Becoming A UX Designer: A Scary Investment

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

My “About Me” mentions my current role as a UX designer and my past experience as an athlete, but that does not tell my entire carer path. In actuality, I was hesitant in entering tech in any capacity. I held many of the stereotypes of tech, including the vivid image of the black screen with rows of green 0s and 1s. In addition, I had never heard of user experience throughout my studies in Marketing and Communications. My introduction to user experience is a testimony to the importance in investing in yourself.

Prior to my role as a UX Designer, I invested much of time into other career paths and goals including being a professional athlete, an author, a Marketing Specialist, and an advisor for student-athletes. Each career path was an investment of time, money, and energy. Each “investment” led to great accomplishments but also great disappointments. Therefore, the idea of entering into yet another field was terrifying. It was not until personally meeting a black women in tech that I opened myself up to exploring different roles in tech. At 20-something years old, it took meeting someone who looked like me and had experience with a non-traditional career path to tech to inspire me to break my own mental barrier and assumptions. Representation matters.

However, there was still a hesitance to jump two feet into user experience. I was still scared of an imaginary failure. There was a time after retiring as an athlete and publishing my novel that I was inundated with regret, anger, self-pity, and sadness. Like many athletes whose athletic careers did not end in the grandeur that they anticipated, I retired wondering to myself, “Was it worth it?” That question seeped deeper into my memories and covered the lessons and skills that I have gained throughout my life with doubt.

I doubted my investment in my skills.

It was hard both as an athlete and author to not compare my novice experience or accomplishments to others. Even when my skills surpassed my initial expectations, it was never enough. My skills were never enough. To add to my perfectionist standards, I always felt as if I was racing time both on and off the track. Stories of athletes and authors who were prodigies in their crafts left me insecure. Researching amazing designs from talented designers did not help my worries. The idea of entering a field that already had such experienced individuals felt pointless.

I doubted my financial investments.

Being an athlete and an author is not cheap. The cost of traveling, training gear, coaching fees, gym fees, and other fees that I am currently too lazy to list equated to thousands of dollars. Although the feeling of receiving my first paycheck as athlete was exciting, the actual amount was hardly a fraction of what it cost to keep up with the best in the world. A similar list of expenses developed as I wrote and published my novel.

Although there are plenty of free resources to use to start a career as a UX/UI designer, including Udemy courses, Interaction Design Foundation certificates, Medium articles and others, I eventually made the decision to look into tech bootcamps. Looking at the costs of bootcamps, I began to question myself as to whether this new career path was worth yet another financial investment.

I doubted my value.

There’s not much to add to this period of doubt. I didn’t think I could ever be good enough. Actually, I feared I could never be the best. Even as a child, my perceived value often came from being in the top percentage amongst my peers. This value was a driving force to academic and athletic success. However, in hindsight, I could have been much happier had I understood how to celebrate my personal growth earlier. Approaching UX design with the mindset of “How do I become the best designer out of all designers?” created an unrealistic expectation that almost scared me from a career that I love.

So, how did I get over myself and my doubts?

I cashed in my investments.

Well, the term “cashed in” makes it seem like I gave up my investments. I have not. All that I’ve gained in my previous career paths are still between my ears. Regardless, my statement still stands. I needed many of the lessons and key skills that I’ve learned from my past experiences to enter the field of UX design. The lessons that I learned can be an article all to itself, but I will share the ones that helped me to overcome to overcome the fictional prior investment regrets.

My UX-related skills were enhanced by my investments.

Networking, team collaboration, empathy and research are just some of the skills learned in my past careers. The field of User Experience and the roles within this field are vast and vary based on an organization. Although this can be overwhelming when initially determining where to focus your learning and development, it opens up to the possibility of using skills, knowledges and perspectives gained outside of UX.

The time invested in learning how to network for Academic Advisor roles were applicable to networking and job searching for UX-related roles. The skills in research and visual design principles practiced in my roles in social media marketing were re-introduced to me in UX. Communication and leadership skills gained as an instructor and a team lead also shined in my past design projects.

The financial investments spent were not in vain.

Quality sometimes comes at a price. This phrase comes to mind when thinking of the triangle of wanting a product or service completed quickly, with quality and within a price range. I had the pleasure of accomplishing two life-long dreams that many quickly leave behind. I am a former pro-athlete and an author of a novel that has been praised and acknowledged by elite athlete and avid readers. I could not have reached these peaks of successes without investing in great coaches, editors, programs and other people who have helped me achieve these goals.

I share these same sentiments with programs that I have invested in related to UX design. I learned a lot on my own. Because I have always been good at studying and retaining information, learning some of the foundations to UX design was feasible. However, as stated by those I have encountered, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” UX design is the same. I can learn on my own, but it takes quality guidance to really set myself apart from others.

I always have value.

Do I need to add more to this? If I must, I would add being thankful to have accepted the concept in UX design that no project is ever “done.” A project may be great at the time, but can always be improved. Technology is always changing and evolving. Design trends are constantly changing. Change is both inevitable and a choice. Therefore, I make a decision to change for myself, not to compete with others.

The word “scary” is not just for Halloween or to describe my hair in the morning. Changing careers or making large financial investments can be scary, especially when past investments did not lead to expected outcomes. However, as told to me by people in my support circle, “Betting on yourself is always a good bet.”