Lesson from a Career Shifter #2: From E-Commerce to UX Design

Why there’s never been a better time to reskill and shift careers

Hello and welcome to the second of our career shifter interview series, where we interview people who have recently completed General Assembly’s UX design bootcamp course as a means towards reskilling and changing their career paths. 

In case you missed it, our first career shifter interview can be found here, in conversion with Raul, who reskilled to become a UX designer and spoke about how he was able to leverage some of the transferable skills from his prior career in market research to the job search in UX.

Here, in the second of this fascinating career shifter interview series, we hear from Katie, a career shifter who took the General Assembly UX course to move her career beyond brand marketing and towards designing user experience. 

Katie spoke with us to give us a view into why she decided to choose now to reskill and what the process of reskilling was like. She also provided thoughts about her experience of being a career shifter in today’s economy. 

Our conversation with Katie provided a fantastic insight into why now is a great time to upskill or reskill to gain skills which are in demand for the jobs of the future. We also learned now one’s natural career progression may lend itself to upskilling or even reskilling. 

Here’s what Katie had to say.

What was your career before taking the General Assembly UX Design course?

Prior to taking the UX design course, my professional background had been in digital marketing for e-commerce brands. I started on this career path after graduating from Newcastle University with a degree in Spanish and business. My first role after university was as that of an e-commerce assistant at a British brand. 

It was always my goal to work for a brand, as I grew up loving fashion, retail and worked in a shop as a retail assistant whilst at university. I knew that e-commerce was a growing area, and it interested me. While my university degree wasn’t specifically to do with marketing or e-commerce, it helped me get a job generally. 

In that first e-commerce role, I gained many new skills through on-the-job training and from colleagues. For example, I worked with Magento and learned to use Photoshop. I was able to learn a great deal without having any formal training in this area previously. 

The hard skills I picked up allowed me to go on to work in a digital marketing role for an accessories brand, where I further developed my skills working with channel marketing, SEO and email marketing. 

Following this role, my career naturally started to shift when I took on a slightly different role with the Sunday Times, which coincidentally started on the first day of the first UK nationwide lockdown. In this new role, I was responsible for helping to revamp the Times’ subscription business and its loyalty program, Times Plus

I could see my career beginning to evolve; the skills I brought to this role were transferable from my previous e-commerce roles.

Why did you decide to shift careers? 

There are a few reasons that factored into my decision to shift careers. I had started my post-university career working in the e-commerce industry, where I was keenly aware of the importance of customer journeys and customer experiences. UX was something I was always aware of, in addition to optimising the journey users take. 

I came to a place in my e-commerce career where I thought UX sounded interesting and I wanted to better understand its methodologies.

I had heard about the General Assembly UX design course; it was on my radar for some time. I kept thinking about doing the course each time I changed jobs but didn’t feel ready until the Covid19 pandemic changed everything. The pandemic was the push I needed to commit to taking the course. 

What did you know about UX design prior to taking the course? 

I never thought of any other alternative paths to the e-commerce work I was doing, because I always worked in digital experiences for various brands. This was very much still my focus and my interest. 

When I started learning about UX, it didn’t seem too far from what I was used to in creating and working with brand websites. I enjoyed that aspect of those roles and wanted to build on that interest. Reskilling into a UX role allowed me to do that, since UX offers a nice balance between different skills, including understanding customer problems, empathising with them, and working to solve them. 

In the General Assembly course, I enjoyed the interview scenarios very much and the creativity that comes with problem-solving. In my previous role running digital marketing for e-commerce brands I was accustomed to problem-solving in data-driven ways. Learning UX has incorporated a social side to problem-solving, along with a more practical side that includes helping graphic designers. 

How do you feel about entering the job market in a new career now that you’ve completed your course?

I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned and get to work as a UX designer. I’m excited to join the job market. The UX community is really open and accepting of giving advice, so it feels very welcoming. 

The opportunity is exciting, but it is daunting to be entering a completely different industry. The structure of the application process and interviews is slightly different from what I’m used to in my previous industry. So I think there are a bit of nerves about that. 

On the whole, how do you feel about having changed your career? 

I think I definitely think it was the right decision for me. The prospect of finding another job in the field I was in didn’t excite me. The General Assembly course has helped my confidence grow. My public speaking and presentation skills have increased. 

Prior to taking the course, I didn’t have much opportunity to do much of either of those two things, and the course allowed me to grow these skills. 

Those are valuable ‘soft skills’ I was able to learn, alongside learning the ‘hard skills’ necessary to get a job as a UX designer. 

Do you think the skills from your previous career are transferable as you look for work after the course? 

Yes, absolutely. My initial strategy for my job search is to target e-commerce companies because I am able to combine my past experience in e-commerce with my new skills in UX. By doing so, I feel I can add value for e-commerce companies, given my experience working with brands. I understand how brands are structured and what teams’ priorities are.

I also think hard skills like the ability to analyse data and understand conversion rates can help me as a UX designer in deciding how to optimise a company’s website, so these skills can absolutely be useful to my future career. 

I also think some of the soft skills I possess from my prior work can be transferable, along with the hard skills. From what I’ve read, recruiters and hiring managers want to see candidates demonstrate soft skills, which cannot be taught. Prior work experience gives you soft skills like initiative, organisation, communication skills —  all of which can help jump-start the career search in a new field. So yes, I do think there is value in previous experience. 

How was it to work on the PItchMe platform?

It was great to work with Dina and her team. We had some good meetings, from our very first starter meeting to get to know PitchMe, all the way through to design studio meetings. 

It was great that my classmates and I were able to work on a project that helped jumpstart our job search. I learned about a different way to showcase yourself in the hiring process, including demonstrating the importance of soft skills. Working with a real client to a brief was very much like delivering UX strategy in the real world. 

Taking your career to the next level by gaining today’s most in-demand skills

We thank Katie for taking the time to speak with us and wish her the best of luck in her journey as a new career shifter. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can find your dream job that optimises your hard and soft skills, check out our SmartMe platform, where you can create a candidate profile in just minutes: https://pitchme.co/ 
And if you’re interested in becoming a career shifter yourself (or upskilling within your existing career), why not visit General Assembly, which provides experiential education in today’s most in-demand skills.

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