How A Hackathon Showed Me That UX Was My True Calling

As a graphic designer, Virginia felt uninspired. Here's how a spontaneous hackathon lead her to UX.

by Jaye Hannah on 25 April 2019

How A Hackathon Showed Me That UX Is My True Calling

Fresh out of university following a degree in graphic design and industrial design, Virginia was as optimistic as they come when she launched her career in branding. However, after a few years of designing advertising and marketing materials for a myriad of creative agencies, Virginia grew disenchanted with her field.

It’s a story that many of us will be able to relate to. With each passing day, Virginia found herself increasingly less excited to head to the office. She realized that graphic design was bereft of the strategic, problem-solving elements of the design thinking process that had captivated her at university. Rather than reflecting on her working processes and challenging design conventions, Virginia instead felt like she was creating-by-numbers, which ultimately resulted in hollow designs. She craved something more; the opportunity to develop purposeful, meaningful work that would enrich the lives of her customers.

Desperate to disrupt her routine, Virginia spontaneously signed up to a local 2-day UX hackathon. She became instantly enthralled by the collaboration that went into iterating designs for apps, from low-fidelity wireframing to high-fidelity mockups. She reveled in the discussions that were taking place about design trends, user testing techniques, and ideation. Previously, Virginia had likened UX design to UI design or app designbut it was this immersive introduction to the world of UX that prompted her to probe further.  

“The more research I did, the more I realized that UX was a much better fit for me career-wise. It was much more interesting and challenging than graphic design. Having always been a big advocate of design thinking, I loved how much design thinking was incorporated into UX.”

The element of problem-solving that is so central to user experience design drew Virginia in. She felt this was infinitely more valuable than jumping to conclusions without genuinely investigating the problem. To Virginia, UX was “science and art blended together”, and she was intrigued by the process of conducting user research and taking the time to identify the core issues of a product’s development.

With Virginia’s mind made up, the question arose as to how she would make the switch. Considering her already-solid background in tech, a master’s degree didn’t seem necessary. What she truly needed was flexibilitya way that she could study remotely, and choose her own hours. Rigorous research highlighted CareerFoundry as the most viable option, and one phone call with our Career Advisors later, she was enrolled as a student.

“I loved studying with CareerFoundryand particularly enjoyed the immersion course. That’s when I really started to blossom and really truly get into the nit ‘n’ grit of UX. It was so valuable, and really taught me the possibilities of UX.”

Filled with a renewed excitement for the future, Virginia completed her UX course and set off on an ambitious global job hunt. CareerFoundry’s diverse student network on Slack proved to be a useful resource for hearing different perspectives on job hunting and offering insights into the international job market. At the same time, the support of our dedicated career services team helped her navigate the pitfalls and loopholes encountered throughout her search. Her mentor, Carlo, was incredibly responsive—constantly on hand to offer handy tips on even the simplest things; such as finding the perfect server to host her website.

“I felt that he really went above and beyond. He really went out of his way to help me, and it was super useful.”

Bolstered by the advice of our Career Advisors, Virginia landed a position at Fjord, an esteemed interaction design company. Alongside the variety of her new role, the infectious energy of her co-workers inspires Virginia to bring her A-game each day.  

“Everyone is just so dedicated and passionate about UX, and how we can also incorporate better skills for our department, our company and our team. We also do a lot of UX events where we go to seminars, so that we can continue to learn as a group. It’s amazing.”

Virginia’s company also boasts a robust career counseling programme that she’s found instrumental in getting settled into her new role. All employees are paired with a mentor, who helps them to work through their career goals and ensures they get the broadest possible learning experience. As Virginia puts it,

“Here at Fjord, they really want to ensure you’re getting the most out of your experience—and that you’re learning as much as possible to be the best you can be.”

Despite her success, Virginia believes UX to be an ambiguous field. With every company defining the role of ‘UX designer’ differently, UX can be an umbrella term for many things. She urges those considering a career in UX to do their research, and take the time to uncover its full scope.

“UX is very multidisciplinary. It isn’t just applicable to tech, its processes are very transferrable to many real life situations. If you can apply UX techniques to what you’re currently doing in your career, it would make it a lot easier to make the switch.”

While she’s already excelling in her new career, Virginia sees herself as much more than just a UX designershe’s also a strong advocate for UX. Inspired by the advice she received from her own CareerFoundry mentors, Virginia’s got a new goal: to have enough experience to mentor others in 5 years time. Job hunting can be an intimidating endeavour, and having experienced the ups and downs herself, becoming a guiding force for others considering a career change seems only natural.

Virginia’s never looked back, and for what it’s worthwe think she will make an amazing mentor!

Right at this very moment, you’re just 10 months away from being a fully-qualified, fully-hired UX designer. Take your first step and speak to one of our Career Advisors today about how you too can succeed in a new, creative career in tech.

by Jaye Hannah on 25 April 2019

About the author

Jaye Hannah

Jaye Hannah is a London native currently living in Berlin. Coming from an editorial background, she’s now CareerFoundry’s Content Marketing Editor, focusing on creating content around UI design. 

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