Imani is a graduate of the first batch of the new UX Designer course with Careerist. In her interview, she speaks about her motivation and challenges during her experience. Imani managed to find a shortcut to tech that perfectly aligned with her creative nature.
Nice to meet you, Imani. As someone who has switched to a tech career from something totally different, could you please tell us a little about your background? What was your profession before you decided to choose UX design?
I did between six and eight years in healthcare, working in clinical trial settings and laboratories, in hospitals and in-home services, and things of that nature. I was working on a bachelor's degree in health science when the pandemic happened. After that, I moved from my school, Missouri State in Springfield, back home to St. Louis. I continued working in healthcare but at some point, I was kind of drained and felt like I needed a change of pace. I also had some health issues that I was dealing with, and I really wanted something that was more flexible and where I could possibly work from home.
How did you find out about UX design training opportunities?
At some point, a friend suggested I look into technology. I was always the person that was like, “Why would I do that?” I didn’t want to code or do anything technical. Then a different friend suggested UX design. So I did a deep dive for a month, looking at random TikTok videos, videos on YouTube, and everything of that nature, and I landed on the Careerist program. I just really felt like it was the direction I wanted to go in. It was creative, but also technical, and it involved research, which supported my methodical thinking and previous science studies. So I really fell in love with UX design rather than just designing in general.
Still, you’ve been choosing between different kinds of boot camps and maybe other schools or training. What was so great about Careerist; why did you choose us?
I actually compared a couple of boot camps. I was looking at the price and time frame. When I decided I wanted to do UX design, I wanted to start immediately. I didn't want to wait a couple of months to start learning. Careerist was offering a program that I was able to start in two weeks or something, which sounded immediate. Then the pricing was okay for me; it was manageable with a monthly payment system. And I didn't want to do an entire year, either. I was eager to get into the nitty-gritty of everything faster than that.
It sounds like you’ve found a career match. Did you have to give up your job to get enough time for studying?
I was working at that time and needed something flexible. In this respect, Careerist was ideal—the course was in the evening time. I also could go back and watch a recording if I missed a lecture or something.
And how much time did it require for you to push through training?
We had classes twice a week and then study sessions on the weekend. However, I also did a lot of outside studying and research as well as practicing on my own. I always went back and looked over class lecture videos. Overall, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend 20+ hours a week practicing.
Some students might start losing their concentration and motivation throughout the training. Did you feel this way at any point? Do you have a secret to staying motivated?
Oh, there was definitely a point when my motivation went way down. I slowed down drastically on my studying and my practicing, and I also got sick a lot and then got further behind. My Careerist study group, lecturers, and instructors were really supportive and helpful. They gave me the time and then further instructions when I needed that. So to help bring my motivation back, I would just look at people who were in the same situation I was in: people who did a boot camp and then got a career. I just kept watching videos like that and finding inspiration in new kinds of design. When we got to the UI part of the course, I really shined. I loved that part. Even though it was hard to watch and follow the lectures at first, a lot of practice and being creative was really helpful.
I’m pretty sure you had some career mentors and career coaches who were very close to you throughout your journey. Could you tell us what was most valuable for you?
Yes, the mentors were sometimes more valuable than the actual lecturers, even though for some of the lecturers, you can email or message them on Slack outside of class about your own individual projects or any questions you had and they will do their best to respond. So the support from Careerist was definitely outstanding during my training. There are people who told me to follow them on LinkedIn and who keep in contact with me, reach out to me, and ask how my career is going. You simply feel they are here for you, and that was very helpful as well.
You also mentioned a couple of projects you were working on. Could you shed a bit more light on those?
Yeah, so for my first project, I decided to design an app from scratch. I just picked something I was interested in, which is hair care. I spend a lot of time on my hair trying to find the right products, and I figured there had to be a better solution. In lecture we were instructed to start with finding a problem and then created a bunch of solutions to it. And hair care was one of the ideas I had on that list. I kind of just kept going from there, designing a quiz-based app. So that was my project.
That’s interesting. You probably have some kind of dream project you would love to do someday. If so, what is it?
That’s an interesting question! I like to work on a bunch of different projects. For example, I want to create a better interface with Instacart for people with disabilities. Before this, I worked as a program supervisor for adults with mental and physical disabilities, and some apps like Instacart are really useful. But it's hard to see or understand or comprehend when you have a disability. So I was coming up with different solutions—like maybe you speak your grocery list into Instacart so it writes it down for you or you take a picture of what you want.
It looks like you’re interested in a lot of things.
That’s true. I like diversity and enjoy one project being drastically different from the next. I find that I learn a lot more that way. I want to explore everything and see where it takes me.
Is there some application or website that is your favorite? The one you enjoy every second you're using it?
That's a good question. I really like Pinterest and the search section of TikTok, which is really interesting. The main things I'm using right now website-wise are definitely Figma, Pinterest, and Canva. Those kinds of websites are my favorites as far as user interface and functionality go. Airbnb is kind of my ideal website that I constantly go to for research when it comes to booking sites.
Let’s jump into your internship experience. Did you find it useful? Was there anything you would like to change?
My internship was both frustrating and educational at the same time. We had five weeks to get our feature done, and we took on a lot as a group. I didn't like how all of our designs kind of looked different; it almost looked like we were putting together three different apps for the same thing.
Our lead designer was incredible. He was very educational and supportive, and he stayed with us longer than the calls required. He explained the design process and how teams work and shared how teams have worked for him in the past. And he told us the first iteration looks nothing like the last one. You can go through five, 10, 15, or even 20 different iterations of a design before you land where you want.
At the end, I was hoping to have another complete project that I could simply drop into my portfolio without doing any extra work. Sadly, that was not the case. I had to go back and change some parts and get things to look more in sync and together. Our lead instructor encouraged us to continue designing the project, expanding the features, and not to stop. One thing he kept saying throughout the whole project was, “Don't fall in love with your design. It's going to change—it'll always change. Be open to feedback and change in the design process.”
A key component of UX design is utilizing your own creativity. How do you deal with criticism about your work or your project?
I actually really like criticism because I'm at the learning stage and need feedback. It feels weird when there's no critique or suggestion on something that I can change about my projects. I believe it's important to actually keep improving.
We have been talking a bit about teamwork. Communication is important for sure, but what are the other soft skills you find important for a UX/UI Designer?
One area is being able to multitask, and you also need to be able to speak up when you think things should be changed. My instructor gave me some really good feedback by noting that I always had an explanation or a reason for a design choice. It’s not just designing but thinking about the bigger picture, the steps it takes to reach the end goal, and why this would improve things versus another option. So soft skills like that are very, very important. Also, being able to advocate for yourself, your designs, and your team—I think that's very important in the design space.
How would you sum up the UX Designer’s role? Who is this person?
A UX Designer is a person who tailors a digital product, whether it's an app, website, or any other digital-technology-based product to the needs of the client. They’re the person who improves shapes a product or service to the needs of the client.
And what are your future plans within this profession?
I'm still working with my career coach and my UX mentor. I have an artist consulting company from a while ago, and I do some freelancing. I do know that I want to work for a bigger company first, rather than a small startup or freelance consulting company. I feel bigger companies will help me get my foot in the door and have more mentorships, guidance, and continued learning opportunities.
Do you have any dream company you would love to work at?
No, I don't have a dream company, but I want satisfactory pay, and I would love to work remotely. (And traveling a little bit would be kind of cool.) Actually, coming from healthcare, I thought that I would go into health technology, as it would be easier for me to transition into that field. But I'm finding that I really want to branch out past healthcare into other things that I've never even thought of before. So I'm looking at Accenture Federal Services because they work with some government agencies, and they also offer an apprenticeship like private companies do.
I see. Did Careerist training help you to communicate projects with new employers?
I think the biggest selling point was my knowledge of UX design and the design process itself. So actually, I’ve got a really funny story about this. I was going in for a part-time job as a receptionist at a nail company because I wanted something to do part-time while I continued designing and building my portfolio. So I’m at this job interview with my resume that said a lot about designing and UX, and my interviewers asked me about that. I explained what UX design is, and I talked about the design process, iteration, research, hypothesizing, problem statements, and then wireframing, and things of that nature. Then they told me about the website that they had, and before I even went in for the interview, I had actually checked out their website, just to see what it was like. I had started making a list of errors that I saw that I would improve only because that’s something that I tend to do now. I didn't think I would be able to share it with them. They were really impressed by my whole education around UX design, and not just design. So I was told to come back with a price list of my services and that they would contract me out.
Wow, that's great! What are the biggest pros of studying at Careerist?
Yes, the biggest pro of training with Careerist was the ability to explore my own project and my own thoughts. I appreciate the support from mentors, instructors, and everyone else around me. The education that I got gave me the foundation I needed to do further research on my own. Without that foundation, I wouldn't know what direction to go in. I was able to work out my frustrations and confusion because I had mentors and instructors beside me to explain and support and be there for me during hard times.
Actually, something I forgot to mention was that I lost a lot of my files after my internship—the big files I was editing for my portfolio. I was really upset and devastated. I reached out to my Careerist instructors, and they jumped at the chance to help me. They explained the work to be done and made an action plan to help me recreate the files that I had lost. They were there every step of the way, supporting me. That was another really big pro—being helpful outside of the training.
It’s great to hear how you’ve managed the situation. Are you in the process of applying for jobs now?
I'm right before that step; I'm creating my portfolio.
I wish you all the best throughout this search. I just wanted to ask you one more question. What would you advise those people who are still struggling with whether or not to become a UX Designer? Is it worth jumping into UX design like you did?
If you love helping people and designing on technology, I'd say UX design is perfect for you. The focus is on the user and empathizing with the user. It’s not just being creative. Being creative is fun, and it's a really great part of it, but to know that your creations are helping people is just an incredible motivation to get up and work every day.
Empathy is probably one of the most important traits of any UX Specialist. We hope that your portfolio will turn out amazing and that it will succeed in landing you a nice project to your tastes. No doubt your positive vibes of going in the right direction came through in this interview, and we truly believe that many more will find their tech path with UI/UX Careerist training.