Have you ever thought about exploring a career as a UI/UX designer, even though you don’t have any technical knowledge or design skills? In this article, we talked to a UI/UX designer, Giang, a former HR Practitioner who decided to go through a career transition. She shared her thoughts and experience with the aim to inspire other young talents out there to be inspired and confident to design their own career, even if it means having to transit to a new industry or role.
Name: Giang Ha Nguyen (Nickname: Holie)
Current Role: UX Designer, IOT Link Company
Brief Description of Job: Responsible for user research, user testing, product wireframing and prototyping.
- HR Training & Development Specialist, Gameloft Vietnam
- National Manager of Global Citizen Program, AIESEC Vietnam
1. Why did you decide to transit to a career in a UX/UI role?
Ever since I was a student, I have always taken an interest in the field of HR due to the strategic value that it brings to businesses. That was how I decided to kickstart my career as a Training & Development Specialist. However, after some time in the role, things weren’t as they seemed in theory. Being an introvert, I had a hard time adapting to the corporate environment. I was feeling the stress from being subjected to all the paperwork and having to work with so many people from various departments. Perhaps I was a little too nervous to ask for help and guidance, on top of being afraid to make mistakes – being new to the workforce.
I then went on to do some reflection exercises to assess my characteristics, which include values, strengths and passion. I also asked myself questions such as “What am I happiest and feel most fulfilled doing?” and “What am I naturally good at and can work on for hours without feeling bored?”. It was then when I realized that I’m most passionate in the area of psychology, art, and education. That was when a close friend suggested that I explore a career in design.
After conducting some research in the industry, I got to know the UI/UX design role better and discovered that it was what I wanted to pursue. Fast-forward the story to May 2017, I tendered my resignation in my HR role and embarked on my new career journey in the field of UI/UX design.
2. Coming from a non-technical background, how did you pick up all the new knowledge and skills relevant to UI/UX design in such a short time-frame?
When entering a new industry, it’s always hard to know exactly what skills to learn and how to learn them. UX Design itself covers a wide range of knowledge and technical skills. To start off, I took a 2-month course by KeyFrame Training to learn about the basic UI/UX principles and software, and most importantly, introduced me to the world of design. After that, I also learned Product Design through the Eggcademy course, which taught me how to do a variety of things such as user research, competitor research, developing business models, product prototype, and more.
Other than these 2 courses, most of the other knowledge I acquired was from on-the-job experience. Today, UI/UX designers can gain access to a wide variety of resources online, such as reports, books, and articles. Additionally, the growing UI/UX community in Vietnam is also well connected and extremely supportive.
3. With only 3 months to learn as much as possible about UX/UI design, how did you effectively plan and prepare for your job interview?
In a way, I think I was lucky. I have always believed in the power of positive attitude. So, despite all the self-doubts and inner uncertainty, I kept telling myself that it’s possible, as long as I do my best.
Hence, I maintained composure and made all the necessary preparations. During the interview, I went in with a calm and focused mind, and went on to discuss my strengths and also technical inexperience with the interviewers. I walked them through the story of how I quit my HR career to explore a switch to a UI/UX career. Interestingly, that story helped to illustrate my determination and passion for the role, with a willingness to learn. I believe that I landed the job mainly because of my integrity and how I demonstrated genuine interest in the company’s product during the interview.
4. What has been the most challenging thing about your transition to UI/UX designer from a non-technical field? And how did you overcome it?
Indeed, there were many challenges I had to face during my career transition.
First, virtually everything was new to me at the job, so it will difficult for me to estimate the amount of effort and duration required to complete the tasks at work. As a result, I often had to go the extra mile and work overtime, even on weekends, to ensure that I deliver on time.
Another difficulty was how I had to learn to work with developers with such limited knowledge of coding. In hindsight, I would recommend to all who are a newcomer in a UI/UX role to study and complete at least a basic coding course for designers (yes, there are such courses online). Even though the UI/UX role doesn’t actually require you to have coding skills, having such knowledge will definitely make life easier for you at work when communicating with the fellow developers on the team.
Truth to be told, there are even some elements of UI/UX design I have yet to master, but some skills take years to fully understand. It is important to understand that hard work and grit to persevere through to achieve a certain level of precision and consistency in your design.
5. Finally, what is your message to young talents who are contemplating a career switch to a role completely different from their current one?
Everyone has their own story and set of responsibilities to handle. In fact, I know a lot of my peers in Vietnam who, halfway through their career, want to pursue something different of which they are truly passionate. However, it is often the case that the financial commitments and pressure to support their family discourages them to take risks and explore a different career path. This is why I’m grateful and consider myself lucky to have great support from my family and friends to ensure my career switch was smooth. Here are my top 2 tips for you:
- Take the time to understand what you really want: If you have not discovered your true passion, consider doing reflection exercises like what I described above. If done right, I believe they can prove to be extremely helpful and fulfilling. It serves as an “invisible compass” that will guide you throughout your career journey.
- Manage your career transition at your own pace: I know an ex colleague from my previous company (Gameloft Vietnam) who was also working as a HR executive. She has always had a passion for creative design. As such, she managed to learn digital design and painting on the side while keeping her day job. After 1 year of consistent effort, she was made a Game Artist in our company.
The key takeaway here is that you should not afraid to take calculated risks in life. I’ve always believed that sometimes, you can be wrong, but always think of it as an opportunity to learn about yourself. Embrace your precious youth in your twenties while you still can, failures at a young age usually have lower associate risks.
Written by: Trinh Tien Thai
Trinh is currently working as a Publisher Engagement Executive for AdAsia Holdings Pte. Ltd, currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. During the time of studying at University of Economics, she actively participated in various start-up programs, namely Danang Startup Runway and Startup Weekend. She has had many international experience representing her country in ASEAN conferences, such as AYIEP 2016, the ASEAN Foundation and Entrepreneurship Training in Ireland. Her interests are related to youth development, innovation, marketing and tech-advertising. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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