Sometimes the career we think we want, doesn’t turn out to be what we expected. 

After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Merchandising and Design, Stefanie Thorpe accepted a job with Macy’s in New York City. Following the path of her degree, she climbed the ranks quickly from Assistant Inventory Planner, then to Digital Assistant, right through to Digital Tactics Manager. 

After almost three years of grinding in the bustling Big Apple, she decided it was time for a change. “I knew I wanted to do UX design as soon as I discovered it,” said Stefanie.

“I love UX design because it combines psychology, science, and art. I get to utilize my creative abilities while also thinking analytically. I’m a very empathetic person, and I’ve always been passionate about helping others. I find it extremely rewarding to design something that makes people’s lives easier and more enjoyable. It’s so fun when it all comes together to create a successful product and I get to see my ideas come to life.”

While Stefanie had some previous computer-based design experience from classes taken in college, she had no professional experience. So, she prepared by taking Design 101 in preparation for UX Academy.

“It was a very scary decision to give all this money, not knowing if it was going to work out,” she said. “But I explained to my dad how unhappy I was at my current job, and we decided that no matter the circumstances it would be worth it.”

Stefanie’s daily schedule during UX Academy looked something like this:

  • Go to full-time job
  • Come home
  • Work out
  • Eat dinner
  • Spend two hours completing coursework each night
  • Have a group critique or a mentor call
  • On weekends, spend 5-8 hours a day working on coursework

Ultimately, she decided to quit her job and move home in order to finish UX Academy full-time, and then pursue finding a job. Stefanie describes it as one of the scariest decisions she’s ever had to make—but necessary in order to get to where she wanted to be.

“UX Academy was so much fun. It was intense, but it was something I could look forward to after work and on the weekends (surprisingly, but luckily). It made me so happy that I enjoyed it, because it only reassured me that this was the right choice for me, and that this is where I was meant to be.”

What would Stefanie’s biggest piece of advice to graduating UX Academy students and other career searchers be? “Stay positive! Everyone always says that, but you never realize just how true it is until you’re in the middle of it all. You will get so many rejections, emails ignored, follow-ups ignored, and you won’t hear back from some companies after interviewing (so rude!). But there is someone out there that wants you.”

Someone out there wanted Stefanie, too. Three months after graduating from UX Academy, she landed a job with VMLY&R, a global full-service marketing agency, as an Experience Designer. 

Now, she’s working on-site with Ford, designing new features for the Fordpass app. “I love my team, and I love what I’m working on. Every day is different and interesting,” Stefanie said.

Stefanie recalls getting so down on herself and worried that she would never find a job—but after UX Academy she ended up with not one, but two offers, from two of the world’s largest Fortune 500 companies.

“It still hasn’t hit me just how far I’ve come. I’m so grateful that I found Designlab and that I was able to switch careers. I’m so much happier now than I ever could have imagined.”

You can check out Stefanie’s portfolio, and connect with her on LinkedIn!

Thinking about taking a design course? Check out our free ebook on 15 things to consider before choosing!

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Alexa Harrison

Content Writer

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