How to prepare for the real UX job after the design bootcamp

Interview with Sally Li — UX/UI Designer at CASETiFY

  • How she survive her first month in a startup while feeling completely overwhelmed
  • How the real world is different from what the bootcamp has taught her
  • How to deal with uncertainty when you don’t know the answer
  • How to become more influential in the company
  • Advice on people taking a design bootcamp

Discovering UX

How did you get into UX?

My background is in landscape architecture, I studied for five years and then worked in the landscape industry for about a year. What brought me interested in UX was I started having a few friends around me that were getting into UX design and I got curious.

Settling in

How did your first month in CASETiFY felt like?

Things moves really quick in the e-commerce industry, you also have to pick up the office culture and the way they operate much quicker than you normally would in other industries. So the first month I was honestly quite overwhelmed with the stuff I had to do, learning the different parties I have to be in communications with and prepare for their job.

Photo credit: Casetify.com

What kind of help did you seek from the community?

The question I asked was how do I manage my first project. I was given a task and I felt like I didn’t know what to do. I ended up reaching out to learn how should I be thinking about and tackle this project. Advice to me at that time was: Just slow down.

How did you introduce the design process to your company?

I think not many companies in Hong Kong has an established process, that’s just how the UX environment is. It is like a hidden job role that part of your job as the only designer is to help the company to come up with a design process. On top of that, there’s not gonna be that many senior designers to back you up, and you’re going to have to figure it out and adjust over time.

Does everybody know what a UX designer do in your company?

My team has a good understanding of it because our Our CEO West had a design background and he is interested in having UX designer on board. However in terms of where my job begin and where it ends, it’s not as defined. For example, I’ve sometimes designed our festival logo. We do have a larger design team who are photographers animators and graphic designers, and sometimes they do that as well, but I also end up doing some of those during my day to day. I guess that’s normal for working in a startup. You need to wear a lot of hats and do a lot of things.

Theory vs Reality

How is the real world different from the design bootcamp?

There’s a pretty big difference between how the design process is taught in a bootcamp versus how it actually is in the real world. In the bootcamp they start off with user research, secondary research, interviews surveys and then get to the design phase. Although this linear process is great, it’s not always like that. You might not always start off with doing a user interview, and sometimes I feel like the boot camp can set up a bit of an unrealistic expectation when it comes to a professional workplace on how you should be executing your job.

Illustration credit: savvyapps.com

What new skills have you learned in a job that are not taught in the bootcamp?

Honestly it’s a lot of the soft skills. In my conversations with people who are interested in UX, I always bring it up to them that while part of the job is knowing how to design it in sketch and working on style guides and making sure everything looks nice, there’s also a lot of the soft skills that are involved in a UX role.

How do I obtain those soft-skills when I haven’t work in a real design job yet?

Finding a good mentor who’s in the field helps me reflect on my current situation and how I can do better, and they taught me how can I communicate better to my stakeholder. If you can’t find one, I think there’s so many resources out there on YouTube that teaches you how we should be talking about design and how to really get buy-ins from other people who are not in the design field to really move your design forward.

On growing

How do you become more influential in the company?

Meeting with stakeholders more frequently. I don’t feel like I’m currently meeting with them frequently enough. Just tapping more into the questions about the different experiments that they’re running currently, what are their business goals for the next two quarters, showing them some of their designs earlier on and getting their feedback…etc. I think these kind of actions are what I can take to build more business knowledge as a UX designer.

How would you encourage a shy designer to become more involved and understand how the business works?

I just think of my conversation with the business as a casual learning opportunity, being curious and asking them questions about how they do things.

One thing that’s very important to remind yourself is that there’s no stupid questions.

If there’s thing you don’t know, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know! You are a team with them so they’re also here to help you figure it out. Keeping that in mind should change the whole atmosphere in a conversation, it feels more relaxed, more organic. You don’t have the pressure of like needing to know, needing to meet a certain expectations. You’re okay to ask questions, you’re okay to not be an expert.

What else do you think would a UX designer should learn?

A bit of coding. Even just some basic understanding on coding would be helpful even though you don’t have to dive deep. It’s the language that the developers speak which you’ll definitely spend a lot of time with them, so making them feel like you can align them and befriend them will be helpful.

Closing thoughts

What advice you would give yourself a year ago when you were in the design bootcamp?

One thing I wish I had done more during my bootcamp was to get in touch with the local designers to get a better insight on what the current climate is like. I wish I did that much earlier in the process as it would’ve helped me focus more on the type of company that I wanted to join. Also, having joining and meeting the community much earlier would’ve helped clarify a lot of those questions I’ve had on the first month of my full-time position.

How would you sell a big idea such as running a workshop to the company?

Start small, perhaps one person from design team, one person from IT, one person from marketing or business. In your first meeting, you might not be able to invite the most senior person and that’s fine. With this initial group four to five people, if you ran it well, words will spread if they see value in this kind of mini workshop.

Vision for UXwanabe

My ultimate goal is to elevate the UX maturity of the Hong Kong market. A mature UX market has the follow components:

Mature UX market = Lots of mature UX organization + Lots of mature UX designers + Lots of UX opportunities

This can be achieved in 3 steps:

  1. Equip more people with the knowledge to become junior UX designers — This increase the talent pool.
  2. With increased talent pool, promising characters will emerge. For those that are willing to step up, equip them with the ability to influence their own company to become more design mature.
  3. As the company becomes design matured, it will produce positive results. This influences other companies to invest in UX as competitors noticed the strategic advantage of having superior user experience in their product and services. This will create more design opportunities for the market

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Tim Chan

UX designer from Hong Kong. Obsessed about Micro-interactions and Product Design.