Student Success Stories: Content production to user researcher

When Gill was on maternity leave in 2020, she noticed that UX roles kept popping up on her LinkedIn feed. When she returned to work, she decided to make the switch from content production to user researcher, balancing her work and home life with her studies.

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Student Success Stories: Content production to user researcher

What’s your career background?

Many years ago, I studied graphic design and I was a graphic designer for five years until the recession hit. I moved into marketing within a university for a few years and then I gradually moved into content production. In the content production role, I was doing bits of UX, like user research, and that eventually led me to seek out a qualification in UX.

Once I got that, I evolved from content production to user researcher with Skills Development Scotland. I’m now in the service design department with three UX/UI designers and we now have two user researchers.

Why did you want to get qualified in UX?

I was on maternity leave from 2020 until 2021 and during that time, I kept seeing UX jobs with many of the big global companies come up on LinkedIn: UX designer, user researcher, UX strategist, UX consulting… I was like, “oh, what’s going on here? It’s a little industry that’s developing”.

When I looked at the job descriptions, there was a lot of chat around user centred design in human behaviours. It sounded like something I had been tapping into within my content job.

When I looked at what they were looking for, some of them wanted a UX qualification so I started looking for courses. 

When I went back to my job after maternity leave, I was on a mission to get involved in projects around UX and fortunately at that time there was a big website redesign project that my department was responsible for. Whilst working on this project I suggested to my line manager the benefits of putting a team member through the UX Design Institute’s Professional Diploma in UX Design and I started the course in October 2021. 

What research did you do into different UX courses?

I searched for a masters in UX and found one in Falmouth University, which was too far away and expensive. I kept searching and a couple of courses came up online and the UX Design Institute ranks high on Google, so I clicked on that. When I noticed that it was accredited by GCU, which was the university I was working for, I started asking around within the uni.

I spoke to someone within GCU’s University to Business Education school and they said that the course is fantastic, even though the course is based in Dublin they’ve got a really good career mentoring service. So, I was happy with that. When I read the reviews of the course, I had pretty much made up my mind. 


You have a background in design but how did the course add to your existing expertise?

I’ve got a design degree and an MBA. My dissertation was a big task in itself but I enjoyed the research part of it.

But if I’m honest with you, it was more about gaining confidence and being able to talk to someone about UX with confidence. I can talk about design and content, but to have gone through a course and gained more knowledge around UX… it’s the simplest of things.

Like the simplest of UX examples would be when Colman talked about the user experience of pushing and pulling a door – It sounds totally simple but it’s putting user experience into context and being able to explain that to stakeholders

How did you find during the course work on top of your own employment and also having two small kids?

It was pretty challenging. The good thing about the course is that it’s at your own pace. You could always submit a project at the end of each month and I accepted that as a challenge for myself. It was comforting to know that if you missed a deadline, you could submit it within the month. Because it was funded through my work, I could allocate some time in my working day to watch some of the online learning videos. 

The course was really really thorough, which was amazing, but I do remember saying to my husband “there’s a lot to do”. However, there were big gains from it. I surprised myself by passing the projects!

But I knew what I was doing was a benefit, so that’s why I put the time and the effort into it. With my two boys, it was a case of as soon as they went to bed, I was working on the laptop.  

Did this course help you build your confidence?

Yeah, you get the email saying that you’ve passed and I was like, “wow!”  For the last project I got a high percentage and I was like, “No way!”  


How did you find the experience of building your portfolio? 

By the time you come to the portfolio module, you’ve got the content there because each one of your projects are worth including and flows like a UX journey. It’s good that when my job interview [for my current job] came around, I could pretty much reference each one of my course  projects as a way of showing my portfolio.

Do you think that the course directly contributed to getting your job now?

I definitely do, especially in terms of me having the confidence in the first place to even apply for the job. I mean, a year ago, would I apply for a user researcher job? No way.

The course definitely gave me the confidence to feel like I could speak to anyone about user research and UX.

Part of my interview involved a presentation on what research methodologies I would use and what challenges I thought the design service would face. I could chat about affinity diagrams, usability testing, the benefits of basically hybrid working and how we can do more usability tests. I feel like the projects and the work and the knowledge that I’ve gained from the course was what got me through the interview.

Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to break into UX?

I’d say do the diploma. Definitely. What I find helpful is that I do a lot of reading. I’m constantly reading about UX. You think you know something and then you learn something else! Just read as much as you can. 


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