Seeing my career journey…

I have been mentoring and praying for a new grad who has been trying to start her career in UX. One evening, during my time catching up on my Bible reading and praying, I felt God telling (not really with a voice, more like a nudging feeling) that maybe by having left (which was a tough decision for me), it created an opportunity for my friend. Sure, a new role may have eventually been posted, but the timing was probably expedited by another coworker’s subsequent departure as well. All along her hiring process, we both patiently waited – her for news, and I to see how the story unfolded! I couldn’t say with certainty, “hey, God told me you’ll get the job – you’ll see” even after seeing that it wasn’t the right fit for two other applicants who interviewed as well (yes, I knew those people too – so it felt like I was just watching a movie as the outside perspective looking in).

This verse holds true time and time again:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Now I’m intrigued at what’s in store for me next – so far, I didn’t really actively apply to any role -they all sort of happened (update: with the exception of this latest one – and God turned a “not possible” to an offer!). There arewere a couple of possibilities I’m praying through, but at this point, I have the luxury of not having to worry about experience on my resume as much or needing to rely on my income to meet my family’s needs.

In the past year, more people have asked me how I got into UX (user experience). I’ve told a version of my story to a few people, but it’s really all God – really, it’s been great! 路 Let’s go back in time…

So my first visit to the optometrist in Grade 9 changed my life. After seeing Dr. Stephanie, I was determined to become an optometrist, to help improve people’s lives by helping them to see better (perhaps this explains I had kept a colouring book (by Unicef?) around that talked about a possum who went to developing countries to help those with cataracts see again). Research skills kicked in soon after and my academic and career path was set for Waterloo (the only optometry school in Canada that is taught in English; McGill being the other), or so I thought.

I had 3.5 years to prepare myself, my family, and my friends that I was moving to a brand new province, without really knowing anyone there. Well, except I had met the English pastor at the local Chinese church at a conference in Regina a couple years earlier, who had then told me nope, I wasn’t going to make it into Optometry (of course, I didn’t listen to a stranger’s assessment of me!).

Eventually however, I ditched optometry in favour of RPW (rhetoric professional writing), switching with relative ease. A friend once astutely pointed out that the seeing metaphor is a theme that carries through this story. I wanted to become a technical writer; I wanted to write documentation in a way that would be easily understood, and change the way people saw manuals, instead of boring, hard-to-understand, and something to read/consult only as a last resort (to fix a mistake). A couple of courses in information design toward the end of my degree really piqued my interest in UX. I ended up as a technical writer, marketing writer, and finally as a internet content writer (which overlaps with UX writing these days), before I ended up exploring the user researcher vs. interaction designer path. But while I expressed interest in interaction design, I wasn’t given a UX role until another leader in a different department randomly offered me an opportunity as a project coordinator. Yes, all of this happened by “accident”!

Looking back, it seems like I’ve been interested in UX before the term became popular. And since I don’t believe in coincidences, I see God’s timing and hand in everything!

Almost 9 years later, I was essentially laid off at the beginning of my maternity leave (they cut my team and position but generously retained me until my mat leave was over). I had intended to quit to be a full-time parent at the end of it anyway, but here was God showing up again, and giving me a really awesome gift: the gift of a year’s worth of continued benefits and little extra cash to start a new chapter of life.

One day, my friend sent me this message, “Would you be interested in ux design work?” My response, “part-time definitely!”

Expecting that it was the end of my career (I called it career suicide) when I became a stay-at-home parent, God had other plans when I wasn’t looking, and gave me a part-time contract in UX that I did mostly remote, with the occasional on-site visit. Contract work became relevant work, because shortly after that, a friend reached out to me (above). I actually expected a no as I’ve come to expect that local tech companies want someone full-time. But, this kick-started a whole new adventure!

Within a very short time, I slapped together a (terrible) portfolio that was graciously reviewed by a friend who had more experience, recognized the design challenge as being one I had reviewed in detail on the internet prior, but feeling like I didn’t complete fully complete it and thought I failed the interview, and then somehow ended up with my ideal during-school-hours schedule (with a few full-days here and there) doing interesting work!

During my interview before I was hired, I asked what a successful or effective UX Designer would look like in the role, and the answers were “user research”, “testing”, “validation”, “success metrics”; so, it’s hardly a surprise that I ended up doing 80% UX research (practice and strategy) and 20% UX design there.

At the start of this year, a bunch of things happened at work, which led to some restructuring and my role changed: 80% of what I was hired to do was taken away. And because I’m huge on the U in UX, it wasn’t the right fit anymore so I eventually decided to leave. Actually, I surprised myself, because I’m usually not one to quit that easily, but it was oddly freeing, and it was good timing, really good timing – I was able to spend the next few weeks with my sister and her family, and vacation in Orlando after that! Seeing and being on God’s path is pretty amazing :)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: