UX Journey — Interaction Design Specialization

I want to share my UX Journey and career transition story in the hope to inspire and motivate if you’re still wondering how to start.

Boston Skyline from Cambridge side — My long walk — Photo by Sunil Shinde

I was a mixed bag of emotions before I started my UX journey. I was curious to learn, confused about how to start, anxious coz of unemployment, and super excited to get started soon with my next move. I wanted to untangle these emotions with a clear mind, so I went for a long walk on the Charles River in Cambridge, MA. I feel nature around is so inspiring and motivating that we often forget to pause and observe it. It’s like when you’re extremely happy or sad you know the lyrics of the song you like but other times the same song is just background music for you. One thought that struck me was — the way the river meets the ocean and contributes to the ecosystem I should be focused on the big picture as well. I decided to make the most out of this pandemic situation and see it as an opportunity to transition into a career that I am passionate about and is creatively challenging — ‘Usability of technology’.

I prepared a mind map with highlights from my 7 years of work experience in Tech, skills, and interests. This activity helped me in narrowing it down to a UX Design Career. I then spoke to a few friends from the Tech industry and wrote down all the available resources to upgrade my skills & ways I can start my career in the UX field.

My next step was to get my feet wet, I have used Coursera before, and their courses are backed by renowned universities which is something I find convincing to enroll in their courses. I read the user reviews and ratings for UC San Diego’s Interaction Design Specialization course and started the monthly $39 subscription.

It took me 5 months to complete the certificate, the timeline also includes a gap of 3 weeks to prep for a few job interviews I had, but if you put in 30-40 hours a week you might be able to complete it in 4 months. The Interaction Design Specialization has 8 courses that cover all the bases of UX Design Process — Design thinking (layouts & information architecture), Research, Analyzing Data, Interaction Design, and Testing.

It’s 500% self-learning and you’re on your own.

Out of 8, each of the 7 courses has a weekly quiz and assignment (mini project). Quizzes are not that tough if you read through the material, and they allow you to retake the quiz. The assignments are reviewed by 3 peers (your virtual classmates) and you’re expected to meet all the requirements for the assignment to pass. The grading literally asks the graders (peers) to check for each requirement and rate you 1 or 0. The assignments are very hands-on and similar to actual work that you’ll be doing on the job — such as reviewing and evaluating websites and apps, redesigning responsive layouts, examining qualitative test data, etc. The 8th course is your capstone project where you’ll be designing an app from scratch using the techniques you learned throughout the course. The capstone project work spans over 10 weeks which can be completed in half the time if you put in extra hours.

Some of the ‘nice to haves’ on this course:

• I respect the time my peers spent reviewing my assignments, but I missed getting constructive feedback on my work from the instructors or a UX expert.

• There is a lack of community feeling in the discussion groups as everyone is racing towards the finishing line. I wish the course had partner/group activities so you can connect with your peers and collaborate (It can be an optional activity for extra grades).

• If the peers are giving someone a low score, they should provide explanations and guidance to the examinee so that they can improvise and resubmit the assignment. We learn better from our mistakes.

• If the student has met all the requirements on an assignment and is confident about their work, they should be able to challenge if they get a low score.

• It would be nice if the learner gets a response to their questions or requests from the moderators in the discussions section. There are 18 moderators on the course, but I did not hear back from them.

If you’re a beginner and want to see if a UX career is for you I will definitely recommend this course.

Here are my tips to excel in this specialization:

1. Start learning designing tools online after your first course. There are some amazing free resources like YouTube videos and articles on medium. Most of the tools have a free trial that you can utilize throughout your course. I extensively used Adobe XD for wireframing, all Fidelity UI, prototyping, and building personas.

2. You need to know the basics of Statistics and R (coding language). For course 7, you’ll be manipulating data using R Studio.

3. The 8 courses would feel like a mountain when you start but don’t let that pause you. Reward yourself for completing each course. I won rewards like a relaxing day doing nothing, went hiking, ate the whole Pizza, went for a staycation day at a cousin’s place, organized a virtual party night, long walks. Celebrating mini victories will help you stay on track.

4. Try to submit your assignments on or before the deadline so that they get reviewed sooner. Read the instruction (submission rubric) multiple times before working on the assignments. The instructions are well described and include reference links to alumni work.

6. Sketch your Paper prototype & Storyboards in detail before you submit and include clear instructions for the graders.

7. For the final capstone project, you’ll be A/B testing designing options A & B and testing with the real online users using usertesting.com. The users test the apps on their own and you get to the video of their screen share using your app. Since the online users will be doing this activity on their own, your app should be self-explanatory and fully functional (all the hyperlinks and buttons should clickable, status updates on certain user actions, etc.)

Tools you need to get started with this course:
▪ 30–40 sheets of paper or dotted or Graph Sketch Book
▪ Color Pencils
▪ Color Pens (Blue, Black, Red, Green)
▪ Designing software tools — Adobe XD or Figma
▪ R Studio/R Packages

My next steps:

Currently, I am in the General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive Cohort to do more practical UX work, gain industry insights, and be ready for the job market next year.

If you have any questions related to this course or UX Design I’d be happy to help. Feel free to DM or connect with me.

My LinkedIn and Twitter

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to read and learn more.

I’d appreciate your claps if you liked what you read. 👏👏👏
Thank you for your time! 😊🙌

📍Boston, MA. ⚡ I am passionate about Technology Usability and Interaction. 📯 Portfolio: SunilShinde.io Twitter: @UXification