Interview with Jane Kim, UX designer at ZS Associates

Designation Team Oct 17 Designers, Interviews

Prior to Designation, Jane Kim worked as an art therapist and wrote haikus in Chicago. After graduating as part of the Amethyst cohort in 2017, she now works as a UX designer at ZS Associates in Evanston.

Tell us briefly about your job today.

I’m a user experience designer at ZS Associates. We’re a sales and marketing consulting firm, and I’m part of the UX team that provides research and user-centered design to various clients. My workdays are filled with meetings, working with clients, check-ins with other designers and consultants, and solo work time.

What did you do professionally before Designation?

I was an art therapist, and after a few years in the field, I found myself burnt out and unfulfilled by the work. I had always wanted to try out design and thought UX/UI would be a good fit.

How did you hear about Designation, and why did you decide to attend?

I had a friend who was a graduate of the program; her experience was positive, and she was successful in finding a design job. I also spent a lot of time reading through other graduates’ reviews (on SwitchUp, Course Report, and Quora) and learned about their experiences. I liked the intensity of the program and that it included work with real clients.

Looking back at your Designation experience, how do you describe its impact?

Designation changed my life in such a short time. Not only did I gain hard design skills, but I was given the vocabulary and training to talk about myself and my problem-solving process. I felt joy in my work again, and I gained a network of talented designers and thinkers. I still can’t believe it happened!

Designation changed my life in such a short time. Not only did I gain hard design skills, but I was given the vocabulary and training to talk about myself and my problem-solving process.

What were your favorite parts of life at Designation?

There were so many things I loved about my time at Designation! Here’s just a handful:

  • The pranks cohort members played on each other, which kept us laughing amidst long working days.
  • Tangible progress I was able to see every day in projects and my own design skills.
  • Exposure to different working styles and reflecting on projects as a team.
  • Working late into the night with teammates and having “eureka! moments.”
  • I also really loved the Career Phase. I got direction, feedback, and support as I prepared materials for the job hunt. It was really exciting to tangibly see all the pieces come together! This was also when I solidified my identity as a designer.

What’s the staff like at Designation?

They’re helpful, knowledgeable, and fun human beings who rooted for my success. They pushed me because they knew I could be better, and they challenged me to think things differently. Around the time I graduated, I made sure to meet with all my creative directors and designers-in-residence to talk about my work and performance as I prepared to apply for jobs. They were helpful in highlighting my strengths and giving me ways I can work on my weaknesses. I also walked away from those discussions knowing that I had a community of support.

What advice or recommendations do you have for people considering applying to Designation, or for those already in the program?

Ask a lot of questions and treat everything—the good and especially the bad—as learning opportunities. Foster and grow your self-awareness as well, by journaling, reflecting, asking for feedback, et cetera. This helps you become an effective designer and teammate.

What was your job interview process like?

I had a very thorough process—a phone screening, case study presentation, design challenge presentation, and a final panel presentation. The multiple interviews really gave me an opportunity to get to know ZS and the designers on the team. I was told that I was very articulate when talking about my process, I asked good questions, and I took feedback well. All this I attribute to Designation, where I was given plenty of opportunities to sit in the problem space, craft my story, and receive feedback on my work.

What were the skills, tools, or experiences at Designation that have been the most useful for you in your job?

The check-ins with creative directors and client presentations, because in both cases, I had to talk through my design decisions and tell engaging stories. In my job now, I often have to communicate my process and decisions to other designers, internal stakeholders, and clients.

What are your favorite parts of being a professional designer today?

I absolutely love that I get to keep learning. Currently, I have a variety of projects I’m working on, which gives me exposure to different types of research, design, and strategy. Fortunately, my company invests a lot in employee learning as well—online resources, speakers, learning days, and continuing education opportunities—that I try to take full advantage of.

I was told that I was very articulate when talking about my process, I asked good questions, and I took feedback well. All this I attribute to Designation, where I was given plenty of opportunities to sit in the problem space, craft my story, and receive feedback on my work.

What’s a piece of knowledge, skill, tool, or something cool you learned at work recently?

I’ve been learning and reflecting on how design is so much more than just design. A good design process also encompasses relationship-building, communication, and strategy.

What are some of your favorite resources—blogs, publications, podcasts, speakers, tools, etc.—that help make you a stronger designer?

A huge part of design is storytelling, understanding culture, and connecting with people, so I like listening to podcasts like The Moth and This American Life that give me glimpses into others’ stories. Also, since our work is ultimately for real people, I find podcasts on human behavior, like Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, and Radiolab, pretty fascinating and informative. 

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