Where are you currently working and what do you do there?
I currently work at Shopify on the Shop team doing merchant relations. The Shopify app is a two-sided marketplace. You’ve got buyers and you’ve got merchants. The app is pretty buyer focused, helping buyers connect with merchants, finding the right products, tracking their orders and going through that customer life cycle. But there is an opportunity to support the merchants that will ultimately draw in more buyers. I support the merchant side of things and help with growth, retention, acquisition and anything else that’s merchant facing.
What made you decide to take a UX Certificate Course?
I talked with a few connections of mine in the tech industry and they advised that if I was interested in digital and looking for my next career move, I needed to develop a digital skill set. They mentioned that being a User Experience Generalist is a good gateway into the digital world without obtaining a hard skill like coding, or even design. I didn’t really know where to take my skill set next, so I decided to take BrainStation’s Part-Time UX Design Certificate Course. I could do a little bit of everything, but this course was a good way for me to figure out if UX was something I could see myself doing long term.
What was the highlight of your learning experience?
The people! Coming from accounting and finance and jumping into the corporate world, you end up meeting similar types of people. We all came from business school, we all studied the same thing, and we all had very similar after-work interests and things like that. My perspective was very limited. When I joined BrainStation, it was really great being able to meet, learn, and gain perspective from other people that were in different parts of their lives. Some students were older, some just got out of an MBA, and others had really different diverse sets of experiences that I wouldn't have ever thought of. And just from a networking perspective, it’s great! When you're in a learning environment and you're learning together, you're going through a rigorous shared experience together. It’s great to be part of something with people that come from different backgrounds.
Tell us a bit about your education and your career background? Was this something you were always in or is this a big shift?
I studied Accounting and Finance and at the University of Waterloo but I soon realized I didn't like either of them very much. I tried them both, graduated with a full degree in it and then thought, “What do I do now?”. I joined a program with a telecommunications company that assists graduates with finding their next steps by rotating them through a few different positions across the company. I was lucky enough to eventually work in production and application development. I got a little taste of everything; but, I like a fast-paced environment and I wanted to develop my skills a lot faster. The corporate life didn’t feel like it was for me either, and that’s around the time I decided to join BrainStation. I joined BrainStation with the thought of expanding my mindset. I wanted to dip my toes into something new without pulling the plug on my existing job and figuring out if it was something I wanted to do for a longer period of time.
I joined BrainStation with the thought of expanding my mindset. I wanted to dip my toes into something new without pulling the plug on my existing job and figuring out if it was something I wanted to do for a longer period of time.
What was the most challenging part of your learning experience?
UX has really good mental models that allow you to think about the user problem and break it down in a way that you can solve it. But a big component of UX is design, it goes hand in hand with problem solving. You could be a UX Researcher and really focus on that perspective of UX and just hone in on that skill, but as a generalist, I want to be able to think about a full cycle. You think about the problem, you wireframe the problem, and then you design the solution. I was missing this design aspect of it. I'm actually terrible at any sort of design. I feel like I was not up to par with the design part of it. With this course, you get as much out of it as you put into it, so I put a lot of effort into it and didn't find the workload too challenging in the end.
What would you say are the most valuable skills that you learned in the program?
It was the mental models which I still use today, and learning how to think about how to solve a problem. I'm a big fan of anything that’s cross-functional; for example, cross training in sports. Taking different principles from different areas and applying them to what I do. The UX design course gave me the foundation I needed to build my own model of how I think through a problem. I gained the perspective of seeing everyone as a user. Your boss is your user, your customer, our merchants, essentially anyone that you advocate for internally is a user. Anybody that you interact with is technically a user in some cases. When something goes wrong or something doesn't go the way that you think it should, you then have a mental model ready to break the problem down. You’re able to figure out exactly where the point was that we were trying to get to, and by how much we were off. Having the practice of applying that knowledge, in a digital sense, and having an open mind to apply it elsewhere is what really helped me.
When I left BrainStation, I joined a sales team and I built out a cold outreach campaign strategy by thinking about the user experience. I went through the user’s journey to build out the campaign. If the campaign didn't work, then I’d ask myself how could I adjust it. It’s an example of how something like sales can really be about the user experience too.
Try broadening your perspective and pushing yourself beyond what you could use these skills for today, and think about what other aspects you can use them in because you will get a lot more out of the course that way.
What advice would you give to professionals that are also considering a BrainStation course or program?
You get as much as you put into it. Learning something new in a post graduate phase in your life is pretty difficult. I've seen people, like myself, get out of their element, and I've seen people with tons of experience go back to their comfort zone and bring that experience into new opportunities. The course presents the core concepts and encourages you to use them however you want. Try broadening your perspective and pushing yourself beyond what you could use these skills for today, and think about what other aspects you can use them in because you will get a lot more out of the course that way. There's also tons of different minds in that classroom that can help you apply your skills in different ways. Learning from those people is super important. Apply what you learn in different ways and you’ll gain a diverse perspective.
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