Embracing Change: My Transition From Dentistry to UX DesignFeatured

As a woman of color, breaking into the tech industry from a traditional career in healthcare wasn’t easy, but it was one of the most empowering and rewarding decisions I’ve ever made. This journey taught me valuable lessons about the importance of personal branding, networking, and overcoming imposter syndrome. I believe that sharing my story can offer valuable insights to help others embarking on a similar path and hopefully facilitate a smoother career transition.

Building a strong personal brand

The self-audit

The first step is to identify your strengths, values, and what makes you unique. It is also helpful to consider who you would like to reach with your brand, more specifically, the industry and companies you want to connect with.

Part of my motivation for transitioning into tech was my passion for helping others and my desire to do so on a larger scale through design.

During my time working in healthcare, it was important for me to show that I was a compassionate and empathetic clinician. These traits naturally carried over into UX Design, where the user is the center of the design process.

As I transitioned into tech, I identified other transferable traits, like the importance of being detail-oriented. In dentistry, we work to the millimeter; in UX design, we work to the pixel.

The ability to multitask works across both industries. For example, in the dental office, it was important to attend to patients, the front desk staff, and my hygienist’s needs – all at the same time.

Another important cross-over skill is effective communication. It seems obvious but being able to show the patient or the user that you understand their personal experience and establishing trust is critical to your success as a healthcare worker and as a designer.

When creating a personal brand for myself, it was important to show how all of these traits were attributes I built upon and that I was able to use as a UX designer.

Coming from a marginalized community also played a unique and significant role in shaping my brand. With my background, I can empathize with a wider range of users and consider their needs and experiences in my design process, ultimately leading to more inclusive and innovative solutions. I feel that this not only enriches the experiences I create but also gives my work a strong sense of purpose.

Strengthening the brand

Once you figure out who you are and what your brand is, the next step involves doing some research. You can learn a lot by seeing how others in your desired field present themselves online. Really take your time looking at what you like about how they present themselves and what you would do differently.

Next, create a personal brand statement, which is a brief summary of who you are, what you do, and what sets you apart. Keep this statement concise and memorable. For example, my statement would be something like, “Through my background in healthcare, I bring compassion, empathy, and a strong focus on user needs to my role as a UX designer, where I strive to create meaningful experiences that improve people’s lives”.

Now, it’s time to work on your online presence. This could include sprucing up your LinkedIn profile, relevant social media accounts, and an online website or portfolio, if applicable. Effectively showcasing your skills and experiences will make networking that much easier because by this point you will have built a strong foundation through your branding.

Seeking Mentorship and Guidance

Networking plays a crucial role when transitioning careers. When I was starting out and exploring the field of design, I was assigned a mentor in my DesignLab bootcamp program. We attended group feedback sessions once a week where I reached out to other students and built a network within the program.

When my program ended and I no longer had regular access to a mentor, things got real. I had to find a job. Even though I completed the career services program of my course, the job market was so bad I still couldn’t land an opportunity. I asked the friends I made in the program for help and one knew of some recruiters, so I messaged them but never got a response. I decided I had to do something different so I started finding connections on platforms like LinkedIn and cold-messaged whoever I thought would be willing to listen to my story and possibly give me advice. A few very kind souls offered to help, and I set up a few calls. In these calls, I received everything from words of encouragement to practical career advice.

During my post-bootcamp period, I also extensively used the resource ADP List ( The ADP list is a platform that links you to expert mentors in design and technology who provide guidance, support, and career advice.

I scheduled calls with mentors and experienced UX designers who helped me with everything from mock interviews, and portfolio critiques, to what to expect with your first job and how to advocate for yourself as a new designer.

All this networking paid off because it was through these efforts that someone took a chance on me, and asked me to interview, and that is how I landed my first role as a UX designer.

Another useful networking strategy was attending tech/design conferences and events on sites like Eventbrite. Eventbrite has plenty of free events for networking and professional development. Events range from networking mixers to career fairs and industry-specific panels. A lot of them are virtual and attending these events can provide opportunities to connect with professionals in your field, gain insights into the job market, and learn skills to support your career goals.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to network especially if you are embarking on this change alone, remotely, and/or in a non-traditional way. Countless people want to help, and all it takes is sending a quick hello to connect over a short call or scheduling a mentoring meeting.

If you don’t know how or what to ask, a great starting point could be sending a message along the lines of, “Hello! My name is [name], and I am [position] looking to break into the field. I came across your profile on LinkedIn and was impressed by your background. Would you be available for a 15-20 minute chat to connect?”

The worst that could happen is that you do not receive a response, so don’t let self-doubt or discouragement get in your way and send that message.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Creating a strong personal brand and building a supportive network is crucial for success, but it’s also important to address internal conflicts that may arise, more specifically imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is often a significant hurdle for women and POCs in tech, particularly during a career transition from another field.

I have personally experienced the crippling anxiety and self-doubt of being exposed as a “fraud.” These feelings can affect your self-confidence and hinder your career progression. To help deal with imposter syndrome, I had to learn to reframe my thoughts and acknowledge how far I have come and how brave I am for taking a chance on myself.

I advise that you remember to do the same in these hard moments. Having a note or list that was readily available of all of my achievements helped reframe any negative thoughts that came up and worked wonders. Remind yourself that you deserve to be where you are, and your unique perspective and experiences bring value to the table. In my hardest moments, I sought support from peers, mentors, and loved ones who gave me the encouragement and reassurance to keep going.

Navigating a career transition is daunting, but is especially challenging for those of us who are a part of underrepresented communities. However, by focusing on building a strong personal brand, seeking mentorship and guidance, and addressing imposter syndrome, you can position yourself for success in your new career. Your unique perspective and life experiences are valuable, so embrace this exciting new change with confidence and determination.

Remember that you are not alone on this journey. There is a community of support ready to help you succeed. I encourage you to share your thoughts, experiences, and questions in the comments section below. Let’s continue to support each other as we navigate our careers in tech and beyond.

What a journey!!! Now that you're in UX, how do you think your background in dentistry (as a dentist?) is helping you in being an even better designer?
Hi Iynna! It has been quite a journey! I think having worked in dentistry has provided a great amount of transferable skills with the most important being empathy. Working in any sector of healthcare will foster a very strong sense of empathy which is critical to being a UX/UI designer. As a dentist, I had to pay close attention to detail, communicate effectively, and find creative solutions to problems every day at my job. I feel these are valuable transferable skills that make me a better designer, as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my article and ask such a thoughtful question, I really appreciate it!