Stefanía is one of our students from the Mastering Interface Design (MID) program and her transition story to UX Design is quite unique.
Born in Argentina, Stefanía lived most of her life in Chile and made the decision to move to Brazil.
In this interview, she tells us a little about her motivations for having switched to UX Design and how she handled this process as a foreigner.
Don't miss this inspiring interview!
Stefanía, please tell us about yourself!
Thank you! My name is Stefanía, I'm Argentinean, but I lived in Chile almost all my life, and now I'm living here in São Paulo.
I have a degree in Business Administration, a Master's in Marketing, and last year I decided to transition to UX Design.
I already had a lot of interest in this field and thought this change would be important for me, as it would allow me to work with technology and be more dedicated to the end consumer.
My background is in consulting and market intelligence, so I already had some contact with consumers, but I still felt like something was missing.
So, I decided to enroll in the MID program, which was an excellent idea, and today I work as a Global UX Researcher at Gympass.
This is a remote position, and I work with people from all over the world, mostly speaking English, which is also a very interesting experience.
You already had familiarity with research and customer needs. Why did you decide to jump into UX Design?
I see the technology field as responsible for defining how we work and live today. And I have always found it interesting to work with this and be part of the change, to try to do as much as possible so that people can transition to this new way of interacting with each other and with products.
I also found it was important to have more contact with users.
I wanted to be more and more focused on what happened outside companies, looking more at the user.
I think this step of transitioning to UX was important because I am convinced that I am in an area where my goal is always to be looking outwards.
New country, new language, pandemic. How was the whole transition process to UX?
It wasn't easy! It was a very intense year, with the beginning of the pandemic, new studies, a new language…
When I arrived in São Paulo, one of my goals was to start speaking Portuguese. But I got here in March 2020, literally a week before the pandemic broke out.
Because of that, I was trapped at home, in quarantine and lockdown, and couldn't take a Portuguese course or attend a language school.
So, I started studying on my own, watching videos on YouTube, and trying to learn the language.
When I saw the opportunity to do the MID at Aela, I decided to give it a try. I had already seen some videos on YouTube in Portuguese, and I could understand.
In the MID projects, I did everything in English because I intended to have global exposure and be open to possibilities. You never know when you'll have an opportunity to go abroad and work remotely.
As for English, I can speak, and it is a very important skill. It is the key to working in another country or even remotely.
Was there anything that helped you maintain focus during this period of studying?
I am very organized, and I approached my studies as if it were a full-time job from 9 am to 6 pm.
I set goals and objectives such as, "I want to try to achieve level 1 in so much time."
Sometimes we need to be more flexible with our own processes, but I tried my best to meet my goals and stay within deadlines.
Overall, I think this structure and organization helped me focus on UX design studies.
What was your biggest challenge during this process?
The difficulty was not related to studies but to changing my mindset and learning to think differently.
As I mentioned, I went through many changes: cities, languages, friends, work, etc. So, I had to be more open-minded.
I used to be more strict; I didn't have the perspective I have now, which is more integrated and holistic.
It's essential to be willing to try new things, and this mindset change was very interesting.
When did you decide to pursue a UX position?
My initial idea was only to seek a UX job after MID level 3, and currently, I'm at level 2 of the course.
However, as I progressed in the MID, I noticed that I really enjoyed the research part. It's very similar to what I already did, and I like it a lot.
So, I thought about searching for job opportunities to see what would happen. Without expectations.
I did get called to a few recruiting processes but didn't get a job offer – as I still had so much to learn. It's frustrating but normal. We have to keep trying.
When I saw the job opportunity I'm in now, I had zero expectations because it was a great position in a very cool company with good values and culture.
I decided to apply, but without creating expectations and staying calm.
During the process, I was always very transparent with them. I said I had experience in consulting and market intelligence, but UX was still very new to me. I also made sure to say I was very willing to learn.
The process progressed, and I was very happy to get the job! It was a great experience!
What were your learnings during all the recruitment processes?
I think the most important thing was how to create my portfolio, and for that, I used the MID projects.
I knew the portfolio would be my introduction letter, so I had to do my best with it.
I saw many examples of other people's portfolios, researched to understand what recruiters are looking for, and it helped me a lot.
Another thing that helped me was being transparent. I always made it clear what my skills and weaknesses were. In my case, I never hid that I didn't have much experience in UX yet.
I think it was important to start slowly and be willing to be flexible.
Before transitioning to UX, I led teams, had a good position, and all that. But I was willing to start from the bottom, to go back a few steps.
How has it been working with UX Design?
I absolutely love it!
Working with something you enjoy doesn't feel like work anymore; it's like a hobby, something you love to do.
I'm currently working remotely, and almost the entire team is in different countries. So, the exchange and contact with these people is very interesting.
It's also great to start putting into practice everything I had seen in theory until then.
Another cool thing is that the team is always supportive. I have the freedom to speak up and ask for help. If I don't feel comfortable doing something for the first time, I ask and raise my hand.
This possibility of being transparent is very good!
For the type of company I'm working for, I recommend 100%. These companies are more dynamic, young, with a mindset of creating impact, of doing something good for society. This is great, and I really like it.
What advice would you give to individuals who want to pursue an international position?
In Spanish, we say "tirarse a la piscina," which would be something like "Jump in!" You have nothing to lose.
Even if you feel your English could be better, remember that the person listening to you will understand even if you're not fluent.
So, I think it's important to try and have a more open-minded and willing attitude toward everything on the way. Don't be afraid.
What advice would you give to your past self, considering your path until switching to UX Design?
I would tell her not to be afraid and that everything will work out!
Today, after everything, it's easy to observe my story as a success story. But I had a lot of anxiety, doubts, and questions about my decisions.
I was leaving behind a good professional trajectory to take a risk in something I didn't know if it would work.
Mentally, it was an intense challenge. It is important to understand that if you don't feel good, it's because there is still a path to take. Keep going because, at some point, things will end well.
I would tell myself: I'm scared and anxious, but this will pass, I will be successful, and with an interesting story!