Student Success Story: Ali Watson
Ali completed our Online UX & UI part-time course in May 2021 and has since managed to secure a UX Research & Strategy Project Coordinator role at Radical Path.
We caught up with her to see what she has been up to since completing her course and how the course helped her achieve her goals.
Looking back before you joined the course at Experience Haus, can you tell us a little bit about what you were up to and what led you to consider a course in UX/UI design?
Prior to doing the course I was in between jobs – I was unemployed. My background is in interior design so I was doing that in London and then I moved to Glasgow two weeks before the first lockdown, so I came up here with no job and wasn’t sure whether to stay in interiors or not. Due to the pandemic I ended up out of work and worked in a care home for 6 months which was a real eye opener! But I needed to be working and those were the only jobs available at the time.
I started thinking about what direction I wanted to go in and actually spent a long time in lockdown doing online workshops and seminars, and tapping into different areas and looking into UX. I did a digital business promotion course online and I thought the way things are going, I’m very interested in people and my personality matches – I’m very empathetic, a good listener and all the skills I gained from previous work experience would lend quite well going into UX.
It wasn’t actually until I delved a bit deeper and understood a lot more about the industry and UX design that I realised I should do a course. It was important for me to be learning whilst getting hands on experience with clients at the same time.
What made you choose Experience Haus?
Through Googling and doing lots of research. There were so many courses that were ridiculous prices like £5,000+ that just wasn’t affordable for me. When I came across Haus, I had a chat with Amit and he put me in touch with someone who had done the course before and I had a really good chat with her. It was good to get her insights on the course and how to get the most out of it. I really liked the fact it was a small class size so you didn’t just feel like one of many sitting on a Zoom call!
Thinking about your time on the course… What did you want to achieve from your Experience Haus course?
It was important for me to get back into working on a project, working with a client and working with other people. It had actually been a long time since I had done that and I really wanted to build up my confidence. I put a lot of pressure on myself at the beginning like “this has to work, I need to get something out of this.” I was stressing myself out about it. Then I just enjoyed the process and applying myself to the course and showing up and getting on with it. You need to be motivated to do something that’s online rather than in the classroom.
I feel like I really built my confidence up and was realistic with myself that I wasn’t going to learn EVERYTHING in a 3 month course. But there are areas to look at, touch on and you decide which direction to go in or what you enjoy the most.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
I liked the element of working in groups. I like the collaborative workflow as that’s how you’ll be working in real life context in a company. I also really liked seeing the process – going through the different methodologies and seeing how things flow.
What was your one big takeaway from the course?
My main takeaway from the course was going in thinking I’ll need to know everything when the reality is quite different! I felt quite overwhelmed thinking I had to know how to do every little thing to do with UX and the instructor said to me “you’ll find you’ll come out of this course and you’ll have the tools and then you can go off and start developing/start going down to a niche”. And Amit said the same thing – you find a niche for yourself. He said you won’t be able to do the UI, the research – you’ll be spreading yourself so thinly that you almost need to be really good at one thing. Obviously it is good to have an understanding of the UI side and how wireframing works etc but it was interesting as he said ‘you’ll go into a company and probably focus on one area and then build on your skills and get really good at that.’ I was talking to another mentor from Experience Haus who said you go into a company thinking you’ll be doing all these things and actually end up focusing on one thing! But I guess it does depend on the company…I have done it before where I’ve been good at lots of things and had lots of transferable skills, but now it’s time to focus and hone my skills on one area that I’ll then get really good at. Once you’re good at that one thing, that’s when your skills are in demand!
Turning now to your time post-course… Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since the course finished? What sort of things were you working on that led you to securing your recent UX Research & Strategy Project Coordinator role?
After the course, my main priority was to secure work and that was also an element as to why I did the course in the first place. First of all I thought I needed to get a job where I can do the UX stuff on the side and build my portfolio up. I had a couple of interviews for roles that weren’t necessarily UX related, and then I had an interview for where I am now and the role was a project coordinator role. I’m working at an experience innovation company – it’s quite a small team but really nice people and the work we do is very interesting and I’ve been more involved in the user research stuff which I’m enjoying. I’m learning lots every day! They have asked me what direction I want to go in and are very open for me to try new things which is great! I’m really happy as the hard work from the course has definitely paid off! I know I’m very new to the company but there is a lot of scope and they are really interested in growing people’s skillset.
For me, the course really helped show me that I had the initiative to do the course and start getting an understanding of UX design and other basics, but that I still have a lot to learn. In my interview, I said I’d done the course and been proactive in self-development – that’s really important to me, continuous self-development! I can understand the process, the mapping, the user research side of things. Also as I’d had a career before, I wasn’t straight out of university, where I’ve worked with clients, with teams and with directors so having had that experience as well helped me. I’m very much a people person and I find it easy to engage with people. I feel like I’m now learning from the top people in the industry. The areas we’re working in are intense, but it’s great!
Have you stayed in touch with your instructor or fellow Hausmates?
There were a couple of people on the course I was keeping in touch with – we’re definitely trying to get a plan to meet up when I’m next in London! I also started to get involved with a project with Experience Haus post-course but had to step away from it because I couldn’t commit the time to it and I was having interviews.
Do you have any advice, or nuggets of wisdom for any one trying to break into the industry – anything you wish you had known beforehand?
I think you have to be quite realistic about things – you might come out of the course and realise this isn’t the industry you want to be in! Talking to mentors is incredibly useful, including people who have done the course before and are now working in the industry because then you are getting true insights into the industry and the path your career could take. In terms of your career, don’t be so pigeonholed thinking “this area is what I really want to do”, because you might find you start doing it and find you actually enjoy a completely different element. It’s important to keep an open mind.
From what I can see and having spoken to people who are very experienced in this sector, things are always changing within this industry. You need to keep learning. If you think you can just do one course and just learn everything you think you need to know, then you have a long way to go! I’m learning everyday and it’s exciting. Make sure to get your face in front of the right people and show them you have the want and drive. I know there were areas where I wasn’t so experienced in, but employers are looking for that right mindset, that you are willing to put in that work and learn.
It’s amazing how things have changed for me in the last few months from doing a course, doing odd bits of work here and there, and now I have this role! Honestly, the course can be tough and there were a couple of occasions where I thought “can I do this?,” but it’s all about showing up, committing and then that’s the start of the long road ahead.