Meet Patricia Garcia Soto: From Teacher to Product Designer at Target

Learn how Patricia Garcia Soto made the career shift from teaching to Product Designer at Target.

Team Designlab
Team Designlab
Feb 24, 2022
Min Read

Patricia Garcia Soto has always loved learning and solving problems. In each of her career roles, from classroom teacher to program director at a literary arts organization, she’s embraced the responsibility of helping her team arrive at a working solution—even when that took her outside of her original job description. 

“Jobs in the nonprofit sector can be really fluid, and sometimes they involve doing work outside of your main responsibilities (which is not always healthy or beneficial for employees),” Patricia explains. “I was finding that for every role I took on I ended up being the de-facto tech lead in many of those spaces.”

Burnout and An Interest in Accessibility Leads to a Career Shift

After struggling through some really heavy burnout that spanned a couple of years, Patricia decided that she wanted to shift and lean into her interest in technology. 

“I chose UX because I felt it would give me the opportunity to think both creatively and analytically,” Patricia says. 

“For me, it was really about getting the chance to ask good questions and find even better solutions. I also came across inclusive design and all of the work that folks in the tech field are doing regarding accessibility, which was really the deciding factor for me in choosing this field.”

Patricia Garcia Soto 1
Patricia and her husband on Jeju Island in South Korea, where they met and worked in international education.

An Introductory Course Confirms Patricia’s UX Career Choice

Although she’d worked with technology and problem-solving in the past, Patricia wanted to be sure that UX was the route she wanted to take before fully investing too much time or money into training and education. 

She found the perfect segway by signing up for UX Academy Foundations.

“This course gave me the chance to not only test out the platform and course structure but also gauge how the workload would feel alongside my full-time job,” Patricia says. 

“I did a lot of research on various programs and I was really drawn to the focus on mentorship. It was also really affordable compared to some other programs out there.”

Her experience in UX Academy Foundations confirmed her interest in UX as a career and paved the way for her to be accepted into the more intensive UX Academy.

Patricia’s UX Academy Experience

Once inside UX Academy, Patricia was paired up with a design mentor with whom she met regularly to ask questions and receive feedback on her work. 

“It was great to hear from industry experts and I am so grateful for their guidance during both phases of the program,” she shares. 

“My Phase 1 mentor, Courtney Leonard, gave such amazing feedback on my design work and really pushed me to improve and iterate on my designs and processes.”

mobile ui design by Patricia Garcia Soto
Kaus Insurance is a responsive web project completed during phase one of UX Academy

With a growing portfolio of work already underway, Patricia decided to start applying for design jobs while she was still in the middle of her UX Academy experience. 

“My Phase 2 mentor, Chris Key, was really supportive of the job interview and onboarding process and offered so much insight into the ins and outs of working at a large company,” Patricia notes. “I started my job with Target while I was finishing Phase 2, and it was great to have a mentor to talk through my worries and questions with. There is no way I would have navigated the job interview process as well as I did without the support of my Designlab mentor.”

whole foods ui mockup by Patricia Garcia Soto
Whole Foods Pantry was created as a part of the Add a Feature capstone project. The concept focuses on adding a pantry tracker and organizer to the already existing Whole Foods mobile app.

Another aspect of the UX Academy experience that stands out to Patricia was her time spent in Group Crits. 

“Meeting with my peers in Designlab was so crucial to my learning, and my ability to present designs and take feedback. It was also just great to connect with folks who were going through a similar experience, whether in group meetings or through the Slack channels that were offered throughout the program.”

A Job Opportunity Arrives Via LinkedIn

As she worked through the UX Academy curriculum, Patricia updated her LinkedIn profile to ensure it reflected the connection between her past experience and passion for storytelling and equity work with her new career in UX.

The work paid off. 

“I had a bit of a unique experience because the company actually found me on Linkedin and reached out with information about the job opportunity,” Patricia shares. 

“While it can be hard to distinguish between credible recruitment messages on Linkedin, I was really excited because it was a large company that I knew a lot about, and is actually based in my hometown in Minnesota.”
An initial phone screening with a recruiter led to a 1-1 meeting with the manager, followed by a full interview. 

“The interview process was definitely intimidating, and it took me a lot of time to prepare for both the portfolio presentation as well as the interview itself,” Patricia says. “I met with multiple design managers, accessibility consultants, and other designers throughout the process. The folks that interviewed me were really focused on my process, how I defended my design decisions, and how I worked through challenges in my projects.”

As she interviewed, Patricia embraced the importance of showcasing not only the aesthetically pleasing polished designs, but also the bumps in the road and how she approached them.
Her approach impressed the team and merited a job offer.

Life as a Remote Product Designer at Target

Patricia now works with a team of designers who focus on the cart and checkout experience on Target’s digital platforms. 

“It is definitely nerve-wracking to start a new career and to do so fully remotely as well, but I am trying to lean into that discomfort and turn it into learning,” Patricia shares.

“We’re lucky to work closely with large teams of engineers, as well as accessibility consultants, researchers, and content designers. One thing I am loving so far is that we get to attend lots of critiques and share outs across teams to stay connected with designers in other spaces.”

Ongoing Learning Opportunities For Continued Career Growth

As a company, Target maintains a focus on learning and growth for its team members, and prioritizes a truly user-centric design approach. 

“I am really loving the true care the team has for the needs of users, and how that is embedded into every process, meeting, and design decision,” Patricia says. 

“There has also been a lot of encouragement for me to sit in on workshops, training, and other learning opportunities. I feel really lucky to have landed where I did, with a super supportive and knowledgeable team and a company that cares a lot for both its employees and customers.”

Target offers debt-free education assistance for various degree and certificate programs for its employees, an opportunity that helps ensure continued career growth opportunities for Patricia.

“I’ll be taking a design and development certificate course through Cornell this spring as a part of my education benefit,” she says. “I am super excited to continue learning.”

Patricia’s Advice to New UX Designers

Patricia’s own career as a UX Designer is off to a strong start. Here are a few of the insights she has to share with others who are considering a similar career shift:

Connect With Other Designers

“Connect with as many other designers, new and seasoned, as you can,” she says. “I think it is crucial to not only build your network but to have folks who can empathize with your experience and the hard parts in the process of becoming a designer. This is especially important for designers of Color who are entering the tech space, which still has a lot of barriers to entry. Find your community and affinity spaces, and if you can’t, create your own! I promise there are others who are looking to connect.”

Give Yourself Grace

“Always remember to give yourself grace. It can be daunting and overwhelming to take on a career transition, along with everything else that’s going on in life and the world. Designlab was really flexible and supportive of me when I was running behind on my work as I started my new job. I hope UX Academy students remember that caring for themselves will only make them stronger and more confident designers.”

Immerse Yourself in Design

“As new designers, I think it is really important to immerse yourself in the design space to some extent. I found that listening to podcasts, signing up for webinars and group mentoring sessions, and doing my own learning outside of UX Academy was also important to my growth. Now, I find it fun to do Figma practice, and learn a bit of code on the side, or listen to really thoughtful conversations from people in the field.”

A Life Outside of Design

Patricia Garcia Soto is incredibly dedicated to and passionate about her UX design career. But it forms only a part of her talents and interests. 

“Outside of work, I usually flex my creativity with writing,” she shares. “I have written poetry and fiction since I was very young, and it is still important to my regular creative practice.”

Another one of her interests is traveling. 

photo of people hiking in Norway
Patricia hiking with friends in the Lofoten Islands, Norway.

“I love to travel, though I haven’t had many opportunities to do so recently because of the pandemic,” she says, noting that she met her husband on a trip to South Korea. 

“My favorite trips so far have been New Year’s in Amsterdam, arctic surfing in Norway, and eating my way through Mexico City!”

See Patricia's work on her portfolio and connect with her on LinkedIn
If you’re inspired by Patricia's story and are ready to make your own career switch into UI/UX design, take a look at our UX Academy program.

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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.