Interview with Angela Snider,
UX Designer at AKQA

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Angela Snider is a graduate of the Nectarine Cohort. Prior to joining DESIGNATION she worked in media relations and as a soccer coach around Chicago.

Where do you work, and what’s your job title?
I’m an Associate UX Designer at AKQA in Washington, DC.

Tell us briefly about the job.
AKQA is a digital agency that has become globally known for being leaders in designing experiences.

The project team I’ve been working on has two UX designers where we each get split onto different parts of the same bigger project and occasionally overlap. We also have a few different UI designers that rotate in and out based on availability, a content strategist, and two awesome BA’s that take a really active role in research.

All our work is overseen by a Lead UX designer, our Project Manager, and our Account Supervisor.

What did you do professionally before you started at DESIGNATION?
I was a youth soccer coach for Chicago Fire Juniors South and the Illinois Olympic Development Program. I also had experience working in media relations for the Chicago Red Stars.

How did you hear about DESIGNATION? And why did you decide to attend?
I researched what exactly UX was. I have my bachelor’s degree in anthropology and had been looking up jobs that listed anthro as an acceptable degree. UX came up pretty frequently and my natural curiosity took over.

How would you describe your DESIGNATION experience?
Getting to know my cohort. Obligatory Nectarine shout out! Having projects where we were kind of forced into knowing the different people in the cohort helped strengthen our network.

I still talk to my Nectarines every day. Being able to reach out to them and continue to learn from them is pretty great.

What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
The most useful experience from my time in the program was being exposed to the “T-shaped designer” model. I think when exposed to something new, we want to tackle anything and everything possible. The T-shaped model helps reign that in. My time at DESIGNATION was brief, and AKQA appreciated that I focused on getting experience as a pure UX designer. That focus was tremendously valuable to speak to in building my portfolio and in interviews.

More importantly, DESIGNATION gave me foundations into FED and UI to be able to hone my skills on my own after graduation. It helped strengthen me as a candidate and gave me the background knowledge I’ve needed when I work with people in those disciplines.

DESIGNATION gave me foundations into FED and UI to be able to hone my skills on my own after graduation.

How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your job?
Significant experience in working on teams and following the same user-centered process to solve very different problems. It helped me feel prepared and ready to handle anything at my job from day one. Being able to understand AKQA’s design system from a UI perspective helps me be really creative with some of the problem solving I have to do in my designs. And I’ve been asked to explore different prototyping programs like Framer, some of which are mildly code-based. Understanding how JavaScript logic works helped me begin to understand writing Coffeescript code when doing exploratory prototyping.

Getting these experiences at DESIGNATION helped boost my value as an employee at a company where I’m surrounded by truly amazing talent.

How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job?
I had really great support, even after graduation, from DESIGNATION in setting up my portfolio. The one thing I consistently got positive feedback on throughout the job searching process was how great my portfolio was. I was the only candidate for my current job who had a portfolio that drew unanimous approval from the team.

What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Learning from peers is a skill that will always be necessary as long as you aspire to be a better designer. And you’ll never create something perfectly the first time. Design is a process, so put something together—as much of it as you can in one sitting—then leave it for a while, come back, and do it again. Your work will benefit greatly and you’ll keep your sanity.

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