Divya is a mom, a former architect turned freelance illustrator, and now a product designer at one of the largest beauty companies in America—a position she found through The Mom Project.
Divya Maharajula worked as a Junior Architect in India, and an Interior Designer in Vietnam before moving to the United States.
“I was always confused and tried to step into several creative fields before pursuing my dream career. When I moved to the US, I had no work permit (and no job) for around 5 years. But it’s always imperative for me to have some creative outlet, so I stuck to my forever love: Oil Painting and Portrait Art,” says Divya.
Once she received her work permit, she started selling those paintings on Etsy. Gradually, she moved into freelance digital art/illustration, which ultimately led her to explore UX/UI Design.
As an Architect and Interior Designer, Divya enjoyed the challenge of creating amazing physical spaces for clients. “At the end of the day when your vision comes to life and makes people’s lives better, it feels fulfilling and gives you a sense of purpose. That was something which I was missing and also was lacking in my freelance Illustrator role. I wanted to do something which had more impact and also get me some actual proper income.” Divya says.
Divya with her paintings at a pop-up art show in her hometown of Chicago.
An Old Connection Leads to a New Community
Divya began her journey by browsing her list of friends in both Instagram and Facebook to see if anyone she knew was in the UX/UI Design Industry. She noticed that an old friend, whom she knew from her Architecture college days, had “Designlab” mentioned in their bio—and was also an Architectural Designer transitioning to UX!
Divya contacted her friend and learned that she had just completed her UX Academy cohort and started Career Services.
“We had almost a 2 hour long phone call in which she shared her experience with Designlab in detail. She literally persuaded me to enroll and I immediately did that,” says Divya.
The Reality of Being a Mom and a Student
With a preschool-aged child and a husband with a full time job, Divya knew that it would be a challenge to take on the additional role as a UX design student. The challenges were compounded by the fact that the pandemic was in full swing, and her child was at home full time with her.
Divya was committed to this career shift, and carved out time during late nights and early mornings to work on her UX Academy coursework. Luckily, she was matched with a mentor from India, so the timing worked out well.
“Starting a new rigorous course while taking care of my kid at home was daunting to me. But the Designlab staff was very supportive in my journey, and I loved how flexible everything is. It was tough considering my situation, but in the end it’s all worth it, and I’m glad that I made it work,” Divya says.
Caption: Divya swimming with her son.
Divya’s UX Academy Experience
Divya shares, “There are so many aspects of UX Academy that are super helpful like the amazing mentorship, flexible schedule, and career services. Here are the main things that stand out from my experience…”
The overall course content and structure
“I felt that the course is well structured with a proper hierarchy,” Diva says. “In the beginning, all I had was a few illustration skills and some design thinking skills from my previous life as an architect. But soon, I realized it was helpful enough for a good kick start. The Foundations course was super insightful and it literally gave me the thing it was intended for: a solid foundation. It also gave clarity early on that I was good at what interested me the most: UI and Visual Design. I realized that I cannot live without having art, illustrations, or at least something colorful in my job.”
“It was intimidating in the beginning. I had a huge career gap, with outdated knowledge, and no free time being a mom. But it gave me comfort when I connected with a couple of other moms in the Slack community who had similar struggles of juggling course work and life.”
The Group Crit sessions
“Being an extreme introvert, I consider these Group Crit sessions to have been the most helpful part of my experience. Those sessions created a safe space for me to explore my communication skills with the utmost empathy and little to no judgment at all. Because of them, I was able to very confidently and clearly communicate my ideas during interviews. They’re still benefiting me today when collaborating with stakeholders at work.”
Divya’s “Add a Feature” capstone project focused on the meditation app, Headspace.
Career Services & The Interview Process
Once Divya graduated from UX Academy and began Career Services, she sent out continuous applications for countless jobs. But after 3 months, she was still unemployed.
“I was exhausted and felt hopeless. So, I took a one month break, visited India and came back to start again with a fresh perspective. This time I made a list of my own requirements and stuck to applying to jobs that fell only within that criteria,” shares Divya.
She determined the right role for her would be focused on visual design, and would be:
Remote or Hybrid
Not at a start-up with undefined roles and work loads (only big corporations)
Either in Healthcare or Ecommerce
To Divya’s surprise, after narrowing down her search to be more in-line with her strengths and desires, she landed 8 interviews in 2 months.
One of those roles was for a Product Designer at Ulta Beauty, a position which she found on “The Mom Project” platform. The interview had only two rounds. Spoiler alert: she nailed the interviews, and landed the job!
Divya’s submission for our space design challenge with Adobe XD.
Working as a Product Designer at Ulta Beauty
Her new role is everything she thought it would be, and fits exactly with her own expectations and requirements mentioned above.
Divya’s job is to create UI and visual designs for the Ulta website by collaborating with UX Designers, UX Architects, Copy Writers, Developers, and IT staff.
“So far, it’s going great! I love my job! I never imagined that I’d say this but I truly love my job and wake up very excited to start the day,” Divya shares.
As you might hope, there are lots of benefits to working for a beauty company, including discounts. Divya also describes the workload as “stress-free” and her schedule is “very flexible, as long as you’re up to date on your tasks.”
Ulta is a well-established and a successful business in the beauty industry, but since the pandemic, online shopping has grown tremendously.
Divya shares, “I’m glad to be a part of the mission to expand Ulta’s digital store to enhance online shopping experience. It’s all new and every iteration is exciting.”
Divya’s Advice for Aspiring Product Designers
Divya recommends that aspiring Product Designers “put lots of effort and time in curating and tailoring your portfolio to the kind of job you want to pursue. Trust me, it gives you pure joy when your job, passion, and your skills align. In my case, I was clear that I want to work on something that is more inclined towards visual design, and that is what I focused on in my case studies and also the entire look and feel of my website.”
And the proof is in her story: during the Ulta interview, they were so impressed with her Visual and UI Design skills, she was offered the job even though she felt her research skills were weak, because the role didn’t require research.
She also reminds career-changers that, “job hunting is a very uncertain and tedious phase, but don’t lose hope. And take a break if possible.”
Outside of her new dream career, Divya still loves being creative and spending time with her family. She combines this creative and family time by making fun and educational YouTube videos with her son on her channel, Chickadeeya.
To make a career change into UX/UI Design like Divya, explore UX Academy, an intensive online program that equips you with the UX/UI design skills you need to land your first product design role.