How did you find yourself working as a UX designer?
For a long time, my friend Robert suggested I check out UX design as a career. If it weren’t for him, I may have eventually taken the leap, but I would have gone down a different path. He brought me awareness around what UI/UX design is. Then, I took my own initiative to actually learn about it and see if it was something that appealed to me. I already had a bachelor’s degree in finance, and didn’t want to go back to school for another degree; so I did an online UX design course and got a certificate. Robert also helped me get my first client, a startup in Miami. When I took that first client, I didn’t charge much, it was just about getting my feet wet. For my first project, I did a mobile application design. I designed and prototyped everything in two and a half weeks, which was really tough to do. From there, I just kept doing freelance projects with other startups, local businesses – really anything that would help me pay my bills.
Wow! What a story. How did you get your UX business off the ground?
In 2019, my wife and I were taking a road trip around the US, and we traveled for about 10 months. We bought an RV and decided we didn’t want to live in Florida anymore. So, we traveled around to see the country while we’re young. We decided we’d just travel, and figure out the finances later. We were both working remotely at the time, but not making very much money. We wanted to follow our hearts and just go for it. I ended up connecting with an agency in San Jose called Impekable, and they liked me a lot and wanted to bring me onto a few projects. Finally, a project came through called Talentsky, which hired me as a consultant. One year later, they offered me a full time position.
It sounds like you're very driven and also very creative. Why did you decide to study finance in the first place, if working in creative spaces was something you were always interested in?
Quite honestly, I was nervous. I didn’t know which direction I really wanted to take. I was worried about the outcome if I pursued my creative side, and if I’d have financial success. I knew the creative space doesn’t pay very well, and I didn’t want to struggle for 10 or 20 years and not be able to achieve specific personal and financial goals. I know now that isn’t true, but that was my 18 year-old perspective. I thought about going into fashion, because I had fashion scholarships, and I was also interested in graphic design. I didn’t even think about technology at that time. I liked business, I liked numbers. I wasn’t interested in accounting, but I was interested in finance. So, I decided to get my degree in finance. After college, I worked in finance for three years with a goal of having a stable job in finance, and eventually figuring out a way to pursue my creative interests -- maybe by opening an art gallery, or starting a clothing line, or something like that.
What advice would you offer to your younger self?
I would definitely encourage young people to follow their passions and follow their skillset – or, at least, pursue what comes naturally to them. By doing that, they'll definitely find success. The financial side of it will come with time, especially if you’re really good at what you do. I definitely have a different outlook on that now than I did when I was 18.
It sounds like UX design is really perfect for you because you have the job stability you want, but you also get to exercise your creative freedom in a big way.
Yeah, absolutely. I love business, and I love being creative. But, I also like the ability to work remotely and spend time with my wife and daughter, and enjoy the freedom to work from wherever I am in the world – whether it’s my home or a coffeeshop in Spain. UX design also allows me to improve my skills over time and find new ways to apply them. It’s so important to be able to grow in your career, or within your company. It’s important to be able to develop over time.
What do you think about staying in one job for your entire life and being loyal to a particular company or industry, versus having lots of different jobs or careers throughout your life?
I think it depends on the circumstances of where you work. If you work for a startup, you might stick it out for a long time, hoping for a bigger payoff than you would if you were at a more traditional company. But I would also say you should always be thinking about career growth, and that can happen within a company or outside of it. You should be concerned with financial growth and your own financial wellness as well – and that often happens by transitioning every three to five years. Challenge yourself in order to feel intellectually stimulated at work. Put yourself in uncomfortable shoes by finding new challenges and things that need to be solved. See if you are able to be promoted within your profession and if your current company will give you that opportunity. Sometimes companies – especially larger enterprises – can put you on a trajectory of very slow career growth. For example, if your goal is to be something like a Director of Design at a big company like Coca-Cola or Disney, it might take you 20 years to get there internally. If you think to yourself, “How can I get there in eight years instead of 20 years?”, the best way to do that is to push yourself. Do maybe two years at a mid-level job, then a few years at another client or company doing a senior level position, and then you’ll have the trajectory to launch yourself into a director-level position quickly.
Do you believe in the idea of a dream job?
I definitely think so. If your passion is painting or playing the violin, then do it. Work your skills, find a way to build a career around what you’re passionate about, and that will ultimately be your dream job.