Never Too Late to Change Careers
By Ai-Mei Zhu
Samantha is a passionate UX/UI designer at ThankView and based in New York. As a natural problem solver, she loves a good challenge and strives to create innovative and productive solutions to make everyday life more efficient and easy. Before she became a designer, she was working in the Financial Services industry for a number of years as a consultant, business analyst and project manager.
When did you recognize that your current career was not your forever career?
It was probably a few years ago before I actually made a move to transition careers. I always imagined having a job that I genuinely loved, where I would wake up every morning eager to go to work and happily getting lost in all the details and the hours — like something you would see in a movie. So when I realized there wasn’t a spark like that in my previous role, it left me wondering and questioning, “what if?” “What if I did something else?” “What would it be?” “Am I willing to start all over again?” I was never satisfied with the answers because I just didn’t have the courage to answer them truthfully. There are a lot of sacrifices that come with a career change and I just wasn’t sure I was ready for them. At least not until last year when I took a leap of faith, quit my job and began my journey in UX design.
What was your motivation to pivot careers into UX?
I have always been more of a creative person. I have experience in graphic design so I wanted to find something where I can leverage those skills, along with the problem solving and analysis skills I developed from my previous roles. After I spoke to a friend who had successfully pivoted his career into UX Design years back, I was very inspired and explored this track to see if it was something for me. The more I learned about UX, the more I knew it was the perfect field for me. UX is not just about designing something pleasing to look at but also strives to solve user problems based on research and I find that so rewarding.
Were there specific resources you used to learn about the new industry? (i.e. classes or certain certifications)
When I was starting out, I explored a few different options to get into UX, which included master programs, bootcamps and self-learning. While I knew each had their pros and cons, I focused on the main factors that were important to me and narrowed it down. I knew I wanted to start my new career as soon as possible so master programs were out since they typically take about a year to complete. I also wanted to have more of a structured learning experience with resources available to me so I opted for a bootcamp. While there were many UX bootcamps available, the one I took was General Assembly’s Immersive UX Design program which lasted about 3 months.
What was the most difficult part of the transition/ the biggest learning curve?
The most difficult was definitely the job search after graduation. Not only did I graduate in the midst of a pandemic into a highly competitive job market, but also as a junior professional with barely any experience under my belt. I remember feeling like the tiniest fish being released into the ocean for the first time. While General Assembly did help prepare us for after grad, I personally needed more guidance to navigate the job search. I learned the hard way that it is not just about cold applying to jobs. It is also very important to network while practicing my UX skills in my spare time.
Any advice on how to best prepare yourself to do so? If there is anything you can share about what you think the keys to success were in making the transition?
Definitely manage your expectations, prepare a financial plan and budget, be persistent, take your time and don’t give up! Constantly remind yourself why you wanted to do this in the first place and keep that spark going. Remember that everything may not go as planned and you may have your off days but that’s okay. Take your time and take care of yourself mentally and physically in the process. Have a support group you can turn to, to keep you motivated. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to designers already in the field. I found them to be the most approachable and receptive people who just want to help, even if it’s just to share their journey or give advice.