If you had asked me fresh out of college what my dream career was, I would have said designing wine labels, and being creative director of a brand. Boy, was I wrong. Not that that doesn’t sound fun, but the difference you can make in someone’s life with the power of UX is something I never knew I could experience. It marries having a business mind, and loving good design.
From a young age I always had a tiny business-lady inside of me. My dad is a salesman and former business owner, and would always have me read sales and business books. Every summer I had lemonade stands, in middle and high school I started a photography company photographing local events and musicians, and started selling jewelry I was making in art class. I loved fine art, but always felt a need to monetize and share with others. Something I struggled with throughout all of this was although these purchases brought joy to people, I felt like I wasn’t truly helping anyone. My older brother was a paramedic, which is tough, grueling work, but I could tell he felt fulfilled by helping people. I envied his ability to take someone’s worst moments and potentially make them a little bit better.
I struggled in college a bit, as I always wanted to know the business case for every project. I had a hard time creating design without a real problem statement, or knowing what the target audience might be. This was before design thinking was being taught, and we were learning just pure visual design. I consistently was asking questions to myself like, what would this clients business goals be? What would potential customers be feeling? I struggled balancing my business-forward mind and the art-heavy visual design emphasis.
I worked as a designer at a small web and print agency. As someone who had never even really touched the web I had a lot to learn, and reveled in the few print projects they gave me, and struggled my way through every web project I had. I also took on quite a few freelance clients, ranging from cheese companies to musicians to tattoo artists. I made some of the ugliest work I have ever made in my career, and some of the best work I have made working with my freelance clients.
By the time I graduated college I had already been working as a designer and photographer at a music venue, worked at an agency and been doing freelance for 2 years. I took on doing the venues ticketing and box office (which has absolutely nothing to do with design, but a heck of a lot to do with ensuring a business runs smoothly) I liked being able to share in my love of music and combine it with design, and wear so many hats.
After that I went to a creative recruiting agency to interview for a role. The recruiter saw my love of developing and helping people, and asked if I had ever considered being a recruiter. I was intrigued so I figured I would try it. I loved meeting designers and creative and helping them get their dream jobs. I learned a lot about what roles do what, and the value they bring to their companies. I had no idea what UX even was, but here I was interviewing the few UX designers in Nashville for potential jobs.
I eventually felt like it was my time to get my dream job, so I found the bottom rung at a company that was growing. I took a role at Asurion, a large (17,000+ employees) company that focuses on cell phone insurance, tech support, and retail warranties. My first job there was in what is called the “innovation lab” in a part of the company that was just getting launched. It felt like working in a start up, (oh yeah, I also worked at a start up for a month post-college, feel free to ask me about it in person!) just a little more tame. My role was again a Jill-of-all-trades again, wearing quite a few hats. I handled designing the visual aspect of training for a line of business, designing powerpoint decks, creating video content for our agents, helping design internal sites, and researching technical issues. I had never done video work, but I picked up using Final Cut relatively easily, and am glad I took the opportunity to learn it.
I was fortunate enough to join an established UX team after a year at Asurion. I agreed to handle any requests any of the more seasoned designers wouldn’t take, if I could learn about UX. I handled every sales deck request pushed to our team, and took on all the fun little one pagers. My first big project was taking something that existed for one client and re-creating it for another client. My leader sent me to a UX class that showed me how other companies followed similar steps to what we were doing at Asurion.
I am currently over the experience for some of our agent facing tools. Dealing with internal customers is a huge mind-shift, which I hope to write more about. Since joining this team I realized I have always had a user-focused mentality, and have always thought about who would be consuming my design before making anything. Through designing these experiences, particularly around customers replacing their phones, I am able to take a bad day and hopefully make it a little bit better. I believe I’ve found my way to help, and I can’t wait to develop it and help more people in more profound ways over time.