How to Break into UX Design, One Women’s Story
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
By Cindy Duong
The Quib had the pleasure of interviewing Johanna Weintraub, a product designer at Twilio who has used her eye for design as a tool to drive businesses to success. Although she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at Eckerd College, she decided to pursue her innate passion in the fashion industry instead. After ten years as a successful fashion designer, she realized there were only few opportunities to advance in the field. Upon this realization she attended a three-month-long web design bootcamp in San Francisco called Tradecraft in 2014 which kick-started her second career in user experience (UX) design. The time spent at bootcamp allowed her to recognize her full potential for interactive design and coding. She applied her new skills at small startups like Clementine and Choice Lab and eventually worked her way up to Twilio.
Twilio is a developer platform that helps power communications via SMS and voice for companies like Uber, Lyft, Netflix and others. Twilio takes care of communication strategies for companies which in turn grants the companies the ability to focus on other dimensions of the company such as international expansion or safety enhancements. With Twilio’s rapid growth and usage, Weintraub saw millions of users utilizing the redesign of Twilio's developer console that she and a colleague worked on. This console is for prospective clients, like Uber, who are interested in utilizing Twilio’s services. It includes a clean and easy-to-navigate interface that logically translates from one step to the next.
As in any career, Weintraub's time as a UX designer is comprised of both rewarding experiences and difficult challenges. It is most upsetting for Weintraub when people underestimate the process of creating content; it requires creativity, time, and effort. UX designers are expected to do research on the client’s needs before brainstorming ideas, test the layout through consumer surveys, wire-frame for the prototype stage, and design the actual product. The process is longer than some clients imagine and they do not understand that UX design requires foundational work, not just changing the font or altering the shade of blue on the login screen. Nonetheless, Weintraub’s most treasured time at Twilio was working in collaboration with a group of professional designers who had their unique approaches. According to Weintraub, it was an energizing experience to work with a team where each member possessed the same drive to turn their whiteboard ideas into a reality.
When asked about her secret to success, Weintraub said: “fake it ‘till you make it.” With her Environmental Science degree and ten year fashion industry experience, she is now involved in a career that deals with technology--a new, rapidly-expanding industry that she has yet to master. She advises that “it’s always a good idea to ask questions, but sometimes it’s also fine to improvise and just go along with intuition.” One method that helped her build confidence, overcome fears, and deal with arising issues was taking improvisation classes. Her courses allowed her to navigate and thrive in new situations in a calm manner.
At the end of our conversation, Weintraub left us with valuable advice for women in their early 20’s who are interested in pursuing a career in business:
Completely immerse yourself
Whatever industry you are interested in, get involved! This can mean following interesting role models in the field, enrolling in courses, or pursuing networking opportunities. Find a professional in the field you are interested in, and ask them questions about their life and career. Show interest in people and they will always be happy to talk about themselves. Don’t underestimate the wonders of a fully immersive experience!
There are many cases where women tend to underestimate their abilities in comparison to their male counterparts. For reference, on average men apply for jobs they feel only 60% qualified for whereas women ensure they meet the requirements of every box before they apply, noted Weintraub. It’s okay to believe in yourself even if you do not have all the answers yet; just go for it!
Molly Stevens, November 15, 2010, https://flic.kr/p/8TJzKy