How I transitioned to UX Design during a pandemic

October 25, 2021
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity" - Seneca


When 2020 started I knew I wanted a different path from where my then marketing job was leading me. I liked working with my team, but I just felt like I wasn’t growing anymore. I tried to look into where I’d be a few years down the line and marketing just wasn’t cutting it for me.

I reflected on my skills and interests and I came to the conclusion that I wanted to pursue User Experience Design (or Product Design, however you want to call it). I felt like it was a good combination of my interests: communication, digital rhetoric, people, design, and so on. It was also a good fit for my technical skills as I had experience using Adobe Creative Cloud applications and Figma.

I decided to double down in learning design by looking for the best learning resources I could find where I didn’t have to pay upfront. I’m a huge believer in finding knowledge for free online so I opted for following the free course on UX design by Springboard, a lot of Youtube channels, particularly AJ + Smart, and the Futur, and I also made use of my 1-month free trial on LinkedIn Premium which I used to access a few of their online courses on User Experience.

By mid-February, I saw a job offer fit for what I wanted. They were looking for a Junior UX Designer. It was only a few minutes from where I lived and they talked a lot about offering mentorship to their employees. It was perfect. I applied and they gave me two design tests to accomplish. Unfortunately, by the time I was supposed to have my interview scheduled, Metro Manila was put in lockdown. There was a lot of uncertainty at how businesses were supposed to move forward and my application for the Junior designer role fell through. It was sad but I could understand why it happened.

Despite the uncertainty of everything, I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing for too long. I still had my eyes laser-set on my goal to become a designer. As the pandemic was giving rise to several problems, people were coming together to find solutions. As such, I found a few volunteer opportunities I wanted to take part in and offer whatever value I could give working as a designer.

In particular, a call for volunteers was posted on Facebook for projects an organization called DCTx had. I immediately jumped to the opportunity. I was assigned to the project (or FLAG).

The post that changed everything! Join Friends of Figma here!

I was one of the first few volunteer designers for this particular project and so I was immediately asked to design something. DCTx worked fast. I wasn’t completely sure of what I was doing but I adapted to DCTx speed and made sure to listen and ask several questions to keep aligned with everyone with the project. Fellow DCTx volunteers were also happy to answer questions and lend advice when asked.

I admit my designs had a lot (a lot) of room for improvement and my workflow was scattered, but in a little bit of time, I found that my visual design and my design process improved as I worked on the project. Dom, the project head, even asked me to become the product design co-lead since I was especially active in volunteering!

That was overwhelming, especially since I was coming into it as (what I felt like) a total newbie, but I decided to not focus too much and the label and continue to do good work. I made sure not to let down the people who put a lot of trust in me.

Eventually, we managed to find more design volunteers! I was ecstatic to work with more designers to (a) take some load off of my shoulders, and (b) learn from them. As I was the “product design co-lead” I was tasked to help in onboarding these volunteers to the project. 

This part of the story is totally amusing because I found out that the volunteer I was onboarding was actually the senior UX designer of the company I was applying for last February. I was, for lack of a better word, shook. The coincidence was hilarious, to say the least.

As I worked with this other designer, I made sure to observe how she designed and worked so I could improve my own design and workflow. This helped in making my designs more organized and I learned a thing or two in knowing how to use Figma the best way that I can.

By that time, the design work for FLAG was getting lighter. I decided to give a go at applying for design roles again. One company I applied for required me to have three character references. One of the people I approached was Dom, the project manager of FLAG. When he found out I was actively looking for a job, he told me to send him my resume as their company might be in need of a designer (so there was no assurance of getting it but it was worth a shot to try!). 

A few weeks later, the other jobs I was applying for didn’t really amount to anything, but Dom came back to me and offered a junior product designer role for their company, Talino Venture Labs. I was ecstatic! I took it immediately.

As I write this today, I’ve been a member of the team for a few months now and I’ve grown so fond of them. I absolutely love the collaboration and work we do together and I continue to feel a lot of growth in my skills.

The year 2020 was tough for everyone, but I’m happy I got this. Gotta take any wins we can get! Maybe in another entry I’ll go on more about the work I’ve been doing at Talino. I’m extremely proud of it!

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