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My Tech Transition: How Silver George went from Biomedical Engineer to UX Designer
Bored with her administrative job, Silver George decided to explore her interests in search of a new career path. She tells us how she made a successful transition into tech.
My Tech Transition is a monthly ConTech series that shines a spotlight on Africans who have successfully transitioned into tech.
Bored with her administrative job, Silver George decided to explore her interests in search of a new career path. This led her to the world of design, where she refined her skills by engaging in vigorous personal development. Currently a UX Writer and Designer at Naakwu, she tells us how she made a successful transition into tech.
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What's your current role and how long have you been in it?
I'm currently a UX Writer and Designer at Naakwu. I've been here for about 9 months now.
What does your role entail?
My job revolves around the tackling of UI and UX issues, ensuring the creation of seamless products that can thrive in the market while delivering exceptional user experiences.
You were a product designer in your previous job and you're currently a UX designer. How do these roles differ?
UX design is concerned with the overall feeling and experience of the product, encompassing everything from how the user interacts with it and how it makes them feel to how it solves user problems and how it looks visually.
Product designers need to handle both UI and UX design. This means focusing on the product's holistic user experience, making sure it addresses the user's needs and concerns, and also ensuring it looks visually appealing.
To be a successful product designer, you need to have a strong understanding of both UI and UX design. It's a complex role, and while UI may seem like a part of it, it's actually just a fraction of what you do. As a product designer, you need to solve problems that might not always be visible to everyone.
How did you transition into tech?
I studied Biomedical Engineering and practised for a year after finishing university. Then I worked as an administrative staff in a pharmatech company. I wanted to try something new after a while, so I started experimenting with different interests.
I discovered Photoshop and started dabbling with graphic design, doing small tasks on my laptop to pass the time. I had been seeing "UI/UX" on Twitter, but I didn't exactly understand what it was. So, I took my time to search on Google and watched some YouTube videos to comprehend it.
I thought, "Okay, this is fine" and enrolled at a design school where my prior knowledge of graphic design helped me immensely. It wasn't as easy as it could have been, but I practised, attended the classes, and continued learning. After a while, I transitioned into full-time design and left my corporate nine-to-five job.
What factor(s) eased your transition into the tech space?
I believe it was my natural inclination toward design. I had a friend in university who was the go-to guy for creating flyers, be it for campus parties or church events. I was utterly fascinated by what he did, though at the time, I had no clue about the intricacies of design. I just knew he was doing something magical, and I couldn't look away. I was genuinely curious about how he thought, how he harmonised colours, and how he put it all together. I think I had a taste for design all along so when the opportunity to learn came up, I jumped at it.
Did you face any challenges related to your tech transition? How did you surmount them?
When I joined the design school, I skipped the beginners' class and jumped right into the intermediate level. I thought I had enough background knowledge, thanks to random YouTube videos and my experience in graphics; I honestly believed that would carry me through.
However, the initial part of my classes was really tough. I had to put in a lot of extra effort beyond the classwork. I encountered concepts that I didn't fully understand and since I didn't want to feel like a complete novice, I'd do additional research and work hard to catch up to the level of the class. After the second week, I finally started to get a grasp of the whole intermediate level learning.
I remember taking feedback very personally and getting very emotional. I even shed a few tears because, in my mind, I was doing fine. With time, I began to improve and get the hang of designing.
Besides the necessary hard skills, did you have to learn any soft skills in your transition journey?
Yeah, I certainly did. I took a course in communication and it was quite beneficial. It helped me build interpersonal relationships with people. You see, I'm naturally an introvert. So when I started my first tech job, my struggles with communication made settling in quite challenging.
I could manage work-related conversations, but I didn't know how to establish personal connections with people that went beyond work. I didn't quite fit in because I didn't know how to initiate or engage in casual conversations. I'd often find myself isolated, which wasn't suitable for that kind of office job. I had to learn how to communicate effectively and develop my interpersonal skills.
I also delved into books and articles on problem-solving to understand how people think about issues and come up with solutions. Time management was another crucial skill I learned.
As someone who has worked a traditional job, what in your opinion makes tech peculiar?
Tech allows my mind to roam freely and explore various ideas. It encourages your mind to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. I also appreciate the flexibility tech offers. The ability to work from virtually anywhere is a big advantage, especially in a place like Nigeria.
What advice would you give anyone looking to move into tech?
If you're looking to transition into tech, my advice is to approach it with determination. It might be challenging in the beginning, but it does get easier as you get the hang of it and gain experience. Concentrate on your own journey. It's unique to you, and you should set your own goals and timelines.
Be open to learning from others and don't let money be your primary focus. Take your time to understand the field and success will follow naturally. It's all about the journey, so focus on yourself, your growth, and everything that contributes to your learning. You'll realise that as you gain expertise, the financial rewards will come.
What job search hacks have been beneficial to your career journey?
Firstly, referrals are crucial. Having people who know what you do can lead to valuable referrals.
Secondly, take your time to understand the role, and then figure out how your skills align with what they're looking for. If you have to follow up, do it. If you need to send an additional message, go ahead. Your confidence might not always be at 100%, but having even a bit of it and taking those shots can make a significant difference.
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