Leonardo Andrade is a student of the MID program and in this interview, he tells us about his journey switching from civil engineering to UX Design.
He tells us what were his main challenges and how he managed to keep focused on his studies, even during the pandemic. You will get to learn how he organized his portfolio and resume to get his first opportunity in the field.
Leonardo, thanks for your time! Please tell us a little bit about yourself, to get us started
My name is Leonardo and I'm currently a Junior UX/UI Designer at Compass.uol.
My background is a little different from UX, I have a degree in civil engineering. But at the beginning of the pandemic, I decided to change careers completely.
It had been a while since I realized I was not satisfied with the field I had chosen.
I have always loved technology, and during the lockdown, I had more time to research and understand the possibilities that exist in this field. This is how I came to discover UX Design.
What caught my attention in this UX was the possibility to work with creativity, technology, and innovation. Also, because it is a growing field, there are many opportunities and good salaries, so I decided to go for it
How was it to make the transition from engineering to UX?
These two fields are really different!
In the beginning, I had to research a lot to know if this was really what I wanted to do. I even took some vocational tests.
When I decided that I would really switch to UX, I began to explore lots of content about UX Design.
I watched videos on Youtube, read several articles, and researched a designer's routine like main activities and attributions.
It was during this period of research that I found Aela. I read several Aela articles about UX and UI Design.
After researching a lot, I consider enrolling in a UX Design course. Since I already knew Aela, I decided to enroll in the MID program.
At that time I was not working and the pandemic had already broken out. So I had a lot of free time to dedicate to the course and to my studies.
At the end of the day, I had no major difficulties in making this career transition. Based on what I was studying before the course plus the MID classes, I was able to improve myself and do the activities and projects easily.
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The pandemic has made the world very stressful. Did you do anything to stay focused on your studies during this difficult period?
I can't say that this period didn't impact me, because everyone was affected directly or indirectly.
The news really made us feel down about what was happening at the time. That is why I tried to distance myself a little from it.
I surely think it's important to keep ourselves informed, but I tried not to put so much attention on the news.
When I felt that the information was overwhelming for me, I tried to take a break so that I wouldn't get so upset.
In addition, I had a clear goal. I wanted to advance as fast as possible in the MID, taking advantage of the available hours I had to learn about UX Design.
Having this goal and a well-structured study plan helped me stay focused during this very difficult period.
I kept my goal in mind, created a routine, and made sure that my studies were as consistent as possible. Every day I woke up at the same time and studied for the same amount of hours as if it were a real job.
I think this is how I was able to stay focused.
What would you say that has helped you pivot to UX so quickly?
I believe it was my discipline.
I was very committed to my studies, not only regarding the MID contents, but I was also concerned about searching for other sources of information and knowledge.
In this sense, I read a lot of design books as well, the ones you recommended and others that I researched on the Internet.
So, I always tried to keep myself busy with useful information that could help me enrich my knowledge.
Even more so because I came from a completely different field than UX, I felt the need to dig deeper to really understand the subject.
So I used my free time well, studying and dedicating myself, preparing myself a lot.
Also, in the beginning, I didn't worry about searching for jobs. I wanted first to feel more prepared and confident. So I went through the first levels of the MID, doing the projects and studying, and then I started looking for jobs.
To give you an idea, I began the MID program in the middle of the year, and I only began looking for opportunities at the end of the year.
So I had a lot of time every day to focus on learning as much as possible about UX.
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During your routine and your studies, what was your biggest challenge?
I had the hardest time in the beginning with interface design and visual design concepts, as I didn't have prior knowledge in those areas. It wasn't difficult for me to use the software and programs, though.
The difficulty I faced was the tactile aspect of creating interfaces. I didn't have a graphic design background to help me in this part.
I’m an engineer!
So, I think that having this sharper sense of aesthetics/design was more demanding and a more challenging task in the beginning. But as time went by, I got the hang of it.
Of course, I'm still learning, my evolution is constant. Every day I work, I gain more experience to see what works and what doesn't.
That's because UX Design is not an exact science. What works well for one person may not work for another.
Therefore, it takes time to understand what is best, aesthetically speaking. Today, I have a better understanding than when I first started, but it's still a learning process every day.
How did you overcome this issue?
I think it was mainly due to the hands-on experience.
In addition to the activities in the MID program, I also spent a lot of time exploring Figma, which is the application I use the most.
I searched for tutorials on YouTube and tried to replicate techniques, projects, and screens. I made an effort to become familiar with the tool.
As time passed, things became easier. Whenever I encountered something I didn't know, I would research what it was, how to use it, and what its purpose was.
My curiosity to learn more and more through research and experimentation has helped me a lot
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How did you know you were ready to apply for jobs in UX Design?
My goal was to be employed by the beginning of 2021.
So as early as December 2020, I had 6 projects ready from the MID. I chose 3 of them and built my portfolio.
With this, I was feeling more prepared to search and apply for job openings.
In addition, I was getting tips on how to better structure my resume, how to prepare myself to apply for jobs, and how to improve my LinkedIn profile. All of this has helped me with the recruitment process.
And how was the process of searching for jobs?
It took a while for me to get my job because I adjusted things along the way.
The first version of my resume, for example, was not ideal. Looking at it today and comparing it to the current version, you can notice that I made several improvements.
I think that not having any previous experience in the field was a big issue. The market and the companies demand a lot of it.
Even though I had a well-structured portfolio, with nice projects, I found it very difficult because I had no real experience.
So, to try to get around this situation I had to learn to value my knowledge in engineering. I learned to show that my background could also be valuable and that, even though I had no experience in UX, I had other competencies, from engineering, that could help me as well.
As time went on, I improved my portfolio and my resume, and I saw what worked and what didn't work.
It turns out that the portfolio and the resume are like a UX Design project. We have to iterate to keep getting better and better!
I also found other places to look for opportunities. At first, I only used LinkedIn. But then I began to participate in groups on other platforms such as Telegram, for example.
After about two or three months, I got the interview that led me to my current job position.
How was the recruitment process for your current job?
Maybe my case is a little different because I joined the company's fast-track program, for people who have no experience in the field.
They hire people with this profile exactly to train them in their first months of employment.
Because of this, my interview was only with HR. I talked about my skills and previous experiences; and the knowledge I acquired during the MID program. I did not have to submit a project or take a test or challenge as I had done in other recruitment processes.
The nice thing was that they valued my past experience, even though I didn't have any practical experience in UX; and they provided me with internal training so that I could learn even more.
How is your daily routine as a UX Designer?
I really enjoy working at Compass.uol because it is a consulting company, so we serve several different clients.
Over these months, I was able to work with e-commerce companies and now I am with a client from the education market.
So I have the opportunity to learn about many different fields and industries. This is something I really like because it will never be the same. The projects change and you get to know another sector and another company.
In addition, Compass.uol is quite concerned with the training of its employees. There is a culture that values the continuous training of professionals and I think this is very important.
So, I am very happy with my journey! It went by very fast, but I feel that I evolved a lot. Every day I learn more. It has been great!
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If you could go back in time, what would you say to Leonardo from the past? About lessons learned and challenges of switching to UX
I guess I would say to be more patient and calm in the beginning.
I think when you begin in a new field, you get very anxious, trying to learn everything as fast as possible.
But even though I was able to organize my studies, I would still have told Leonardo from the past that I didn't need to rush so much.
I would also say to keep studying and to vary the sources of information and knowledge. Read articles, and books, and watch videos.
So that's it, I would tell him to be calm and keep up the discipline because with consistency everything works out in the end.