I remember the day I decided what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to make the world a better place. I pictured myself improving companies by putting humanity back into businesses, creating a thriving UX community and ultimately creating change. Sadly, I live in a country where UX is undermined and used as a buzzword to attract clients.
I didn’t let this stop me. And neither should you.
At first, I made my way as a UX Designer in a large company that catered to well- known clients. I thought it might be the start of creating a difference but in the end it wasn't so.
I was asked to do a number of things I didn't agree with:
- Create UI work based on my perception of the user;
- Work in a silo;
- Determine whether an idea was great only through the validation of the team and client, not the target audience;
- Get to know the business through short briefs from account managers;
- Ignore what users say and just do what makes the clients happy;
- Drop my ideas in order to proceed with what the client wants; and
- Shut up and do my work.
This was not the perfect path I had in mind. I started to question my self-worth and asked myself, “Why do I put up with this?” I wondered whether UX was even the right career for me. I was up against my colleagues, my boss and my stakeholders. It was draining.
And then one day, I decided that enough was enough. I left the organisation and I finally felt free.
Looking back, I am not proud of the things I did. I considered that phase in my life as dark, embarrassing and not worth sharing. Whenever UX meetups came up, I avoided them. I was a bystander in UX groups, reading all their intellectual comments and feeling embarrassed to share my views.
But then I realized something. I wouldn’t be who I am today without having gone through those experiences, without having committed those mistakes. My passion for doing things the right way wouldn’t have ignited, my love for user research wouldn’t have grown and the principles that I established as a UX Designer today wouldn’t have been created.
I wouldn’t have unlocked empathy nor compassion.
When I finally mustered the courage to share my experiences with people, I found that many other UX Designers had gone through the same thing. We were in the same boat. I was not alone.
As UX Designers who want to initiate change and design products that actually satisfy user’s needs. As a result we can be unnecessarily hard on ourselves. It is natural to question whether we are doing what’s best for people and also whether what we are doing is enough.
However, asking these questions is a large part of designing who we will become. It is a part of continuously iterating and improving ourselves. If you are going through the things I did, don’t be ashamed. The most important lesson is to learn from your mistakes. Go out there and make friends, ask for advice, join a community, gain new knowledge, get a mentor and share your story.
Don’t let little struggles put you off being a UX Designer. We need super heroes like you and since I might actually be part of the target audience for one of your future projects, I would like to say thank you for making my life a better place.