Joyce Isleta has long been fascinated by technology and skilled in graphic design, so product design seemed like a perfect fit. She learned Adobe Creative Suite at a young age and always wanted a full-time career in design, but didn't feel competitive enough in creative art to pursue it until recently. 

“I love how product design is about being functional and building for an optimal user experience, while also not being overly creative. I wanted to be creative, but also pragmatic, in my design,” says Joyce.

After working as a sales representative for six years, a yearbook sales rep for five years, and a digital marketing sales associate for a further year, Joyce was over sales.

When choosing an education provider for her career switch into product design, Joyce notes, “I loved Designlab's transparency in their outcomes. The live outcome feed and portfolios inspired me to trust them with my education. I also felt it was affordable and flexible with its timeframe.”

Once in our career-switching program, Joyce really enjoyed UX Academy's flexibility to create her own portfolio projects. 

“I got to work on a passion project—Gaydar—that I had always wanted to redesign, and received great feedback from industry-experienced mentors. I feel like I learned so much from the curriculum, but could also build on my UX Academy knowledge by doing my own research and design challenges,” Joyce says. (Read more about Joyce’s Gaydar project further below!)

Working at USAA Insurance

Joyce lives in San Antonio, Texas, which she knows isn't a huge tech city, so she had to be strategic in her career-switch knowing she likely had limited local options. USAA is one of the biggest companies headquartered in San Antonio and is known for being a strong UX organization, so they were always Joyce’s top target company to work for. 

“I didn't expect it to be my first UX position, but I did my due diligence to network with USAA people through ADPList to learn more about the company. After meeting with a local design director, I was connected to a tech recruiting company,” says Joyce. “They helped me set up my application for an open designer position with the director that I met. I met with his team and presented a few case studies from my portfolio and immediately got an offer.” 

It only took a week of networking for this opportunity to become a job offer. Joyce was very lucky, but also proactive in making it happen.

“I created a FinTech project for my portfolio with the intention of applying to USAA. It was the main project that my design director wanted to see. I would recommend knowing what companies you want to work for and catering your projects to those industries,” Joyce says.

Vanguard Project1

The FinTech project that helped Joyce land her job.

Vanguard Project2

Adding a feature and redesigning the Vanguard stock trading experience.

Pull out “I also think you need to be creative about what problems you’re solving. Recruiters are most interested in seeing real-world work, but if you can't get something developed then at least tell a great story for an interesting problem.”

So far Joyce is really enjoying the work she’s been given and feels like she’s getting the full UX experience. They’ve trusted her to work on design libraries, designing new features, performing user testing, and updating screens. 

“It’s awesome! I feel like I have the financial security that I never had in sales, and I love that my work is designing every day. I really enjoy all things design and it's exciting knowing I'm contributing to tools/experiences that people will use,” says Joyce.

Her team consists of a manager, producer, design lead, and five designers. As one of the newer designers, she gets a lot of work to design but she also has a lot of opportunities to learn and meet with the more experienced designers.

Joyce is currently working with tools that help USAA process military benefits, as well as other tools for processing disputes. Joyce says, “It's exciting knowing that my work will be helping people.”

Gaydar Capstone Project

When reviewing Joyce’s portfolio, one capstone project that really piqued my interest was the Gaydar app. Gaydar is a real-world app that Joyce chose to add additional features to in order to make it more inclusive to the whole LGBTQ+ community (rather than just gay men). Joyce—who came out on the last day of high school and has been dating women since—chose to do this project because as a femme Lesbian, she notes that meeting other queer folk in person can be difficult. 

“In real life, people do not identify me as gay based on my looks so I gravitate to gay dating apps to date. I wanted to create a gay dating app that allowed you to meet the gay people around you while out at a bar or club. I conducted user interviews and user testing with LGBTQ+ people with different sexual identities. It was exciting hearing their dating stories and finding out that they would love this app to just meet more people in the community (not just for dating.) People would want to use it when they travel, so they knew the safe bars/locations and could meet others in the local LGBTQ+ communities.

The hard part of this app is knowing that there are real-world dangers in making this app exist. I tried to build in certain safeguards like verifying users and blurring photos. When I think of the Orlando shooting, it's a reminder that homophobia still exists and the location features could still be used for nefarious acts. It's a shame that a resource like this cannot be easily enjoyed by our community without fear,” Joyce says.

Gaydar Project1

A LGBTQ+ dating app that utilizes location features to meet others in real life.

Her work on the Gaydar app capstone also caused her to realize that there are a lot of medical apps need gay-friendly versions. 

“There's a lot of unique needs for our community, especially those that are transgender or non-binary. So many apps are not gender-neutral and it can be alienating. I'd love to see an app that helps LGBTQ+ people become parents; rather by making adoption easier or by informing them of their options for in vitro,” says Joyce.

Gaydar Project2

Joyce’s inclusive thinking is one of the reasons we know she’ll be an excellent UX designer—and it was also part of why she was hired at USAA.

“When I showed my portfolio to my current design director, he tried to warn me that ‘Your Gaydar project might offend some people when applying to companies.’ To which I replied, ‘Respectfully, I understand. However, if a company had a problem with that project, then they're not a company that I'd want to work for.’

Gaydar Project3

In my 2nd interview, he admitted that response was part of the reason he wanted to move forward with hiring me. I believe in always putting forth your authentic self and the right people will support and surround you. Happy Pride!” 🏳️‍🌈

You can connect with Joyce on LinkedIn and check out her portfolio to learn more about her work and story in general.

To join our inclusive community of aspiring UX designers from all backgrounds, we encourage you to explore our UX Academy program. We also recommend exploring our Diversify Design Scholarship program which provides support to aspiring designers from groups who are largely underrepresented in the design industry, such as LGBTQ+ folks.

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