Navigating Career Transitions: A Personal Journey into UX Design

In this article, Co.Lab Product Design alum, Ammara, talks about her personal journey to UX design.

Ammara Khan
March 4, 2024

Switching careers in one’s late 20s can be a daunting task. It requires meticulous planning and the right mindset. It's one's mindset that can propel them forward and enable them to overcome any challenges, no matter how daunting they may seem.

In 2020, while contemplating a career change, I conducted extensive research by reading reviews, articles, watching YouTube videos, and exploring Reddit posts. This research led me to pursue UX design, a field that resonated with my background in biology and psychology. Initially, I was leaning towards Coursera for its affordability.

However, I later realized my preference for environments that offer greater accountability and healthy competition. But, my trust issues with online courses caused significant hesitation and led me to a mental exhaustion. Eventually, I decided to set aside these thoughts and diverted my focus on my day-to-day life.

Looking back, I realize now that it was a mistake; I should have taken a leap of faith and pursued a career in design at that time. 

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In 2022, significant shifts in my professional and personal life compelled me to reassess my circumstances. A quote I stumbled upon on Instagram struck a chord with me:

"Either you can stay in the situation and cry about it, or you can do something to change it."

After reading that, I was  determined not to succumb to despair. I resolved to take action instead of delaying the process. So, I begin my research yet again and discovered DesignLab, which perfectly met my criteria by offering group critiques, valuable mentor feedback, and healthy competition.

In January of 2023, I scheduled a call with DesignLab, and I’m glad I did because there has been no turning back since then.  

Following that, I enrolled in their UX foundations course in February of that year. I vividly recall feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness. Despite lacking any prior design experience or industry background, I embraced this new phase as a thrilling challenge and fully immersed myself in the vibrant world of design. 

While grappling with the initially steep learning curve of Figma, consistent practice and constructive feedback from my mentor empowered me to grasp the fundamentals and boosted my confidence to push further. Here is an example of my initial design work.

After completing the foundations, I delved into UX Academy coursework, benefiting greatly from my mentor's insights and guidance. However, balancing continuous design work with learning new material proved challenging, often resulting in late nights. This routine persisted for six months as I juggled full-time studies and a job.

Despite the initial difficulties and routine changes, my determination to complete my project and the UX Academy course on time fueled my perseverance.

However, despite all my efforts, my first project fell short of expectations. I was extremely disappointed. Below are images from my Phase-one project.

Although I initially felt frustrated by the failure of my Phase-one project, I consciously avoided self-sabotaging thoughts and shifted my focus to my first capstone project in Phase-two. Nevertheless, this failure motivated me to excel in future projects.

While drawing inspiration from my peers' feedback and work, I strived for excellence, repeatedly revisiting course materials for thorough understanding.

Additionally, with guidance from my mentor, I successfully shaped my first capstone, "MoodyMe," marking it as a significant milestone in my design journey. Below are images from this project.

For my second capstone, I honed my UI skills by adding a feature into an existing product. I chose to work on Wattpad, a unique choice that required me to develop designs from scratch due to the absence of a basic design kit in Figma. I embraced this as a challenge and remained motivated and dedicated throughout the process.

The positive feedback I received upon completion, with many comparing my designs to screenshots from the actual platform — It was incredibly rewarding.

This success was a result of lessons learned from the initial failure of my Phase-one project, along with insights gained during my first capstone. These experiences continue to drive me to strive for continuous improvement. Below are examples of my work.

After completing my second capstone project, I begin my third capstone, aiming to consolidate multiple services into a single app. Despite the challenge of designing such a comprehensive platform within a tight two-week timeframe, I embraced the opportunity for learning and growth.

In my GO App, I integrated e-commerce, entertainment, and food delivery interfaces. On completion, the positive feedback from my mentor and peers validated my efforts, underscoring the invaluable lessons learned from past failures and learnings from each project.

Looking back on my journey, I've come to understand that setbacks play a crucial role in propelling my growth as a designer. Here are some images from my third capstone project.

After completing DesignLab, I continued my journey of growth. I actively sought out opportunities to develop my skills further. I participated in a hackathon and joined Co.Lab to expand my knowledge and practical experience in the field.

Despite the inevitable challenges of job searching, I remain steadfast in my belief in the power of continuous learning and resilience. I firmly believe that by persistently pursuing my goals and embracing new opportunities, I will ultimately achieve success in my career endeavors.

Reflecting on my journey into UX design, I recognize each challenge as a personal milestone, signifying my growth and resilience. From overcoming setbacks in projects to navigating the complexities of learning new tools and techniques, each experience has shaped me into a more capable designer.

These achievements, coupled with my passion for creating meaningful user experiences, fuel my determination to make a real difference in the world of design.

With an unwavering commitment to continual improvement and a heart full of excitement, I eagerly anticipate the opportunities that lie ahead, knowing that every step forward is a testament to my journey and dedication.

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