As a preface to this blog post, I would like to say this is neither a blueprint nor a step-by-step guide as there isn't one. Everyone's path is different, everyone's journey ebbs and flows at varying degrees. This is more of a “rising tide raises all boats” kind of thing or at least I think it is.
A bit of background
I come from a background primarily within the tourism industry with customer-facing roles being at the forefront. This is where I developed a lot of the soft skills required to be effective in UX Design. At the ground level of both hospitality and UX, you are trying to solve people's problems. Remember this is why people have approached you in the first place at either job.
You must listen empathetically, put yourself in the other person's shoes, and remove your own biases from the problem. This is to better help them find a solution that is useful to them, not you. Just because you understand how to solve the problem or if it is not even a problem to you, it doesn't mean that it is as clear for other people to find the solution.
I started my path down the never-ending road of UX education after hearing about it from friends already well-established in the industry and having quick calls with them to gauge if this is something I wish for myself. After each call, I was more enthused than the last so I enrolled myself on an online course and picked up a few books to read in my spare time. The books I chose were The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, Don't make me think by Steve Krug, and UX for beginners by Joel Marsh.
These are regarded in the industry as pillars of the educational cornerstone in the craft of UX Design. There are also many Youtube channels dedicated to helping one better understand design principles and design thinking just as Youtube has channels for everything. Find out which way you learn best and focus your energy and time on that method.
I quickly came to the conclusion that UX Design is exactly what I have been looking for. Career-wise, it ticks all off the boxes with what I want to do professionally.
Clear goals and lots of practice
During my first few months of self-education and with me being an avid reader, I was thrilled to be educating myself on a topic that I not only found interesting but one that also has a purpose and a goal at the end. I could put everything I was learning into practice by completing the modules of the Google UX Design course - with my end goal of having a portfolio made and ready to be sent to companies for an internship opportunity. On the topic of portfolios, I cannot stress how important it is to have one for someone wanting to break into the industry – not only because it is pretty much a requirement from the hiring managers but also because you are practicing the craft.
You can read all of the material that you want, watch all of the YouTube tutorials, and get as many certificates as you want, but none of it will hold any weight or substance until you actually put it into practice. The best way to practice UX design is by well… designing. I've found the same principle applies to most things in life but especially so when you are making user-centered designs with you not being the user.
Looking for internships brought me to Mindnow
At some point, I had made many (and I mean many) iterations to my main case study project with feedback from friends, family, and previous colleagues and I felt comfortable enough to share it on a professional level. I started to look into companies that were strictly hiring for an internship position. Now I am 34 years old and I had to get over the fact rather quickly that internship positions are typically for people half my age in my home country and are more often than not relying on the financial backing of their parents to get them through the internship process. My age does not dictate my starting position in a company nor do my previous titles held in something I am a beginner at. Sometimes you have to take a step backward to take two forward and this is something that I was willing to do.
It was at this point that I came across Mindnow which has an office based in Zurich as well as 3 other offices throughout Europe with the option of also allowing their staff to work fully remotely if they wish to. After reading through some of their blog posts which are a treasure chest of information on all things UX related and also rather eye-opening material on how a company can thrive given the right company culture I knew I wanted in.
I had two interviews at Mindnow of which I remember thanking the participants for the best initial interview process I had been a part of. I was left with no questions at the end to ask due to the care that they put into the non-fluff approach, the direct nature of expectations, and their thoroughness. Their approach to me was greatly appreciated, and I received an email within the time frame they promised a response. Thankfully it was offering me a contract and inquiring about my preferred start date. At a later date, I was invited into the office to meet my future mentor in all things UX Design, to have an office tour, and to see where I would call home for the foreseeable future. I left the office feeling content with my path here, to where I am now working from home. I move to Zurich at the end of this month so I can come into the office on a more frequent basis. In the first week so far I have been placed on an internal research project. This is to be presented company-wide in a few weeks, so I have been asked to assist in building out a UX strategy plan all under the watchful eyes of people I am happy to call my colleagues.