First Steps

Hi! My name is Bonnie Fishel and this is my first post as a General Assembly UXDI student. A little about me: I’m 24 years old and originally from a Virginia suburb right outside DC. I graduated from Duke University with a major in Visual Media Studies and a certificate (really a glorified minor) in Markets and Management. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do after college. Luckily, a marketing and content design position at a North Carolina tech startup fell into my lap and I decided to take it. For the last two years I immersed myself in the startup and technology space and felt incredibly at home amongst people that were both creative-minded and forward thinking. Another thing I noticed amidst my peers was that they were for the most part incredibly and specifically driven — what they were doing now and what steps they would take going forward all fit into the larger plan of where they would ultimately end up. That sense of direction inspired me and led me to reflect on my own journey; it was time to carve out my own path with a clear destination rather than continue to traipse down the road — taking the occasional fork — and hoping I’d end up somewhere nice. UX struck me for a variety of reasons.

If you asked a random sampling of 10 colleagues/professional peers to describe my work personality, I think you’d get a relatively even distribution of two distinct answers.

On one hand, you would have some colleagues tell you that I’m an extremely visual and creative thinker; I have an instinctual knack for communicating aesthetically and am transfixed by clean, elegant design. My previous jobs were in marketing and my role specifically was on the creative side of the field — designing slide decks, email campaigns, social media collateral, and mockups for redesigned blog and landing pages. Some of the work that I have found most rewarding since graduating has been extrapolating key elements of a brand’s identity and communicating them in a visual way that is both aesthetically pleasing as well as true to brand.

Though I am a visual thinker and communicator, other colleagues — the ones I got to know on a deeper level — would likely focus on my analytic skills, primarily those that are human-centric. From a young age, I have been a listener and observer which I think translated into a natural, but highly developed sense of empathy. I can see issues from a variety of different perspectives and I believe that sense allows me to understand what drives people, what intrigues them, and what makes sense to them.

For a while I believed that choosing a career meant choosing between which of these strengths to apply. Vision and aesthetics mentally excite and stimulate me, but human insight occurs too naturally to me to ignore it. I believe that user experience design is a perfect marriage of my two biggest strengths.

As I mentioned previously, my professional experience is on the visual side of marketing and community building. My most recent company was relatively small and as a result I often took on roles outside my purview. In the months prior, I had completely revamped our visual brand on email and social media. My boss approached me to similarly update our company blog, which often served as our first engagement point for lead generation. It was my job to design the blog homepage, category pages, post pages, and tie-in a search function, social media sharing options, and fluid site navigation.

As someone focused on visual design I had no problem making everything look good, but I also had that nagging voice in my head constantly asking me “why.” Why does this button go here? Does it make more sense to have a top nav bar or a side one? Where does it make the most sense to have a newsletter signup? Should it be a pop-up? What about other CTAs?

I didn’t have the answers and I wanted them. Beyond that, I wanted what a google search couldn’t provide — a full understanding of underlying process behind each determination. As I read more about UX I began to see all the prep-work that happens before anyone opens Photoshop. Sure, I could make a loose wireframe there, but I wanted to use the right software — do it the way it should be done. Throughout the blog redesign process, I felt as though my much older and more experienced colleagues deferred to me for answers. I became uncomfortable with the idea that although I may have had the most knowledge among us, I didn’t have anywhere close to the knowledge I wanted. These interactions led to the realization that I could accelerate my ability much more quickly and assuredly in a supportive environment where I was the student. My goal for the General Assembly immersive is to allow myself to fully dive to the UX world distraction free. I’m eager for the knowledge, but equally important, the confidence that comes with knowing I can enter and thrive in this field.