How teaching helped shape my career as a designer
What started out as designing flyers for underground shows has turned into a 12-year career working with large enterprise companies and start-ups as an experienced UX, UI, and product designer. Now I’ve started sharing my expertise with others providing guidance and coaching through the digital skills courses offered at Brainstation.
So, how did I get to this point?
Never Stop Learning
I worked as a self-taught graphic designer for about 5 years doing agency, freelance and consulting work before focusing solely on digital products and user experience. Keep in mind, this was before the phrase User Experience Design existed, so there wasn’t much out there in terms of education. It was a lot of user-generated content from a select few publications.
Since then, I’ ve taken courses in UX Design at the University of Michigan (online) and BrainStation. I’ve also taken courses in Design Thinking at IDEO U and the Rochester Institute of Technology and BrainStation’s Product Management course.
Why I Decided To Start Teaching
The courses I teach now would’ve been a huge help to me early on in my career so when BrainStation eventually reached out to me with a teaching opportunity, I was thrilled. When I was starting out, there were only a few ways to gain a design education but now there are a lot of opportunities for designers to enter the field through digital skills courses.
I’ve been fortunate to have worked under the direction of some really great Sr. Designers, Design Leads, and Managers. But there have also been times when I’ve been an army of one or didn’t exactly get the support I needed. I understand just how difficult and scary that can be, so I strive to prepare my students with what they can expect and the processes that can help them find success.
What It’s Like To Teach Design Thinking And UX/UI Design
I started teaching virtual classes about six months after the pandemic started in the US. Seeing people at the start of their career in design, others looking to develop certain digital skills, or someone pivoting their career, especially at that time, was very inspiring.
Typically, we provide a mix of lectures that focus on theory, real-world application, challenging exercises, and group work. It’s also my responsibility to provide feedback and coaching on a project level. Coaching a designer at the beginning of their career is a very rewarding process, but it has its own challenges. Knowing how to balance the right amount of responsibility, instruction, context, and feedback definitely takes care and attention.
Improving My Skills Tenfold
One of the biggest benefits of teaching has been sharpening my communication skills. Presenting is so important in design, and teaching gives me the opportunity to do so. Getting the right information out to my audience and becoming comfortable answering questions has helped me with my own projects.
Another benefit is talking other product members through the design process. Often as a Senior Product Designer at Cigna, I need to advocate for the design thinking process and being able to show the benefits of working with a designer to various product teams has been really beneficial.
Lastly, teaching someone how to do something gives you an intimate knowledge of how it works. Having to articulate different parts of the process and explain things that live inside your head helps you see everything with new eyes.
Design Teachers Make Great Designers
Seeing where a project is in its lifecycle and knowing what steps will move that project forward is extremely valuable to a product team. It’s a skill that comes with practice. As a design instructor, I have the privilege of walking through the ideal process repeatedly. Since I started teaching, I’m better at estimating timelines and can figure out next steps much more quickly.
It also has sharpened my ability to step back and see the whole picture. Sometimes you need to stop looking at the details to make sure the project as a whole is headed in the right direction.
Need an expert for a UX, UI, or product design project?
Feel free to send me a message on LinkedIn.
Want to take a design course by yours truly?
Chat with me on LinkedIn (I have a referral code that you can use).