Pre-pandemic, Karen Chang’s work experience was vast and diverse in both nature and location. Having worked at The New York Times, and interned at Vogue and CHANEL in Shanghai City, her roles have spanned marketing, advertising, publishing, communications, account management, merchandising, and more.
Karen’s career started off in digital marketing however, and she then found her footing in creative partnerships strategy. Her most recent role was an evolution of this, and was a strategy/creative hybrid where she was the liaison between the creative and partnerships/sales teams. With every role she held, regardless of title or responsibilities, she tried to make it as creative as possible.
Unfortunately, COVID hit the publishing, media, and food industries pretty hard, which was exactly the industry Karen was in—advertising in a food publishing company. Karen was laid off, and then had visa complications that didn't allow her to look for work immediately. Karen notes being laid off as the thing that really pushed her to take the leap of faith and transition her career into something fully creative.
“When I discovered UX design, I felt like I had found the industry that played perfectly to all my strengths—my analytical way of thinking, my experience working with different clients/stakeholders, and most importantly my passion for design,” says Karen.
Since she didn’t have any previous UX design experience, Karen enrolled in our UX Academy Foundations course, which gave her a great taste of what the full UX Academy bootcamp would be like. Foundations also gave her an opportunity to learn what Designlab was like as an educational provider, and really informed her on whether or not she was making the right decision to change her career into the UX/UI industry.
After successfully completing Foundations and moving onto UX Academy, Karen mentioned the following about her bootcamp experience:
“My favorite aspects of UX Academy are the weekly Group Crits, because I always saw the same familiar faces and had a safe space to share my work and give and receive feedback from other students at different stages of their journeys. These Group Crits really made me feel closer to my peers in an otherwise remote experience”.
“I also liked how flexible Designlab was when it came to Capstones. Being able to work on projects that were personal to me made all the difference when I was job searching because I was able to speak passionately about my projects.”
Now that Karen has graduated and landed an amazing job, she has some advice for incoming, current, and graduating UX Academy students:
- I highly recommend coming up with your own projects during UX Academy, whether that's a real project where you helped a small business design their website, or an app you've always dreamed of having. Trust me, you'll be able to speak so much more passionately about them during your interviews.
- Always keep an eye out for jobs even if you are not yet actively applying, and also remember there's no need to wait until you've officially graduated to start applying. Set goals for yourself. For example, because I was set to graduate right before the holidays, I made it a point to prioritize polishing up my portfolio, resume, and cover letters and start applying to jobs once I had at least three (of the four) portfolio projects completed. This decision really helped me get ahead and land a job quickly after graduation.
- Network by reaching out to people in your network who work at companies you'd be interested in working at—to people who are software engineers, product managers, UX researchers, or anyone that can give you more insight into what it's like working in this field in the real world. Let your network know you've changed your career, put yourself out there, and you might be surprised at the connections you'll make and the opportunities you may be presented.
- Be confident! You've worked so hard for months during this bootcamp, so don’t be afraid to show your interviewers the hard work you put into your projects and learn to tell your story well, with the passion only you could have for your own projects.
“I definitely think Designlab did a great job with how they organized their course—I just started my new job as a UX Designer and I feel well prepared, and that's all I could have asked for from Designlab,” says Karen.
“I'm happy to say that my reasons for choosing Designlab out of the many bootcamps out there remained true while I was going through UX Academy—great mentoring, an active community, quality capstones, and a polished portfolio. These were my top priorities when searching around for the bootcamp that best fit my needs, and Designlab offered the best value for me personally.”
Karen is now working as a UX Designer at the Konrad Group, a full service digital agency with a focus on strategy, UX design, and digital transformation. Her team in New York is made up of 7 designers, including an experience design director, 3 senior experience designers, Karen as a mid-level experience designer, and 2 associate designers. (Karen expects her team to double by the end of 2021!)
While starting a new career remotely and diving head first into agency life at the same time has been both exciting and overwhelming, Karen says she couldn't have asked for a better, more supportive and hilarious group of individuals as her teammates.
Despite being remote, it's pretty incredible how many social activities the Konrad Group has provided to Karen and her co-workers. Company-wide, there's virtual pilates, Zumba, HIIT training, trivia night, meditation, and other wellness initiatives. Karen’s team in New York also does bigger, monthly virtual activities like make your own pizza night, as well as team bonding activities multiple times a week, whether that's playing virtual codenames for half an hour in the morning, or scattergories for 15 minutes during an afternoon team huddle.
“Being a UX Designer is exactly what I thought it would be and more—challenging work that I find fascinating. I'm no longer doing a job because I know how to do it or think that I'm good at it, I'm finally doing a job I feel truly passionate about. On top of that, every single day I'm working with some extremely smart and talented individuals that I'm constantly learning from and being inspired by. If this isn't my dream career, I don't know what is.”
While the projects Karen is working on at the Konrad Group are confidential, she can share that there's definitely a lot of research, annotating, inspo-gathering, and sketching involved.
Outside of work, Karen loves painting, adding to her growing plant collection, weight lifting, playing video games, reading, and most importantly, spending time with her recently adopted schnoodle, Milo.
Throughout the rest of the year, Karen looks forward to continuing to learn more about UX design on the job, working on a variety of exciting projects, and developing a strong relationship with her team.
Interested in making a career switch to UX design? Check out our UX Academy program.