My Journey into Design
As a child, I was entranced by the cross-section of art and technology. I spent countless hours fiddling with dial-up internet, Geocities, code tutorials, as well as Photoshop. It was only a hobby at the time, but it grew into a passion and a very real career option as I entered High School.
I struggled with choosing between the “safe” career options or design. But I managed to experience what it was like to work as a designer at the age of 16, and I never looked back. I followed my heart to design school and did everything I could to secure my success upon graduation. I had everything planned out.
Once I graduated, I started working at a small digital agency. I floundered a bit in the beginning, but I quickly learned the ropes and worked on larger client projects as I progressed. This is where I honed in on my technical skills. I was doing really well and eventually got promoted to an Art Director role. At the time, it was everything I wanted. I thought I was set for life.
But somewhere along the line, I started to feel unfulfilled and I didn’t know why. “Isn’t this what I wanted? Why am I unhappy?” It took me some time to realize it was because I had no feedback in terms of whether the work I put out made a difference to anyone.
As a designer, my purpose is to create beautiful things that would solve problems for people — and I wasn’t sure if I was accomplishing that.
So I left for an in-house company that has data and research to back up their digital initiatives. Instead of working on a variety of brands, I got to focus on specific problems and solve them on a deeper level. I met some great designers who introduced me to the world of user research and testing. I didn’t get to do much of it unfortunately, but I was fascinated with that area because it resonated with my purpose.
At some point, this curiosity led me to Product Design. Products are tools that help people accomplish tasks or goals, which appealed to me a lot more than designing marketing materials that sell things. So I moved on to a SaaS company to explore this area. I learned a lot in my short time there. I learned how to interview users, create personas, how to use my research to inform features and designs, how to collaborate with Product Managers, as well as the intricacies of connecting moving parts together.
Though I learned a lot and received positive reviews, I noticed my knowledge gap in research and testing is bigger than I expected. There wasn’t anyone in the office who could help me with that. Being the only designer in there didn’t help either. I knew I had a lot of influence on the products and a big opportunity to create impact. But sometimes, you need to take one step back to move two steps forward — and I knew I needed to fill that hole in order to fulfill my purpose. So I sucked it up left.
Now I am working with those who are experts in the area that I lack, and every day I am humbled by how much I don’t know. A lot of times, especially in tech, a good amount of learning is from trial and error instead of learning from someone. I think this is true for techniques and tools. But if you have an opportunity to learn a subject matter from someone, why not take it?
My journey in design and tech has been anything but straight forward. Though I did my best to make it that way, nothing ever goes according to plan. I have grown to accept that. Instead, I use my purpose as my north star. Is what I’m doing right now aligned to my purpose? Am I happy? If not, what can I do to get there? I am constantly evaluating myself to make sure I’m on the right path and growing. I also make it a point to stop comparing myself to others, because there will always be people who are better or worse than I am. The only thing that matters is to stay humble and grow.
Where has your career journey taken you? I would love to hear about it!