From Product Manager to UX Designer: How I Stumbled Across My Dream Career

Nikolaos stumbled across UX design while working as a product manager. What started as mere curiosity soon turned into a passion, sparking a complete career change.

by Emily Stevens on 5 April 2018

nikolaos soulitzis

UX design isn’t necessarily a career that you dream of when growing up. In fact, many of the best UX designers weren’t even aware of UX until they stumbled across it by chance. This is exactly what happened to Nikolaos Soulitzis, a former product manager turned UX pro.

Whilst working for MyBreakTrip, a London-based social network and booking platform for group travel, he discovered the secret to building successful products: great UX. The more he explored the different methodologies and tools, the more his fascination grew — until a career in UX seemed like the only logical next step.

“While I was working as a product manager, I realised the importance that UX plays in building successful products, and I was fascinated by the methodologies and tools used.”

One of the most interesting things about UX is that it draws upon a such a variety of different disciplines — from marketing and business to psychology and, of course, design. Coming from a marketing and product background, the move to UX felt completely natural for Nikolaos. However, he knew he had a steep learning curve ahead. Ad-hoc self study wouldn’t suffice: instead, he sought a structured approach that would achieve maximum results in a short space of time.

As many adult learners do, Nikolaos soon found himself taking the online route. The CareerFoundry UX course offered just the right amount of depth, covering both the theory and practical skills needed to navigate the tricky UX landscape.

“User experience is a complex area that includes various methodologies, approaches and tools. So I thought a bootcamp course would help me improve my UX skills in a more organised manner and in a shorter time. I liked the structure of the course because it covered the whole UX process from zero to a final interactive prototype, so I could easily navigate between the different topics, methods and tools.”

While the quality of the course content certainly stood out, Nikolaos believes that the addition of an expert mentor took his learning to new heights. Although the bootcamp is completely online, each student is assigned a dedicated mentor — an industry expert with plenty of experience. Throughout the course, mentors will check-in via pre-booked calls, giving students the opportunity to discuss any concerns and seek valuable advice and one-to-one guidance.

“I think the most useful aspect of any course is to be able to have someone to guide you along the way. Having a mentor was the most useful and interesting part of the CareerFoundry course because he helped me improve my work and take my skills to another level.”

What sets many of our graduates apart is their passion, and Nikolaos was no exception. Invigorated by his new set of skills, he dove head-first into the industry — not only polishing up his CV and portfolio, but also actively networking and seeking out fresh opportunities.

“After finishing the course with CareerFoundry, the first step was to redesign my CV, add new projects to my portfolio and ask for feedback from professionals I trusted. At the same time, I started to search for UX meetups, groups and events where I could meet other UX designers and network for job opportunities and collaborations. Then, after I received some initial feedback for my CV and portfolio, I started applying for UX roles and managed to do some freelancing projects.”

It goes without saying that Nikolaos’ proactive nature and enthusiasm for the field had a huge part to play in his success story. Together with his CareerFoundry certification, this proved to be the perfect recipe for career change:

“I think the structure and depth of the UX course acted as a good indicator of the level of UX skills I managed to acquire. Also, CareerFoundry is well recognised among UX professionals in the industry, even though it’s not a university.”

But did his enthusiasm continue once he actually started working as a UX designer? Fortunately, his new career path didn’t disappoint. We asked Nikolaos what it was like to start his first job in UX, and his fervor for the field remains as tangible as ever.

“It was fascinating for me to work as a UX designer for two digital agencies, and to see how they apply UX methodologies and techniques to real high-scale projects. The best aspects of my new career are: being able to approach problems holistically and to innovate, collaborating with other designers, and having the freedom to experiment and solve problems creatively.”

Indeed, a passion for UX design is pretty much the only prerequisite: everything else can be learned. To anyone considering a career change, Nikolaos strongly recommends taking a free introductory course before taking the leap:

“If you’re doing it for the right reasons, I would say go for it! That is, if you are passionate about it, and not making a career change just because of the money. I would suggest “testing” it first to see if you like and understand UX. At present, you have the resources to explore and investigate any positions you are interested in. For example, you can take a free introductory course and talk with experienced UX designers. Then, you can decide if you want to invest the money and time to pursue a career change.”

If you want to take Nikolaos’ advice, you can give our free 7-day UX design short course a try. As for Nikolaos, he’s got big plans for the future:

“It’s difficult to predict the future nowadays, but my goal is to become one of the best UX designers and work on cutting-edge UX projects with the most innovative technologies – including Voice, AI, VR, AR, etc.”

What You Should Do Now

If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if a career in design, data, development, or digital marketing is right for you – sign up here for a free short course in the field of your choice.

If you’d like to speak to an expert program advisor for free about how you can get a new job in tech – connect with us here.

by Emily Stevens on 5 April 2018

About the author

Emily Stevens

Originally from England, Emily moved to Berlin after studying French and German at university. She has spent the last seven years working in tech startups, immersed in the world of UX and design thinking. In addition to writing for the CareerFoundry blog, Emily has been a regular contributor to several industry-leading design publications, including the InVision blog, UX Planet, and Adobe XD Ideas.