This is the second installment of my interview series, “Break into UX.” These interviews focus on the experiences new designers have as they transition from school to their first UX design job. This week I sat down with Ravi Morbia. He is a former student of mine at ACC and currently is a UX designer at Novatraq.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a UX designer for Novatraq. Our main product is a Web-based commercial lending tool for small businesses.
Finding the path to UX design
How did you get on this path to a UX designer?
I graduated from University of Texas at Austin with a BA in Sociology. It was a really interesting major, but it didn’t lead to a clear career path. After college I spent a few years in sales. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was not that excited about selling. Around that time, I came across Austin Community College’s (ACC) UX program.
Applying and facing rejection
Tell me about your job search experience.
This was a really hard time for me. I applied to a lot of jobs in Austin, but I only got three interviews. There were long periods when I didn’t get any responses from my applications. This went on for about eight months. I got a lucky break when my dad met a guy from my current company. He talked about Novatraq’s search for a UX design. My dad pointed them in my direction.
When I started getting rejections, I pressed them (my interviewers) for feedback.
Why do you think it was so hard to get a job?
Most companies are looking for people with experience. It’s hard to get them to seriously look at a recent grad. Why would they if they can get a designer who requires little or no training. If they’re small, they also want someone who can do it all. That means research, interaction and visual. Visual was not my strongest skill set. Of course I have to work to get better at it. At Novatraq, I’m expected to own all of the design for the product.
Setting accurate expectations
How do you wish ACC and your teachers could have better prepared you?
ACC was a little too soft on us. Especially for visual design. I got good grades. So, I thought my skills were pretty good. But when I started getting rejections, I pressed them (my interviewers) for feedback. Some of them were pretty straightforward and stated that my visual skills were not at the level they require.
Persevering to his first UX design Job
What one thing should UX design students focus on the most?
Know your faults or find ways to learn them. Get your work in front of people who will give you honest feedback. This is a second piece of ‘must have’ advice. I know I’m cheating, but it’s good for students to hear this. Be prepared to move. Austin is super competitive. They want people who can do it all. Plus, they want the experience.
Ravi’s story highlights a lot of the real fears and struggles that design students have about making that leap into the UX industry. While school often tries to strike a balance between encouraging them to grow and communicating realistic feedback, students do not often get a true sense of reality until they enter the interview process. Teachers need to do a better job at setting the right expectations for students without crushing their hopes. However, the students also have the responsibility to seek out this input.