Hi Minjun, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi, my name is Minjun. I’m a UX designer at Amazon, working on growth and engagement for Prime members. Living in Seattle with my 2-year old kitty (his name is Kirby), I enjoy hanging out with my friends and looking for a great latte in the local coffee shop. Also, I play Animal Crossing and Super Smash Bros A LOT on Switch.
Can you tell us what you do as a UX Designer at Amazon for those who are unfamiliar?
I guess most of you’ve already known about Amazon Prime - hopefully, you’re already a Prime member as well. I’m working on multiple initiatives that focus on helping our Prime members understand the value of our membership and engage with our Prime benefits.
I work closely with different partner teams, ranging from product managers, engineers, UX writers and researchers, brand and visual designers, legal teams, and project stakeholders from other Amazon’s departments. Presenting my design work is a very crucial skill to receive feedback, to get alignment, and to keep moving forward with our collaborative projects.
How did you decide to pursue design?
I was growing up in an environment where my mom was a fashion designer and my dad enjoyed painting in his free time. I naturally picked up drawing as my skill set and became a very “talented student” in the art classes.
However, I was not quite sure I would become an artist in the future since I thought I was not artistic enough. In 2011, my friend who studied at Indiana University Bloomington went back to China, and told me: ”Minjun, I think you’re a great fit for this major called Human-Computer Interaction.” At that time, I saw HCI as a career where I could leverage my art skills to design elegant interfaces in the tech industry. Then, how to pursue a degree in HCI and how to become a UX/product designer became the career goal I’d love to pursue.
Although I studied Chinese Literature in my college, I had to work on my essays while looking for any opportunities in learning and practicing design. Fortunately, I got a graphic design intern opportunity in a local magazine where I started to learn and become familiar with these digital design tools. At the same time, I was working hard to get higher scores on English exams and my application materials to apply for HCI schools in the U.S.
In 2017, I went to Seattle to pursue my master’s degree in HCI at the University of Washington. After graduation, I landed my first job as a product designer in an early-stage startup in Boston. I was fortunate to get mentorship from my design managers and mentors who gave me tons of advice, encouragement, and trust to help me grow throughout my early career.
What programs & tools do you use everyday for work? What do you like/dislike about these programs?
I’m using Figma or Sketch. I prefer Figma to Sketch since it’s very easy for our teams to collaborate and leave comments in Figma.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
1. Practice, practice, and practice. Practice the whiteboard sessions, behavior questions, and portfolio presentation with your classmates, friends, and mentors to make improvements. It won’t be an easy task in the very beginning. I’m sure the more you’re practicing, the more you will become comfortable during the interviews.
2. Storytelling. Crafting a story is a key to make yourself stand out from other candidates during any kinds of design interviews. You’re the hero to solve problems and challenges in your story. And you’re the person who crafts the storyline to present your skills in visual design, interaction design, product thinking, and collaboration.
3. Stay positive. Write down your reflections, what worked well, what didn’t work well, after each interview. Over time, you will develop your strategy and unique story on how to answer these typical interview questions.
What are some must-have resources (books, tools, podcasts, etc.) you would recommend for your industry?
I have a list of podcasts I enjoy:
How I Built This
Masters of Scale
What are 3 character traits that would make someone excel in your field?
Humble, persistent, growth mindset
Most satisfying & difficult thing about your job?
Most satisfying- solving real human problems and humanizing the technology
Most difficult- trying to get alignment with 10+ cross-functional teams
What would you like to say to your younger self?
When I look back on my experiences, I am prouder of my failures, mistakes and setbacks than of my accomplishments. I failed my English exams. I got rejected from my dream university, twice. My student visa was rejected. I got laid off from my first full-time job.
These difficult experiences have helped me grow and realize my potential. They have taught me a lot about myself and will tell you more about me than any job title I have or university I attended. From getting rejected, I learnt that I am resilient, and that I can think on my feet when things don’t go according to plan.
Best advice you've received/heard?
The advice my dear mentor shared with me: "Once I got clear on a single goal, I spent years and years focusing on that one goal...how to be a better product designer. Everything else is nice to have but not important."