It’s no secret that embarking on a career change can be a testing process. Between the various adjustments you need to make to your schedule, and the uncertainty around what you’ll face once you get to your destination, it’s only when you settle into your new career that you’re able to reflect on everything you learned along the way—and how the mistakes you made are part of what got you there.
As part of Women’s History Month, we asked four successful CareerFoundry alumna to talk us through the inspiring work they’re currently doing—and the sage advice they wish they’d been given at the very start of their journeys into tech.
Erika Bosch Ramirez, Lead Designer at ZAUBAR
I currently work at ZAUBAR, a young startup based in Berlin that offers immersive tours through augmented reality. As the lead designer, I’m leading, working, and proactively taking part in the company’s growth at the same time. The work is really exciting and so fun, because I can see the direct impact my work and my decisions make on the business. I feel a little bit like an entrepreneur.
My advice to my younger self that was changing careers: don’t worry about the money you are earning this month, worry about the potential you are missing while you prolong the switch. I was very indecisive, mainly because of the pressure of having to pay my monthly bills. Now I know that the longer you wait, the slower you see changes. So, if you already know you want to change, just do it. Even if you start from a little, start now!
Yina Smith-Danenhower, UX/UI Conversational Product Designer at XAPPmedia
I currently work as a Conversational Product Designer at XAPPmedia. I lead their patented Optimal Conversation Framework, and improve it in terms of design strategy, prototyping, and testing. As part of the framework, I’m also leading the launch of a new product, a pre-packaged solution focused on self-service customer service bots and other channels. I really enjoy my role because I’m seen as an expert, and everything design-related in the company is relayed to me—so my opinion is valued in every decision we make. I feel that the work I do here makes an immediate impact to the company’s profit and product every day.
As someone who values other people’s validation highly, I had trouble applying for my first job, and subsequently got rejected a lot. That made me doubt my self-worth, and I began asking myself, “Am I good enough?” My advice to students in the same situation is to remember your rejections don’t reflect who you are and what values you can bring to the table. Of course you have to work hard and put together a convincing portfolio—but if a company just doesn’t understand or see the potential in you, don’t blame yourself, and don’t lose motivation or confidence. XAPPmedia hired me in a heartbeat, entrusting serious responsibility to me because they saw the potential. Sometimes you just have to wait for your perfect fit, and if you’re passionate and you’ve worked hard, you’ll find it. My ultimate advice is to believe in yourself!
Katrina Metoyer, Sr product designer at Asurion
I just started a new role in January as a Sr. Product Designer at Asurion, after spending 2.5 years as a UX/UI Designer at a maturing startup. Currently, my responsibilities include thinking through and designing end-to-end experiences for our (and our clients’) products, which includes discovery work, designing, testing and iterating. In a more specific sense, lots of managing time and deadlines, and working with cross-functional teams to bring the designs to life while meeting all of the business requirements. So far what I’ve enjoyed most about my new role is the level of autonomy given to the designers. We really have the opportunity to drive things forward and try to create the best experiences for our users, whether it’s by making small but impactful changes to UI, or pushing back on features we think should or shouldn’t be included.
I think there are two big things I wish I had been told at the start of my career. Firstly, speaking as a career changer coming into this field with no traditional design education (only a high school graphic design class pre-CareerFoundry), I know I felt unsure about my skills and my ability to make things look good visually. I wish I would’ve been more aware of the fact that visual design skills will come. Looking back on the work I did right after completing the program, I can see how much my visual design skills have improved—and I know I’ll do the same five years from now looking back on the work I’m doing today. Of course, there are people who are naturally gifted and can create amazing UI right from the start, but there’s also a large amount people who become talented designers from learning through exposure and practice. Focus on the bigger picture, and ask questions.
The second piece of advice I wish I had been given at the start of my design career is to not be scared to speak and make your voice heard. As a woman, there will be times you will be the only one in a room—double the number of times if you’re a woman of color. Even though there are times when it can feel lonely or intimating, know you’re not alone, and know how essential your presence is. As designers, we are creating and designing experiences for everyone, and we can only create great experiences if our design teams have diverse people, thoughts, and opinions. Embrace yourself and your experiences. When we share our backgrounds, it helps us (and others) to realize our own blind spots, and the potential problems or users we’re unintentionally missing.
Alexandra Carson, Sr. Voice UI Designer at Lowe’s
At Lowe’s, I design call flow diagrams and create user interface designs in one, cohesive voice in all customer channels—chatbot, IVR, SMS, and voice calls. Previously, I was working as a Content Designer at Facebook, writing for the Public Connections Team. I’ve also been working on the weekends writing conversations for the chatbot Nivi, which helps people access reproductive healthcare worldwide. My favorite thing about these roles is working with people across disciplines. I enjoy learning about how other people approach problems and collaborating with all these different minds to discover the best solutions. I also love when the work is creative—I can get lost in a chatbot script for hours and don’t even know time has passed.
As far as advice, I wish someone had encouraged me to trust myself, be authentic, and not give up. I’ve often been told that I need to “learn how to play the game better,” but I’ve never been interested in games, or any kind of relationship that feels false. I can only speak for myself, but I was definitely socialized to please, do what I’m told, and “play the game.” I found this woefully unfulfilling.
My career has not been even remotely linear, but it’s worked out in this unique and beautiful way. I’ve picked up a myriad of skills that make me who I am now, and although it wasn’t easy or always fun, I wouldn’t trade my experiences and I hope to have many more. Anyone can learn how to do UX or write or program, it’s the other things you bring to the table that are critical—being curious, creative problem solving, willingness to learn, being a team player, standing up for your values, and maybe most importantly, setting boundaries and knowing when to say no.
I’ve lost track of how many interviews I’ve been on in the past couple years and I have an “invisible” cognitive disability that can make presenting and interviewing almost impossible. I watched over and over again as hiring managers and recruiters made a lot of assumptions about me—that I didn’t have a clear strategy or understanding, or wouldn’t be able to present to C-suite. It’s been brutal at times, and I’ve gotten some hurtful feedback. I guess I learned perseverance and trusting myself the hard way, but it doesn’t have to be like that and we need to do better. More than anything, I want to make space for more people who are diverse in all the ways to thrive. You matter. Don’t give up.
**So there we have it; four insightful pearls of wisdom from women who have made mistakes, taken risks, and embarked on a leap of faith into their new careers. If you’re a woman—or anyone—at the start of a career change, hopefully these stories will inspire you to take it all as it comes, and believe in yourself all the way to the top. **