• Arika Lawrence

Why I Became a Certified User Experience Professional

Updated: Jan 11

It was the summer of 2019 when I decided to do a career pivot. At the start of my career, I branded myself as a communications professional but along the way, my career took twists and turns that landed me in marketing roles. What I love about marketing is the science behind knowing your customer audiences. From organizing focus groups to distilling data analytics to building surveys and polls to reviewing the voice of the customer (VOC), it fed my curiosity in understanding the needs of the customer better. With these insights, I sharpened my customer experience (CX) knowledge and was able to build effective marketing campaigns that were tailored to a range of specific audience segments. Using my content creation and strategic communications background, most of my work focused on developing impactful content that spoke to the customer's needs or upselling products and services. It became a natural instinct for me to always consider opportunities that could enhance the customer journey while building strong brand affinity.


Crushin’ it with Skillcrush

While I mastered the best practices and principles of what it takes to be a customer-centric marketer, I desired to push myself professionally. I felt inspired that the start of a new decade was upon us, and I knew I wanted to challenge myself in a new arena. After thorough research, I became intrigued by getting certified as a user experience (UX) professional. I knew that for my next career, I wanted to work in the tech industry, and I saw UX would be a logical choice, considering the growing demand for talent. Plus, with everything going digital these days, it became abundantly clear that this certification would be a spectacular investment in my future.


I started my UX studies with Skillcrush, an online boot camp, while I was abroad in Southeastern Asia (a blog post about that adventure is coming soon). The course was self-paced, and on average, most students finish their studies within 3-months! It felt like no brainer to try it out and grow from there. While marketing research focuses on customer experience, the user experience side focuses on “how might we” approach a user’s problem. My UX studies started with UX Research, which I instantly fell in love with the idea of being a UX Researcher (I also felt I would make a great UX writer, too!). The foundation, methodologies, principles, and best practices of UX are rooted in research. With this in mind, I found myself connecting my 9+ years of mix-marketing knowledge back to a few research techniques (building surveys, conducting interviews, developing personas/audience demographic profiles, A/B testing, etc.). My transferable skills helped me empathize with users and better understand what experience they expected to achieve through various digital products and services.


My “Aha!” moment

As I became more immersed in my coursework and online discussions about UX, it hit me as to WHY I became a UX professional: because I’m interested in designing the future. It was one of the biggest “aha!” moments I had in my professional career. We live in a world where there are tons of design challenges, some challenges can become overlooked, and some aren't acknowledged. Here lies the problem. I know we cannot fix everything -- that is not what I am trying to do. What we can do is make a few things easier and better. When we listen more, empathize more, and take our own biases out of the equation, true design can happen. When we make room at the table for everyone, celebrate what makes us similar and different, and authentically embrace the diversity of ideas, this is “how WE might” design a better future for us all.


Not-so invisible barriers

I see a lot of opportunities in the realm of UX and beyond; so do most people, hence why it is so challenging to break into it. More specifically, I knew leaping into the UX space in the technology industry was risky. Once quarantine started, I jumped headfirst into an array of online discussions, webinars, conferences, etc. to learn, grow, and study the UX/technology industry in-and-out. Sadly, most online panel Q & A's looped back to how difficult it is for women, especially women in the LGBTQIA+ community, black women, and other women of color, to get into this industry. The stories are enough to make you cringe, cry, quit, or get discouraged, believe me, I have my days, but I remain encouraged to keep going because I welcome this real-world "design challenge."


We are all walking UX case studies

What I didn’t expect during this UX journey is navigating my career pivot during a pandemic. However, as we are all seeing, experiencing, and witnessing first-hand is the future and we can adapt to a new normal, with or without notice. It’s not easy, but I hope that it will become easier with grace, time, patience, and collaboration. Essentially, we are all becoming overnight UX designers in our own right. Maybe you’re the single mom reconfiguring your morning routine to factor in your child’s new virtual learning schedule, or you’re the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company, seeing the opportunity to establish a remote-working culture based on this experience. However, you look at how your “future is designing itself,” we are all a walking case study filled with feedback, problems, ideation, prototypes, iteration (many cycles of those), tests, and lessons learned. The more we come together to share in that space of being co-creators of our future, the better we can aim at making it a little better.