Alumni Interview: Jeff Gombos

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Jeff Gombos graduated in 2016 as a member of the Umber Cohort. Prior to joining Designation, he worked in sports medicine as a physical therapy technician.

Tell us briefly about your job.
I’m a UX/UI designer for Walmart Labs. Since Walmart employs about 2.2 million associates across the world, there’s a huge opportunity for internal-facing design, which is my focus. I create associate-facing logistics apps for both US and international distribution centers. We’re currently drawing inspiration from Material Design to convert a lot of older tech processes into fresh UX.

Within my supply chain team, I work with six other designers who are also multi-disciplinary. Our whole crew in Bentonville, AR makes up 25 designers. It’s become a great atmosphere and the community keeps growing stronger. I also work with a fellow Umbi (that’s Umber cohort slang), so that has been a blessing.
 

What did you do professionally before you started at Designation?
I was living in Colorado trying all sorts of professions with the goal of finding what I really enjoyed. I graduated in sports medicine, so I began working as a physical therapy tech. That quickly changed though, as I just wanted to “create things.” So I tried my luck as a handyman and even a skate intern for Never Summer, but I eventually discovered UX/UI from my constant pulls toward graphic design and psychology. That’s when I became obsessed with design and stumbled across Designation.

I chose Designation because of the intensity and diversity of the program. If I was going to make a break for the design field, I wanted to do it right. With the live start-up experience, in-person instruction, and Career Phase, it was by far the most legitimate option available. So I took the leap. Plus, I’d always wanted to live in Chicago.


How do you describe your Designation experience?
Very challenging, inspiring, and wholesome. For almost everyone there, it was a large pivot as far as work-life balance goes. For many others, it was a pivot in personal growth as well. For me, it was both. Those two aspects really brought people together and we learned a lot from each other. Not only did the curriculum and instructors make us better designers, but our cohort members did too. The constant challenge provided other important insights, such as realizing that my best got better with practice and patience.

What made your Designation experience unique?
Becoming close to 20 people for three months straight. Spending 70-plus-hour weeks with those who share the same ambitions really creates a special atmosphere. We became a very solid crew right off the bat. A big shout out to the Umber cohort for being so fun, talented, and delightfully weird.

Also during this time, the Cubs won the World Series and the presidential election happened. So, needless to say, it was an interesting time to be in Chicago.

How do you think Designation helped prepare you for your job?
Designation provided so many rounds of quality design, that by the end I was surprised by how much confidence in my work I developed. During the program, I lived and breathed UX/UI, so the concepts and skills became second nature. What really ended up tying everything together was the latter phases of Designation. The live client experience was invaluable for the ability to jump quickly into new projects, and the Career Phase created that much-needed foundation for landing a role. By the time I interviewed, I was relieved how much I genuinely understood the process of design and how well I could talk through my portfolio, which ultimately led to where I am today.
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now?
Other than you just reminding me that I’m now a professional designer? It’s how multi-faceted my role has become. I have the privilege of working closely throughout the whole design cycle. That means pencil-and-paper concepts all the way to crafting pixel-perfect designs. I love seeing the process through from start to finish.

I’ve even had the opportunity to get into more classic graphic design elements, like illustration, logos, and iconography, which has been a dream come true. I’m now even beginning to take a shot at animation. There are definitely days where I stop to realize how lucky I am to be in a creative field.
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Embrace the “one-step rule.” I followed it when I was working toward breaking into the design industry. Every day, I took just one step closer toward where I wanted to go—a piece of knowledge, a new design concept, networking, or starting a portfolio addition. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just move 1% closer to your goal every day. When you begin to make it about progress and consistency, at that point it’s just a matter of time.

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