UX Designer Shares Career Advice

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 2.24.20 PMAs a UX Designer at, and a freelance product designer Helen, is no stranger to the industry.  She is classically trained but supplemented her education with a lot of personal work. Since then she has had the privilege to design in many industries across many mediums.

During her day-to-day, she works at Shopify helping to design the future of commerce. In here spare time she is still building and designing physical and digital products. Like many in the industry, she has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and spend the majority of her time perfecting her craft.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

To be honest, I’ve ignored most of the career advice I’ve ever received. However, I did pick up a book a few years ago called, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport and it’s been my mantra for self-growth for quite some time. As for career advice to new designers, I’d have to say that the path that is your career is rarely ever a straight line.

Over the course of your career, working on dozens of projects, which one was your favorite and why?

When I ran my own brick-and-mortar service shop, my favorite project was building and dealing with the online booking website I had. I learned a lot about conversion, user-testing and information architecture experimenting on my own. Although it was relatively small compared to what I work on now, it was a great learning experience.

What career advice would you give to someone who is learning to code and wants to become a professional developer?

Start small. Practice a lot. Get on Twitter and StackOverflow and leverage all the knowledge that’s available there-it’s invaluable.

Sketch vs. Photoshop

Use whichever one is appropriate for the project. There is never a one-size fits all approach when it comes to software tools.

What are a few traits that make a UX Designer successful?

Curiousity, humility and patience. You need to be curious to learn about people and design better solutions. You need to be humble to accept that sometimes you don’t have the bigger picture and users can prove you wrong. Lastly, you need patience because the never-ending process of iterating on a solution can be very rough on anyone regardless of experience level.

What is your favourite resource for learning more about UX Design?

I use Twitter and follow those who I consider to be pushing Design forward or are admirable in other aspects. They tend to tweet the best resources.

What do you look for when hiring junior web designers?

I look for good balance of 50% practical knowledge and 50% theoretical/philosophical understanding of design. A good junior Designer should have a very good foundation of design fundamentals. On addition to that, I look for an interest in design theory and design as a whole-not just related to web design. I don’t think Design is specific to a medium. It’s important that designers learn how to form opinions and design with those opinions guiding them.

Do you see a lot of UX Designers wanting to learn front-end development? mobile development? is this becoming more prevalent?

A lot of Designers have a very clear and distinct line between Design and Development while others (like me) like to do both. I don’t really see it becoming more prevalent and it isn’t a common thread amongst those that I meet everyday. It is certainly identified as a good skill, but not one that is crucial to your career (not now, at least.)

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