Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Jonathan Morgan on his experience with an epic UX career pivot during this time that is so challenging for a lot of us. He talks about how he decided to focus on UX and his strategy for learning the principles of UX on a bootstrapped budget.

What were you doing and what are you doing now?

I went to school at the University of Texas at Austin, for economics. Originally, I chose the major because I liked studying people.

After I got into the degree program I started learning about it and realized economics is more focused on markets, and kind of the way money moves more than it is about human behavior. Human behavior is a variable that’s hard to predict. Psychology is more of what I’m drawn to, and I ended up making that my minor.

After graduating from college

My first job out of college was doing tech consulting with a partner of salesforce.com. Yeah, I didn’t’ know what Salesforce, but the company let me grow into being a full-time consultant with them.

Then COVID-19 hit. The work dried up, and the firm started letting a lot of us go.

UX career pivot

So there was initial panic, but my wife helped me by suggesting to take some time and really think about what I want to do. I evaluated what worked well and what didn’t with my skill set. And I realized I wanted to do something that involves studying people as well as tapping my creativity. In my free time, I like things like photography, painting, filmmaking, and woodworking. How can I combine these two? So I started by just googling creative jobs in business, and I came across user experience design.

So there were four things that made the final decision for me. The first one was that it was creative work. Second, I was studying people. Third, there was a value alignment because I started seeing the word empathy in job descriptions. This was too good to be true. Finally, I found a mindset alignment. This worked with how my brain naturally processed problems, step by step rational thinking.

How are you educating yourself?

The first place I looked at was boot camps like the General Assembly. These were big investments, and I would have had to take out a loan to afford it. This also required a time investment for several months.

Self-study

I am a bit of a “do-it-yourselfer.” It was really kind of a beautiful thing, in some ways, Just searching online platforms for learning UX skills. There were a bunch of them that offered one month’s access for free because of the pandemic. At the same time, Career Foundry had a free intro to UX course. Filament Labs had 11 that I could take within the one-month free trial.

It also had a master class of 50 hours. After taking that, I felt that really cemented the core principles of UX for me.
What are you struggling with now?
I am spending most of my time applying for positions. My average is about two applications a day. The tricky thing is to find ones that are for entry-level positions (i.e. associate designer in the title). Then my next step is to tailor the cover letter, resume, and portfolio for the company.

What advice do you have for people just starting out?

If you are looking to build your network or try to get a connection with someone at a company that is hiring, be careful with just pinging people on LinkedIn out of the blue. It’s basically a cold call, and most people won’t respond. Try to see how you can bring this person value. Also, I look for any connections I already have with this person. Then I ping the person I know and ask for an introduction.

More resources

Watch the full interview with Jonathan here. We go over his portfolio, some of his case studies, and talk about feedback on how to tell a clear story about the project.

Read about other self-starters like Sagar Arora on who created his own degree to become a UX designer.

Check out more interviews with UXers starting out as well as professionals further off in their career for insights and advice.

Get more tips on starting out in UX for industry trends, books, and other interviews with UXers.

Sign Up Today

Get insights and resources in your inbox before I publish them!

Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. 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.