UX designer smiling at the camera

How I Went From Being A Journalist To Becoming A UX Designer

Valentina Calandra

One of the unique features of the CareerFoundry experience is our mentor community - we work with a wide variety of mentors in iOS development, web development, UX design, and UI design, from all over the globe.

In order to increase the visibility of our wonderful mentors and give you the chance to get to know them even better, we have created Mentor Spotlights. In today’s spotlight, we introduce Meredith Cohen, a journalist turned UX designer who also completed a master’s in Human-Computer Interaction.

Meredith reveals why she had to get out of the print magazine industry and why she finds it important to ‘pass it forward’ and help train tomorrow’s UX designers on CareerFoundry’s UX Design Course. Read on to learn more!

Changing careers: from journalism to UX design

Meredith has a lot in common with many of the students she mentors. She knows how it feels to realize you’re in the wrong job. She knows the courage it takes to switch industries. Having originally studied journalism, she found herself working in print magazine just as the industry started to really decline. She found herself working in a “dying, overworked, and underpaid” medium.

She had always been fascinated by both people and technology, so she was naturally drawn towards Human-Computer Interaction, and studied a master’s in the field. (Human-Computer Interaction or ‘HCI’ relates to how humans interact with computers, and is closely related to UX design.)

This master’s, combined with what she had already learnt as a journalist, helped to set her up for her career in UX design.

“Working with print magazines meant a fair bit of time devoted to layout, typography, and art direction. It also involved interviewing people, which meant deeply understanding the people I wrote about. When I went on to pursue my master’s in Human-Computer Interaction, everything just made sense.”

After graduating, Meredith became a UX designer, and now works remotely for a large software company. She also mentors CareerFoundry’s future UX designers, and is mother to two adventurous 4-year-old twin boys. Never a dull moment!

At the moment, she lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and as such she mentors mostly US and Canadian students. She finds commonalities with many students, having lived in 7 different US states, but considers herself a Midwesterner, after spending lots of time between Cleveland and Chicago.

A day in the life of a UX designer

As with many UX designers, she finds that one of the main appeals of UX design is the diverse nature of the work.

“Every day is a different day with different tasks, but that is what I love about it. Most days spent as a UX designer involve some combination of the following: brainstorming, sketching, researching and innovating, all the while, analyzing and listening to our users to create better experiences for them, and of course, drinking lots of coffee!”

What are her favorite online resources for everything UX?

“Medium has been my go-to feed reader lately, so everyday, I am able to quickly scan multiple publications for items of interest. I also often find myself skimming through Awwwards.com for daily doses of inspiration and innovation.”

We asked Meredith what it’s like working in different settings: corporate businesses, startups, agencies, and freelancing. Having worked in all of these, except for startups, Meredith has found that there are pros and cons to each.

“At the beginning of your UX career, you may find yourself dabbling in a little of everything until you discover what type of business best suits your professional and personal needs. Of course, these needs are changing and evolving over time, and so your career will too.”

Mentoring with CareerFoundry

“After graduating with my master’s in Human-Computer Interaction, I faced many trials and tribulations when looking for my first UX job,” Meredith recalls.

Her desire to ‘pass it forward’ is what led her to CareerFoundry in the first place.

“Having been there myself, it’s incredibly rewarding to pass on my own experience and knowledge to my students. I wish I’d have been able to have a mentor when I was starting out.” 

But the most rewarding aspect of being a mentor for Meredith is giving students that extra push towards creativity and innovation, and then seeing the results.

Whilst being very rewarding, mentoring does come with its own set of challenges. From Meredith’s perspective, one of the most difficult challenges is teaching budding UXers how to conduct a user interview - but she has found a way around it.

“I’ve found that doing practice interviews together really helps my students prepare.”

Advice for UX design students

The best advice she can pass on to aspiring UX designers: “Always be learning!” Due to the ever-changing nature of UX design, it is critical to be a lifelong learner and to keep on reading and increasing your knowledge.

“Be a sponge and keep an open mind!” 

Finally, if you ask Meredith what her biggest achievement in UX design is, her answer is quite inspiring, and definitely in the spirit of a good UX designer:

“I think my biggest achievement as a UX designer has yet to come. I am always looking to achieve more tomorrow than I did today, I am striving to improve myself all the time.”

What You Should Do Now

  1. If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if UX design is right for you - sign up here for our free 7-day UX short course.
  2. If you are interested in becoming a UX Designer check out our UX design course (you'll learn the essential skills employers need).
  3. If you’d like to speak to an expert Career Advisor for free about how you can really get a new job in tech - connect with us here.

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Valentina Calandra

Valentina Calandra

Contributer to the CareerFoundry Blog