The UX of Becoming a UX Designer

Abel Quintero
2 min readApr 12, 2017

UX (user experience) is all the rage in the tech/design industries, and for good reason. The demand for UX designers is high at startups and large corporations alike, as they realize that a key to being competitive is focusing focusing on usability and human behavior for their products. While some UX designers attended design-specific schools, my path into UX has been less traditional.

Four years ago, when I started college, I had never heard of UX design, nor did I have any real experience with design in general. I knew I wanted to get into the tech industry, but all I had in mind was software engineering. I started off as a math major/computer science minor, but when I realized how much I despised multivariable calculus, I decided it was time for a change. I took my first cognitive science class my sophomore year and fell in love. I was infatuated with the idea of applying psychology, computer science, neuroscience, philosophy, and linguistics to the study of the brain. With my cognitive psychology class, I developed a deep interest in the intricacies of human behavior.

Meanwhile, I still loved programming and became increasingly involved in frontend web development, from taking a class in web design to working part-time jobs and internships that used HTML/CSS and Javascript. While reading various online resources on front-end development and tech careers, I stumbled upon the term UX/UI design and was curious. User research? Wireframing? Prototyping? Collaborating with other teams? It was right up my ally! Hundreds of hours of Treehouse, Designlab, Udacity, and Codecademy lessons later, in addition to my college coursework, and I’m ready to jump into full-time UX work!

Or am I?

It turns out that breaking into the UX world is more complicated than I had previously expected. What is the experience (the UX) of becoming a UX designer like? The job application process for a graduating college student is much different than that of the college application process for a high school senior. I found out that I had to make a portfolio for my job applications! Given the impending deadlines for applying, I had to find a way to make a good-looking portfolio in a short amount of time (shoutout to content management systems!). While I’ve been a fan of WordPress for years, I discovered the wonders of Weebly and stuck with it.

So what else did I need besides a portfolio? Resume? Check. Cover letters? Check. Networking events? Check (Occidental Career Center and Facebook events are great). Besides learning online and in class, I found UX workshops to attend at General Assembly, which I highly recommend.

So far, I’ve had two interviews and I’m excited for more possible opportunities. In the winding journey that is a career, the UX of becoming a UX designer is complicated but rewarding.

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Abel Quintero

Voraciously curious technologist/musician. A few of my passions: project management, DE&I, social impact tech, outdoor adventures, music, urbanism, and books