Student Success Story: Andy Finlay
Andy completed our 12-Week Product Design (inc UX & UI) part-time course in April 2020 (just as the coronavirus pandemic started) and has since managed to secure a Product Designer role at an early-stage Fin-Tech start-up.
We caught up with him to see what he has been up to since completing his course and how the course helped him achieve his 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 Product Design?
Before I joined the course at Haus I was working as a designer at a business consultancy. They have large scale clients like HSBC and Virgin Media. The problem with working there was when you are employed as a designer you have a specific role and you don’t really flex away from that. Compared to my previous company which was a start-up where there was always lots going on and you can get involved in a lot of different thing, I felt I was a bit stuck in this role and wasn’t growing much. I was doing lots of UI and was very comfortable in that scope but I felt very stuck there with no room for flexibility. I felt I needed to keep learning and growing and really needed some UX skills, so thought joining a short course like Experience Haus would give me that exposure.
What made you choose Experience Haus?
Honestly, I think it was a case of Googling and looking at what was nearby…and you guys are literally round the corner from me!
Thinking about your time on the course… What did you want to achieve from your Experience Haus course?
My main goals were to grow my skill set and get exposure to UX. In my view the UI space is a little under threat because you have a lot of material design websites where you can download everything you want now like pattern libraries, free stock photos, logos etc and it’s almost eliminating the need for UI designers. And so if you are a UX’er with no UI skills you’ll be ok as you can download everything you want from Google, but if you are a UI designer with no UX skills, you don’t really have anywhere to go.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
The course all round was a very memorable experience. The classes were really engaging and interactive with great tutoring and good contextual examples to help us learn about the process which is what I enjoyed the most. I get curious about things I don’t fully understand and I was keen to learn more about UX. The courses helped me understand the product design process and filled those gaps in my knowledge. I was then able to put it into practice on the live brief which helped it stick in my mind! I can now easily recall the process from experience.
What was your one big takeaway from the course?
With quite a bit of industry experience behind me, I thought the course would be straightforward for me to understand, but it certainly wasn’t! It was a real challenge and I felt as if I was starting my design career from scratch. So one thing I took away was to be humble and more open minded as every day is a learning experience from which we can always improve ourselves, regardless of our background.
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 Product Designer role?
The course finished just as the pandemic was starting so with things being really up in the air with lockdown, it was a case of down tools and just focus on the role I currently had. I thought this was going to be the situation for the next year or so, so thought I would just see it out.
Then towards the end of last year I really started to work on my portfolio and got lots of input from UX designers to help me showcase my work properly. I then started applying en masse, got a few interviews here and there, and managed to get a Product Designer role at an early stage Fin-Tech start-up. I’m really excited about this as it’s a role I have been pursuing for two years and thanks to you guys, I’ve finally got it! This is going to be a really big opportunity for me to get involved in a team where there is so much talent, as well as getting the opportunity to work on the UX side of my role. I’m yet to start but I can foresee more double diamonds and all the good stuff in between that brings user needs and business opportunities together!
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?
Something I’m noticing at the moment is a lot of juniors that I meet want things to happen quickly – they want to see progress fast and I don’t think it’s the right mentality to have coming into the industry. The design industry has now become very respected and the respect for design has grown over the last 60 – 70 years. It’s taken a long time for this to be an established industry and people believe they can jump in, pick up a few skills and quickly move into leadership roles. It doesn’t work like that.
I would advise anyone trying to break into the industry to be patient, to understand the craft and appreciate the craft for what it is before going ahead and expecting pay rises, a promotion etc. People put a lot of time and effort into their roles and careers and you can really tell the difference between an experienced and inexperienced designer by the way they approach their work. In design there are lots of grey areas; it’s not just yes or no. You need to understand the process and go through it and live with it. A lot of juniors I speak to are like “here’s the solution. It’s done”. They want to push on but you really have to work through it, take time and be patient. Having patience is the main bit of advice I’d give. You need to take time to learn the craft, to continuously learn, develop your skills and don’t give up.