Getting Started in UX -- 5 NYC Pros Share Their Stories

I have learned the most by collaborating and talking to other fellow UX professionals. So I invited some friends and great people I've met in the NYC UX community to share their story and a piece of advice that would help others get started and accelerate their careers.
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"How did you get into UX?"

I got started in grad school at UNC Chapel Hill's School of Information & Library Science. There I studied data structures, HCI, usability, and research methods. To get started with UI work I'd perform task analyses by dragging screenshots of a particular flow in an app I liked into Omnigraffle and trace them. When I saw usability issues in those flows I'd make recommendations and design alternatives to use in my portfolio.

Two things helped me a lot, the first was to use every app or site I could get my hands on. This helped me see design patterns and how things changed over time. The second was my mentor, she would introduce me to other professionals in the field, chat with me about her work at The New York Times, and keep me up to date with events going on in the city. Network effects cannot be understated! To pay it forward I joined the NYC UXPA chapter mentorship program to pass on my knowledge.

"How did you get into UX?"

As a Psychology major, I was often the receiving end of a lot of jokes about my career prospects - "What are you going to do with that?!" Luckily, Rutgers University offered a for-credit Human Factors internship with Alcatel-Lucent, so I gave that a shot. It was there where I first gained exposure to how observing human behavior and interactions could be applied to technology, so I learned as much as I could about Human Factors and related disciplines, including User Experience...and the rest is history. I owe my entire career to that first internship.

It's not UX-specific, but my college's Career Services was an extremely valuable resource for me. I think a lot of budding UX professionals try to learn as much as they can about the practice of UX, but often overlook the fact that they need to be professionals too. Things like learning how to shine in an interview or understanding how to behave in a business context are just as crucial to your success as knowing how to prototype or conducting usability sessions. Make the most of the resources that your college offers!

"How did you get into UX?"

"I love when things are confusing and unusable, because it makes my life easier," said no one ever.

As a visual designer who loves coding, I've always been interested in figuring out how to make things easier for people to use. My team at Weight Watchers saw that I took a UX-centered approach to my development and design work, and felt that I would be a good UX lead. This is how I got my first official role as a UX designer, as I transitioned from a developer and visual designer.

Throughout my career as a designer, I've always found the best resources have come from talking to others. Joining UX groups like the IxDA and UXPA is where I've learned the most. These organizations are filled with lots of smart people, who also want to create great experiences for others. So if you're someone who has any interest in learning about UX, I would recommend going online to see if these organizations are in your cities or if there are any local Meetups to connect with people who are already doing it.

"How did you get into UX?"

My first work in UX was working on an early hypertext program and all the promise of that little blue link. I've always been interested in people's stories and how we use them in designs that can change the world. Working on projects with a social mission, I discovered the challenge of research and design for the wild diversity of "everyone." That led me to accessibility and civic design work.

I've learned so much from collaborating with other people. Working with a co-author or research partner forces you to communicate clearly. Listening to user research participants reminds me that there are perspectives other than my own.

"How did you get into UX?"

I don't have a formal education in UX or HCI. I learned HTML/CSS as a teenager and managed to get part-time jobs building websites for local businesses. At the time, I had a narrow approach to client work. I would focus on what my client wanted and any design trends I could bake into it a project. It wasn't until a college internship at a local software company that I realized the value of a user-centered design approach. I was fortunate enough to share a desk with call center employees who gave me insights into the business, it's customers and their problems I would otherwise not have gained had I sat with marketing. Those insights inspired me to pitch an idea to my boss who, in turn, gave me free reign to design and build a customer support portal. The portal turned out to be a success, customers loved it and through that experience I started learning about UX & IA.

The internet! Seriously, ask a question and it'll lead you down a path of discovery and knowledge. Recently, I stumbled onto 2 UX newsletters I've found useful: UX handy and UX Design Weekly. I've been a subscriber of the NNG newsletter for a few years and would recommend it to anyone with a interest in UX. Also, this guy's post is pretty comprehensive.