Meet Lena: From Clinical Therapist to Product Designer at Twitter

“My past experience has really come in handy in my new career, and has helped me offer a fresh perspective.”

Team Designlab
Team Designlab
Aug 17, 2021
Min Read

When Lena Emara applied for UX Academy she had been working as a clinical therapist for a couple of years. Looking back now, she knew she had a passion for design—she just didn’t know what exactly to do with it.

Before switching to a degree in Psychology, Lena had majored in Interior Design. There was something about Psychology that drew her in: learning how people think and why they behave the way they do. But there was also something about design that she remained passionate about. 

From the time she began majoring in Psychology, she felt strongly about becoming a therapist so she could provide services to her community (where mental health is so stigmatized). But once she actually became a therapist, she found that she was burning out regularly, all while feeling undervalued, unempowered, and underpaid. 

During this time—when the burnouts were getting worse and seeping into every other aspect of her life—she began to learn about UX design through casual conversations with her husband, who described designers as “people who use psychology to design apps, websites, and software.”

For months Lena researched the field and talked to many designers. She even took a career assessment. “The final push for me was realizing that my ultimate goal with clinical therapy was to make a positive impact on people. With UX, who’s to say I can’t do that on a much larger scale?” says Lena.

Lena’s UX Academy Journey

Lena came across Designlab through online forums and then spoke with some of our UX Academy alumni. She had compiled a pros and cons list for all the programs she was considering and narrowed it down from there.

“My priorities were price, time, mentorship, and opportunities to interact with other students (Group Crits were a great way to do that and practice my presentation skills)” Lena says.

NAMI DC for the “concept redesign” capstone. “My first capstone, near and dear to my heart. This was for a local chapter of a national mental health organization. I wanted to start with a project that felt close to home.”

Once accepted into the program, Lena found UX Academy challenging—but in the best way. “The things that got me through it were my mentors, Group Crit facilitators, and peers. It was really helpful to have that weekly meeting structure and offer support to one another. It was another great way for me to meet my peers and tackle design challenges together,” says Lena.

“I also appreciated the ability to create the briefs for my capstones. It really helped to set my portfolio apart. Without that ability and guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Landing a Product Design Job with Twitter

One of those customizable capstone projects had been for a Twitter concept. One Friday night about a month after Lena graduated from UX Academy, she decided to Tweet her case study to Twitter’s Chief Design Officer asking for some feedback. 

Lena Twitter 1
The “add an edit feature” capstone project Lena did on Twitter.

“One thing I wanted to emphasize with this project was transparency when it came to editing Tweets, as well as provide clarity for both the author of the Tweet and those who have interacted with them,” says Lena.

“I thought in the best case scenario I would get a ‘Thanks but no thanks’ response; worst case: I don’t get a response at all. And I was fine with either outcome.”

But to Lena’s pleasant surprise, she got a few responses with thoughtful feedback from Twitter employees—including the Chief Design Officer! 

Lena Twitter 2
The thread that ultimately landed Lena a Product Design role at Twitter!

Following the CDO’s response, Lena also received an email from the Twitter Health team’s Design Lead asking for a quick chat. (Pro tip: have a working contact form on your portfolio website and check your email regularly.)

Lena quickly mocked up a customized resume and cover letter as a prototype: a Tweet thread explaining why she was a great fit for Twitter Design. Clearly it impressed the team, because she landed another interview. During the interview, they talked about Lena’s background as a therapist and how that perspective could benefit the Health team. Lena nailed the interviews and landed a contract position as a Product Designer.

“I’m almost at my 6-month mark and it’s the first time I feel like I’m in the right place with the right people,” Lena says. “I’m very excited to continue the work I’ll be doing!”

“It’s even more complicated than I thought it would be, but in an excitingly challenging way. At times, I feel out of my element and like a major imposter, but I've learned that these are completely normal and valid feelings that are even experienced by those who’ve been in the field much longer than I have, and it’s a part of adjusting to any new role.” 

In this current role, Lena partners with the Health team, which focuses on improving the overall health of Twitter and the people who use it. They’re a small, but growing, group of designers that partner with adjacent teams such as Privacy, Identity, and Account Integrity. She’s primarily focused on Account Security, but is also offered flexibility in dabbling in other Health-related projects.

“My past experience has really come in handy here and has helped me offer a fresh perspective,” says Lena.

One perk of working at Twitter that Lena is super grateful for is the company-wide Day of Rest. Once a month, all employees get a paid day off to step away from work and focus on improving mental health. 

“It was hard to take time off in my other roles, so it’s been a great way to practice what I’ve preached,” Lena says.

Twitter encourages its employees to share their work with Twitter users, so Lena hasn’t been shy in giving the world sneak peeks into her working prototypes. Here are some of the Privacy concepts she’s recently worked on:

Thread 1

Thread 2 

Lena’s Advice for Job Seeking Product Designers

Now that Lena has graduated and landed a job that she loves with Twitter, she has some advice for others hoping to break into the product design world.

“The competition out there is saturated. Find ways to make your portfolio unique and reflect YOU. How would you see yourself as a brand? What sets you apart from other bootcamp grads? Complete independent briefs, and do them for companies that you’d want to work for in the future. That way, you’re solving a problem for them and showing that you’re passionate about their mission.”

“Applying for jobs is great and all, but the reality is that once a job is posted, the floodgates have already opened. Expand your network and ask folks what their teams are like. Develop genuine professional relationships with them and be open to portfolio feedback. The most promising interviews I’ve gotten were the ones that came from within my network.”

Practice crafting your story. You’re not an aspiring designer; you ARE a designer. Think about how your past experiences, whether professional or personal, have shaped the way that you think and operate as a designer today.”


Outside of the Twitterverse, Lena has been dreaming up travel vacations for once the pandemic is over. In the meantime, she enjoys reading, spending time with family & friends, and exploring D.C. (mainly the food).

Lena Cat
“My workmate constantly interrupts me but HR says their hands are tied.”

Throughout the rest of 2021 she hopes to learn the basics of backend development to improve her understanding and communication with folks in engineering.


Check out Lena’s portfolio and connect with her on LinkedIn.

If you’re looking to follow in Lena’s footsteps and make a career change from a field like Psychology, we recommend exploring the UX Academy journey where UX Academy Foundations is often the best first step!

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Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.