From an aspiring video game designer in Wales to a UX professional in California.
Growing up I was obsessed with science fiction movies and video games. There was something intoxicating about peering into a vision of the future and seeing what life might be like then. Subconsciously I became enthralled with imagining how we in society could improve and push the boundaries of technology and peoples interaction / experience with it. I guess at this nascent stage I wasn’t even considering some mystical UX process, but rather the notion of research, design, test then repeat to improve the outcome.
Whilst my educational path was starting to reveal itself in front of me i.e., becoming a lawyer or IT professional, my free time was spent experimenting with ‘design’ as much as possible. I started designing 3D models and characters for well-known video games such as Grand Theft Auto and the Total War Series. I loved the creativity it afforded me, learning how to model a vehicle or Roman legionnaire, then texturing those models which was a TON of fun. I spent hours learning new tools like 3D Studio Max and photoshop, which would help me expand my creative horizon.
At this stage I didn’t know about UX, I didn’t know about UI or interaction design, but I was starting to (subconsciously) appreciate user centered design and garnering insights from user feedback to improve a product. Even with video game design, users were very vocal about what they wished they could do, see, or use in game. Using that feedback, I could adjust my work and offer customization or freedom of choice within a sandbox. It was amazing to give users the freedom to make their own story and enjoy the process in doing it.
Fast forward to arriving in the United States, I started my vocational life here as a Senior IT support analyst fielding tech support calls for thousands of users. Whilst it was cool to be working in IT, I grew bored with the lack of creativity afforded by the role and felt I had achieved all I could in the role.
My intention was to move to a more public facing marketing or product role that would allow me to flex my design muscles, but the opportunities were slim. As such I felt maybe learning the tenets of project and program management would help me secure a more design orientated role.
Then came my big break…I was asked by my employer whether I had built websites before, had any experience with graphic design and whether I could design and launch a custom SharePoint site in 2 weeks? Suffice to say I did, and it led to a position as a web solutions architect which essentially was my first UX role.
From there I’ve LOVED the never-ending learning cycle, how good design is inclusive and accessible, and at a very basic level, daring to be bold and take risks to do everything in your power to make users’ experiences great.
So, my journey to a UX professional is a story of believing in the future and not listening to my parents who said you wouldn’t get anywhere with videogames. Whilst I love conceptualizing and crafting new experiences, nothing is more rewarding that fully understanding a users’ challenge(s), exploring ideas with your team then collaborating with them to bring those ideas to life…then repeat to make it better.