Mythili Gopikanth joined Designation in 2017 as part of our Zinc cohort, after working as an account manager at a real estate firm. Today, she’s a UX designer at the PwC Experience Center in Chicago. Tell us briefly about your job today. I’m a UX designer at the PwC Experience Center in Chicago. We’re the digital practice within PwC Advisory and we work with a range of clients from industries including finance, industrial, retail, and more. The Experience Center is really all about co-creation, so on any given project my team consists of people with a diverse set of backgrounds: visual designers, copywriters, business consultants, etc. It’s a great dynamic of people to work with because I’m exposed to a wide range of perspectives throughout my design process.
What did you do professionally before you started at Designation? I worked as an account manager at a real estate firm in the northern suburbs of Chicago. I had the opportunity to work on a website redevelopment project for my division and served as the point of contact for the company’s design contractors. Getting to collaborate with them and observe their work helped cultivate my interest in UX.
How did you hear about Designation, and why did you decide to attend? I was a bit of a skeptic of design bootcamps prior to joining Designation. Especially as someone without any prior design experience, I was unsure how I could transition into the design industry in such a short period of time. Before I applied, I assumed the program would at least provide me with a high-level foundation of UX.
I think what ultimately convinced me to give Designation a shot was the number of positive reviews I saw on CourseReport from graduates. Many of the reviews talked about how the unique opportunity to work with real clients really helped them grow as a designer at an accelerated pace.
Looking back at your Designation experience, how do you describe its impact? Designation helped me grow as a designer in ways I didn’t expect. Not only was I able to develop the technical skills needed, but I was also able to pick up on soft skills that I consider equally as important, such as working collaboratively on a team and developing trust with my client. By the end of the program, I was surprised at how comfortable I became presenting my design decisions to a room full of people.
By the end of the program, I was surprised at how comfortable I became presenting my design decisions to a room full of people.
What were your favorite parts of life at Designation?
As crazy as it sounds, what I remember most fondly are the late nights and Saturdays I spent working with the cohort. Those are the times of day where I really bonded with the rest of my cohort and we quickly became each other’s support system. I’ve got a lot of great memories of stupid inside jokes to keep each other motivated and help each other talk it out when one of us got stuck on a design decision.
What’s the staff like at Designation? The staff as a whole were incredibly knowledgeable, but the reality is UX design is an industry that is constantly growing and changing, so you have to get comfortable with not knowing everything. I think the staff does a really good job of being just the right amount of hands-off so we could learn to be resourceful on our own. For me, my creative director during Client Phase had the biggest impact on my growth as a designer because her guidance helped me become a more client-facing designer. I learned a lot from her about storytelling and how to develop a good communicative relationship with the client—skills that are very important in my job right now.
What advice or recommendations do you have for people considering applying to Designation, or for those already in the program? Take the opportunity to meet as many people as you can. The job hunting process can seem daunting, especially if you’re transitioning into a new industry. One of Designation’s greatest assets is its alumni, so take advantage of the network of designers you’re given. Design is a huge field with a lot of different specializations, and getting to know different people and what they do can help you figure out what kind of company you may want to end up at.
One of Designation’s greatest assets is its alumni, so take advantage of the network of designers you’re given.
What was your job interview process like? My interview process took about three months. During Career Phase, the one piece of advice that really helped me was knowing how to craft my story. Instead of shying away from talking about my experience prior to Designation and feeling the need to fit into a mold of what I thought hiring managers wanted to hear, I was encouraged to incorporate my past experiences into my story to help me truly stand out in the interview process.
What were the most useful skills, tools, or experiences at Designation that have been the most useful for you in your job? At Designation, we were encouraged to educate our client about UX during our weekly presentations. That experience has proven to be very useful at PwC, which likes to bring the client in on the design process rather than just talking at them.
What do you do in your current job that uses anything from your pre-design jobs? In my previous job, I spent most of my days communicating with clients and helping them solve any problems they had with our service. I think learning how to communicate with customers and empathize with them is certainly used in my current job.
What are your favorite parts of being a professional designer today? I really love being able to solve real-world problems on such a large scale. My prior experience in account management taught me that sometimes customers aren’t always able to articulate their problem clearly, so it’s always a great moment when design enables me to solve a customer’s problem they didn’t even know they had.
What advice do you have for people looking to get their start in the design field? There is no conventional path to be a designer. The people I’ve met in the design field all come from such diverse backgrounds and bring their own unique perspectives to the table. I think that’s what makes the design field so great! If design is truly something you’re looking to pursue and you’re willing to work hard at it, don’t let the fear of transitioning into a new industry hold you back.