From Sales To UX Design: How A Chance Encounter Changed My Career

Jeremy had heard of UX, but didn’t think he had the necessary skills to pursue it as a career. How wrong he was! Luckily, a chance encounter broadened his horizons and set him on a brand new path.

by Emily Stevens on 6 March 2018

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Jeremy’s story is one that many of us can relate to. Working in sales at an EdTech startup, he was painfully aware that, career-wise, he was in the wrong place. He knew he needed a more fulfilling role – one that played to his strengths – but had no idea what that might be. Interestingly, he had heard of UX design, but assumed he didn’t have the necessary skills to pursue it as a career. Fortunately, he met someone who was able to convince him otherwise, and so began his journey to job satisfaction…

“I was working in sales for an educational technology startup, selling math software to US schools and districts. I knew sales wasn’t right for me, and I was looking for a more fulfilling job. I figured if I was going to be working all day, I’d rather be working to my strengths than my weaknesses. I was generally aware of UX, but I always assumed I couldn’t do it because I hadn’t studied coding in college…”

A chance encounter with an Interaction Designer helped to banish this misconception once and for all. Jeremy realised that, actually, there was nothing to stop him pursuing a career in UX design. In fact, his experience in sales had given him an extremely valuable gift: the ability to communicate and empathize with the customer.

Spurred on by this revelation, he wasted no time getting stuck into the topic. He started out with plenty of self-study, reading textbooks and learning as much as he could. The more knowledge he gathered, the more his passion for UX grew. By now, he was sure he wanted to become a UX designer. Ready to commit to a new career path, he went in search of a course that would get him job-ready.

“I’d engaged in a lot of self-directed learning for about a year prior to signing up to the course. I’d learned a lot – particularly from textbooks – and the more I learned about UX, the more excited I got. However, I never felt close to being able to apply for a job. I knew I needed a learning plan, something substantial and rigorous, to be sure that I had all the basics down. So I started looking for courses I could take.”

For Jeremy, the CareerFoundry course offered just the right mix of theory, practical work and job preparation. When asked what he enjoyed most about the experience, he was full of praise for both the course content and his expert mentor.

“By far my favorite experiences were the four hour-long calls I had with my mentor. They were always so encouraging and made me feel much better about the scary career transition that was ahead of me.”

Indeed, Jeremy’s experience just goes to show what a difference the right learning environment can make. In addition to absorbing loads of new information, there’s also the daunting prospect of diving head-first into the unknown. It’s a lot to deal with in one go – but often, all it takes to assuage these fears is a chat with a mentor. Knowing there’s a friendly ear just a phone call away can mean the difference between giving up and pushing forwards.

Talking about the course content itself, Jeremy was especially pleased with the level of detail on offer:

“The most useful aspect of the course is how incredibly thorough it is. Few other courses go into such detail on every step of the UX process, from initial competitive analysis all the way through to interactive prototypes and visual design. That served me very well in future projects, because no matter what I found myself doing, I always had relevant experience to draw from.”

After finishing the course, Jeremy threw himself wholeheartedly into his job search. He polished up his portfolio site and frequently attended local UX meetups. Funnily enough, it was another chance encounter that opened up the next chapter in his story:

“At one of those UX meetups, I met someone who worked at a company which was doing exciting things. I asked him if he’d be willing to review my portfolio. He forwarded it on to his boss, who liked it, and that’s how I landed my first job.”

Jeremy now works as a Product Designer at leading insurance firm AIG, and he credits the hands-on nature of the course for giving him the skills that employers are looking for. As for his transition from sales to UX design, there’s not a hint of regret in sight. We asked him how it felt to start his first job in tech, and his response could not have been more positive:

“Honestly? After spending more than a year working on design in my spare time, as an out-of-hours hobby, I couldn’t believe I was actually being paid to do this stuff. I’ve never had a job that actually felt suited to my personality before. It just feels like this great tension has been released, like a perpetually wrong note finally resolving to a perfect cadence.”

Hearing Jeremy’s story, it’s hard not to feel the buzz that comes with an exciting new career change. But what is it exactly that makes it so worthwhile? For Jeremy, it’s a combination of things: the interesting and challenging tasks, a better work/life balance, and better pay.

For anyone else wishing they could make a change, Jeremy has some sage advice:

“Well, “just do it”, of course. But seriously, no matter how much you prepare, no matter how many courses you take, eventually making a career switch will necessitate a leap of faith. I quit my full-time job to focus 100% on the job search, and that was scary, but ultimately it’s what allowed me to be successful. If you’re like me and you’ve lived a risk-averse life, the career change will be one of the scariest things you’ve done. But that’s why it’s worthwhile, and that’s what will separate you from the million other people who wish they had the courage to do what you are about to do.”

Changing careers is not for the fainthearted. It takes time, commitment and a lot of perseverance. However, as each of our success stories shows, anyone can do it. If you too are considering a career in UX design, check out our 7-step guide to getting started. And, as Jeremy would say: just do it!

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 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 6 March 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.