Navigating the UX Design Journey – A Panel Discussion

Portfolio

The path to success in UX design is unique for every individual, marked by its own challenges and milestones. To explore these diverse experiences, we recently hosted a panel discussion with two seasoned UX designers, former UX Tree Mentees:

They opened up about their personal journeys in the UX field, discussing everything from the initial steps in their careers to the obstacles they overcame. The conversation spanned various aspects of UX design, including effective strategies for job searches, creating impactful portfolios, navigating job interviews, and overcoming imposter syndrome.

 

What initially drew You to UX design as a career?

Feargal:

I started with an industrial design degree, which led to a job in industrial design. My interest in computers and software, coupled with the high demand for digital product design jobs, drew me toward UX. I eventually shifted my career following a Masters and UX Tree Mentorship Programme, due to job demand and interest in computers and design thinking.

Ana:

Mine’s different. I was a special education teacher, dissatisfied with the communication between families and school. Discussing improvements with developer friends, they introduced me to UX design. Within a month, I enrolled in my first bootcamp. It was an accidental but happy career change.

 

What about your experience with the UX Tree Mentorship Programme?

Feargal:

The program was fantastic. It bridged the gap between education and the workplace. Working with Valentina as a mentor, I gained real-world experience which was invaluable during job interviews.

Ana:

For me, it was my first real contact with other designers. My mentor Jamie Ryan gave me guidance on structuring projects, and the Mentorship Programme provided a more realistic experience than academic projects.

 

What are some challenges you faced as a junior UX designer?

Feargal:

Securing a job was the biggest challenge. Also, dealing with imposter syndrome and the pressure to perform were significant hurdles. Leading meetings and workshops was initially challenging, but it gets easier with experience. College didn’t prepare me for practical aspects like interviews or workshops.

Ana:

Building a portfolio was intimidating. I learned it doesn’t have to be perfect. Comparing myself to seasoned designers was tough. I realized it’s okay to ask for help and not know all the answers.

 

How important is a strong portfolio for landing a job?

Ana:

Focus on content first, using tools you’re comfortable with. Seek feedback, especially from outside the industry, and avoid using too much jargon.

Feargal:

Your portfolio is crucial, particularly your process. It should reflect how you work, not just the final product. I recommend spending more time on your portfolio than I did initially.

 

What are some of the skills or areas of expertise you’ve developed the most since the Mentorship?

Feargal:

Communication and listening skills are key. I learned the importance of truly engaging with responses during user interviews.

Ana:

Learning when to contribute and when to step back was significant for me. Also, understanding the dynamics of different roles and asking for help has been crucial.

 

How do you feel about establishing a personal brand as a UX Designer?

Feargal:

I’m still exploring this. I plan to treat my portfolio redesign as a comprehensive project to better reflect my professional identity.

Ana:

It’s about finding what aligns with your personality. For me, engaging in discussions at meetups and commenting on posts worked better than creating my own content.

 

Can you share some of the job search strategies that worked best for you?

Feargal:

In Ireland, the UX job market is tight. I applied for jobs even if they required more experience than I had. My approach was to apply for roles asking for up to three years of experience. Tailoring cover letters to each job helped me stand out. My advice is not to be deterred by experience requirements in job descriptions.

Ana:

I started by informing everyone I knew that I was looking for a UX job. Networking was key for me. Initially, I applied to many roles but got no responses. After taking a break, revising my CV, and restarting the process, I began receiving interview invites. I also actively engaged on LinkedIn, even going viral with a couple of posts, which greatly increased my visibility.

 

What questions were you asked during your job interviews, and how did you prepare?

Feargal:

Interviews cover your background, knowledge about the company, and your portfolio. It’s essential to prepare for culture-related questions and to use the STAR method for responses. Researching the company thoroughly, including its blogs and news, is crucial. Glassdoor can also provide insights into potential interview questions.”

Ana:

Understanding the interview’s structure and who you will be speaking with is important. I used LinkedIn to research the team and reached out to former employees for insights. Displaying a willingness to learn and being honest when uncertain about a topic can leave a positive impression.

 

How do you deal with imposter syndrome?

Feargal:

Imposter syndrome is common and natural. It’s important to accept failure as part of the learning process and avoid comparing yourself to others. Experience helps in overcoming these feelings.

Ana:

I struggle with imposter syndrome, especially when receiving critical feedback. The key is understanding that everyone goes through this, regardless of their success or talent in the field.

 

What advice would you give to people in UX looking for a new job? Would you have done anything differently?

Feargal:

Having a strong, diverse portfolio is crucial. Tailor your portfolio to the area you want to work in and lean on any previous design experience. If I could do something differently, I would put more effort into my portfolio and developing a personal brand.

Ana:

Avoid trying to learn everything at once. Focus on one area and seek guidance. Be familiar with tools like Figma, but don’t feel restricted to one skill set. Understand that the tech industry allows for a learning curve, unlike other fields.”

 

Can you recommend any resources for someone looking to enter the field?

Feargal:

Blogs like UX Planet and Medium, Figma Community, LinkedIn Learning, and YouTube are great for learning. Smashing Conference and Coursera offer valuable courses.

Ana:

Interaction Design Foundation offers affordable courses. Later, YouTube videos, the Figma community, and books became more relevant. LinkedIn is a great tool for keeping updated and networking.