Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I work at Mintel as UX Designer.
Tell us briefly about your company. What do they specialize in? What does your team look like?
Mintel describes itself as the world’s leading market intelligence agency. We provide market research, market analysis, competitive intelligence, product intelligence, and the expertise to combine these elements into an expert synthesis that generates insight. So basically, we provide support to organizations all over the world to make their products and campaigns more effective and interesting. For example, if a coffee company wanted to start developing energy drinks, they come to us for help in everything from packaging to insights and trends. It’s really interesting to me, as I come from an advertising and marketing background, both of which utilize market intelligence.
I’m currently Mintel’s only UX designer, so there’s never a shortage of work to be done across our products. I am lucky enough to work with a UI designer, the product owner of the focus product I am working on, a handful of awesome devs, and a scrum master. We also work in an open office, which means I never know who I’m going to sit next to and learn from.
Tell us about your job.
I jump on whatever product is currently in development and hit the ground running, to make it more usable and up to date. I get to forge ahead with my own process since I’m the only UX designer. We have more than 10 products globally, so it’s important to prioritize what needs my attention in the backlog. It really reiterated to me the importance of working closely with my team—especially my product owner—to develop a workflow that allows us to collaborate effectively. I spend a majority of my time in the breakout areas sketching something out (lots and lots of data visualization currently), harassing people to be my testing guinea pigs, on calls with clients across different industries like beauty and retail, or huddling with the development team and my product owner for grooming.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation? And where did you live?
I worked in the advertising industry in Austin. I always liked working with consumers and solving problems for and with them in creative ways, so becoming more involved in UX seemed like a natural step for me. Learning more about other people’s lives and stepping into the shoes of others for a living is a joy to me.
How did you hear about Designation? And why did you decide to attend?
A friend from graduate school was thinking of changing careers as well and actually attended General Assembly. After some research, Designation seemed like a more holistic, complete experience and a better choice for me. I wanted to be able to work with actual clients with actual constraints while also building a solid portfolio, and I wasn’t disappointed. Packing up my life in Austin to move to Chicago in order to attend Designation wasn’t an easy decision, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t taken the leap.
What made your Designation experience unique?
The members of my cohort. I realize how unique of an experience it was, especially now that I don’t get to work with many designers. Having a large group of likeminded people to work with and bounce ideas off of was such a luxury. I was lucky enough to be part of an especially close knit (and loud) cohort who liked to play as hard as we worked. I spent a few super-late, delirious nights at 1871, and these people made it worth it. I still have a handful of cohortmates who I get together with, and being able to share any design worries or triumphs we have in our careers is something I treasure.
How did Designation help prepare you for your job as a UX designer?
I feel like I came into the program with many of the tools needed, but no clear process to follow and no strong knowledge of how to prioritize my workflow.
“Designation taught me the importance of following a design process. I still get overwhelmed at times, but I know I’ll come out with something solid. Keep the user involved and have a vision for the product– it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.”
How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job?
I think the gif of myself on my portfolio helped me stand out (though maybe not in a good way). Seriously though, I think the case study most interesting to prospective employers was Rewind, my Startup Weekend concept product. It was an experience I was very proud to have been a part of, and I think that passion showed as I talked through it in interviews. In my experience, employers want to hire people excited about the work they are doing and who take any chance to be involved in the design community. Designers thirsty for knowledge and new ideas are the most fun to work with anyway!
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now?
I was staying up late at coffee shops working on my portfolio, scheduling and preparing for interviews, obsessing on the offers I was juggling, and generally being a combination of freaked out and excited after Designation. I’m really looking forward to helping others navigate this process now that I’m finally settling into my job. I love being able to contribute the knowledge and experience I’m gaining to my peers. Having a mentor (or just a group of friends to bounce ideas off of) and being a mentor is really satisfying to me.
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
I think it’s important to try to work on products you find interesting. It doesn’t have to be the sexiest thing in the world, as long as you can immerse yourself in it and learn from it. Think of this job experience as another way to gain knowledge and develop your skills (not unlike Designation).
I also find it’s really important to understand your prospective employer’s culture and design process to make sure it’s the right fit. Don’t be afraid to go into interviews ready to ask tough questions. Above all, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away, just stay involved in the design community and keep learning. You have the skills now; be confident in yourself because this is just the beginning of a new journey!