Missy Yarbrough UX Design: Getting The First UX Design Position - Image Credit: Missy Yarbrough

Missy Yarbrough on Getting Started and Finding the First UX Design Position

Missy Yarbrough is a UX designer at IBM. She and I talk about her ‘not-so-linear’ path to design and tech. We dig into her upbringing in the South and how she wants to provide guidance for aspiring designers looking for their first UX design position.

What was your childhood like?

I’m Missy Yarbrough and I’m from Mississippi. Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta where there’s a cluster of Chinese Americans living in the Delta Region. I was born in 1990. For the most part, I grew up in a pretty humble background. Mom and dad immigrated there from the Philippines, and they started a “mom and pop” grocery shop. They sold a lot of neighborhood needs. I got a quick introduction to customer service at a young age.

Learn more about the Chinese Americans in the Mississippi Delta region.

What was that path from your upbringing to eventually design?

That’s a great question. I wasn’t permitted to go outside much. Crime was really prevalent in my neighborhood. It’s not really a safe place.

Thankfully, My family encouraged me to go to the library and read a bunch of books. In my elementary school, I read a lot of books. This was the late 90s or what not. Once the early 2000s hit, my family got a computer and. It changed my life. I got to explore so many different things through the Internet. Google was like, my best friend. It gave me the answers to nearly any question I had, and I was like, “That’s so cool.”

It’s really hard to work creatively when you are not necessarily at a place that you feel passionate about. So, be selective. That being said, don’t talk yourself out of the positions that seem out of reach for you.

How did you start learning design specific skills?

In the eighth grade, I got invited out to participate in an honors summer camp called, the Joseph Baldwin Program. Truman State University hosted certain classes. They had a plethora of courses. So, you could learn about politics, science, or how to play the guitar.
There were 400 kids participating in this nationwide. One of the courses was an intro course to design. That’s when I really got into the nitty-gritty of it. Of exploring Photoshop with my peers.

Did you study design in University?

It was graphic design under art (at Mississippi State University). It’s structured so that I technically have a BFA with a concentration in graphic design.

How did you end up at IBM Design?

So, in my last semester at college, I walked into one of my professor’s office just on a whim. She had just returned from a conference and was elated to tell everyone about the gospel of IBM design initiative. That encouraged me to apply.

Then I start sending out job applications in waves of 10 to 12 at a time. I picked the ones in which I felt comfortable addressing the responsibilities, roles, and company initiatives.

What advice do you have for people looking for their first UX design position?

It’s really hard to work creatively when you are not necessarily at a place that you feel passionate about. So, be selective. That being said, don’t talk yourself out of the positions that seem out of reach for you.

Portfolio: Missy-yarbrough.com/
LinkedIn: Linkedin.com/in/missy-yarbrough/
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Matt Eng

UX Research Team Lead at IBM Design. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.

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