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This month, we’re talking to Puja Patel, a graduate of UX Academy’s Eames Cohort.

Before applying, Puja had recently completed pharmacy school. But after formalizing her training as a pharmacist, she knew it wasn’t the career for her. We talked to Puja about how she made the decision to switch careers, and embark on a new life as a UX designer!

Hi Puja! So what made you switch careers?

It was during my last year of pharmacy school, when I had a series of placements in different fields of pharmacy (i.e. retail, hospital, industry, etc.). During one of my rotations in industry, I was tasked with completing a research proposal.

I was very interested in diabetes and technology, so I wanted to study the effectiveness of standard diabetes management compared to a mobile app. The app I studied was iBGStar, a device that monitors blood sugar. Soon found myself digging into the mobile app’s design, and researching how it could make it easier for patients to manage their diabetes.

After presenting my reports, I received great feedback, and my preceptor at the time realized I had a very keen interest in technology. However, there was no field within pharmacy to explore this further. So once I graduated and took my exams, I began to investigate whether there was a field that was a better fit for my interests. After networking and researching I discovered the field of UX Design. I started going to meetups, and that’s when I knew that this was the field I should be in.

After deciding to switch, how come you chose UX Academy?

I did a lot of research into UX Design: networking, reading, looking into formal university programs. I actually came across a blog post by Karen Cheng, who enlightened me about bootcamp programs. She also mentioned Designlab specifically, so I investigated further and immediately knew that UX Academy would be perfect for me. The flexibility, the community, and guidance I would get as a student was incomparable.

Did you have any reservations or concerns before you enrolled?

The only thing that frightened me was whether or not I would be able to get a job from completing this program, which made me consider Masters programs instead. During the course, I often asked my mentors and peers about finding job opportunities, and I found their advice very reassuring. In the end, UX Academy enabled me to leave my comfort zone and to believe in what I could accomplish.

So what was the course experience like?

I would not trade in my experiences with UX Academy for anything. I met so many different people from all around the world, and I was able to pick up concepts so quickly and easily. I would not have been able to achieve the same level of learning on my own. Having a mentor and other students to communicate with was so helpful and encouraging — and I ended up getting a great job as well!

Did you face any particular challenges?

Initially I thought it would be a challenge to coordinate meetings with my mentor, because they were based in another country. However, once the program started, it was clear this wasn’t going to be a problem. My mentor was flexible, and we were able to schedule our weekly meetings so that they worked well for the both of us.

What was your favorite thing about UXA?

I love the design community we get connected with as students and alumni.

Any advice for new students?

Work hard, but have fun! It's an intensive course, but it’s well worth the effort. Also, never be afraid to ask for help, or to collaborate with other students. We're all in the same boat!

How did the job search go?

It started with a pleasant surprise! I was so happy to find out that after completing the program I would get assigned a Career Coach. This was one of the many wonderful things about UXA. Coming from a healthcare background, where hiring practices are quite conservative, I was unsure how resumes and interviews worked in the design world. Working with my Career Coach was so helpful when it came to presenting myself for jobs.

Tell us about your new role!

About 3 months after completing UXA, I got a job as UX/UI Designer with Life Fitness. Not only did UXA give me the design skills I need for the role; I also learned collaboration and self-learning skills, which will help me to continue growing in a changing field.

Are there any other skills you’re looking to gain?

I want to focus on my development skills. I taught myself basic HTML/CSS, but would also like to get into Javascript and jquery in the future.

What would you say to current UX Academy students who are mid-course and perhaps feeling the pressure?

I’d say don’t ever feel discouraged. I came from a completely unrelated field, but still got my foot in the door because I persevered. Even if the assignments get tough, or you get tired out, just keep going — because the effort will pay off. When I had time, I went to meetups to connect with other designers where I lived and did extracurricular reading and self-learning when I could.

Thanks for talking to us, Puja! One last thing: would you recommend UX Academy?

Yes! The community is amazing, the lessons are very well organized, and the course truly prepares you for life-long learning. Although UX Academy is online, you never feel like you're in it alone.

To find out more about Puja’s work, visit pujapatel.com

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