The Stampede team during our recent retreat in Bali

Make the Leap — How to Get a UX Design Job without a UX Background

Learn 3 takeaways from 3 designers who got a UX design job without a design degree

You’ve probably already heard of the field of UX Design, or User Experience Design. After all, it’s the field responsible for designing the end-to-end experiences of the apps and websites you love.

UX Design has become increasingly important for companies, and the field also pays quite well. However, if you’re like most people (and like me), it’s likely that you didn’t take up a design-related degree in college, and you haven’t had a full-time UX job yet.

But that shouldn’t be a concern for you at all, and it doesn’t mean you can’t land a job in UX design. Many UX designers came from having no background in design as well, yet they were able to make the leap.

How were they able to do it? We can learn from three designers who’ve made the jump. These three are Christine — a young Chemistry graduate and YouTuber, Gemma— a 39-year-old former IT professional, and Kyle — a former property management professional.

They’ve each made the switch to UX design and have written openly about how they did it. Although reading each of their stories and tips are valuable, here are three takeaways I took from their stories that are essential for anyone looking into getting a UX job without a UX background.

1. Know Why You Want to Pursue UX Design

Christine’s most popular video on her YouTube channel

Christine Chun graduated with a degree in Chemistry. Fresh from graduating, she decided to work at a skincare company as a community manager.

After almost a year, she decided to quit her job, even if she didn’t have a job lined up for her.

“I was certain that retail marketing was not the career path I wanted to invest in further. I wanted to do something creative that involved critical thinking, but was utterly lost as to where to pivot next,” Christine said.

Even if she was lost, she at least knew that she wanted to do creative work that involved critical thinking. So to answer this for herself, she grabbed coffee with numerous professionals, trying to figure out which job she would enjoy the most next. And after talking to multiple designers, and reading a lot of resources about UX, she was “convinced that this was the field I wanted to break into.”

So before you set out to get a job in UX design, make sure you have a strong passion and interest in it first. And make sure to develop it as you go along the way too. Passion is what will allow you to keep learning and persisting, so it’s important to know where your motivation comes from, just like Christine did.

After a lot of hustling and many rejections, Christine was able to land a Product Designer job, and she’s now a Product Designer at Instacart. She’s also built up her YouTube channel along the way, where she makes beauty and career-related videos, and now has over 8,000 subscribers.

2. Build A Good Portfolio of UI/UX Work

A photo from Kyle’s article

Kyle Miller had a job as a Senior Leasing Consultant for a property management company. After a couple of years in the industry though, he wanted to quit. But he was scared. He wasn’t sure what he would do next. Through some soul-searching like Christine though, he figured out the field of UX could be for him.

But first, he had to build a UI/UX portfolio. After all, companies would want to see his work, and he needed to showcase he was good at it even if he hasn’t had a job as a UX designer.

Kyle went through 2 methods to have case studies of his UI/UX design work.

The first was taking General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive course, which Christine took as well. The program is a 10-week, full-time program that teaches you UI/UX design and has you build actual designs and prototypes.

However, it will cost $10,000–$15,000 depending on where you live, but they do have a cheaper online version. Nevertheless, Kyle valued how the course gave him a great foundation in UX, and helped him network and find great mentors to help him.

Kyle’s second method, which might be more realistic for others who can’t drop $10–15k, was doing freelance UI/UX work. He put himself out there and got connected with the startup community. Through this, he was able to do usability recommendations and host design studios for his clients.

In the 3+ years since leaving his property management job, Kyle has worked as a UX designer at multiple companies, including the Fortune500 company Capital One. He’s also now the co-founder of a startup called GoodFynd.

“I was scared to quit my job in the property management field to pursue a career in UX design, but it has been one of the most satisfying decisions I’ve made in a long time,” Kyle said.

3. Never Stop Learning, and Be Patient & Persistent

Gemma’s bio from her portfolio

Gemma Sweeney had been working in IT roles for 17 years in the U.K. But like Kyle and Christine, she wanted to do something more creative. And after discovering the field of UX, she made a plan to switch career paths — at 39.

Gemma didn’t want to spend the money or time needed for a 10-week UX bootcamp like General Assembly’s, so she found a cheaper and shorter alternative. She also read as much as she could about UX online.

“I set aside 10 minutes in the morning to read various articles, and also set myself a goal of sharing one UX related article on Twitter each day,” Gemma said.

Gemma set out a year-long plan on how to transition from IT to UX. And through taking a cheaper UX course, reading as much as she could, building her portfolio, and going to meetups, she immersed herself immensely into UX.

Today, Gemma now works as a UX designer at Ocado Technology, and she has a great-looking portfolio of her UI/UX work. And Gemma shows us that it’s never too late to make a switch in your career.

Will You Make The Leap Too?

All in all, these three UX designers have shown that making the leap into UX is possible. And the three key ways to do this are to know your why, build a great portfolio, and have patience and persistence.

None of them said it was easy, but as they’ve shown and said, it’s definitely possible. Moreover, it can be an extremely rewarding and worthwhile journey.

Connect Deeper

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I’ve linked the articles in which Christine, Kyle, and Gemma share their journeys and tips to breaking into UX design here:

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to comment them below.

This story was originally published in the Stampede Blog in February 2019. For more stories, follow Stampede on Medium.

About Stampede

Founded in 2006, Stampede is a user experience and digital creative agency in Malaysia. We design user-centred experience and build digital products for businesses all over the world. Find out more about us here.