*This blog was originally posted on October 18, 2020.
Here are some things I've been able to do since starting my Interaction Design program:
Learned how to code an Arduino micro-controller to build prototypes of products that solve real world problems
Interviewed the DC Public Library Executive Director on the its newest library renovation and equitable spaces
Talked through case studies on disaster zones with a CEO of a fabrication company
Created laser cutting files and 3D mockups using Illustrator and Fusion360
Gave a presentation every single week with PPT, Keynote, and Slides
Used circuits to create Halloween desk decorations with LED components
Read LikeWar and Broad Band (both were great and read in off time)
Tonight, a professor at the Interaction Design Master's program I'm in sent us an email to submit our midterm self-assessments. It's similar to the ones you might experience at your office. And while you might hate doing them, I actually really enjoy them. I like the opportunity to pause and think about where I've been, what I've learned, and where I want to go.
Before starting my program this September, I was in a rush to get a job in UX. It seemed so right. I started trying to check off all the boxes on articles I found online about how to get a job in UX all in less than 3 months or something - get real world and self-initiated experience, make a portfolio of said experience using each type of software from Figma to XD, and update my resume. But in that rush to finish, none of it was great. I was completing a breadth of work, but it was all pretty shallow and pretty bad in hindsight. I was so focused on the end goal that I wasn't really looking at the work in front of me and the improvements and considerations it needed.
From this point in time - two months into my program - I know that those past experiences, those mistakes are all a part of a longer process. And I'm now more accepting of the time and the amount of work it will take to produce a more wizened, skillful, and thoughtful user experience designer out of me.
When I started my program I remember looking at our syllabus for Prototyping and Fabrication. One of the first assignments we had, for instance, was solving a problem in our own home by creating a product out of cardboard. While I couldn't wait to tackle the more difficult projects on the syllabus, I remembered the promise I made to myself.
I made this promise to myself at the start of my program: "All of the articles keep telling me I need real world experience to have a job in UX. I know that my program has real world experience built in, but I need to treat every aspect of this program as if I am an employee or a contracted designer. How would I show up if my program was my UX employer? How would I show up if I was employed as a designer and the briefs came from these classes? How would I show up if I was being paid for the services I rendered within these classes?"
Those thoughts keep me pursuing the highest level work that I can. It keeps me in communication with my professors and lead facilitators when I have questions outside of regularly scheduled class time. I communicate with my peers and my professors like I do with my colleagues in my day job. I treat the case studies we analyze as situations that are unfolding in real time. In working on our real world projects with our client, the DC Office of Planning, I always treat the work as if my managers, i.e. my professors, are accountable for it (which they are) and as if I am responsible for the work being completed (which I am).
So now onto where I want to go... It's kind of cheesy but the only competition I have is myself. By the end of the semester I want to produce a great body of work, and I want to see my growth. I want to improve my presentation skills and create presentations that are immediately intuitive to the audience. I want to be more comfortable answering questions at the end of my presentations. I want to improve my critical thinking and prototyping skills. When offering ideas about prototyping solutions to real world problems, I want to better illustrate and conceptualize those solutions and address initial questions about feedback, reporting, drawbacks, materials, cost, feasibility, desirability, and usefulness. I'm proud of the work I've done so far this semester, and I'm excited for all of the work I'll continue to do. I'm going deeper into the work of UX, even if that means just a little more time.