24 Days of Christmas

Or the year I became a UX Designer

2019 has been a really significant year of change for me, and to really appreciate how far I’ve come, I set myself the challenge of doing a retrospective in line with advent. Each day from the 1st to the 24th of December I took the opportunity to celebrate the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with, the UX skills I’ve developed and the challenges I’ve overcome.

Day 1: The first day on the Flatiron School London campus with these bright, beautiful, creative people. It was an absolute pleasure going on the journey to become a Designer with you all. Joana Santos, Sharon Sasidharan, Anna Dubov, Aleksandra Walczak, Iryna Rudenko, Josu Iturbe, Shiv Bhatt, Adam Boast, and Dominic Goodman I cannot wait to see the amazing things you will achieve.

Day 2: Going way back to the beginning of 2019, there is not enough I can say about how great it was to be part of True Search‘s first Francophone contingent. Thomas Chorliet, Myriam Vacher, Maëlys Herbère-Mogck, Maitane Serna and Samira Dabbagh l’équipe de rêve! Although I’ve missed you all since jumping ship, it’s great to see you bossing it into the New Year, Bon Courage for 2020!

Day 3: 2019 has been a big year for training and developing for me – I took the leap to retrain and change careers, pursuing a new path in UX Design. Earlier in the year though, I played the role of trainer rather than trainee, and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the companies that back their people in supporting one another. I think it’s a great practice that at True Search we were given the opportunity to train new members of the team whilst being supported in our own personal and career development through mentorship.

Day 4: Today I’d like to celebrate an amazing colleague I was so lucky to work with this year. Josefin Holmberg is an inspiring person to work with: a mentoring, motivating, galvinising, powerhouse of great humour, deep knowledge and thoughtful advice. In any team, all voices were heard and valued, and all successes were shared. A lot gets said about women supporting women in the workplace and in our careers, there are a lot of opinions out there. Over the years I’ve been supported by so many incredible colleagues and leaders, but I just wanted to say a little thank you to someone who showed me how I want to be throughout my career.

Day 5: Before taking a big leap into UX design this year, I got the chance to get creative on a very different kind of design project. True Search’s London team had grown so fast from 2018 into 2019 that we were quickly running out of space! We needed to expand, and soon. This gave me an interesting opportunity to jump from coordinating search projects, to managing the redesign of the new space, coordinating with the designers and contractors, visiting showrooms, and hunting down solutions to fit a wide range of present and future needs. It was a really interesting process working together with Saracen Interiors Ltd, and it was great popping back to the office to see the results.

Day 6: Back at the beginning of the year I had a big decision to make – whether I was brave enough to give up the security of my job and take a leap into a new career in UX design. I did a LOT of research – reading blogs, textbooks, trawling youtube, but in the end the thing that made my decision easy was an event hosted by Tech Circus’s UX Crunch. At the “Manipulation by Design” event, Professor Karen Pollitt-Cham FRSA, Daniel Harvey, Philip Bonhard and Lauren Pleydell-Pearce tackled some of the ethical and practical challenges in designing products that directly impact people’s lives every day. The talks were fascinating, utterly convincing, and pivotal in persuading me that these were the sorts of challenges worth taking on. The following day I applied for my place on the Flatiron School UX/UI course, and I haven’t looked back since.

Day 7: Something small but significant to celebrate today. Back in March I found out I got my place on the inaugural UX/UI design course at Flatiron School London. It was a really good email to get!

Day 8: Part of making a big life change is leaving something behind in order to make space for everything new. For me this meant leaving the amazing people at True Search behind. I learnt a huge amount during my time with True, and was so lucky to work with a team of driven, funny, creative and dedicated colleagues. Luckily it was a “so long” not a “goodbye” and I know I’ll be seeing you all soon!

Day 9: I’ve been told by some people that I come across as self-confident, comfortable with strangers and chatty, which is true most of the time. I do have my shy moments though, and I’ve had to work hard to overcome them during the Flatiron School UX/UI design course. The central focus of UX and UI is in the name: the designer must advocate for the user. That’s not possible if you can’t talk to the users. If you can’t pull existing customers or recruit the right demographics in because of time or budget constraints, Guerrilla Interviews are your friend, but going out and tracking people down on the street is nerve-wracking. I’m really proud that I kept at it and overcame the fear of approaching strangers (and being brushed off a LOT).

Day 10: A new career means developing new skills. The first time I opened Sketch App I was a bit overwhelmed. Now it’s one of my favourite tools in the UX/UI design arsenal – pixel-perfect, vector based and FAST!

Day 11: Hand in hand with Day 10’s , once you’ve got the hang of Sketch App Rocks for building your wireframes, its time to tackle the interactive prototyping! There are dozens of different tools and softwares out there, but my 3 faves (so far) are: 

InVision (for speed and collaboration) 

Axure – UX & RP (for real-feel and micro-interactions) and 

Principle (for beautiful UI smooth animations). 

Have a little play around with this little design challenge I did the other week.

Day 12: I want to celebrate how good it felt to finish my first end-to-end UX/UI design project at Flatiron School. It is far from perfect, and I still had so much to learn (and will continue learning for the rest of my career!) but this first design project was such an achievement. It represents hours of thought, consideration, analysis, and bullying Sketch into doing what I wanted it to. Would I do it differently now? Probably. Am I proud of what I did? Absolutely!

Day 13: As part of the Flatiron School (and Designation) UX/ UI Design course we complete four end to end design projects intended to be as close to real world projects as possible in a training environment, the height of which is a design project for a real-world client. I was really lucky during my course that not only did I get to work with Gabriel Isserlis the founder/CEO of Tutti.space, but Islington Council also got involved when they found out the student brief we were fulfilling for their website. It was a huge achievement to present our research and final designs to a representative of the Islington Council digital team, Yusuf Khan at the end of the 5-week project.

Day 14: One of the surprise benefits of joining the Flatiron School campus in London is the community events and activities that the amazing team at WeWork Finsbury Pavement organised each week. While we were there they partnered with Paws in Work, a great organisation that brings litters of puppies into work spaces, allowing colleagues to de-stress and helping with the socialisation of the puppies before they leave the litter for their forever homes. It was definitely one of my favourite days of the year.

Day 15: Short but sweet (a little like our time together): it was an unexpected pleasure to be asked to mentor the UX/UI students in the cohort behind us. My end-of-week chats with Christian Rogers were always eye-opening, and it was great watching how his projects unfolded and progressed. I really look forward to seeing what he does next!

Day 16: Back in October our cohort at Flatiron School was lucky enough to be welcomed in by Chris Thelwell to get a sneak peek into how EY Seren run UX/UI design for their clients. It was a really interesting insightful visit, we definitely could have benefited from their user testing interview rooms!

Day 17: With these wonderful people (pictured below) I went to hear how UX gurus Zoé Guiraudon and Alex Lee (sadly not pictured) deliver tailored UX research and design projects to solve their clients’ unique business challenges, whilst keeping the end user front and centre. I was thoroughly impressed by Foolproof‘s ethos and practices, and I especially appreciated that research is considered a core practice worth investing the right amount of time and money in.

Day 18: The last of our little workplace tasters organised by Flatiron School was quite special. We were invited in to meet the CXO Lucy Blackwell and her team at FutureLearn. It was really eye-opening, seeing a company that has put UX at the centre of their product, and the company’s growth from the beginning. The seamless partnership between design and development was really impressive, and definitely a model that should be more widely implemented. The confidence built within the team was tangible, in no small part from having a User Experience advocate in the C-suite, keeping their students’ experience in focus across every touch point. There are a lot of lessons that could be learned in building a product- and user-first business like this.

Day 19: Time to celebrate the training wheels coming off, and our design team really taking ownership of, and responsibility for our own design processes. The biggest selling point for me of the Flatiron School UX/UI Course was the fourth design project we would work on: the Client Phase. We were presented with a really interesting and challenging brief to strategically design a future concept for Tutti.space – an Airbnb style marketplace for rehearsal spaces connecting artists and creatives to hosts. Pictured is our 2-hour long first meeting with Gabriel Isserlis, where we got well acquainted with his business and his vision, and began to build out our hypotheses that we would go on to test against his users’ experiences. — If you would like to know more about this project and its outcomes you can read about it here.

Day 20: Today I want to celebrate my Flatiron School UX/UI colleagues. Coming from all different backgrounds, and bringing a wealth and variety of experience into this course, we all put in 6 months of intensive work. At the end we were able to stand up as professional UX and UI Designers, in front of a very full room of total strangers, and present our design processes and solutions for our clients, Tutti.space and nibs etc. Ltd. Not all of us were comfortable speaking in public in the beginning, but you would not have guessed it. We even had an answer to the software engineer (who shall remain nameless) question: “but isn’t all design just subjective?”

Day 21: In the autumn I was introduced to Ewan Collinge and Léo Mercier, co-founders at Crowdform, a London-based Digital Product Studio. It was a real pleasure discussing UX, life in China, and some fascinating projects with both of them. I wish them all the best in 2020!

Day 22: I’d like to talk about the Tervuren Elephant in the room at Biglight Studio. A month ago, I attended a really interesting #uxcrunch meet-up with the studio. We were taken through a full product lifecycle, from Antony Cousin‘s introduction to the in-depth initial research methodologies, through Rory Woods‘ raucous breakdown of when, why and how to implement design systems, and culminating in Andrew Lytton taking us through the ongoing optimization work Biglight carries out for their clients. It was a really interesting and entertaining evening, great to be invited into the Biglight space to see how you work and hear their philosophies!

Day 23: Big shout-out to to the Silicon Milkroundabout London tech job fair today. I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for the product and design day this November. It was such a great opportunity to meet teams, both from really well known and respected organisations like BBC UX&D, notonthehighstreet, and Moonpig, and also start-ups set to break the mould like Marshmallow, Cleo AI – we’re hiring and Collectiv Food. This event is intense and a little overwhelming at first, but it was so fun and interesting to hear about different design teams, and the amazing challenges on the horizon in 2020. 100% would recommend!!

Day 24: WE MADE IT! And not just to the end of my rundown of 2019… For me, this year has been characterised by change (saying goodbye to True Search), challenges (a new one every day of the Flatiron School UX/UI course), and tremendous achievements (big and small). Along the way I was blessed to get to know these amazing, funny, hard-working, generous people. It was an honour to graduate with you all from the first London cohort, and I can’t wait to see the wonderful work you go on to do.

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