Meet Simone: From Chef to UX Research Apprentice at Asana

Simone Obidah is a UX Academy graduate, and former chef turned UX Research Apprentice at Asana. Read her story to learn more about her journey from the food in…

Alexa Harrison
Alexa Harrison
Jan 11, 2023
Min Read

In 2019, Simone Adesuwa Obidah left her career as a chef at the catering business she had co-founded. Unemployed and trying to figure out her next career move, Simone spent months contemplating what to do next with her career. 

Although she struggled for a while to identify skills that were applicable outside the food industry, Simone soon realized that her background provided her with a wealth of valuable, transferable skills. This opened the door to a new world of possibility. She knew she enjoyed designing marketing materials, like flyers, so she thought graphic design might be a good option. 

However, when a friend asked if she had heard of UX design, Simone did some research and was immediately intrigued. It took a whole year and a half between leaving the food industry and finding UX to realize that all of the skills she had acquired and honed during her ten year career would not go to waste.

“I believe that cooking for others is a form of creating a user experience; in both UX and cooking, at no point should the person who will experience what you’ve created leave your mind,” Simone says.

Once she decided this was the perfect path for her to pursue, she did her research on UX design education providers and ultimately chose our intensive UX Academy program for career switchers.

“In all the research that I did, Designlab kept coming up. I enrolled in the introductory course to try it out, and while I really enjoyed the course, what sold me on enrolling in UX Academy was how communicative the support team was. All my questions were answered promptly, and the team was patient with me as I took the time I needed to make my decision” says Simone.

Empathy Unlocks the UX Academy Experience

Through UX Academy, Simone was able to reinforce that her existing skills were, in fact, transferable, and developed a solid foundation in the world of UX. Her key transferable skill? Empathy.

“I discovered how to apply my skills in different ways such as flexibility, communication, collaboration and making sure quality is consistent throughout all aspects of product building” Simone says.

“UX Academy helped me build a foundation in the UX design process from start to finish. The curriculum was interesting, and it was great having projects that gave structure but also flexibility in what I wanted my focus to be. This allowed me to create projects for my portfolio that were truly reflective of the things I care about.”

These portfolio projects included prototypes and case studies for fictional company Swap (a virtual clothing exchange app), a local non-profit, and even the City of Berkley—all of which are reflective of Simone’s empathy for all people, places, and even things.

An image of three case study mockups on laptops.

“As a Buddhist practitioner, the belief that all life is worthy of respect informs the way I move through the world and see others (at least how I intend to—I’m still human after all!) I believe that this practice, which is rooted in finding inner wisdom, courage, and compassion, has set me up with the right foundation for the kind of work that is focused on empathizing with others, digging deep to find new solutions and ideas, and having the courage to bring those ideas to life,” says Simone.

This empathy is a key part of what makes Simone an ideal UX researcher 💗

Landing an AsanaUp User Experience Research Apprenticeship 

Simone describes her journey to landing a AsanaUp User Experience Research Apprenticeship at Asana as quite a process—but one that was oh-so-worth it. 

Initially, she saw a posting on LinkedIn for a Product Design Apprenticeship at Asana. So, she did what any good job seeker does and reached out to everyone in her network to ask if they knew anyone that worked at Asana. When she didn't get a lead-in this way, she cast a wider net by reaching out directly to people on the Asana Talent Acquisition team. 

Simone wrote a condensed cover letter for the body of these LinkedIn messages, and attached her full cover letter and resume. Two of the team members got back to her, and one of them even sent Simone the email address of the recruiter who was managing the apprenticeships. 

Although Simone made it to the final round of interviews for this apprenticeship, she did not recieve an offer. 

Thankfully, the recruiter told Simone that there was a UX research apprenticeship opening up soon—if she was interested, she would set up an interview. While Simone was looking for a more traditional UX/UI design role, she remained open to this UX research role. In retrospect, she’s so glad she did …

“About a month later, I was put through what felt like the express lane of the interview process for the UXR apprenticeship. The interviews were done in about a week, and I was given an offer the Monday after my final interview!” 

Way to go, Simone 🤩

The Perfect UX Career Starter: Working at Asana

As expected, things are going great for Simone at Asana. Though the work is different from what she set out to do, she’s finding UX research to be stimulating and creative.

“It’s so much fun. I love going to work,” Simone says.

“I had very little expectation going into this field, since it was so brand new to me. I wasn't looking for UX research jobs at all. Initially, I was worried that I might be doing work that doesn't fit my career goals. But I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I am enjoying the work I'm doing.

“I'm not making wireframes or prototypes, but my job is still so creative. I get to problem solve, collaborate on ideas, analyze problem spaces and human behavior with my team—and then see the results of all of this in the product. It stimulates my brain in new and exciting ways!”

For Simone, the Asana UX Research Apprenticeship program feels like the perfect way to start a career. She’s receiving a lot of support and the opportunity to ask questions and take the time necessary to learn. 

“The apprenticeship feels like just the right thing for starting out my career. I get sooo much support, have the space to ask as many questions as needed (even if they feel small and silly), and can take the time I need to learn on the job. At the same time, I am given a lot of autonomy,” says Simone. 

She’s even been assigned her own Asana mentor. They meet twice a week and message each other on Slack regularly. Much like the support she received from her Designlab mentors and career coaches, this relationship has been invaluable. 

“He's been really supportive in letting me take the lead on things. There's a lot of space for creativity and new ideas and ways of thinking, and I feel very supported in bringing my unique brain to the team. These meetings give me a burst of energy if and when I'm feeling stuck or confused,” Simone says. 

Aside from the support, Asana offers other tasty perks—like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which are all served in-office. Plus, a daily selection of snacks and beverages! She’s also enjoying being in an office and getting to see her co-workers face-to-face.

There are ~20 UX researchers at Asana company-wide, and each UX researcher (or “UXR”) works in a particular pillar. Most UXRs support 3-5 teams within these pillars, but since Simone is an apprentice she works with just one team for now. 

This team recently shipped the first version of a time-tracking feature, which Simone was a part of the early-adopters user tests for  🎉

Key Advice for Those Seeking a Job in UX

Now that Simone has graduated from UX Academy and landed the job of her dreams as a UX Research Apprentice at Asana, she has some advice for those soon-to-be working in the field of UX …

“NET 🔑 WORK 🔑 Don't be afraid to reach out to whomever on LinkedIn to build connections, set up informational interviews, and have clear and direct asks!”

“The first info interview I had was with the now-CEO of one of my dream companies. We've been able to maintain a connection, and she's offered to support me in my career journey!” says Simone. 

“The reason I was able to reach out to then-strangers (now, colleagues who I even see in the office!) was because I had already started fostering professional connections. This gave me the confidence to reach out, human to human, to ask for what it was I wanted.” 

Beyond the 9-5

Simone moved to New York about a year ago from the Bay Area, and she just moved into her own apartment in Brooklyn last month. Putting her knowledge of the product world to good use, she’s been researching items to purchase her new home. 

Simone Obidah 2
The view from the bedroom of her new home in Brooklyn.

Also, she’s actively involved in the Buddhist community, loves jigsaw puzzles, plays the flute, oh—and she still loves to cook! 

Simone plans to stay at Asana for the foreseeable future, as she’s learning so much and has the space to explore what excites her and what she’s especially curious about. As an added bonus, working as a UX researcher has been synchronistic with Simone’s long-term goals.   

“I want to start my own non-profit. Even though research wasn't the direction I thought my career would take, I'm seeing very clearly how much it fits into this long-term dream.”

Watch the Conversation with Simone

For more insights from Simone watch the complete webinar ...

You’ll hear about:
• Simone’s journey through UX Academy to becoming a UX Research Apprentice
• Transferable skills from being a chef to a career in UX design
• Her day-to-day at Asana and what growth looks like for her
• Tips on how to network and make genuine connections

Connect with Simone on LinkedIn and check out her portfolio.

Ready to make a career leap into the world of UX like Simone? 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.

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

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.