During my bootcamp at General Assembly, our instructors had everyone present to the class our own story of “Why UX?” It’s just what it sounds like – how did we end up pursuing UX as a career?
Our instructors said it would be helpful for us to practice telling our story since it’s definitely something that comes up in an interview – and we don’t want to be making something up on the spot, or struggling to think of the best version.
They were right – although interviewers may not have asked “why UX?” – just about every interview I’ve had started off with everyone’s favorite open-ended interview question – “So… tell me about yourself.”
Being that I’m switching careers, at some point my story about myself involves my switch from teaching high school and entering into UX design. I felt this presented a challenge, which I have tried to turn into an opportunity.
Challenge: Teachers face a wide variety of stereotypes. By telling someone I’m a teacher, I could run the risk of filling the interviewer’s head with negative stereotypes (whether consciously or subconsciously). Do they believe in “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”? Do they immediately imagine I’m some authoritarian know-it-all or someone who gets things done by bribing with candy and grades? Do they assume I’m just a burned-out teacher who couldn’t cut it anymore and I’m just trying to find a desk job?
Opportunity: I try to counter these images by emphasizing my successes and approaches as a teacher. In the classroom, I approached lessons with a design mindset, constantly getting formal and informal feedback from my “users” to iterate on those designs. In the urban setting I taught in, I learned early on that leveraging grades and authority got me nowhere, so I learned to establish a productive and collaborative learning environment through positive relationships and communication. Throughout my teaching career, I earned the highest teaching certification of National Board Certification (held by fewer than 3% of the nation’s teachers), took on mentor teacher roles for student teachers as well as teachers new to our campus, and took a contract job training teachers for a national computer science education organization. Despite all this growth and success, I wanted to explore other career options while continuing to make an impact.
My whole “Why UX” goes beyond my teacher spiel, and may be tailored according to the audience and the job description. Overall, I’m still working to improve my “storytelling” skills and realize this is an area where they’ll need to shine.
I’d love to hear your feedback! How might I improve my pitch?
What do you see as your challenges in answering the question of “Why UX?”? What do you see as opportunities?