Just a Designer

I cried over an email I received yesterday.

I had a short conversation with someone influential at a tech networking event. When he saw my name tag was scrawled in red sharpie (for job-searchers), he exclaimed, “We need a designer!”

I asked him what kind of designer he was after. All he said was, “Just a designer,” as he proceeded to write down his email address. Hopeful at this open-ended answer, I sent him my resume and portfolio the following morning.

Turns out he had very specific requirements for “just a designer”.

In his response, he queried whether I’d intentionally left out skills and experiences, and went out of his way to list 6 specific things I lacked (like “actual” industry experience, illustrator, etc.).

This email, in its few short lines, was a punch to my stomach. A stone in my throat. It put voice to every fear, reservation and self-doubt I hold as someone transitioning into the tech industry, specifically UX Design. For the first time, I was hearing someone else validating that I’m not up for the job; a fool for thinking otherwise.

Having now had some time to reflect on the encounter, I walk away wiser in two regards.

Firstly, I realize that not everyone will be for you, and that is okay. While this gentleman was largely accurate in pointing out my shortcomings, he failed to see the strengths and skills I do possess. No matter what point I am in my (new) career, there’ll always be a list of things I can’t do or don’t have — but that shouldn’t make me lose confidence in what I can do. More importantly, I aim to be the kind of person that can both recognize and work on my weaknesses; committed to making that list shorter.

Secondly, I’m reminded to treat people like people — no matter their status, position, influence or lack thereof. I never want to get to a place where I forget that there’s another human being (on their own journey) at the end of the technology that I’m using to communicate. Compassion can go a long way, and I hope to not lose sight of that no matter how far I might get in life.

This post also published on my Blog.

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