Hey there, design reader! I’m Thea. I’m a part-time student at Designlab’s UX Academy, Weingart cohort. I’m also a freelance writer/editor, apartment manager (of a really cool 111-year-old building in Seattle), a producer of a monthly comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC, and a hopeful UX designer. Whew, that was one run-on sentence!
This post is the first in a series of blogs I will be writing chronicling my experience going through UX Academy over the next six months. There’s no real set structure or agenda to these posts—instead these will be a more like a collection of musings, thoughts, take-aways, tips, reflections (and, let’s be honest, probably the occasional mini-rant) based on the journey itself. So buckle up or, rather, cuddle up close to your screens (especially if it’s snowing there, as it has been here in Seattle) ‘cause this is, hopefully, about to get interesting.
What, what did you just quit your job to do?
You’re probably wondering, and rightfully so, who I am and why I’m doing these UXA reflections. I’ll start by telling you who I’m not, and that’s any kind of authority on what a UX designer or student should be or look like. At least, not yet I’m not. I’m absolutely brand new to this stuff—so new, in fact, that I haven’t yet perfected my elevator pitch (i.e. explanation to my friends, colleagues and loved ones) on what UX actually is. It’s still hard for me to explain, and it’s clear to me that it’s equally hard for those non-designers in my life to understand (based entirely on the crickets heard on the other end of the phone when I told my friends, parents and coworkers I’d be going down to part-time work in order to take this course).
Like so many of my fellow UX design students, I came to Designlab by way of another career, or several in fact. A writer both by habit and by choice, I studied journalism in school and spent the first few years post-college cutting my teeth as community reporter and tech writer. Then I started doing some marketing work, copywriting and dabbling in web design (where I was really just teaching myself how to break apart existing websites and repurpose the parts using good old source code).
When I’d burnt myself out on that, I tried something entirely new: I closed my laptop and uprooted myself and my cat and headed to New York City, where I signed up for improv classes and waited tables, and then bartended, taking on the occasional freelance passion projects and kicking around comedy clubs producing shows for free because it was fun.
Five years later I was back in Seattle working a full-time marketing job, managing an apartment building to pay the rent (half to three-quarter time), and running a side hustle (for those low-to-no-paying passion projects). I was also feeling pretty much dissatisfied with both the quantity (too much!) and quality (not satisfying enough!) of my work life.
It didn’t help that this was also around the time I turned 30.