Wendy Pei's journey into UX started out in customer service, and then freelance visual design.

After joining and graduating from the first cohort of UX Academy, she landed a position as Product Designer at Microsoft. Read this interview to learn more about Wendy, her path to becoming a product designer, and her mission to design a safer, happier, healthier and more informed world. 


What were you doing before UX Academy?

Freelance visual design for a few years. Prior to that, I was in customer service; my crowning achievement was building and managing a customer service team and experience from the ground up. When I decided that I wanted to design full-time, I realized that I had a lot of life experience but no portfolio to show for it. I finally decided to research design bootcamps and was faced with a lot of different options.

Why did you decide to join UX Academy?

There are a lot of different reasons I settled on UX Academy: Being able to interact with multiple mentors, having a community of other students to work with, and the get-a-job guarantee they offered. The fact that UX Academy had a stake in my success gave me confidence that we both had the same goal: to get me a full-time product design role.

What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from enrolling in UX Academy?

Timing. My partner and I were both unemployed for a while. We also just had a baby. If I had found UX Academy any sooner or later, I don’t think it would have worked out as well.

What got you interested in UX design?

When I worked in customer service, I was constantly trying to solve people’s problems but was only limited to a few tools: apologizing, giving them credit, and compiling feedback. I was aching to go a few steps further and actually make the decisions and create the solutions.

Did you have any trepidations/concerns coming into the program / trying to transition into a new field?

Not really. I'm proud of my work and life experiences and truly believe that it made me a more well-rounded designer. I try my best to own it.

UX Academy Experience

What did you think of UX Academy overall? How did it go?

I loved it! It was everything that I needed in a UX bootcamp. The most crucial part for me were the capstone projects. The goal was to see if I could take at least 3 ideas from conception to prototype within 2 months. I really had to hustle, but it was worth it. The confidence I came out with really propelled me forward into the job hunt.

I immediately started to look for jobs after that and through several contacts, I received several interviews and a few offers in just a month of job hunting. I'm not saying this is the average. Actually, I have no idea since the program is relatively new. I just know that it was pure self-confidence in my skills and my portfolio pieces that got me the amazing job I have now and I would not have gotten that if it wasn't for UX Academy.

Did you have any challenges that you hadn’t considered? Were there any pleasant surprises?

From my college experience, I knew that I wasn't that great at online classes or sticking to a schedule, so I was very surprised when I was able to get through the whole program in 6 months.

What was your favorite part of the course experience?

A bunch of stuff. Being mentored by Angel Steger. Meeting and chatting with other UX students. Having direct access to Harish, Daniel, and Paige on the Designlab team. Coming out of it with a portfolio of projects I was proud of.

What recommendations would you give to current or future UX Academy students?

The fact that you probably come from a non-design background probably makes you a great product designer already. As long as you have the desire to create solutions to problems, you're halfway there. Everything else can be taught. Also, take advantage of the fact that you have mentors, direct access to the course designers, and group of amazing students from all over the world that you can relate with.

I Got the Job!

How long after completing UX Academy did you start your first job or contract? What was the job?

Two months. I contracted (as part of the job interview) with a small agency. The agency ended up offering a design founder/senior UI designer position to me. I also got an offer from Microsoft at the same time. I was blown away by what was happening to me, or rather, what I was able to achieve.

What skills did you develop in UX Academy that are serving you well?

Confidence! Also, solidifying a design process. Jamming on all those capstones really helped with developing both of these."

What skills are you hoping to work on moving forward?

Front end development and design leadership.

Any advice for individuals considering a transition into UX? Is there anything you did that you’d strongly recommend? Anything that you wouldn’t do if you had a chance to do it over again?

I already said it, but it’s worth repeating. The fact that you probably come from a non-design background probably makes you a great product designer already. Be vocal about your opinions on design but don’t accept them as fact. Learn how to communicate effectively and try to do it without fancy design or business terms.

If you're uncomfortable with public speaking, watch others speak. Ask people questions about themselves to see how they express themselves and also to practice your research skills. Last but not least, I’ve found that empathy is the key to enjoying and understanding design; it’s pretty much the key to enjoying and understanding life.

Would you recommend UX Academy? Why?

Yes, yes, yes. I've been recommending UXA to everyone who asks about it. I seriously think that UXA changed my life and that I would not be where I am today without it.

Take a look at Wendy's UX portfolio here

Interested in changing careers or building valuable new skills? Check out UX Academy and apply before the next cohort. There are very limited available seats and a waiting list for each cohort. Apply now to UX Academy

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