Nicole Lloyd has always been a creative person. She started her career as an Art Producer, working for some of the biggest ad agencies in Los Angeles. But it wasn’t long before she knew she wanted more of a challenge, more freedom, and a way to escape the politics that come with working in the ad agency world.
"I ended up opening my own production company working directly for photographers and directors producing ad content," Nicole says.
She had been operating her own company, Hello Pictures, for several years when she was presented with the opportunity to build her first digital product, MakeCreate.
MakeCreate is an online platform for sourcing vetted production crews around the United States—and Nicole helped concept and bring this product to market in 2015. And up until her career switch in 2019, Nicole was managing both MakeCreate and Hello Pictures.
The spark that lit Nicole’s fire for UX design came as she was building MakeCreate. She and her co-founders hired Austin-based product design agency, Funsize, to design the product.
During their 3-month engagement with Funsize, Nicole worked closely with the product team reviewing designs weekly, and sort of fell in love with product design. Though it took several years for her to actually consider making a career change, she was running two businesses afterall, she couldn’t deny the slow burn building inside her.
It had felt like my path was set and I was in deep, but one day a light bulb went off, and I realized that all of that didn’t matter, and I could make the change. I researched school options, considered a masters degree, and then finally decided on Designlab. Super happy I did.
Once she had decided to go full steam ahead with a new career in product design, Nicole enrolled in Designlab’s UX Academy.
It’s important to note that while Nicole was a full-time student in UX Academy, she was also still running her two businesses, being a wife, and mother to two beautiful daughters. Who says you can’t do it all?
Three months after graduating from UX Academy, Nicole landed a job that she could not be more excited about. Nicole is now an Associate Product Designer at the very same agency that kickstarted her love of product design: Funsize.
"I passed up two full-time gigs to work with Funsize and I have ZERO regrets. The work they do and the culture they have created is very unique. I really couldn’t be happier."
Nicole recently completed her 2-month contract with Funsize, and has just signed on for another 6.5 months.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like I really enjoy my work.
"I learn new things weekly if not daily and my team so far has been so awesome and supportive" says Nicole. "Getting to do what I love and for a company that really cares about me and my career path is more than I could have expected."
Funsize is a small-ish design agency with about 20 full-time designers and a handful of contractors, including Nicole.
"I’m for sure the lowest on the totem pole, but I never actually feel that way. My ideas and voice are always heard, and I’m treated with respect," says Nicole. “Since I have plenty of experience interacting with clients I also present my own designs in meetings. I get a decent amount of autonomy but also help where and when I need it."
One perk Nicole is looking forward to is something Funsize calls "Method Week." Once a quarter the agency closes for one week to focus on the team. Things are made, stuff is learned, others are helped, and company trips go down. You can read about the Method week that happened in Puerto Rico last year on Medium.
Now that Nicole has graduated and landed an amazing job, she has some advice for those switching to a career in product design.
- Do at least one of your capstones as a real project, if not two of them, or all. It will give you more experience and help you stand out.
- Create a presentation for your interviews. This was huge for me. It allowed me to present my projects in a snackable way and take control of the interview.
- Lastly, stay humble, maintain focus, and believe in yourself.
"Funsize told me the project I did in connection with GoDaddy for my capstone was their reason for wanting to bring me on. It showed I could work within a design system and at an enterprise level."
"To get that opportunity I leveraged a connection at GoDaddy and asked them to brief me on a project and give me some access to their team. The project didn’t get produced but it put me in a good place with the Design Director at GoDaddy who also talked me up to Funsize."
Nicole’s first assignment with Funsize was to work on UX and visual design for a startup in the cannabis delivery space in Austin. She’s now working on some high fidelity prototypes with animation for a well-known grocery chain.
"This project is super interesting and has allowed me to really dig into the capabilities of animating and prototyping in Figma. My next assignment is TBD but I believe it will be moving on to a bigger enterprise client. I really appreciate the breadth of experience I’m being exposed to so far."
These days, when Nicole isn’t working at Funsize or helping run MakeCreate, her free time is most often spent with her family. Currently, she’s taking a lot of walks and swimming with her kids, and of course, drinking wine with her husband.
"When I have me-time I’m usually walking my dog while listening to a podcast, or I’m chilling on my patio reading a book,” Nicole says. “I’m also into making stuff. I recently rediscovered pencil drawing and have been really enjoying doing some realism work."
For Nicole, 2020 is all about learning as much as she can, recognizing her strengths, and identifying where she can improve.
"This involves doing the work that pushes me out of my comfort zone. Learn. Get Uncomfortable. Grow. That’s my 2020 mantra personally and professionally."
Interested in making a career switch to UX design? Check out our UX Academy program.