“Testing is like having friends visiting from out of town. Inevitably, as you make the tourist rounds with them, you see things about your home town that you usually don’t notice because you’re so used to them. And at the same time, you realize that a lot of things that you take for granted aren’t obvious to everybody.”

           —Steve Krug on usability testing

As a UX designer at Prolific, I understand this feeling all too well. Since I started here, I have been able to dive right into what user experience is all about: putting our product in front of our users in order to learn about them through frequent user testing. I have also had the pleasure of sharing that process with the rest of the team. However, this is not something I would have ever imagined myself doing a year ago.

Tackling the Great Unknown

This past May, I quit my job in consulting to pursue a career in user experience design. It may have seemed sudden to some, but in reality the decision (or series of decisions, I should say) had been a couple of years in the making. Nonetheless, it was terrifying. I felt like I had just jumped off a cliff without knowing what lay beneath, clinging to the hope that I’d be able to survive through sheer will. But I didn’t want to be governed by my fear of the unknown. So I took the leap.

After fully immersing myself in the world of user experience design by way of General Assembly’s full-time UX design course, I started to look for job opportunities that would continue to feed my design education. I constantly fielded the question, “I know you want to be a UX designer, but what specifically are you looking for?” This was always a struggle for me to answer, since choosing UX design was already a significant narrowing of choices for me. To go even deeper beyond that seemed like a whole new level for which I wasn’t ready. I really wanted to be able to say, “I’m looking for a startup of about 7 people that is doing cool things in the Uber-for-gondolas space,” but I just couldn’t. I didn’t have enough experience in tech to know for sure. Anything I thought I believed about my preferences would have been pure speculation.

In reality, I was looking for three things:

  1. Awesome people that I could happily have lunch (or a beer) with.
  2. An environment in which to learn and grow as a UX designer.
  3. A mission I could stand behind.

Suffice it to say that I found that at Prolific.

Focusing on the People

There is only so much you can glean from a couple of interviews. Sometimes you just have to go with your intuition, but even in a couple of scattered hours over the course of a week, I had a feeling that I was in the company of some pretty great people, and that’s always been one of the most important things to me. I knew I would be able to have the support of other designers while still helping to define and shape the role of UX at the company. We’re all just figuring it out, and I think that’s the best way to learn.

I’ve always had a fascination with technology’s potential and, simultaneously, a fear of technology taking over all of humanity (I think I watched too much anime as a kid). I believe that innovations in the mobile space are headed in the right direction when it comes to integrating technology into people’s lives in a non-intrusive, Spike-Jonze’s-Her way. That’s really what brought me to UX design in the first place. How can we make technology work for people, rather than the other way around? We’re all just at the beginning of figuring that out, and I’m so curious to find out where we can go from here.

Bringing it All Together

It’s been a month since I joined Prolific, and it has been quite a ride already. It’s been exciting and fast-paced but not overwhelmingly so. I have never worked in an environment where an entire team of diverse roles is so closely aligned on what is going on within the project. It truly feels like a collaboration, and this includes the client as well. It has been great to work so closely with them. It feels like we are all in it together. Such a partnership means that we can focus on what’s best for the people who will be using our product.

I’ll end with one more quote because I’m just not eloquent enough to say it myself:

“When you’ve made the leap and you’re far from shore, nothing is guaranteed, but we do it together and that’s what makes it worth it.” – Elle Luna

I’m so happy I made that leap.

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