experience and skills I’ll need to take a serious run at a new career in UX.

Goodbye journalism, newspapers and newsrooms, I’ll miss you, but it’s for the best.

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