Should I Be a UX Designer?

Failure is a dirty word in the United States. We tend to punish ourselves emotionally for feeling it, and I’m no exception. As an artist & writer for more than a decade, it’s not easy for me to accept that I have a very dull future, and I wonder how much I accept that. Is it a fact that these fields are simply beyond my grasp as a functioning adult? Or might I be able to unlock some dormant business acumen in order to actually “succeed” in “life”?

I can say, as a traveler living abroad, that I do think beyond career success in terms of a good life. And I’m happy to have many of the benefits that elude a stereotypically successful person: immense and diverse life experience, deep-rooted relationships, a connection with the spiritual world, etc. But we’re not talking about all that today. We’re talking about the hard edges of career, work, income and the wealth of potential.

The trappings of the art world and freelance writing are that there’s no exact blueprint, no how-to manual for attaining the goals associated with a successful career: regular pay checks, gainful employment, job titles, discernible career advancements. I do actually yearn for these things, in my less confident moments. As much as I love working on my own schedule, from anywhere in the world, I’m not one to scoff at the idea of sacrificing some personal freedoms for the sweet allure of a normalized office life. At least then I could check in, check out, collect money, plan for retirement and maintain my actual interests on the side.

But it is important to actually be interested in your work, right? I see and hear of so many people on the verge of nervous breakdowns because they’ve given themselves to soul-crushing positions without the hope of escape. Don’t people like what they’re doing? Or is that already too much of a privilege to expect? Honestly, if I was confined into work I dreaded, I’d rather be dead.

So when freelance work dries up, when my motivation and discipline as an artist wanes, I start wondering how I could best become a cog in some better-oiled machine. It’s tough, getting on in years (in one’s 30s), already holding multiple degrees, to consider a career change. But if the right idea comes along, doesn’t it deserve some attention?

I’ve been interested in User Experience Design (and Writing) for a while now. It’s a great blend of my various skills and interests: design, technology, consumption, process, comparative analytics, giving form to ideas, specialized interest and focus… I don’t want to describe the whole field, but in general, it’s an office-type job that could indeed befit me. I’ve never been absolutely convinced, but I do suspect it.

Last year enrolled in an online certification program, hoping to get into the field, and equipping myself with the understanding and the paperwork that might get me in the door for attractive entry-level positions. This has gone badly. Without any formal instruction, no decent feedback, barely any (and only online) community, and no encouragement regarding the hard work of actually building a portfolio and job-hunting, I have become utterly disillusioned. (This is the UX Design Institute, by the way.)

I’ve thought: if I have to self-generate the energy, motivation and discipline to guide myself through the labyrinthine process of earning a living, why not just stick with my current, actual passions? With my years of experience and understanding in fields I’m already familiar with? The appeal of becoming a UX Designer — and maybe it sounds a little silly — is to actually get a formally recognized position in a bourgeoning field, at a decent salary. I want to be hired, to be head-hunted, and given professional tasks and assignments. I could probably do this as a writer already, but the professional world continuously mystifies me.

There’s another course though, starting soon, like a siren song. It’s called Ironhack, and it’s offered in my city of Berlin, starting next week. It costs twice the price of UXDI, but it’s in an actual classroom (or even on a sort of campus), with real humans sitting together, with an actual instructor. It’s a bootcamp, you could say — 9am-5pm, every day, for two months. Actually showing up, being there, forced in a way to do the work in front of you. At the end there’s actually a job fair, a career day. It’s possible to perhaps find employment, or at least be constantly surrounded by that energy.

Is this something I should consider again? Or is my failing at UXDI a sign that UX is simply not for me? It’s hard to tell. I don’t like failing, and I’d rather not set myself up for it. I can see the tangible differences between this one and that, and it seems like it could actually be a good thing for me. I still have an interest in the field (even if it is more wonky and awkward than I think it should be), and it could be a very healthy channel for my visual thinking. But what if it’s not? What if I come home every day and still prefer video and photography? Does that mean I should just try harder at my current work? Apply myself better to things already in front of me?

I wish I knew these things. Instead, I’m best at just wondering.



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