Lacey Nixon graduated in 2016 as a member of the Topaz Cohort. Prior to joining Designation, she worked in a number of roles, including as Operations Associate at SMS Assist.
Tell us briefly about your job and company.
I’m a UX Researcher at Solstice, a design consultancy that does everything from product strategy and mobile development to IoT systems. I’m currently on the Discover team with three UX designers and a scrum master. We also work closely with QA and development.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation?
I worked many jobs trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. I worked in customer service jobs, as a server, and even as an English teacher in South Korea. I had no design experience at all before I came to Designation.
How did you hear about Designation? And why did you decide to attend?
After I finished teaching, I started thinking about the parts of my past jobs and education that I really enjoyed doing. My favorite parts of my undergraduate degree in marketing were the times I actually got to design ads, so I began searching for a graphic design grad school in Chicago. Designation came up and I had never heard of UX or UI, but the more I learned about the more excited I got.
What was your favorite part of the Designation experience?
The intensive learning environment. I learned much more in the three months at Designation than I did in all of my undergraduate years. It was awesome to be surrounded by amazing instructors and peers who wanted to learn just as much as I did for 9-12 hours a day. I still can’t believe how much I learned and grew in such a short period of time.
What did you find was the most useful skill, tool, or experience from your time in the program?
Creative problem-solving. Every job I’ve had since Designation has been unique, but I needed to critically think through how best to solve problems at all of them, usually with very little time. Designation gave me the skills to come up with many solutions to a problem and the confidence to trust myself in choosing the best one for the problem.
How did you stand out from the competition in applying for, interviewing for, or getting this job?
Interviewers seemed to really like how excited I was about the projects I worked on at Designation. I really believe in the UX process and its results and I was proud of the work I completed there. So it showed in interviews. Companies want someone that will be enthusiastic and really involved with their work; Designation showed me that UX, especially research, was something I could be passionate about.
What’s your favorite thing about being a professional designer now?
I love being the voice of the customer in the room. Without UX and research, it’s just a bunch of designers and stakeholders in a room arguing about what they think is best for the user. I get to be the one in the room that reminds everyone we can find out directly from users what they want, and in doing so make the product 100x better. I think our jobs as designers pay for themselves over and over again by preventing unnecessary dev work, design work, and frustration on the user’s end.
What advice can you give to someone trying to start in the design industry?
Coming into this field with no design experience at all, I had trouble getting my foot in the door after Designation ended. But I just kept applying and reaching out to people, and eventually, that lead to an internship, which gave me the experience for a contract position at another company, and it snowballed from there. And it was all worth it; I absolutely love my job now!
My other piece of advice is to really use the Designation network for helping to find opportunities and referrals. Mike helped me out a ton, and every UX position I’ve had I first heard about through connections from Designation.