A Career Journey

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

For some of us, our professional lives are a large part of our identity. We can tell ourselves that our jobs don’t define us but in truth our jobs are an extension of who we are. And for some of us,what we do is our essence and being. It’s how we impart our care and purpose to the world, and in return we are provided with a place at the table.

You can imagine my disappointment at how our lives were disrupted by a global pandemic. It felt for me, as if the sacrifices, hard work, and hurdles that I’ve climbed over, were suddenly made obsolete. In the larger picture of life these experiences are mere blips in a timeline. But in my world they were the bedrock of my professional foundation. And suddenly the ground I stood on was no longer seismically sound.

I began writing this piece two months ago at the start of my journey into UX Design. Changing careers is for the bold and not the faint of heart. For myself, I was also feeling the weight of grief. I knew I made the right decision to continue my learning and build on existing skills towards a new career. But losing my past work; which was built on years of steady dedicated progress; during a global pandemic, left me not only isolated but also suddenly abruptly unanchored.

Making the decision to transition into User Experience Design from my previous role in commercial interior design was a big decision with long days spent researching, deconstructing, and analyzing my findings about everything UX. I thought in order to become a UX Designer I had to let go of a business and industry which I gave years of attention and hard work. I had not yet fully recognized that I have been a user experience designer through my entire design career. Job titles are labels we carry to categorize our purpose but when our purpose remains constant and only the cover is being updated, therein lies the ultimate career makeover.

“It is the duty of machines and those who design them to understand people. It is not our duty to understand the arbitrary, meaningless dictates of machines.”
― Donald A. Norman

I became a Designer because I wanted to help people. Someone else might choose a more practical route such as becoming a nurse or a teacher. I chose a creative profession because it is creativity and design that shapes and inspires our daily lives. Interior Design is not decorating and as an interior designer I was creating environments to improve how people live, work, and play. (I’ll be writing more in depth about this later.) I was grateful and dedicated towards an industry that has so much potential to improve the lives of many.

As my course work progressed, and I learned more about UX Design, practicing the design processes and methodologies taught by my GA instructors throughout the class projects, I realized that I wasn’t leaving my previous profession behind. Rather I was walking parallel with Le Corbusier, Dieter Rams, Don Norman, and Indi Young — utilizing the skills and design thinking I developed over the years as an Interior Designer while being introduced to new methods, thinking, and processes. I was changing as a designer and discovering where my previous path had ended I found the connecting trail to continue. I was no longer confined by one definition but I can now embrace industries that appear different and find the patterns, similarities, and uncover the connections for a solution.

A thought which reveals itself without word or sound, but solely by means of shapes which stand in a certain relationship to one another. These shapes are such that they are clearly revealed in light.

The relationships between them have not necessarily any reference to what is practical or descriptive. They are a mathematical creation of your mind. They are the language of Architecture.” Le Corbusier, Vers une architecture 1923

I didn’t make my decision to enter UX Design lightly and neither should anyone else. It is a field that is growing in popularity, and there is a need for UX designers. But to be a designer, there’s also an additional element of care towards what you are doing and how it will impact others. My previous background provided a level of available references but by no means has the journey been easy. I was shown a new way of approaching design and took it all in with an open mind and a revived interest in learning. After weeks of intensive training, late nights completing projects, and approaching graduation, I have no regrets about my decision. I am a Designer. I am also a UX Designer, a Thinker and Design Advocate. And I have always and will continue designing for the user experience.

Recently in the news, there have been reports that the Covid-19 virus is here to stay. How the future years will unfold for us is still to be seen. How our lives will be developed in what is now normal is still to be determined. Designers are going to play a key part in helping set the direction for our future and there’s no place else I would rather be.

Here I find myself again, in a field among talented and creative individuals, charging into an exciting industry full of great potential to improve the world.

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Designer, thinker, system navigator

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Karen Man

Karen Man

Designer, thinker, system navigator

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