We had a great talk with Maria Resende, a student from our Mastering Interface Design Program, who shared her inspiring story about how her unique background led to her being selected as a trainee at Siemens in Portugal.
If you're interested in learning more about Maria's journey and her tips for transitioning to UI/UX Design, be sure to check out the interview.
Maria, tell us a bit more about your journey to UX Design
I moved to Portugal in August 2016 with the goal of changing careers. At the end of my undergrad, I knew I didn't want to work with Law, but I had no idea what direction to take. I ended up coming to Portugal to do a Master's in Business, but I only did 4 months of the course because I didn't feel a real connection to it.
It was then that I met a student from the MID who was also taking a Master's here, and he explained a little about what he was doing and about the course. So I decided to transfer my graduate studies to Web Design and join the MID.
This was my first point of contact with UX Design, Design Thinking, among other concepts. I had never heard of it, but it made perfect sense to me. I fell in love, literally.
It made perfect sense because I always wanted to work in a creative field, but I was afraid I didn't have the necessary skills, considering my background in Law. Today I realize several common points between UX Design and Law. I also realize that much of my background is very useful for the activities I have been developing in UX Design.
After finishing graduate school, I did a Master's in Design and a course in front-end programming, along with the MID. It was at this point, after doing several exercises and attending several classes, that I got my current position at Siemens in August this year. It is very satisfying to actually be able to work with UX Design.
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In your opinion, what are the common points between UX Design and Law?
The UX approach is very much about thinking, always putting yourself in the other person's shoes, in this case, the user. I realized that I had these skills with my Law background since a good lawyer or judge always has to put himself in the other person's shoes.
Also, UX Design has a very theoretical part. You need to study and read a lot and I was used to this. I even think that Design methodologies can be applied in other areas. Design Thinking, for example, can help in creating business strategies.
How was the process of getting your first job in UX Design?
Since January of this year, I have invested a lot in improving and making my LinkedIn profile more attractive. LinkedIn summarizes a lot of your professional life, so you need to be active and create a good network – even professors and directors from the universities I went to were on my network.
In Portugal, there are many openings in UX/UI Design. I lost count of how many positions I applied for, over 100! Lisbon wants to become the Digital Capital of Europe, so the government is encouraging many startups and businesses to enter the country.
I applied and received many no's, but I did not give up. I had about 40 interviews and despite the negatives, I looked at this experience as something positive. In the first interview, I was very nervous. In the second, not so much. After 30, I was very calm.
In July, I had a succession of very good interviews, with interesting proposals. One of them was at Siemens. I did not have high expectations, but the interview went very well. The next day, the two interviewers called and said they thought I was the ideal candidate – they even accepted my salary proposal, which was a little higher than they had initially offered.
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Tell us a bit more about your interview at Siemens
After 40 interviews, I had seen pretty much everything. And taking a Design test was the most common thing. At Siemens, the interview was very different, I realized that they were more interested in my way of thinking and knowing my personality.
There were many questions to check my reaction in several situations, it was very intense. But other than that, I didn't have to do a practical test – I only had to send my documentation, confirming my education. This interviewer, who is now my boss, said she really liked my background in Law, because it gives me a different worldview and a more organized way of thinking.
Do you think your front-end knowledge had any influence on your career in UX Design?
So far, not much. I have seen some jobs that required this kind of knowledge, but I ran away from them because I wanted to really focus on UX Design. I decided to take this course for the purpose of being able to talk to developers in case I needed to at some point.
Actually, I didn't really enjoy studying code and programming, I came out of the class exhausted. But it has been relatively important now. Because now, I can communicate with programmers a little better and at least have some idea if what I want to do is possible or not.
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How did the Mastering Interface Design (MID) program help you in the process of switching to UX Design?
When I started attending the first MID classes, I remember the mentors saying that you don't need to be an expert in Photoshop or visual elements creation to become a UX/UI Designer. In fact, your way of thinking is what really matters, and if you are an empathetic person who can adapt to various situations.
That helped to shed some light, but still I kept wondering if it was really possible to switch from Law to UX Design and I even spoke on several occasions with the MID mentors.
I think the advantage of Aela is having a support network, being able to talk to someone in the field and get feedback. Way beyond the class itself, it's great to have contact with experienced people willing to help.
The structure of the course is sensational. The classes are very good and practical. I have a hard time with online classes, but the course approach, straight to the point, is very good and stimulating. The practical exercises are also essential – I learned how to use several tools in the course.
But for me the most important thing is the community; it is being able to talk to people who are living that dream with you and being able to hear their experiences. This makes all the difference.
What advice would you give to those who want to work in UX Design?
It's something I always tell myself – resilience. I think this is the right word for anything you want to do in your life, especially if you want to make a very big change.
I went through many existential crises and thought about giving up on many occasions. The difference is to be resilient and try one more time because one day it will work out and it will be when you least expect it!
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