Well, That Was Fast: A Retrospective On My First Steps Entering UX

It’s ten weeks later and my head hasn’t stopped spinning. “Trust me, I need to be in this class” I remember breathlessly telling the General Assembly liaison on the phone. Truth be told I was only 3/4 of the way sure of this statement, but after two years on the wrong path I knew I needed a career where I could be curious, creative, and engaged. I sent in my application for yet another credit card with a 5k limit to pay for this class before I even hung up.

Three years in New York as a starving artist-esque person and I finally think I’ve found something that will stick. I knew UX was creative, collaborative, empathetic, and would find constructive use for my inherent nosiness — so I knew it was where I wanted to be. When I entered my first UX class at General Assembly’s Flatiron classroom I definitely had more confidence in the school than I did in myself — I had little to no idea what I was doing, just what I believed to be the natural interests necessary and a strong desire to change my life up. I hoped they’d wave a wand over me and the rest would settle itself. I remember the instructor writing what we would learn on the board and thinking to myself “Good God, I don’t even know what half of that is.” I remember people asking questions about concepts I’d never even heard of and getting a sinking feeling “Am I in the right place?” But with the constant reassurance that we are all here to learn and by doggedly following every book, video, and website recommendation I was getting, I found my footing.

I had to go hard between working two jobs and freelancing, not to mention shooting extra prints to sell to pay for class, to catch up to what I believed to be an acceptable place. Where I once was rigid about criticism I learned to love feedback. Where I used to be satisfied with the surface I learned to crave getting deep into an idea and finding the unexpected gem. I learned that just because something is unattractive doesn’t mean all is lost. What I found as time went on, was that the most valuable skills I developed in those ten weeks were grit, resilience, and the ability to let go. I know. It sounds like the back cover jacket of an Elizabeth Gilbert novel( I can say this because I know she’ll never read this and because Eat Pray Love was crazy indulgent). But I would wager that most UX professionals would agree with me. You start out with this idea, you love it, its your special thing. You take that little precious baby idea and you put it through the ringer, you expose it to criticism, you chase it through many iterations, you let go of assumptions and concepts that you loved about it, and in my case, in the end it grows to be something completely unexpected. Mine, personally, ended up as garbage.

Upon presenting I learned, after watching presentation after presentation of attractive interfaces and great ideas that there is still a broad gap of space needed for my talents to catch up with my tastes. Well its more like an ocean. But I’ve come to learn that satisfaction for me may not come from a perfect ending — the best feeling for me is knowing that there is lots of work to be done, and being excited about doing it.

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