How to Make A Career Change: From Programmer to UI Designer

Many advice out there spoken that become a designer who can code have always been attractive to some employers, they even call it a unicorn. What if a computer system student like me, who learn how code in class but landed a job as a user interface designer? What do they call me?

“If you don’t like where you are, then change it.

You’re not a tree.”

Buckle up, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Let’s Get Started

Currently, I am a last-year college student majoring in Computer Information System (CIS) that require me to master computer database and network system.

But in the past few months, I’ve started my career in User Interface (UI) design. As people keep asking me about my career choice and how I landed a job in UI design even without any prior work experience and degree yet, I want to share my story about choice I made and lesson I learned to ignite those who wish to follow their passion whether in design or whatever it is.

Down A Dark Road

Down to the dark road

As a CIS student, sometimes I feel like my brain isn’t capable enough to solve any code problems.

People got me wrong when they thought I was a black hat ninja like Mr.Robot when I spent many hours in my room facing at my computer screen. No, I am not.

I love photography instead of writing thousand line of codes or sitting in front of my computer from dawn to dusk. I have a lot of freelance projects in photography that demand me to be creative in order to make an outstanding shot.

But then, I wasn’t enjoying my work. I was deeply unfulfilled. I felt like my work was not making any difference.

I thought that was not the career path that I wanted to invest in the future. Because I felt like I wasn’t using my full potential. People have a hobby, and I just consider photography as my hobby.

Yet, I didn’t have a clue what else I could do.

What do I really want to do with my life after this?

I Saw A Dim of Light in A Crossroad

“It’s Google”

No, I was not trying to Google the answer of a never ending question “What do I really want to do with my life after this?”

I started grabbing coffee with my friends who mostly work in creative industries from various disciplines to get an inspiration to many jobs available in the creative industry — illustrator, tattoo artist, graphic designer, product designer, UX designer, web designer, and UI designer.

One of their job who interest me was UI Designer. I asked many questions to them about what their job exactly is and tried to imagine myself living in their life. Would I enjoy interface design task? Is there a promising career path?

But then after done talking and stealing knowledge from multiple designers, I was assured. Since user interface is about creating beautiful masterpiece, problem solving and inspiring people, which is fit to my interest.

See, Learn, & Try

As I told you before, that Google is pretty much a dim of light when I started to jump into UI design. I enroll many online UI courses that improve the way I design now.

With minimal experience about creating some UI elements, after studying and watching lot of theory I’m trying to remake some UI with my own study case. I make my self comfortable with every pixel of UI elements, every inch of layouting, every details of flow and making my self feel enjoyable with software I used to.

Finding the enjoyable software is like looking for girlfriend. Then I decided to become Sketch user, where I feel this software can make me faster to do my list. Thanks Sketch.

Show Your Work

I’ve read a book called “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon, a great book that told me about showing what you’ve done.

And don’t forget to find right mentors and friends who already in this business before. Then start discussions, get some feedback about your works, be open for critics and you’ll learn new things.

Show your work in your community will make a great impact, got a lot of critics that make you better, improve your skill, and you can found a lot of inspiration.

As a novice designer, looking for inspiration in Pinterest is a must and I decided to show my work in Dribbble.

I started to remake some UI and analyze the UX, remaking something that already exist is the basic experience in this field to show your taste about design. One of my practice was remaking Apple Music, because I felt that Apple Music wasn’t in the right way.

It’s A Beautiful Journey

Time flies, I think I’m ready to join this industry but I still got a problem “I don’t have any professional experience” so how can I got a job? Then I had a talk with my old man, Reza Budi Prabowo

“I consider myself as a craftsman. I don’t care less about how much I’m getting paid. As long as it’s enough, I’m good. It’s more about the purpose of spending the time to make the product.”

Creative industry is one of the fastest growing industry, with lot of creative and experienced people. And as a novice to get a chance to join in this industry is a gift. Take every chance you have and don’t think how much you getting paid as it’s enough. That’s good. As a new kid experience is everything. Think get a job first then lets create beautiful masterpiece.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost

Long short story now here I am at uxmarker, a digital product design advisory as Junior UI Designer and get involved in many design projects for startups and enterprises. This is not only about design thing but also about critical thinking, usability testing, and how-to-work in a system.

Considering my little experience in it, I am really honored and excited joining such a great team. Thanks for the opportunity, time to make something beautiful!

Edited and enhanced: Angga Pradikta

uxmarker was founded with one mission mind: creating the best and most reliable user-centered design for our clients. Here in our HQ, we deal with a wide range of design avenues on every product platform. To ensure a satisfying product experience, our dedicated team generate data from curated user research methods and analyze them to find and fix various design obstacles. With our ingenious ideas and tested skill, we believe we can help make your products a pleasure to work with.

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