Hey Rachel, care to share a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Rachel. I’m a product designer currently based out of San Diego. In a previous life, I was a teacher for the New York City Department of Education and did research for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Monument. I own a cat and a turtle and I enjoy reading, making art and growing tomatoes on my porch.
Can you tell us what you do as a Product Designer at Microsoft for those who are unfamiliar?
As a product designer I get to dabble in all of the different parts of the design process. I’ve conducted research, participated in design sprints, mocked up screens, created prototypes and conducted usability testing. My day to day varies depending on the direction my team is pursuing at the moment and where I’m needed to pitch in. I also work closely with developers, other designers and product managers to do my work.
How did you decide to pursue your specific career?
I was looking to transition from teaching into a career where I could exercise a little more creativity but also still interact with people. I came across UX/UI design and I found that it had a lot of similar soft skills to teaching. A friend recommended I try the Designlab bootcamp to see if I liked it and a year and a portfolio later I resigned from teaching and started to pursue design work full time. I got my lucky break when I came across Microsoft’s LEAP apprenticeship program. It’s a program that sources and recruits non-traditional talent such as career changers and people entering the work force having taken time away to be caregivers. I applied and was accepted into the inaugural user experience design cohort. I spent a month in the classroom learning about design at Microsoft and then another five months working alongside the OneNote team. At the end of my apprenticeship I was given an opportunity to interview and was hired for a spot at OneNote.
What made you interested in your field? What do you like about it?
I think what is most interesting to me about the field is how much effort goes into a design. There are so many steps and stakeholders along the way before you ship a design and even then, it needs to be tweaked and adjusted based on changing needs and how your users respond to it. It’s easy to overlook how much thought and time go into making sure users have a good experience and it’s exciting to be a part of making it happen.
Any advice on how to stand out and get hired for those starting off?
The best advice I can give to designers is to keep at it. Design is a moving target. The tools we use are constantly changing and people are always innovating. It’s important to keep practicing and learning and communicating what you’ve learned to others.
3 Character traits that would make someone excel in your field
Curiosity, humility, the ability to communicate.
Most difficult thing about your job?
It’s important to be able to remove yourself from your designs. It isn’t personal if someone critiques your designs or if the designs need to change based on new information. It’s important not to get too attached.
What would you like to say to your younger self?
Try not to settle on your first ideas. Your first ideas won’t be your best ideas. It’s also important to get input from other designers. You can learn a lot from people around you.
Best advice you've received/heard?
Update your portfolio even if you’re not currently looking for a job. By the time you are looking for another job you may not necessarily remember everything you did when you go to write up your case study.
Any last thoughts, advice, or recommendations for someone who wants to become a Product Designer?
There isn’t one pathway to learn about product design. One of the things that makes the work so rich is the diversity of the people that contribute to it. If you want to learn about design and you’re in the position to do so, go for it. There’s plenty of resources out there to whet your appetite and figure out if its the right career for you.