From Accounting To UI Design: How I Retrained For A More Creative Career

Working in accounting, Karina soon realized she was on the wrong career path. Here she tells us how she retrained to become a UI designer.

by Emily Stevens on 23 October 2018

After starting her career in accounting, Karina quickly grew tired of working with numbers. She knew that a drastic change was in order, but wasn’t quite sure what her next step should be. Fortunately, her brother introduced her to UI design and sparked a challenging yet rewarding journey onto a new career path. Karina shares her experience here.

Hi Karina! What was your background prior to studying UI design?
My previous career was definitely left-brain focused—I was an accounting assistant at a wood product company. Before that, I provided bookkeeping and administrative support for a private school, and also taught violin and tutored students in writing.

What made you consider a career change, and what was it in particular that drew you to UI design?
After starting my first full-time accounting job, I quickly realized that working with numbers 40 hours a week was something I could not sustain long-term. It was hard to admit and even harder to accept that I needed to forge out a new career path. Thankfully, I knew that I wanted to do something with computers. While studying accounting, my favorite classes were those that involved using a computer program. I found that I really enjoyed interacting with software / applications to accomplish or create something. To be honest, I didn’t fully know what I was getting into when I decided to learn UI design. I first heard about it through my brother who encouraged me to give it a try. The more I learned, the more interesting I found what I was learning!  What I love about UI and UX design together is that they combine visual creativity with the analysis of people and processes. It’s exciting to examine how people interact with interfaces and to come up with ways to make their experience more efficient and enjoyable.

Why did you opt for an online course?
Since I was working full time and tutoring students on the side, I needed something that provided flexibility. I chose CareerFoundry because, to my knowledge, no other online school offered a UI design course that was as in depth and affordable. Also, CareerFoundry’s Mentor/Tutor model seemed like a great way to learn.

Tell me about your experience on the CareerFoundry course: What were the most enjoyable and / or useful aspects of the course?
While I was going through the course, I appreciated CareerFoundry’s community of advisors and students. From articles, resources, and advice, to celebration, encouragement, and help—there was plenty to enjoy and so much to benefit from. I was also glad when CareerFoundry started incorporating video tutorials into the course. It was the next best thing to having an instructor sit beside you to show you how it’s done.

What happened after you finished the course? Did you take the Job Prep Course?
Both the Job Prep Course and my Career Advisor provided great tips and ideas. I hope all CareerFoundry students avail themselves of this bonus, along with the expertise of the Career Services Team’s.

How was your job search after the course? Did you feel interview-ready?Although I definitely struggled with job searching, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I had it very easy (more on that later). My inexperience with interviews in general and especially interviews design-wise made me feel hugely unprepared. However…

What was your first UI design interview like?
Besides a handful of phone calls that didn’t lead anywhere, my first ‘real’ interview was remarkably atypical. A few months into my job search, I had a brief screening call with the chief strategy officer of a company, followed by a chat with their lead designer the next day. The funny thing was it felt more like I was interviewing him instead of the other way around. He later told me he had wanted to see how prepared I was by letting me steer the conversation. Because this was initially a 3-month contract role, they were mainly looking for someone who could jump in really quickly and provide support with specific design tasks. They also wanted someone who was very junior in the design field. It still blows my mind that at the end of our conversation, he said, “I think this will work.” He really went out on a limb in offering me the role, and I’ll be forever grateful.

How did it feel to land your first job in a brand new field?
I felt like I was on cloud nine! My excitement was so great—I didn’t get much sleep.

Where are you working now, and what do you like most about your new career?
I’m working at Tembo, Inc—an education-focused company that creates web-based tools such as school and district report cards, interactive school finders, and data analytics software. We combine data, development, and design to equip education agencies, school administrators, and families. I love being able to contribute to work that serves the education sector and directly impacts families. I also relish the process of visually exploring ideas and making something better through iteration.

What advice would you give to anyone considering taking a course and changing their career?
Recently, I experienced my first ever work trip as a designer. Between work hours, I squeezed in a little sightseeing to visit a museum. At the gift shop, I bought a sweatshirt that had these words on it: “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages” (George Washington). I couldn’t say it better than that.

How would you describe your career-change experience with CareerFoundry?
Challenging but worth it!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
One of the things that really enhanced my experience with CareerFoundry was my tutor, who was more like a mentor to me. Pursuing a career in design was daunting to say the least. Time after time, my tutor’s encouragement and belief in me boosted my motivation and confidence. So in five years, I envision myself mentoring a design student or junior designer, providing the same high-level support and guidance as my tutor did for me. Within 5 years, I also hope to competently present my work—providing clear rationale for my design decisions while always advocating for the user.

Thanks, Karina. Any final words on your experience?
Taking an online course from a school I had never heard of before and using my under- developed right-brain—I very nearly quit a couple weeks into the program and often wondered if I had it in me to be a designer. Thanks to my family’s support and CareerFoundry’s training, I am doing today what I never would have dreamed of a year ago. Challenging? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

As Karina mentions, realising you’re on the wrong career path can be a hard truth to accept. The thought of retraining and starting anew can be daunting, especially if you’ve already gained experience in a completely different field. However, it’s certainly not impossible—and as you can see from Karina’s story, it’s well worth it.

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What You Should Do Now:

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by Emily Stevens on 23 October 2018

About the author

Emily Stevens

Originally from England, Emily moved to Berlin after studying French & German at university. When she’s not writing, she can be found travelling, hula-hooping or reading a good book.

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