Where are you now working, and what is your job title?
I’m working at Grainger as a User Experience Architect.
Tell us a little bit about your new job!
Well, I work with well over 50 total UX employees. Grainger separates UX into UXP (Planners) UXR (Researchers) UXA (Architects) UXD (Designers). Our roles are as follows. UXP does their own thing on very long term projects. They can be very “out of the box” projects, and they can also be more mundane. We will have 1-2 UXR members working between teams of 2-5 UXAs. Generally we pass off our designs to 1 UXD. Work can be a linear process like UXR -> UXA -> UXD but realistically it’s messy, as in UXA -> UXR -> UXA -> UXD -> copywriters -> UXD -> legal department -> UXA etc. So much of what we do is not actually in Axure or Sketch or any other program. We spend lots of time interfacing between members of different teams and strategizing in meetings. I’ve also learned that I need to keep my user in mind, as we’re taught at Designation, but I also need to keep in mind my stakeholders. If I don’t design with them in mind as well, my users won’t get the benefit of a good product from me because the stakeholders have a say in the final product as well. I need to stand my ground on certain issues that I deem most important, but I have to back off so they feel like the stakeholders are getting what they want in a design as well.
How would you describe the Designation experience?
Designation was intense. You can’t take in everything that’s going on while you’re there… but that’s okay. You learn enough to apply in the real world, and importantly you learn enough to empathize with the rest of the people you work with. The empathy comes from actually having done the work that they are doing. Designation is like studying abroad, even if you’re at home. Everyone becomes friends quickly, but there is always a ton of work to do. So it’s this interesting mix of work and play that make the time you spend there both unforgettable socially and incredibly useful from a learning perspective.
What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?
I was pretty new to digital design in general. Learning how different members of a design team interact to create a final product was an entirely new idea for me. I understood what UX meant (mostly) and what UI meant, and I new what FED was. Designation put together those pieces for me, so not only did I get what they were individually, but I got what they were together.
What are the people at Designation like (including staff, instructor and fellow students)?
Friendly. Smart and friendly. Everyone is there to help everyone else, and not just instructors. I learned nearly as much from my fellow students as I did from instructors. The staff members at Designation are always looking out for everyone. You may not get to know them as well (or you might!) but they all have incredible design experience as well. I mean they are really top-notch. Everyone has creative insight to add to your work and to your growth as a designer. Overall, I’d describe the dynamic between everyone as very positive and nurturing. There is also a lot of energy here… Bring coffee.
What were you doing before you came to Designation?
I was going back to school to pursue a career in Dentistry. As much as I like patient care, science and medicine in general, there was something missing for me. UX has a creative and collaborative element that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And the new and exciting energy is something you won’t find elsewhere. I’m very happy I made the decision to change my career path.
” I loved the people I met, the instructors, the material we covered, the atmosphere and I love where I ended up.”
How did you hear about Designation, and why did you decide to come?
I was looking at a list of UX schools, in fact I had already put my first payment into General Assembly for their UX immersive course. I was learning FED with a friend of mine, but was finding it to be too broad at that point to make serious progress like I wanted to. Plus, UX was more my thing. Designation caught my eye with the way they communicated on the website, and talking to Will for the first time sealed the deal for me. I wanted to be a part of it. I got into the next cohort and the rest is history!
How did Designation help prepare you for your new role?
Designation did a great job of giving me an idea of ALL the different roles and processes that are in use in digital design. I felt like I “got” a lot of what was going on at work right away. Although you can’t learn anything extremely deeply in the amount of time you have at Designation, I felt like (as a complete and total Noob before starting virtual…) that I could hack it in the workplace. Now that I’m at work, I can communicate with all members of our team and beyond, and feel comfortable that I know what’s going on. I’ve had to learn a few technical terms and skills that are specific for my workspace. Beyond that it has all been expanding on or cementing things that I learned in Designation.
What was your favorite part of the Designation experience?
Gosh. Lame answer ahead. I’m going to have to say everything. I loved the people I met, the instructors, the material we covered, the atmosphere and I love where I ended up. It’s impossible to choose what my favorite part was. I can tell you some of the things I like a lot that aren’t super obvious. I liked the guest speakers, I liked listening to the group over our Slack channel, I liked all of the inside jokes and camaraderie we had going on, I liked the networking possibilities at 1871 and I liked Trader Joes being within walking distance.
What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?
Show up every day and give 100%.