Yes, my prior experience is applicable

Image is part of #sketchaday2021 series from @robotlover on Instagram

When switching to a new career the constant struggle you face is convincing a company that your prior experience is relevant to the role you’re after. Just because you don’t have that official title doesn’t mean I don’t have the experience and knowledge of that role. Sure, technically I haven’t delivered a digital product that’s currently on the app store, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t delivered products to a store that follow the same if not similar process. 

Read on to hear how I’ve leveraged my existing experience and skills to support my new career in the UX/UI field. 

Being creative has always been a part of me

I have always been a designer…a Product Designer if you want to get more focused. Each of my roles has always been about 3 main principles: 

  • Understanding and solving a problem
  • Making it easy for who I’m designing for
  • Making sure it’s supported by everyone

I’m simply moving from physical objects to digital objects. My experiences have all used the same principles and workflow to designing products, I’m just utilizing different tools and resources when making digital products. 

When your users get tattoos of your brand

After getting my BFA in Illustration at Milwaukee Institute of art and design I started my career with Harley-Davidson Motor Company. At H-D, (that’s what the cool kids say) I was first introduced to the design thinking process when applied to product design- product definition, research, analysis, design, and validation. Working with a team of designers and freelance artists I started off making t-shirt line drawings for tech documents but quickly worked my way up to their riding gear department. 

There’s a reason why they’ve been around for 120 years as this global brand taught me the importance of following brand guidelines, conducting user research, and working collaboratively with Creative Directors, Product Managers, Marketing, Garment Tech, Quality, and buyer planners until our final handoffs with their factory development team.  H-D laid a great foundation on combining business and design needs and I will forever be grateful for the skills and fun I had there.

Custom carpets is a daily design challenge

My roles with rugs and carpets focused on product design in the custom carpet industry and supporting their collection of products. I designed over 1000 custom products. Each custom rug or carpet, requires daily collaboration with various teams, clients, and their users.

This was not a “we’ll tell you what to do” kinda job. I had to be a self-starter and I was involved from the beginning stage of -understanding the clients’ needs, designing and communicating the quality and look, providing the final deliverables to our global manufactures, ALL while ensuring that the quality and expected design is being deployed during production.  I utilized competitive research, sales data, and client feedback to shape the type of products I designed for each iteration in our process.

Toys, it’s not a kids game.

I had a dream job designing toys. As the Art Director, I took my years of product knowledge to set up product style guides and templates to ensure products were produced quickly, accurately, and within budget. We worked in what would now be called a 2-week sprint cycle.

My role there established the creative direction and technical specifications for all products from concept to completion while managing internal artist staff and freelancers. I designed printed and electronic graphics for all products, posters, booklets, cards, manuals, packaging, and POP displays. Designed packaging and rendered factory specifications for all manufacturing needs. It had a startup environment feel, so I worked intensely with our Product Manager along with marketing, sales staff, and of course the factories and quality control. 

The biggest challenge is the most rewarding

I learned a great deal in 2020 besides how to get away with only 4 hours of sleep.

My time with the UX/UI program at Flatiron was incredible….and doing a 6 month, 80+ hours a week boot camp during a pandemic-with your entire family trapped at home-is the BEST EXAMPLE I can tell you on how passionate and dedicated I am to wanting to be a UX/UI designer.

I was able to take my past experiences and upgrade them to developing mobile and web user interfaces. I learned more about the many strategies involved with the design process and how to make it my own. How to approach problem-solving by being informed about the product definition and identifying the user goals while meeting the business goals.

User-based research and the importance of reiterating your designs based on your analysis and user insights. The joy of validating your designs with peer feedback, user interviews, desirability testing, and usability testing.

My software skills go beyond just Adobe products and include an amazing range of design software and prototyping tools like Sketch, Figma, Invision, Adobe XD and After Effects to create style guides, wireframes, hi-fidelity designs, prototypes, and design systems.

This experience taught me to be the glue that holds the entire product team together and then handing these designs over to developers who will then implement them. 

Don’t forget your hobbies

Your hobbies, side gigs, and other passion projects can be used here as well. Think about what you do that isn’t work-related and find a way to transfer those skills to the role you want. 

For me, I work on vintage bicycles and motorcycles for fun. If you own anything vintage you know that these things break down…constantly. There are always problems that need to be solved and there are steps that most mechanics follow to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. The amount of research, trial and error, testing, and iterations that go with every repair is incredible.

The steps almost mirror those of a UX/UI designer when creating a product. Sure there is more beer drinking in motorcycle repair than in app development but is a great example of a way to show my problem-solving skills and how I utilize a basic design process.

Your skills are always an asset

These skills should not be looked at as negative but as an asset of transferable skills that can give you a head start in your search. 

It’s up to you to underline the concepts from your previous roles and see how they apply to the role you are after. By focusing on the needs of the job, you’ll have a better way of taking your prior experience and translating those applicable skills into your resume, cover letter, portfolio, and ultimately in your interviews.

I’d love to hear how you all made your career move.

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