Interview with Charles Hu, DESIGNATION Alum and Product Designer at Microsoft

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Charles Hu - Product Designer at Microsoft

Charles Hu is a graduate of the Gold Cohort. Previously an Implementation Manager for HR outsourcing giant Zenefits, he came to DESIGNATION to pursue a career in UX. He is now living the dream as a Product Designer for Microsoft.

Where are you now working, and what is your job title?
I’m currently contracting at Microsoft as a Product Designer.

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Tell us a little bit about your new job!
It’s been really stimulating so far. I’m tackling meta-challenges like figuring out what it means to have a relationship with someone, and how to enrich those relationships with technology. I’ve also worked on various parts of the design process; from user research to creating high fidelity mockups.

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How would you describe the DESIGNATION experience?
Very challenging but very rewarding. Some of the instructors (cough Won cough) can be really tough on you, but it’s all to help you achieve what you thought wasn’t possible.

What was the most interesting or useful thing you learned during the cohort?
The thing that stuck out the most was learning just how much research and critical thinking goes into every design, as trivial as it may seem. I still apply the same frameworks and strategies in my role today.

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What are the people at DESIGNATION like (including staff, instructor and fellow students)?
I loved how you could feel the passion radiating from everyone at DESIGNATION as soon as you walked into the workspace. The environment felt very collaborative and everyone pushed each other to succeed.

“Don’t be afraid to highlight failures because every project has them.”

What were you doing before you came to DESIGNATION?
I worked in operations at a fast growing startup in San Francisco called Zenefits. Before that, I was a consultant in Accenture’s UX practice. Most of my responsibilities were related to strategy and operations, but I also did some tangential design work like creating user flows, product requirements, and simple mockups.

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How did you hear about DESIGNATION, and why did you decide to come?
One of the UX Designers at my startup actually attended General Assembly, but she recommended that I try DESIGNATION because she heard it was more hands-on and practical. I quit my job 2 weeks later (much to the dismay of my Asian parents) to fly across the country and pursue my passion.

“Everyone has to start somewhere, and DESIGNATION will leave you better prepared than the vast majority of designers out there.”

How did DESIGNATION help prepare you for your new role?
DESIGNATION gave me the confidence to trust myself and present my designs effectively. I also learned how to use a lot of different prototyping tools. I even led a Keynote prototyping session for the other designers, product managers, and engineers in my second week at my new role!

What was your favorite part of the DESIGNATION experience?
The tamale guy at the nearby dive bar. Surprisingly decent Mexican food from the Midwest. The things I learned and the students and instructors I met were cool too.

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What advice would you give to someone who was trying to break into the industry?
Practical advice would be to perfect your portfolio. Your portfolio is your opportunity to show off your skills. Present your projects as a story: what was the problem? Who were the users? How did your solution solve that problem? Also, don’t be afraid to highlight failures because every project has them.

Philosophically speaking, don’t give up and remember that nothing worth having comes easy. Everyone has to start somewhere, and DESIGNATION will leave you better prepared than the vast majority of designers out there.

Related: Freelancing Designers Guide – 3 Contract Tips,  Top 7 Productivity Tips for Freelancers, & See the Average Salary for a Graphic Designer.

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