Meet Halie Homan, who studied with the Ive Cohort of Designlab’s UX Academy. Today we're talking to her about how she overcame her reservations about switching career, and landed an awesome new job with Vacasa as an Associate Experience Designer in Portland, OR — all within 6 weeks of completing the course!
What got you interested in UX design? How come you enrolled in UX Academy?
I’ve always been fascinated with the field of design and the potential it has to solve problems for people. I was introduced to UX through some family and friends. It sounded really complex, but it also intrigued me. I’ve always liked working with technology so designing digital experiences seemed like a great way for me to be able to utilize these skills to help others.
Did you have much design experience before applying for UX Academy? How did you prepare for the course?
Some art courses in college laid the groundwork on design principles, but I also took the Design 101 course from Designlab to refresh my knowledge.
Did you consider other career options when you thinking about switching? How did you settle on design?
I considered a lot of different paths, including data visualization and software engineering. I even wrote a basic program in Python. However, I realized I was much more interested in actually designing how program would look and feel then how it's was built.
Screens from Halie's second capstone project
Lots of people are reluctant to take the plunge and retrain. Did you have to overcome any fears or reservations before enrolling? How did your friends and family feel about your decision?
Definitely! I was terrified of failing. Even though I didn’t really like where I was at, I was comfortable. I had great coworkers and the work was steady and predictable. There are so many unknowns with changing your entire career. I was scared of committing to a new path and then hating it. But I realized that sometimes you just have to start walking somewhere and you’ll create a path as you go. I’m really grateful for the encouragement and support of my friends and family, I don't think I could have taken the plunge without them.
Is there any single consideration that almost prevented you from signing up to UXA?
I’ve had bad experiences with online learning while I was in college – it was really difficult for me to feel engaged. As a hands-on learner, I was nervous about investing time and money into an environment that I might not be able to learn in. However, UX Academy turned out to be a redeeming online experience. The online community of UXA designers were active and engaged and the program provided a ton of hands-on learning.
So what was your UX Academy experience like?
It was great! It provided a linear coursework structure and invaluable mentorship and group critiques for specific feedback on your work.
One of Halie's icon sets
In a few bullet points, could you give an outline of a day in your life as a UXA student?
- I scheduled my mentorships and group critiques first thing in the morning. I would usually have a list of questions that I wanted to talk about, which helped in focusing the conversation and making the most of the time.
- After the session, I spent time implementing changes that were addressed in the mentor session or group critique and uploading these new versions to the Designlab portal.
- Then I'd move on to whatever the next module was. It really helps when I have outside accountability to keep myself on track. I would often tell my mentor what we would talk about in our next session so that I would feel responsible for getting there.
- I treated this program as a 9-5 job and I aimed to finish my work for the day by 5pm.
What aspects of UX Academy did you find the most challenging? How did you overcome those challenges?
The most challenging aspect was moving past my perfectionism. At first I felt like my designs had to be perfect on the first try. However, this kind of expectation doesn't allow any creative exploration, so I learned to let go and trust the design process. One of the practical tips I learned was to jot all my ideas with pencil and paper first. This allowed me to focus on the big picture instead of getting caught up in the details.
What insider advice would you give to new UXA students?
Get involved with the UX Academy community. All the new concepts I was learning were solidified through discussions with my mentor and cohort. It's not a competition, we're all on this UX journey together and can learn so much from each other’s experiences.
Screens from Halie's first capstone project
What role did you get after UXA?
I'm an Associate Experience Designer at Vacasa in Portland, OR. I get to be part of a small, tight-knit team of designers improving the vacation rental experience for the guests, the homeowners, and the Vacasa team. The company is growing tremendously, so I’m stoked to be able to play a part in its transformation and development.
How did you approach the job search? How long did it take you to find your new position?
It took me 6 weeks until I found my new position at Vacasa. I threw myself into the job search because I was just so dang excited. At first I didn't have a focus, I was going for quantity over quality. My career coach helped me narrow my focus and tidy up my applications and cover letters.
What is your new job like?
It’s been great so far. I actually just finished my first project with Vacasa which was to design an app to help our field team stay organized. Following the same framework I had learned in UXA, I moved from research all the way through to testing full fidelity prototypes with end users. The field team has a lot to juggle, so it has been so rewarding to design a product specifically suited for their needs.
What skills did you learn in UX Academy that are helping you in your new position?
I think the most important skill was being able to follow the design process in the two capstone projects. It was crucial to flesh out my understanding of the concepts.
What are your longer term goals? Where do you want to take your career next?
Technology right now often gets in the way of us interacting with each other in real life. My goal is to wrangle technology so that it will actually serve to connect people. I’m not sure on the exact form this will take yet, but I’m excited about the journey.
And finally… would you recommend UX Academy?
UXA has opened the door for me to get out of a career rut, be involved in an exciting industry with work that I enjoy, and move to one of my favorite cities! It was a challenging and trying time for me, but so worth it, as most hard things are.
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