When you ask children what their ambitions are, you’ll often hear replies such as ‘Astronaut’, ‘Firefighter’, ‘Policeman’, and in my case — ‘Fighter Jet Pilot’. Ask them the same question a month later and they’d have pivoted to ‘Doctor’, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Cricketer’. While it’s okay for such spontaneous career changes at a young age because it’s all fun and games then, it certainly isn’t when you’re in college pondering over what domain to commit to and make a career out of- that was me.
I hail from a Liberal Arts background, which means that I had a multitude of options to choose from while I was in college, and that didn’t make it easier. One day you’d find me in the computer lab writing SQL commands to extract values within a certain database, another day I’d be figuring out the orthogonal complement of a nullspace in my Linear Algebra class and the day after I’d be learning about why bacteria need to give up their antibiotic resistance in order to become more resilient to phages. Yes, I was absorbing immense amounts of knowledge during my Liberal Arts program, I covered a vast array of topics. I sacrificed specific expertise in one domain for a broad understanding of a wider range of domains. However, in my 3rd year of college, I decided it was time to specialize and become adept with the required skills and tools of one particular domain. And that’s when I got into UX.
I started out with an introductory course on Interaction Design on Coursera where I learnt basic concepts in design. Understanding these concepts helped me get oriented and familiar with the nuances of the design industry. I started following a handful of Instagram pages that posted daily about UX, these snippets of information allowed me to quickly grasp industry standards and best practices. I read numerous medium articles centered around design and how to become a better designer. I started familiarizing myself with design tools such as Adobe XD by watching tutorial videos on YouTube.
I followed through with these practices for about a year and by my 4th year of college, I was ready to begin my career as a UX Designer.
However, there was one tiny issue.
I got so involved in just augmenting my knowledge in the past year that I didn’t manage to build an extensive enough portfolio for potential employers to effectively assess and evaluate my design skills. I’m not ashamed to say that the first few companies I applied to turned me down as I had little to show in terms of UXD projects. Because of this, it dawned on me that I need more UXD projects to showcase, hence, I got back to the drawing board and decided to get a couple of projects in on my portfolio before applying.
With a few more design projects in hand I managed to land a handful of interviews. These interviews were great learning experiences for me too. During these interviews, when I asked prospective employers what the day of a typical UX Designer look like at their company, I came to realize that designers in large organizations have very one track predefined roles. They’re involved in specific verticals of a design project and tend to dwell within that domain whereas designers in smaller organizations tended to bounce back and forth between projects and undertake other tasks outside their realm of comfort, it was just like a typical day in the life of a Liberal Arts student! Perhaps, that’s why I resonated so much with the life of a UX Designer at a small organization.
It was during this ‘interview season’ that my current company ‘Locusnine’ got in touch with me for an interview. Fast forward a few weeks and I’m enjoying a beer with the senior heads of Locusnine as they critique the UXD assignment I was given. I was hired in the next hour. To this day, I like to think that beer worked a pretty damn good charm on them.
So it all paid off, I was finally going to begin my career as a UX Designer!
The first week or so at Locusnine I was getting as knowledge transfer from everyone about our processes, the ongoing work and what tracks I would be involved in.
Because Locusnine is a startup it was interesting to see the specific tracks my fellow colleagues were involved in. No one was working on just one track, everyone had a myriad of tasks spread out across our clientele and were involved in some work or the other for the same. I was itching to be a part of this thriving ecosystem and get started.
The week after I was put onto my first ever corporate project. It was for a company called Accops and I was to redesign their website and chalk out some wireframes for a new enterprise management policy system we were developing for them to streamline their products and processes. For the website aspect, my instincts immediately kicked in, I got to some very low fidelity prototyping first after looking at their website and laid out a couple of wireframes, little did I know that I had skipped a very important aspect here — competitor analysis of other companies’ websites. This is where my mentor (Paritosh Chhibber CEO & co-founder at Locusnine) stepped in and helped me out with a rigid process to follow. This kind of hands-on mentoring is something I always yearned for. There’s a lot of things online courses, medium articles, and design podcasts just can’t help you out with, they tend to impart knowledge on a broader scale, but for specific use cases like this, it’s very important to have a mentor to guide you, especially for junior designers who are learning and growing in the industry.
Over the next couple of weeks, I continued on with my work (had some great PUBG games with my fellow colleagues) and was slowly reeled into another challenging yet interesting track- Make Data Better by Global IDs. One of our major projects where we’re currently involved in building, managing and scaling a Data Management System that allows you single-point access to locate the heterogeneous data housed within your organization.
Over here, my role was not going to be that of a UX Designer but rather a Product Manager. I was to shadow the current product manager on the project whilst simultaneously understanding the intricate nitty-gritty of the extensive software.
My role was diversified, I was involved in two major tracks, every day was a learning experience with something new to look forward to. My eagerness to learn and grow as a designer was not just restricted to within the company. Locusnine made it mandatory for my design colleagues and me to attend UX India (one of India’s biggest conferences on User Experience) for exposure, networking and to promote an in house tool we had been developing for designers- tools.locusnine. It was a quick, fun and seamless way for designers to beautify their designer's artifacts (User Goals, Journey Maps, Ecosystem Maps).
UX India was a fabulous experience. Not only did I attend workshops and case studies that exposed me to a whole new dimension within the design, but I was also able to connect with venerated designers such as Steve Fadden and have one on one conversations with them!
Furthermore, we even set up a booth to test out tools.locusnine.com and get real-time feedback as users tried it out. Talking to fellow designers with different mindsets who critiqued the tool from various perspectives and provided constructive feedback made for a great catalyst for ameliorating tools. Each of us jotted down these valuable points on sticky notes so we could share them with our team back at home base.
All in all UX India was a great experience (the daily Biryani they provided at lunch was even better) and I look forward to attending even more conferences this year.
The past 3 months at Locusnine I’ve made some great friends and an even better PUBG crew. It’s been absolutely great.
I’ve overcome numerous obstacles, both professionally and personally. I’m a better ‘UX’er than I was three months ago, and I’ve still got a long way to go. I learn every day and although it’s not always something affiliated to UX Design, I know it’s going to benefit me some time, somewhere, in my corporate years to come.