Academy Xi Blog

The fireside chat transcripts: I’m a UX Designer–Ask Me Anything!

By Academy Xi

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Here’s the transcript of the latest Q&A in Academy Xi’s Fireside Chat series. We met with Senior UX UI Designer Sylvia Xu Connor and discussed what it’s like being a UX designer, the current UX industry landscape, the UX interview process, and much, much more.

We also got the chance to answer some of our audience’s burning questions and trust us, whether you’re a seasoned UX Designer or an upcoming junior in the design world, Sylvia delivers the goods, and we had a blast! Enjoy!

Academy Xi (event host):  Our guest today took the human-centred and digital design route after 15 years in the fashion industry. She graduated from our UX UI Design Transform course last year and is now helping to deliver cloud communications as a senior UX UI designer at Symbio. In addition to her striking portfolio, she also serves as a speaker and mentor to our emerging designers here at Academy Xi, and recently hired two of our UX design grads to work with her! Please welcome Sylvia Xu Connor. 

Sylvia: Hi, everybody! 

Academy Xi: To start, can you introduce yourself and take us through the journey that led you to UX and UI Design?

Sylvia: I’ve been a [fashion] designer for many, many years. I have a Bachelor of Design from UTS, but realised that UX UI is such an end-to-end process. Even though it was a relatively new term to me at that stage in my career, I realised that everybody goes through UX UI to some degree, whether you start as a designer and have that massive design background or you don’t. 

Because UX is about problem solving and as you get older there are many, many situations –  I’m sure everybody will relate to this –  that you would need to solve a problem, and how you would solve that problem is the UX process. And UI I suppose, comes hand in hand with how you appreciate visual hierarchy and things like that so there’s a lot of graphic designers who also transition into UI. It’s a very natural progression, I did a lot of graphic design work as well in my design career. So to me, UX UI is something that’s always been within me, in my spirit, but never solidly considered until recently.

Academy Xi: What was your motivation going into this industry? 

Sylvia: It’s lovely for me at this stage of my life because I’ve got two young kids and you get a little bit of freedom back when you’re not on the road, going into a physical studio. 

UX work can be done anywhere in the world, because it’s all about problem solving and if you are online, you can solve a problem. 

Sylvia Xu Connor

Academy Xi:  We have a lot of potential students here, and some people who are interested in breaking into the industry. You finished the UX UI design course with us last year. Can you take us through what skills or major takeaways you got from this course?

Sylvia: I think what’s important about the course is that it gives you a really good overview from start to finish of what the whole design process looks like. Many people will come in and reaffirm what they already know. Deep down it’s a venue for them to solidify the idea in their head that they already know what they could do to solve a problem, and then apply that in an end-to-end design process. 

You can learn some fresh skills, such as collaborating in a team. A lot of people are really collaborating in teams, whether you are in the design team, or you have been working at a hospital. The course lets you finish a project from end-to-end, so you can have a really good understanding and overview of the design process.

Academy Xi: You mentioned end-to-end projects. Can you tell us a little bit about the projects that you’ve worked on? I hear that you’ve worked with some clients as well during your time with Academy Xi. Can you talk more about that?

Sylvia:  Yeah, I was given this wonderful opportunity whereby we worked with EndeavourX who were such a wonderful team of people and really great with feedback. We were given the opportunity to look at their career site, suggest some changes and make improvements. We were able to survey the people looking to move into tech that fit within the client’s age range. It was really good, because we had a problem to solve and we took a step back and looked at how we could solve that problem by getting validation from the target audience.  So that was one of the projects. 

The other project was also with EndeavourX. We were tasked with looking at their current chatbot and how to make it more engaging. 

Both these projects were just fantastic and helped me springboard into my current career. Even though I came from a design background, with these client projects you could just show what you can do very, very quickly, in a short amount of time - it’s something concrete.

Sylvia Xu Connor

Academy Xi:  Absolutely – it’s so important to build a portfolio especially at the beginning of your career. How long did it actually take you to finish your course and then land that job at Symbio?

Sylvia: It was funny because I started the course during the Sydney lockdown. It was just timing, you know? Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time. I didn’t want to commute into the city every single day, which came with my old design job. 

Serendipity wise, I started the course and I did the Transform course which is three months. It was hectic. It was hard work. I expected it to be hard, and it was hard. So the expectation was there versus the reality and I got everything I needed out of it. 

I put in the hard yards and learnt new software. Let’s be open minded about software because they are tools. And what a great way to be introduced to tools if you haven’t been using a lot of software, right?

From start to finish, [the course took] three months and I started looking to apply with different companies and I got a couple of job offers pretty much as soon as I finished. Within a week, I had a couple of concrete choices to deep dive into and make a good decision about where I wanted to go. 

Academy Xi: How about some of your colleagues who were in the class with you? How are they doing? 

Sylvia: I’m still really good friends with all of them. There were six of us who finished the transform course and from start to finish, we’re just such good mates. I think that the key ingredient to having a good design team is to actually really value and trust each other. 

Everyone’s going to be good at different things, and so it’s really important to build that relationship whereby you trust that the other person is going to do their job. Obviously, there’s  a healthy amount of discussion. They’re all doing really well, I believe most of them have landed jobs. 

Academy Xi: Lots of prospective students ask us “How do I pivot or transition into a career, such as UX UI design, if I don’t come from a design background? What skills or mindset do I need to have as a junior UX designer?”.

Sylvia: That’s a very common question and I think something that could potentially put a lot of people off transitioning into a design career. UX Design is primarily about problem solving and about validation and, as I mentioned earlier, anyone could have those skills. From the day you’re born, you’re problem solving. Believe it or not, even though you might not think you’re a good problem solver, you really are! 

You’ve got lots of problems and you have to find different routes into thinking – “how am I going to solve this problem?”. Normally it’s by trial and error. 

So trial and error would be your testing. You trial something to see if the idea that you’ve got to solve a problem works. And you should be able to get validation very quickly, if you test it with the right people. 

So having a problem-solving mindset is the best thing you can do as an aspiring UX Designer.

Sylvia Xu Connor

Academy Xi: So it’s about having that open mindset and always being empathetic? 

Sylvia: Empathy is so important. There’s not going to be many UX designers who are not empathetic because it’s so fundamental to being a good UX designer. 

If you are an empathetic person, you’re going to look at a product and say “what are the pain points that are currently in this product?”. 

You’re going to ask the people who are using a product and really try to understand where they’re coming from. As soon as you understand that there is a problem to solve and you really try and get into the mindset of what it is that they’re struggling with, then you’re going to be able to offer a better solution.

Academy Xi:  That’s right – it’s all about putting yourself in the user’s shoes. Let’s shift gears a little bit – what’s happening in the Australian market right now in terms of UX? Can you paint us a picture of the big and small challenges of the industry?

Sylvia: I think we’re probably not as mature as overseas in terms of the understanding of what UX can bring to the table. I know that UX arrived early in the States and in Europe. And a lot of companies in Australia because of COVID they’ve been pushed into thinking more about “how do I get my product that already exists into the digital world and then into the hands of people who are always on their phones, their laptops, their tablets?”. 

I think in that way, the challenge would be really about educating businesses to know the value of UX and what UX can bring to the table.

Sylvia Xu Connor

Academy Xi: And how does that relate to the number of jobs that are out there in the market for UX designers? 

I think there’s going to be a snowball effect. The more UX designers get into the job market, the more that they will be able to stay at the top of the hill.  They’ll add value to a business and that business will show another business that, “Oh hey, I’ve got ‘UX’ on my side and we’re growing really well and very healthily”. More companies will be inspired to hire UX UI designers. In that way, I believe it will have a snowball effect. 

To answer your first question on how and what the job prospects are, they’re good. It’s certainly better than it was even 12 months ago, but the challenge is still there because businesses don’t know what they don’t know. If they don’t know anything about UX, then they don’t think they need UX. It would be like a constant education piece.

Academy Xi: We often have people ask us what’s a typical day in the life of a UX designer. Can you give us an example of your work day from start to finish?

Sylvia : Oh gosh! Lots and lots of meetings, because you’re always collaborating, and not just with other UX designers. If you’re lucky enough to work in a design team then you would collaborate a lot with other designers that specialise in different stages of the UX UI cycle. 

But if you are not as lucky to work in a design team and you are a one-man band, you’re doing end-to-end design work–that’s also good because you get to experience the whole lot. But it doesn’t mean you’re not collaborating. You’ll be collaborating with your product manager, product owner, the back-end engineers, front-end engineers. 

There’s a lot of collaboration. UX is not in its own bubble.

Sylvia Xu Connor

Academy Xi: For sure – it’s all about collaborating and making sure that everything works together, because then you’re balancing user needs with business needs and seeing what’s feasible, right? 

Sylvia: And what is possible with technology – can you build what you and the business want to build for the client? If you imagine the venn diagram, you’d be sitting in the middle as a UX designer –  designing a product that the business needs, the user wants, and what is possible technology-wise to deliver.

Below are questions from our audience ranging from career, salary, software, skills, and more. 

Audience question: I am considering a career change, at 38 years old. I am currently a learning designer, writing assessments and curriculum for Universities. I am a photographer, so I seek creative jobs. What advice would you give me to calm the fears I have about starting anew with really no background/ experience, but hopefully some transferable skills? My plan is to start the Transform course with Academy Xi and I’m just doing some research to build my confidence. I’m also studying a short course in Figma but I’m nervous.

Sylvia: Hi there! I think that’s a valid question and certainly it warrants the amount of research that you have already been doing, because research is your best friend. I think you definitely have a lot of transferable skills. Don’t forget a lot of UX skills are actually soft skills. You seem like you have a lot of those. 

As a learning designer you need to talk to the people that you are designing the learning material for, so you already have the right background, believe it or not.

And then also you’re upskilling in Figma and any software that certainly helps because if you are going to be into design, you need to obviously solve a problem. But how you show the solution would be down to how well you’ve grasped the tools, so I think it’s definitely a really good move to try and upskill in Figma and any other software, because when you use one software, you’re more adaptable to using any other software that comes along. 

Audience question: What could I develop further which is not covered in the Academy Xi course, which could help for transitioning from a student to UX UI designer?

Sylvia: So I think a lot of the time, it’s very valuable to be able to grasp the tools, because that is something very concrete and you can demonstrate your capabilities straight away. For example, your portfolio is going to look amazing. And also, you might be given a design challenge when you first go into a lot of job interviews. If you grasp the tools really well, that would definitely be an advantage.

[Academy Xi: What tools specifically?]

Sylvia: Figma, definitely. Miro would be another one that is used industry-wide. Figjam and Miro are whiteboarding tools. They would be the ones that I’d be looking for specifically and then the other added bonus would be Adobe Creative suite. A lot of graphic designers are whizzes in Adobe Creative Suite. I am because I come from that sort of background, but I think it just really helps top-up your software skills. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but if you’re looking for something extra that would be what I would look at.

Audience question: Is it reasonable to expect resistance to human-centred design as opposed to business or process centred?  Also, given the niche market of UX right now, is it expected that you will do everything with the end-to-end process including UI?

Sylvia: I think it depends on the business and how mature the UX function is. While you’re studying it is probably really important to look at UX UI as a holistic design process, whereby you should try to do it all. And then I think, as you mature as a designer you’re probably going to realise and really understand yourself a little bit better what you excel in and then focus on that.

It’s really, really important that you understand that you can’t do everything, and that you really need to try and get knowledge from other experts that might have better insights.  For example, if you are a UX-heavy designer, you are really great at research and problem solving and not so good at tools, try and really feed off your colleagues who might be better at tools and don’t think “I can do it all”, because maybe someone else has got better ideas than you.

[Academy Xi: Absolutely, it is all about teamwork.]

Audience question: Do you have any advice/tips for what to include in a portfolio and also what to avoid putting into a portfolio?

Sylvia: I think it depends on what it is that you’re looking for. So if you are thinking you are going to go heavy on UX because that’s what you really want to do as opposed to UI, then you really need to show your thinking process in your portfolio. It might not be as pretty or polished as a UI portfolio but it doesn’t certainly doesn’t stop you from making your portfolio, top to tail, design process plus extremely polished-looking, look good. 

You really need to understand what your strengths are and how you want to sell yourself in this end-to-end process, so, as I said, if you think that you are going to be quite a UX-focused designer, and this is the type of roles that you want to go for, really show how you approach a problem and show all the data or the insights that you get from looking at a problem and then try to show that in your portfolio. 

Audience question: How many case studies do you recommend to have in my portfolio as a beginner who is looking for a job in the UX industry?

Sylvia: Probably no more than six. Mainly because a lot of hiring managers are really busy, and they’re looking at a lot of portfolios. As well as reading CVs as well as doing their jobs. So I would say, quality over quantity for sure. 

Audience question: How much did your website and case studies help you land your current role?

Sylvia: That’s a good question! I don’t know because I didn’t hire myself (laughs), but what I think happened was that I certainly had what I thought was going to get me an interview, and I think it’s only a springboard to how well you’re going to do in an interview. The portfolio is not your be all and end all, because you would still need to do well in the interviews. And it’s during the interviews you need to get across how well you can explain your design process and what you could bring to the business.

Audience question: I see a number of people on LinkedIn saying that they have been looking for jobs for months and starting to get deflated. What do you think could be the reason? Is there anything as a soon-to-be UX designer that I could do to avoid this long wait for my first gig?

Sylvia: I would say, keep at it, but maybe try something different so don’t keep doing the same thing. In the way that you know if you never refresh your portfolio, then perhaps if it’s not going to get you noticed six months ago, it’s not going to get you noticed now, so try different things and see if any of them stick. 

Keep doing the projects, I know that there is some volunteer work around UX in Australia and I think from what I hear these volunteer work can help you basically bump up your skills.

While you’re looking for a job, I know it sometimes can be really difficult to work for free, but I think as a designer who’s been working for many years, I have done my fair share of free work as well, because I know that, eventually, it would lead to something but also look at it as a way to practice your skills and perhaps once you get hired, it would all be worth it. 

Audience question: The full-time course recommends 25-30 hours per week. You mentioned the more you put into it, the better the outcomes. Would you recommend allocating more time than that recommendation to get the most out of the course? If so, how much more? I am balancing part-time study and work.

Sylvia: That’s like seven hours a day which is a full day of office work. I would say, I did more than that. Yeah so serendipity, as I said. What happened was it was during the entire Sydney lockdown, I really had nothing else to do except to just be in my house and do my projects. 

So I suppose, maybe, it’s not fair to compare but I also have young kids and personal responsibilities but I am also very goal-orientated. So I knew that if I just put in the hard work now, three months down the end is what makes it all worth it. 

So I would probably say it’s fair to say that I stopped my life for about three months, and I just went really hard in the course. Any skill that you pick up is good, it’s going to be beneficial to you.

Having said that it’s not required, you know, like it’s not something that someone is going to look over your shoulder and say you haven’t put in enough work, but I think the quality of work speaks for itself after the course, because whatever it is that you put in your portfolio or or at the interview process, you might just be able to explain your process a little bit better–if you actually might be a fit or like, went above and beyond, during the course.

Audience question: I’m 24 years old, wanting to change my career from medicine/sports science to UX UI Design, so I essentially have limited experience. My greatest concern is getting a job after completing a UX UI Transform course as someone with less experience in design. What are the key skills (both technical and soft) that you think employers search for?

Sylvia: Great question. The junior designer that I’ve got on board comes from a podiatry background. 

I would say he’s brilliant at his job because from day to day, while being a podiatrist, he was diagnosing problems, you know, he was talking to people about how they were feeling. What hurts, what we could do to make it better, those are kind of all the things that you do as a UX designer anyway! So obviously having the people skills really helps.

It just gives you that extra level of being able to ask someone openly about what are the pain points, for example. Do not be discouraged, because you definitely have something to bring to the table.

Also, work on Figma! Because it’s tangible. You can look online and look on YouTube and learn, it’s something that you can actually do. Whereas you know if I say to someone who’s perhaps not the biggest extrovert, improve your people skills–it’s harder to grasp how that could help (or how to even do that). But anyone can learn to work on software.

Audience question: What job titles are you able to apply for as soon as you finish a UX course and what’s the range of pay for beginners? I would also like to ask about the range of pay from beginner to a seasoned UX design and how fast or slow is the progression.

Sylvia: I think it’s not a one-size-fits-all question and it’s a very case-by-case basis. I would think that if you have no design background and you come out, you might be a little bit more handicapped to look for a senior position, a UX position, rather than starting at a junior mid-level. 

However, having said that, I’ve heard people coming out with no design background and then going straight into a senior job because they could explain the design thinking process and they’re at the right place at the right time, with the company looking for something very specific that they could give.

I think it’s really a case by case basis and really hard to answer! So I’m sorry if I kind of skirted around that question. 

In terms of pay, again, case by case basis, but if you’re starting as a junior UX designer, I would say the benchmark of a junior UX designer would be more than what you would get as a graphic designer, that is an industry benchmark.

Audience question: As a UX designer how much work do you do remotely at home in comparison to in person? 

Sylvia: I would say, as a UX designer you probably would be able to do all your work remotely. However, it would be up to the company to implement any sort of mandate to come to the office normally during team days. Sometimes you do get a little bit more out of a collaborative space if you’re all together socialising and doing a bit of work as well.

Audience question: Are there any tips, advice or insight, you can give regarding the interview process for UX design role and what can we do to prepare? 

Sylvia: Make sure you are as approachable as possible and as empathetic as possible, because they’re going to ask you whatever they want to ask. Aim yourself with the knowledge of how you solve a problem and how you approach your testing. How you solve a problem is possibly what they’re really interested in.

Academy Xi: Thank you so much Sylvia, you shared your story with us today, and I think you’ve shared a lot of really interesting insights about the industry and how to break into it, especially for anyone who is a novice in UX and UI. 

We’ve all learned a lot, I learned a lot today, and I hope that all of you here on the call as well have been able to take something away from Sylvia’s story.

Kick start your career and gain in-demand skills with our 100% online UX UI Design course.  

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Julie Dal Santo

By Academy Xi

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After working for years in Human Resources, Julie was looking for something new to study to reclaim her ‘professional mojo’. Little did Julie know at the time, but training in User Experience Design was going to lead to her leaving her profession and starting up her own successful enterprise. 

What was happening for you before studying at Xi? What made you decide to sign up?

At the time, I had been working for about six years in my HR role, had two babies while working there and had loved it. Then there was a leadership change at work and an evolution across Human Resources in terms of employee experience, which I found really interesting. The human element really resonated with me: the connection and feeling, instead of it being just a transactional cyclical process. 

I had started to feel that lull in my career moment. I’m a big advocate for continuous learning and improvement and for not necessarily sticking to a linear approach. When we hear and learn from different perspectives we can broaden our own thinking, and spark creativity. So with that in mind, one of my incredible mentors and I workshopped a couple of areas I might be interested in learning more about. She was the first person to actually mention User Experience (UX) Design and Academy Xi, and had heard that it was well regarded and took a more innovative approach in terms of being practical and industry-led compared to a lot of other training options on the market. Xi put more focus on the skills and knowledge required on the job and was more relevant to the wider industry.

I looked around and did some of my own research. Looking at what Xi was offering, I really loved the principles of UX Design. What resonated the most was the project in terms of setting a problem statement and then looking at the practical sense of solving the problem – but with a focus on the human element of that journey. 

So I signed up to UX UI Design Elevate. I had just fallen pregnant with my third child at the time and work got really busy. The flexibility that Xi gave in terms of course start dates and the training itself made it easier to find a way to make it happen. 

What was your course experience like?

I was 25 weeks pregnant and working 4 days a week when I started the course. It was crazy but really energising. It was a challenge and if it was easy, everyone would do these things. But it aligned with my values, it was great. 

There were about 12-15 of us in our cohort and what kept me going was our two instructors, Berlin and Pedro. They were working in the field and had very practical, tangible advice. Their love and passion and interest in teaching really shone through. The course content was amazing, but to also be taught by people who are really passionate about what they do, it’s their bread and butter, it really just pushes you along. 

I’m not from a tech background and they opened my eyes. The support that they gave and the way they went about their teaching was extremely engaging and made it really enjoyable. They were both incredible. Very generous with their time. When people really know their subject matter intimately, they’re able to truly break it down and simplify it. It was a wonderful experience.

Can you recall any highlights within the training or content?

The user testing session we ran. I was really skeptical initially. It’s a good reminder – asking people and letting people talk uninterrupted instead of making assumptions. 

We had completed our prototype and then had to sit down and do user testing. Everyone brought a friend and we gave them our spiel and the instructions.  They then went through the prototype process, pressing the buttons, navigating what we had designed. 

I thought my product was great and it made complete sense.  I’d spoken to like minded people, they were all on board. Then there was this wave of phenomenal feedback from the user testing session! I’ve incorporated and held on to that even after the business has launched – I still go back and look over some of that feedback. 

As humans, we tend to assume that people either know something or have a similar experience to ourselves, and that we’ve thought of everything. We look for confirmation bias and we like being right, but the power of observation is so important – just ask the question and don’t interrupt.

Did you work on a real-life project within your training?

We could come up with our own personal problem statement that could be the basis for our project and prototype. For me, at the time, I was mulling over three different problems and I wanted to make sure that it was real life and practical. I chose a performance review process and my problem statement was:

 How might we empower employees to own and drive their lifetime career performance, feedback and development so that they are not constrained by organisational processes, timing and data management?”. 

Performance review is a process that many people have gone through across different organisations. So many people put so much effort into preparing for these conversations and getting some kind of rating as a result. All of that information goes somewhere – and it might not be recalled or ever used again. 

How do we empower them? I wanted to build a solution that would address that.

And that was the catalyst for your business, My Career Capital?

Yes. The problem statement I came up with for the project within my course has grown. I presented it at the end of the ten week training to a panel and there was a lady from a recruitment agency who commented on it, said it was a wonderful idea and product and then just before I had my baby I caught up with a few people and told them what I had been working on in the course and they were really supportive. They said that they loved the concept.

By this point, after the course, my focus was having my baby. About six months later I started having conversations about the idea again. At that point I wasn’t certain if I would be returning to my HR role either. 

We are more than our jobs – the moment you start identifying as being your job, that can be problematic in a number of ways. I think once you learn new things and have different experiences, it broadens your view of what is possible and expands the value you can add. I wanted to explore a little bit more. I began reconnecting and nurturing some of my network relationships and they really encouraged me to pursue this as well. So it started from the project at Academy Xi and it has now turned into a startup business. 

Can you give us an overview of what My Career Capital is about?

My Career Capital is a one-stop, all-inclusive platform to help you design, manage and grow your career, your way. 

The essence of what we do is giving individuals (all types of workers) and employers practical, tangible tools to build their know-how around managing themselves and their career capital. This is transformational and critical for one to navigate the future of work. 

How do we do it? It’s where users create, use and own an innovative personalised digital portfolio of their career capital to enhance employment outcomes and career potential. It can help them achieve their career potential and boost their success and fulfilment throughout their career. 

The biggest change in mindset within the current world of work we live in, is a push for individuals to take ownership of themselves and their career.

New research is showing the patterns of how people are career shifting – not necessarily staying within the same industries or organisations longer term but actually moving on every three to seven years. That’s huge for those just coming out of university at the moment, at the early stage of their career, having to continue to evolve. 

The ability for those early in their careers to navigate those transitions is all about learning how to manage themselves and their portfolio, so they can manage their transition more seamlessly, whether it’s a promotion they’re going for or a change in direction.

Research is also showing that if you want to be at the top of your game and be an industry leader, you need to be doing five hours of learning a week. It’s 2-3 hours just to stay relevant. Being active in our learning and knowing ourselves intimately can help us to navigate opportunities and challenges effectively.

Did you plan to start a business before training in UX?

Not at all. I came to study UX purely to get my mojo back, to immerse myself in something really interesting that would complement the skills I already had, but also to move me further along professionally. 

My mentor at the time was external to where I was working – which is really important to have someone outside of your work environment, to encourage diversity in thinking. I had no idea training in UX would result in me starting my own business. If someone had suggested that to me back then I wouldn’t have believed it and probably would’ve thought it was insane to even consider it. 

When you have the perspective and you can be the observer of yourself, you can make decisions that are more aligned with your values and therefore you have a higher sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. And that’s what has happened for me in studying UX Design and starting My Career Capital.

The brilliant thing with UX, is that it’s not job title or industry specific. This is where we need to break down those barriers. It didn’t matter that I was an HR professional without a tech background. The process is still the same, it’s how you go about applying it, that’s the beauty and the richness in the learning and what I found to be so interesting. 

Would you recommend studying UX Design?

The theme that is coming through is that a stronger human approach is needed, putting the human connection back into the processes many industries run. Human Resources for one, or any organisation working with people such as the legal industry or community projects, any role or industry that interacts with responsibility and accountability, I can’t advocate enough how important studying UX is. 

This process places you as an observer. You’re not making decisions all the time from your perspective. The process is very organic and pushes people to approach tasks and problems with more creativity. 

Feeling inspired yet? We are. Explore further the 5 reasons to invest in upskilling

If you think you might benefit from learning something new to help you in your role or side hustle, check out our range of Business, Design and Tech courses

Visit My Career Capital’s website and follow them on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Student Spotlight: Yuka Mochizuki

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Yuka Mochizuki

By Academy Xi

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UX UI Transform student, Yuka, managed to land herself a coveted role with Westpac before even completing her studies. We had a chat to discover more about her journey in the world of User Experience Design.

Student Spotlight: Yuka Mochizuki

Hi Yuka. How much longer have you got to go with your studies?

I’m over half way now in the full-time UX UI Design Transform course with Hayden Peters. I think I have about a month to go.

And you’ve already landed yourself a great job!

Yes, at Westpac. My job title is Service Designer, but it’s a mix of UX, UI, CX and service design. I’m currently working on youth banking. The UX UI Transform course has definitely given me the experience of what an end-to-end project is like. Now being in the workplace I’m learning how to apply it to the job at hand. The scale of the projects I’m working on is huge, but the training has provided me with a strong foundation. Unfortunately because of COVID I haven’t actually been into the office yet.

Hopefully that changes soon. Can you tell us a bit about life before Xi?

I was a university student – I graduated with a Bachelor of Design from UNSW in January this year (2021), majoring in Graphic Design. There was an interaction subject offered during my last year and I thought I’d just give it a try – it was something new. The process was interesting and really different from graphic or fashion design, where you’re given a brief and you do it. 

I was working as a junior print and graphic designer at my local printing shop while I studied and once I had graduated I felt like I was wasting my time. I wanted to advance further into my design career, but I didn’t know how to do it. I needed to do something to make that career shift happen. 

I looked online to see what was available training wise. Initially I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I thought about the interaction course I had done at uni that I really enjoyed, so I thought maybe I could try UX UI Design. 

How did you arrive at choosing Academy Xi for your training?

I decided to go with UX UI Transform at Academy Xi because I had a few friends who recommended this course specifically. I thought you know what, I’m just going to go with it. And here I am now studying – it has been great.

How have you found your training so far? Any highlights?

I was talking to the friends who recommended the course – the first of my friends is now a Product Designer, the course worked well for her and she spoke very highly of her instructor, Hayden. Another friend was doing the same course, part-time.  We were discussing the importance of teachers when you’re training in anything and how you want to have someone who is truly passionate about what they’re teaching – and the difference their enthusiasm can make to your experience. 

So I decided to go for the full-time option and off my friend’s recommendation I wanted to have Hayden as my instructor. I didn’t want to go part-time, I’d already spent three years at university doing my bachelor’s, I was ready to just get into it. 

“I went in with high expectations, which were all met. I totally understand why people recommend this course, and in particular, Hayden.”  – Yuka Mochizuki

With the first project taking place over seven weeks, we were learning about the design process as we were doing the actual assessment, and it has been really helpful. It refreshed my memory and validated a lot of things for me.

How did the job come about while studying?

With the graphic design industry it can be pretty frustrating because there are often roles pitched as ‘junior’ requiring more than two years of experience or skills that aren’t graphic design, like video editing or marketing or social media. I found it really hard to land anything in graphic design because of that. I didn’t want to be the person who did a million things. That’s not what I trained in.

I had been actively looking for jobs for the past two years, while I was studying graphic design at university and working at the print shop. I was searching on all the job sites and LinkedIn, I had all the email notifications set up. I’ve been proactive.

The Westpac role I landed was through Hatch. Each week they load new jobs, you answer some questions and do a small video of yourself. 

Did the training you completed help you land the Westpac job?

Yes, it was a major factor – it absolutely enabled me to get the job with Westpac. When I did the interview with them, I was about 75% through my first project – which was a mobile app for sustainability and recycling and featured a smart bin. 

I was prepared to answer standard interview questions, but the interviewer asked me to walk her through a digital project that I loved. So I was able to use my project. I took her through my work and discussed my design process, explaining that it was not yet complete, but that didn’t matter – she was really impressed with it. 

After a few days she put me in touch with others in her team that whoever would be successful in the interview process would be working with, so I got to talk with them as well. I feel that if it hadn’t been for this project within the UX UI Design Transform course, that I wouldn’t have been able to get the job. It gave me the chance to clearly demonstrate my skills and understanding of the full design process. 

Are you working with any mentors?

I have been paired with a mentor, Vikas Bhutani, through Academy Xi’s Designer-In-Residence program. He’s the CX UX Lead at Kmart and having him as a mentor is great. If I have any questions I note them down and take them to him. And since last year I have a mentor from Canva, as well as Hayden

Any other areas of study that interest you?

I think psychology. Being able to understand people and work with them in general. There are times when it’s really difficult to work with people – having that background would help. My dad’s studying it, so we have chats about different things.

Coming from three different backgrounds, I’m interested to know how culture could impact UX UI. I want to learn different things that can be added to my training.

I have the ambition to learn design outside of Australia too – places like New York or Amsterdam, or even Japan. Different cultures. Once everything is safer and we can travel again and I have a few years of experience, I might delve into that.

Once this course ends I might sign up as a mentor with Academy Xi.

Best of luck with your new role and the rest of your studies, Yuka! We hope you can get into the Westpac office soon (at the time of writing, Sydney was in extended lockdown).

I really find it beneficial – having someone there to guide me, especially if I don’t know how to do a certain thing. They give tips and ideas that you might not have heard of before. 

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Berlin Liew

By Academy Xi

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Being introduced to UX design was a defining moment for Berlin; one that changed her career path and set her on a journey of self discovery. Berlin spoke with us about her experience studying UX Design and her ongoing passion for mentoring.

What was happening in your life before Xi?

I worked in digital advertising as a media buyer for 6-7 years. A manager from a previous life had met up with the user experience design team at AGL and she got in touch with me as she thought that I would really like the industry. She said ‘I think it lends itself as a discipline to your skills and if you haven’t already looked into it, I really think that you should’. And for me that sparked a whole journey of self discovery and finding out what UX was – at that point I didn’t know anything about it. It was just an acronym to me. So that’s how it started.

I studied UX Elevate in 2018.

UX is just an acronym for many people. In your own words, how would you describe UX?

I haven’t quite nailed it yet, which I think speaks for itself. There’s not one definition of what UX is and it depends on who I am speaking to as to how much I break it down, but a go to description of what it is: ‘helping digital experiences feel less clunky, more user-friendly and intuitive based on the customers’ needs, but also balancing what the business’ needs are and what tech can build’

I think that’s the best explanation I can give – otherwise it can lend itself to terms that the public may not understand. I don’t think my definition is perfect, but I think it can explain to others what I do.

Can you tell us about your experience of studying at Xi?

I completed my training in-house in Melbourne part-time, with classes twice a week after work. It was sometimes pretty tough balancing study and working full time. I was working at an agency back then, servicing NAB as our client, that alone was quite time-consuming. I was very busy so it was challenging and I did my work on weekends. 

The more I studied UX, the more I fell in love with it and I soon had the goal to switch careers into the UX field. I pushed myself to work harder to achieve that outcome for myself. Regardless of how busy work got, I found the time to make the balance between study and my job work out. It was an intense few months for me because I couldn’t let the ball drop at work and I really didn’t want to waste the Xi opportunity either.

Did the training enable you to achieve your goal?

Yes, but not at my existing workplace. In advertising as a media planner and buyer, it’s very numerical and quantitative. That environment is a great training ground for spotting trends, data analytics and stakeholder management, all of which I took on board when I moved into UX. What the course taught me was how to dig in deep to understand user needs, pain points, and then communicating that to a wider business. More of a customer focus. So the qualitative side of research and how you can translate it to any product or service you might be building. That mindset, I found, wasn’t always aligned in the advertising space. I felt if I wanted to switch careers into UX I would need to work elsewhere to make that happen.

The course helped solidify terminology, the process, and it exposed me to a lot of thinking that I perhaps wouldn’t have gathered on my own. That’s my learning style – I like being guided and I love the classroom experience when you don’t know anything about the topic. I loved studying UX, big time.

What did you do after your training?

About 5-6 months after finishing my course, I left the agency and then moved over to work in-house with NAB as an Experience Designer. They were one of the only companies at the time in 2018 that were hiring juniors, or people with less than two years’ experience in UX, so I jumped at the chance. Those opportunities were hard to come by then, they were very scarce in 2018. It just so happened I was familiar with them from my previous work.

Did you feel the training at Xi enabled that to happen?

I used what I learned in the training to get through the interview process. NAB asked for a design challenge to be completed. Had I not done the training, I’m honestly not sure I could have responded to that design brief. I basically had to reflect on what I had learnt and put it into a real-life context in this interview process. 

I didn’t have specific UX experience, but I could show that I was passionate and my existing skills transferred well with my training. I interviewed that morning and got a call that afternoon to learn I had landed the job. I think it was one of the best days of my life. It was such a tough transition, but I did it. Really the start of a whole new journey.

Where are you working now?

I was at NAB for about 8 months, then I left for a Telecommunications company called Belong. An opportunity opened up there and it was too good to pass on. Despite me moving companies, I left on good terms with my team at NAB. I stayed at Belong for a year and a half, and then moved onto Xero, which is where I’m at now as a Product Designer.

Was there a particular training highlight for you at Xi?

I was one of the earlier intakes of students for UX training. Back then, I think I was most excited by what I was learning. It was a whole space that was new to me. It opened my mind to a totally new way of looking at problems. The course content was delivered in a way that was consumable, it wasn’t too overwhelming and I truly loved it. I lapped it up! 

How did you find changing careers?

I think changing careers can be a very vulnerable time. It’s hard to explain or describe to someone. It can be a scary feeling to look at what you do and realise it’s not what you want and to make that call to change it. For those who define a lot of their identity with their work particularly that can be quite confronting. Taking a course is an investment, with no guarantee of what that will provide.

Xi provided great support during that transition, as did the mentors that I had while I was studying. I still keep in touch with them today, in fact I spoke to mine just a few days ago. This experience encouraged me to become a mentor myself.

Can you tell us about your mentoring experience?

About 6 months after I completed my training and was working in-house with NAB, I received a request to mentor for the same UX Design Elevate course at Xi. It was one of three mentoring experiences I had with Academy Xi. I think mentoring is really powerful. I’m still in touch with the first course I mentored, we got together for dinner recently. 

How has mentoring benefited you?

Mentoring challenges me to be extremely self-aware of what my own philosophy and opinions are. It encourages me to ask myself how I want to grow the next generation of designers, and consider what I did not have when I was breaking into the industry and what could be beneficial to others. I have been a part of the Xi Designer-in-Residence program since it started. I’m currently taking a break to give other budding designers an opportunity to mentor – I highly recommend it.

Looking at your career now, what aspect do you most enjoy?

I studied linguistics at uni and loved it – the study of language and how it works in society. I was told that if I wanted a career in this back in 2012 that it would have to be in academia and I didn’t want to work in academia. It’s very niche. Or I could do a masters in speech pathology; I didn’t want that either. 

The milestone for me during the study at Xi were the weeks where we looked into research to understand the benefits of talking to customers – actual interactions to discover their needs, wants and pain points and then translating that into something that you can use. That was similar to what I did in linguistics. Going out into the field, collating your findings, and writing your recommendations. It was an amazing moment for me because I could see that those same skills, that I had learned and loved, could be applied in a commercial sense. It was really exciting. 

I had filed that in my mind as something from my past that couldn’t be applied to a business setting. And now I can and I love that. A big moment of self-actualization that something I love could be a big part of what I do for a living. 

What would you say to anyone considering a career change into UX?

I would first ask myself:

  • What are the reasons for pursuing the change? 
  • What draws you into UX?

You need to listen to your own needs, not just jump because it’s a thriving industry or area to work in. Then you need to figure out how you want to get there. If you’re already working in-house, what are the chances you can explore UX within your organisation? Look for opportunities for a secondment or to shadow someone in the UX team. 

For those who don’t have the chance to explore in-house options, training with Academy Xi  is a great way to get the support and knowledge you need to be great in the job.

That place that I worked at at the time (in the agency) didn’t have an experienced design team. Because self-learning isn’t my strong suit, I knew that I’d benefit strongly from structured learning. Hence the course suited me very well. A pro of doing a course is that it is structured: there is a flow and you’re not always trying to work out what you need to learn next.

What is even better than the content at Academy Xi is their community. Xi strongly believes in support, so they’ve created the Designers-in-Residence program for that purpose, to connect full-time students to mentors. There’s also the alumni community, where you can connect with Xi alumni in the industry. That’s a huge factor with doing a course – getting access to those networks.

“I think what Xi offers as an education institution is amazing. I think they’re very attuned to the current needs and pain points of students and it is forever evolving based on that. To make a career change takes a big commitment, it’s not just about choosing the right training – you have to make sacrifices and it’s hard work. If you’re ready to do just that, I highly recommend Academy Xi.”- Berlin Liew

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