Becoming a UX Designer Changed My Life

Since beginning my study of UX Design, I will never view anything ever the same from how I use apps and websites to how I solve problems to the design of everyday things to how I design my life.

Life Before UX Design

Before I go on, let me tell you a bit about myself. I am a Bay Area native. I have been born and bred in the largest tech hub in the world, though never was a part of it. I’ve always considered myself a creative. I had to get resourceful in my work and for my livelihood. When tech boomed in 2012, I was affected in more ways than one. First, rents skyrocketed changing the landscape of the bay area. Second, I couldn’t relate so I resisted. I moved and changed jobs to survive financially and for my sanity.

Most recently, I took a job as a rideshare driver. Unexpectedly, this was the gateway into my studies of the tech industry. Lyft is a product of tech and most of my passengers “worked in tech, like everyone else”. So I got curious. Not only did I learn the addresses of large tech companies like AirBnB, Dropbox and Double Dutch, but about all the innovation that was happening within the area. Tech is a driving force into the future. Sure, the tech industry is volatile — for as many start-ups are born, probably just as many die, but I don’t think technological development will ever go away.

I made a new choice to adapt for the sake of survival and consciously decided to explore this brave new world of tech. Since technology changes fast, I wanted to get into it fast. I learned about these immersive tech bootcamps where you could learn how to code and get a high paying job in just 3 months. Wow, what an innovative new way to get the education that you need to do work in the real world! But not so fast! One thing I had learned in past pursuits is that chasing the highest dollars doesn’t bring the highest pay-out. As much as I was interested in a high tech salary, I also wanted to do work that I find rewarding. I wanted to taste my piece of this sweet tech pie.

I did my user research, talked to 3 people who had gone through the immersive bootcamps — 2 in User Experience Design, 1 in Front End Development, and 1 person who got into the UX field with no formal training. I did a competitive analysis of all the bootcamps offered in the Bay Area from Galvanize, HackBright Academy, Hack Reactor and Springboard. I examined my personal MoSCoW — I MUST choose a path that fits my value system to do good/help people and to be creative, I SHOULD decide soon, I COULD do something else, I WON’T settle. In synthesizing all the information that I’ve gathered, I decided moving forward fully committed to the User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly was the best choice.

So, I applied (with an essay, phone screen, an assignment and an in-person interview, by the way) and got accepted. Woo hoo! But to be honest, I had my doubts and didn’t really know what User Experience was.

A wise friend asked: “What would happen if you didn’t do the program?”
My answer: “Nothing. I would be in the same place that I am now.”

If you want to change anything, you have to do something.

Tech Force Training Begins

My first day of “tech force” training began on May 2, 2016. I was nervous, but there wasn’t time to dwell on that for too long. We hit the ground running learning the lay of the land of lean and agile UX. New techniques and tools — heuristic evaluation, affinity mapping, card sorting, site maps, personas, user flows, storyboarding, rapid prototyping, wireframing, Sketch and InVision to name a few were uncovered daily. Everyday felt like a race and I was trailing behind. There was so much to learn and do. The entire experience is a blur (probably due to sleep-deprivation, sweat, tears), but I’ll never forget the moment that it all clicked.

From Uncertainty to Clarity

In our 2nd week, we learned about “The Design Process”. UX Design is often thought to be attached to or contained within apps and websites, but according to Paul Rand, “Everything is design. Everything!” We were also introduced to the infamous “Design Squiggle” by Damien Newman.

UX Design isn’t just that neat little package you see on the phone screen. I learned that the design process is messy, and that didn’t fit perfectly into my previous mental model. Then the unexpected synapse happened. The design squiggle looked a lot like my path in life. I have often felt lost, not sure what to do or where to go. I tested out different job paths and learned from the experiences. UX Design is where I found focus. Boom! Mind blown.

From that day on, I saw UX everywhere in everything everyday. From the ways that doors open to when it’s time to get some shut eye with Sleep Cycle. With this newfound discovery, I committed myself to pushing on and forging ahead. Then in the blink of an eye, we were done. I worked hard on completing 4 projects (1 with a real world client) and 5 presentations in just 10 weeks. I learned a lot about myself, how to have difficult conversations with my team members, and how to better keep my heart rate in check during presentations. But most importantly, learning UX is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. UX Design is for life.

My Graduating Class/Design Community ❤

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If you curious to learn more about me and my work:

Explore my Portfolio @ www.dianachow.com

Find me on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianachow1/

Follow my Twitter @ https://twitter.com/leileedi

P.S. Thanks for reading! Feel free to let me know what you think!