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  • Writer's pictureKarishma Merchant

My first week as a future UXer

Career shifts can be hard. It can either be going from one job to another or from getting one degree to another. Whatever it may be, it can be very stressful sometimes and you may doubt yourself about making the right move. It’s totally normal. Like many of us will probably do in our lives at several points, I made the decision to make a move into another career (becoming a User Experience Designer) by taking the UX Design Immersive (UXDI) full-time course at an education company called General Assembly. GA is a company that specializes in training for in-demand and career-focused technology, design, and marketing skills. I have always loved the student life, and I am so excited to be a student again and have the chance to learn and grow. I am one week into the UXDI program, and it’s been an awesome experience that is totally worth sharing. So I’m sharing. :)

Day 1- Uninformed Optimism Day

Being it my first day, I was a bit nervous going into class. I found a seat and got all ready for class. As the day went on, I quickly came to realize that I was surrounded by an amazing and friendly group of people that were all there for the same reason and had similar motivations!

Much of the first day was all about setting expectations and getting an overview of what actually we have all gotten ourselves into. As our instructor talked more about what User Experience Design is, I became more reassured that I wanted to work my butt off to become successful at this skill.

After getting all pumped up for our class, it was time to give us our first project! It was a project that would encompass everything that we have and will be talking about all week! Now looking back at it. Our project was a really great way to jet set all of us and to be prepared for what is to come. It encompassed everything from talking to the user, to drawing out the “happy path” of what the user needs to do in our application to fulfill a task that would address their pain point.

I was super optimistic just imagining myself doing well in the class and the projects and getting skilled up! Apparently, there is a name for this emotion/mood that I learned in class. It is called having Uninformed Optimism. This means when you are pumped about what is to come and your future capabilities, but you do not have the tools or knowledge to actually make anything happen just yet. I historically have a habit of doing this. Now I know that there is a phrase that defines it, so it’s great to put a name to habit! Hello habit of Uninformed Optimism!

Day 2- "When things got real" Day- becoming informed

The thing that I love about the UXDI program at General Assembly is that the content is a well balance concentration of learning and application. Along with getting our project objectives and learning about skills and methods we will apply in our UX careers, we also got an opportunity to apply what we had been learning. For example, user research is a very important component of UX design. You have to design the service or product with the user in mind so that the experience they have is memorable and also retainable.

After learning different methods of conducting user research and asking questions (that we would also use in our project), we then applied it to our class activity of “UX”-ing our city and how we can fix it. (We love you ATL, but you need some improvement.).

To attest to what we learned in the realest way, we had the chance to actually do real user research! It was such a great experience talking and asking fellow Atlantans and visitors about what they love and not-so-love about the city. Doing this activity gave me some good insight about talking to users, and how to lead the conversation so as to get the proper responses for the purpose of your user-centric design.

Day 3- Determination Day

Hump Day! My UX hump day was a very productive one. With all the things we had learned in class and applied to our “UX-ing” Atlanta activity in class, I felt well equipped to start drafting and eventually finalizing my project. And then I actually STARTED drafting my project components :-/. It was definitely harder to put on paper than think up of all the wonderful possibilities my app could have. That hump day, I learned a lot about how my thought process works and what aspects I could really work on.

I may not be the only one, but for me when I have an idea in my mind about how something is going to look or work, I have a tendency to overstep myself and think of all the great components I could add to the app to make it the best it can be! Well turns out that that mindset won’t really take me that far.

That’s when I learned lesson #1: Always design and draft initially with the core need or requirement the user provides. The rest is fluff and can be considered a perk. Focus on creating a solution first. Without it, your whole project will be foundation-less and super fluffy. :)

I think just generally, we all do this in many other aspects of our life. It’s super important to keep a strong focus on one thing and then move from that to another. Whether it be in school, work, or just in everyday life, you can easily go coo-coo if you stretch yourself too thin and try to incorporate your whole vision of perfection at the same time. Baby steps are the key.

After identifying and overcoming this style of thinking, I then was able to focus my energy on what really needed to be done, and my user flow drafts flowed happily ever after. <3

Day 4- Hopeful Realism Day

Thursday was the day where I wished I had a working montage for myself. Man was I getting things done (mainly because my butt was on the line of finishing by Friday with an app that had ample merit for a beginner)! At times I felt overwhelmed, but who does that not happen to?

At one point or another, when making a career move by learning tons of content and applying it in a concentrated amount of time can really get the frustration level going. One thing to remember: You are not alone. Along with me, many of my classmates were going through their work, making edits, maybe re-doing their user flows and sketches. When getting down to business in general, everybody gets in grind mode, travels on this roller coaster of emotions, and experiences a personal struggle of some kind.

To all my classmates and to just everybody in the world who feels like this, I say, chiiiiillllllll. It’s totes normal. We are human. We are always a work in progress and amazing. Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go your way when doing a task. Breathe in, breathe out. That’s what I had to remind myself often when things hiccupped a bit until 2:30 that night as I finished my project and submitted it.

With a smile on my face and excited to share my project, I slept like a bebe. (Yes, no matter what, get your sleep. It’s a beautiful thing.)

Day 5- Show and Tell and Informed Optimism Day!

It’s go time! Friday was the day we all got to show our first projects and tell the rest of the class about our thought process and work. It was a day where we all gave feedback to each other in the form of questions on specific parts of the project (which were printed screen by screen from our POP creation and posted up on the whiteboard).

The format of feedback-giving was super creative:

We all had index cards where we put our names and we had a set of circular stickers of one color. When we had a question, all we had to do was put our initials and a number that matched up with the number of our question on the index card on a sticker and stick it on to one of the pages where our question could be answered.

As the day went on, I felt several things: 1) Happy because it’s Friday! 2) Really accomplished with my work and glad that everyone could give me their feedback. 3) Eager to learn more and apply my knowledge and other tools to create bigger, better, and cooler apps and user-centric designs.

My first week as a UXer really put a lot of things into perspective. It taught me how to be patient with the process, pace out my ideas, focus on the user at hand, keep an open mind when receiving and giving feedback, to not fear criticism, and to give myself enough credit for all the hard work that I invest in my creations.

I am optimistic (and informed more) of what I am capable of. There’s a newfound sense of confidence I notice in myself regarding my career and future, something I couldn’t find in my previous work experiences.

Cheers to another 9 weeks of hard work, keeping an open mind, and enjoying the amazing feeling of being a student again!

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