My journey of becoming a self-taught UX Lead from a Web & Graphics Designer
As I stack up my pillows and lean my back against them on a beautiful evening of September, I feel happy. Not only because Durga Puja is knocking on the door but also I completed 2 whole weeks in my new company as a Lead UX Designer.
This article is going to speak about my journey in the field of design and how challenging and beautiful turns it took to get me where I am today. Hence if you are in for design tips this may not amuse you :)
Flashback to the year of 2011-
I was a fresh new design graduate, passed out from Arena Animation in Kolkata. Back then Arena Animation just started admission for bachelor degree in design. In our time, (well I sound old ain’t I? :P) when I started my career back in Kolkata, there was a huge market for Graphics Design and Web Design and not much buzz on UI and UX. Well what are those?
2011 in Kolkata, you usually start off by designing in Paint, Corel Draw and then move up to learning Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. My journey was gradual, one step at a time.
During college days I saw my strength in both visual design and web design. Design market in Kolkata was not exposed to the world of research-led design decisions. If it looks good, it will sell. If the product is failing or the website doesn’t have good traffic then the graphics are not good. Simple as that.
In July 2011 I got my first job at a startup as ‘Web & Graphics Visualizer’, visualizer.. Fancy huh!
For the young designers out there who asked “how much money the UX profession will provide?” Well it depends on a lot of things.
- In which city are you looking for the job?
- Which college you passed out from?
- Do you have previous experience?
My first salary was 1.2 LPA. It was a huge deal to get a monthly salary of 10 thousand in Kolkata market then. I was elated as my ‘achievement’ got printed on posters (oh with my chubby face) in our Arena building. They said I bagged the highest salary in the past couple of years.
Lesson learned: learn to be happy and humble and just take the single step to start your career.
One thing which worked out wonderfully for me was learning. I used to come back to my home after work and learn, read articles from various designers across India and the world. Watching loads of videos of efficient web design, speed painting, reading industry articles and playing with my dog and cats in between used to be my typical day. Maybe that’s what cost me my first relationship :/ . Oh well, anyway I started putting those learning in practice. Created a bunch of personal projects and reviewed them with my friends. I think that’s the time at the end of 2011 I first heard the term ‘UX’ and finally understood that the science behind design is also a discipline. A damn good one!
Cut to 2012-
I left my job and opened my own Design Studio. Ah wonderful those days were. A new turn and I was pumped with creative juices :D. You know the feeling when you are young and you think you can change the world. I started networking with various people from industry, showing them the value of a good design and how a design should be done. Things started to work out well for us. We got some really prominent clients, regular work and ended up renting a small basement studio with 3 more members :)
A drastic big turn in my life. I left my startup. I was so sure that I won’t take up a job. Freelancing seemed the only practical way to keep me financially stabilised. Well I never stopped learning and exploring new things though. I opened a Youtube channel to create funny skits, tutorial videos etc. It was not viral but who cares, I enjoyed every moment of it :)
Lesson learned: life can and will throw curveballs at you but never stop living. A halt is healthy to set your priorities straight but never stop.
Few months after I left my studio I got an offer from one of my acquaintances to join their startup as a UX Tech Lead. I thought really hard about whether I should go work for someone else’s dream. But it was a necessary step at that time to support my family and grow as a designer.
Lesson learned: if you want to grow keep your ego at bay.
Cut to Bangalore, Year 2017-
Whoa! Bangalore, city of tech and UX!! I was so excited that I took this decision to take my career to the next level and I can say now…It is worth it.
I met so many UX designers, to my surprise UX people don’t do UI and vice versa. Having worked as an end to end designer this looked more professional at the beginning. Then I started noticing issues in alignment, color theories in UI designer’s work but I couldn’t mention it. It was not my job!
Lesson learned: if you are good at something, chances are you are good at those things. Use them as your ally.
Coming from Kolkata, the first salary I got in Bangalore was so good for me. Well not for few other designers as they already belong from Bangalore. That is why I mentioned the salary you will be getting as UX or UI designer depends on a lot of things.
However my mother fell sick during this year and I needed some extra cash to take care of her. Being in a good tech-driven city has its own perks. As a blessing I got a call from Fortune One on a rainy afternoon. It went pretty well and I took a practical decision to switch.
I got a hike of 101% on my salary. Is it the norm?… well not really. Hike depends on your existing salary, the company you are joining and the market standards.
Cut to 2020-
My journey came to a halt in Walmart after 3 beautiful years. I learned lots of things. Collaborating with cross functional teams, product mindset, understanding product life cycle, conducting user research. I also got a chance to visit the US for more in-depth user research.
I did a lot of self initiatives, learned a few things on AR, created a VUI chatbot. Back in 2011 I never thought I would work on these things. :)
Lesson learned: don’t be overwhelmed with big things. As Lao Tsu said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
I got a call from Byju’s, world’s largest edu-tech company. They were looking for a Lead UX for their Osmo team which I had no idea about. I saw Osmo’s website and GAWD!!! I fell in love with their products. However, I denied the interview saying I don’t find myself a suitable fit as I had no experience in AR, VR and games.
After a day the recruiter calls me and requests to go through the process as the team liked my portfolio and resume. Well I don’t regret my decision, not at all!
After a few days of research and white-boarding I decided this is going to be a really good opportunity for me. The tech is new, the user groups are totally new to work with. Challenges are unknown hence it is more attractive.
Lesson learned: Do your research before joining any company. See whether you are actually going to create value with your work.
Well now I play games as a part of my job! My 2011 self would never have thought of that.
If you are humble, eager to learn, honest to your work, take challenges, commit mistakes and learn from it…you will have a wonderful journey as a UX designer. Your path may be longer than others but you will have a more interesting story to tell :)