I grew up in Brazil, between a small remote city in the northeastern part of the country and the melting pot city of Sao Paulo.
At age 22, I was made a youth leader in South America by Unesco, thanks to my involvement in a youth community called TakingITGlobal, which I used as a platform to document a volunteer project while I was in college.
Almost a decade later, I decided to take a different path and emigrated to Ireland. I worked primarily as a project manager and eventually as a UX designer for one of Europe's biggest biotech companies.
In this process, I learned how essential community building was to my transition into tech.
Most of my career transition was supported by constant community building with women in tech communities. When I came to Ireland, I already spoke English at an advanced level, but my goal was to gain proficiency to do another college course in the future. I was partially raised by American missionaries, and this had a huge impact on my education.
My transition to tech started slowly. Like many foreign students, I could only work part-time and had several jobs such as babysitting and teaching Portuguese as a second language.
Since Dublin is a tech hub in Europe, there are plenty of jobs in tech for those who want to change careers. There, I was introduced to localization and did a short course on the matter at Imperial College London. After that experience, I started gradually doing tech-related courses, like a minor degree in Web Design, and then landing a job as a project manager.
When I decided to change careers, it was out of pure curiosity. A friend had asked me to edit her CV in InDesign and while editing it, I noticed that her experience was similar to mine. But what got my attention was the job title: User Experience Designer. I thought, is that the same thing as a web designer? Can I transfer my skills?
From that moment, I decided to do a bit more research on the topic, even though I wasn’t 100% sure how I would land my first job. I outlined a plan, applying design thinking and putting myself in the place of the user:
In the empathise phase, I did secondary research on UX.
Then in the define phase, I defined my goals and how I would transition to UX. I wanted to use my skills, so UX/UI designer was the best bet.
In the ideation phase, I applied for a second BSc Degree in Digital Technology & Design.
And then, in the prototype phase, I tested my skills as a freelancer using my website to host my portfolio.
Once I got enough experience, I went to the test phase and applied for a UX/UI designer job in tech companies.
I also looked for companies with either emergent or structured UX maturity based on the six stages of maturity:
- Absent: UX is ignored or nonexistent
- Limited: UX work is rare, done haphazardly, and lacks importance.
- Emergent: The UX work is functional and promising, but done inconsistently and inefficiently.
- Structured: The organization has a semisystematic UX-related methodology that is widespread but with varying effectiveness and efficiency.
- Integrated: UX work is comprehensive, effective, and pervasive.
- User-driven: Dedication to UX at all levels leads to deep insights and exceptional user-centered–design outcomes.
While applying for jobs, I discovered that one of the companies I wanted to apply to had a mentoring program. I applied for that mentoring program and paired with their Head of Design, a woman with a web-development background, who has influenced my path as a UX designer until today.
A mentor was essential for me to get involved with tech communities such as Ladies that UX, Girls in Tech and, now, Latinas in Tech and the Elpha community. This led me to improve my communication skills and learn more about effective community building, public speaking, event organization, diversity and inclusion policies, and many other skills and subjects.
Time passed, and I improved at public speaking, which is an excellent soft skill in any job and especially in UX, as you're always presenting for stakeholders.
I also discovered that you don't need a second degree; you can do boot camps or online courses to level up, for example. Many UX professionals also come from other areas like software engineering, psychology and web/graphic design.
Over the years, I’ve met many other inspiring women and professionals in the area that have made me aware of how multi-disciplinary user experience is. Hopefully, I can do the same for other women changing careers like me or for students that just got out of college and are figuring out their next steps.