From PR to e-commerce, former marketing all-rounder Ewa is no stranger to career changes—or moving country, for that matter. After tying her eclectic experience together with a UX design qualification, a series of new challenges (and new countries) led her to discover a passion for UX design strategy back in her home country of Poland.
In this interview, Ewa talks us through the secret to leading successful workshops, the importance of proper time management, and why communication skills were the key to her success…
Hi Ewa! Tell us about your background before CareerFoundry.
I did my bachelor’s in public relations before kicking off my career in marketing. I then moved to Luxembourg to work as a content editor, and then Munich to work in customer relationship management. This was my first proper role in the digital sphere.
I moved again to another city in Germany to work in E-commerce. There, I started exploring things like personas, digital strategy, analytics, and other things that overlapped a lot with UX design. When my boss asked if I wanted to start taking on more UX-design related tasks, I thought, ok—I don’t know much about UX design, but why not. To solidify my skills, I enrolled in the Intro to UX Design Course—and I was surprised at how much the curriculum overlapped with digital marketing.
Once I’d finished the course, I landed a job as a UX designer in a startup. I wanted to keep learning, so I enrolled in the full program at the same time as learning the ropes of my new role. Time management was vital for me—I even wrote an article about it! I’m now a UX strategist at a software house in Poland, working remotely.
Talk to us about your CareerFoundry experience.
As I was working full time, the flexibility of the program was brilliant. I’d read the material in the mornings and tackle the exercise in the evenings. The feedback was always straight to the point, and both my tutor and mentor would always give me fantastic tips that I could take into my daily work. I also really enjoyed the fact that there were chapters specifically for agile and lean workflows—it’s so useful for practical work.
I think learning online is a very personal matter, and everyone’s experience is different. Right now, I’m working remotely—so getting used to learning and communicating primarily online was perfect. Between the slack community and my mentor and tutor, I never felt alone or isolated.
Talk us through how you landed your first UX role?
I started job searching a lot earlier than planned. Even after I’d landed myself a role as a UX designer, it was hard to refer to myself as one with only three months of UX design experience under my belt. Still, I’m glad that I was able to work while doing the course. I feel like I missed out on the stress of trying to juggle a career change with my new qualification. The CareerFoundry program also makes an excellent impression on recruiters, so as soon as people saw I was learning in this way, they felt they could trust me to do a good job.
Let’s talk about UX strategy! How did you end up specializing in this field?
It started in my first UX design role. In a startup, you usually have to wear many hats—project manager, marketeer, etc. While taking on all these additional tasks, I realized I was super interested in analyzing the company’s business needs. To me, it made more sense to work out the business needs first, before moving onto wireframing or working on the product’s UI. I started learning more about design sprints, and I even asked my old tutor and mentor for advice and support.
I discovered that talking to the client and the user, and understanding their real needs, was my passion. I got to explore this passion more after moving back to Poland and getting a job in a software house that deals with multiple clients at one time. I started leading workshops and realized that talking to the client and validating the concept was my strong suit. At the time, I wasn’t thinking, “I want to be a strategist,”—but somehow, that was the natural next step.
What do you enjoy about working in UX strategy?
Sometimes when you’re a UX designer, you can end up working primarily with wireframes. That’s fine—and I know people who really enjoy it, but it’s not for me. With UX strategy, you’re exposed to so many different points of view. You can also have a significant impact on the project because you play such a vital role in the product’s direction and how it evolves. I love that decision-making aspect—and leading workshops to get to those decisions is so interesting.
Leading workshops is a great skill! How do you find it?
Leading workshops means being a skilled moderator. You have three people in a room who are responsible for a product, and even though they want to build the same product, they have vastly different opinions. I have to be the one that takes their views into account and produces the best possible solution. Sometimes I have to find a way to moderate with some of the toughest negotiators—people can be very emotional about their product. Each workshop looks different, and I love the challenge of adapting my formula based on the clients’ needs.
What advice would you have for people looking to segway UX design strategy?
To get into UX strategy, exceptional communication skills are an absolute must. You have to know how to talk to people, mediate, and manage expectations in a way that makes everyone in the room feel heard. Other than that, don’t be afraid to get stuck in! Based on my experience, you can’t follow strict rules. If you google UX strategy, you’ll always have a business model to follow. Yes, you can use this—but in the end, you’ll still have to adjust it for your client anyway. You can’t look at each product in the same way—you have to be adaptable, open, and comfortable with talking freely with clients and users.
A lot of junior designers want to copy-paste a structure that someone else has followed and apply it to their own journey. It’s all about soaking up as much knowledge as possible, honing your craft, and seeking out your own opportunities.
If you’d like to learn more about what it’s like to start working in tech, check out this article with advice from CareerFoundry alumnae who all made exciting career changes: Three Inspiring Women On The Reality Of Breaking Into Tech
What You Should Do Now
If you’d like a step-by-step intro to find out if a career in design, development, data, or digital marketing is right for you—sign up here for a free short course in the field of your choice.