Hired! An honest chat with successful career changers

What is it like to change your career to design? We interviewed three successful designers who changed their careers recently.

Guests: Nicole Ha, Kathryn Yokoyama, Lulu M
Host: Hitomi Abiko

You’re new. You want to break into design. But how?

These three ladies made the jump.

In this panel chat, we spoke with Nicole, Kathryn, and Lulu in to pick their brains.

What worked, and what didn’t?

What did employers seem to be looking for?

And most of all… was it worth it?


If you need a little support, you can connect with like-minded people on Creative Tokyo, where we host events and get-togethers. You’ll find many fellow career change contemplators, as well as creative professionals who can give you a peek into the life post-career change. 


Full Transcript

Hitomi
Good evening, everybody. Welcome to Creative Tokyo. I’m your host, Hitomi Abiko. And today we have three amazing ladies who recently made a career change into design. So let’s welcome Nicole, Kathryn, and Lulu. So you guys want to introduce yourself? Just go into circle. Let’s start with Nicole. 

Nicole
Hi, everybody. My name is Nicole. I am a Canadian Hispanic lady here living in Tokyo. I’m currently working for Publicist Group as a UX designer. And for those of you who don’t know what that organization is, it’s a French design agency here in Tokyo. Yeah. When I’m not designing, I love to indulge in photography, playing with my cat. I’m a cat lady and trying to empower the design community here in Tokyo, Japan. Yeah, nice to meet you. So I’m going to pass it off to Kathryn. Go ahead. 

Kathryn
Thanks, Nicole. Hi, everyone. I’m Kathryn. I’m usually living in Tokyo, but at the moment I’m in London on a business trip because I am working as a UX UI designer for Octopus Energy Japan, which is a UK energy tech startup that has now expanded to a global energy provider. So, yeah, they launched in Japan. I think it was about a year ago. So I’m working with them as their UI UX designer. In my free time, I like video games, movies, just hanging out, relaxing. Nice to meet you.

Lulu
Hi, everyone. My name is Lulu. I’m currently working as an in house product designer at Atrae:. I’m now working for the B2B software product. In my free time, I like to go hiking and traveling. Yes, it’s nice to meet you.

Hitomi
Welcome. Awesome. Thank you guys for being our panelists tonight. So each of you has had different experiences on the way to becoming a designer. Right? And today we’re kind of looking to help our audience address these questions. One, is this the right path for me? Two, how do I do it? And three, what does the light look like at the end of the tunnel. 

Hitomi
Before we start, we actually have a quick poll. Let’s see where people are at in their career change process.

Hitomi
Alrighty. I’m going to end the poll and share the results. Here we are. So a lot of people are in the early stages. Plenty of people are actually in the interviewing process. Cool. So now that we kind of know where we’re at, let’s dive right in with the questions.

Hitomi
Okay. What did you do before design and what made you consider a career change? So let’s start. I’m just going to pass this on to Katherine. 

Kathryn
Thanks, Hitomi. Good question. So before design, immediately before design, I was working as an English teacher in Japan. So I was working at a University teaching English, but before that, I was actually studying drawing and applied arts. So I was already kind of moving towards a creative field. Sorry. Was there a second part to that question? 

Hitomi
Yeah. What made you switch for sure? Is it just because of the English teaching or was it the environment?

Kathryn
Yeah. Okay. I’m not going to say that I didn’t enjoy it because there were some great times that I had there, but every day was kind of the same. It wasn’t really that big of a challenge. I knew I didn’t want to do it forever, and I had already studied applied arts and design, so that kind of gave me a little bit of a clue about what I wanted to do. I already had a little bit of insight into those creative fields, so I decided to kind of pursue that as a career full time. 

Hitomi
Yeah. You went after your passions, which is awesome. You want to pass the baton?

Kathryn
Sure. How about Lulu? 

Lulu
Yes. So before I switched my carrier as a designer, I was working as a sales manager at a big American company. I was doing million dollar business and I thought that was very fantastic. I was very ambitious students when I was in College and I was on track. I can become a very good career woman. But actually the work itself was very high pressure job. And sometimes I was really questioning if I could do keep doing the job for my entire life. So that was like the reason why I started thinking about changing job. 

Hitomi
When you say high pressure, what are you referring to? Is it like the workload? 

Lulu
Yes. So because I have my target numbers, my target sales numbers, I have a very competitive co workers, colleagues. I need to compete. I have to win all the time. And my numbers attract every single week. It’s a lot of pressure. 

Hitomi
Okay. Hitting sales targets, anybody from not in the sales industry will be like, oh, that sounds scary, but yeah, definitely. So what about you, Nicole? What was your “kikkake”? 

Nicole
Yeah, I guess my life before UX Design was actually within marketing. I used to work for an engineering consultancy, and they basically did water solutions, for example, broken water pipes here and there. But, yeah, the reason why I wanted to leave this industry was just, I guess as a marketer, I was traveling a lot, a lot of international business trips, and it wasn’t a one week trip. It was something more long term. So I definitely want seeking that remote working life. And also, as you kind of grow older, I wanted something a little bit more quieter. So, yeah, I thought this was kind of like the perfect gateway to kind of get into that. 

Hitomi
Definitely. I guess if you’re traveling a lot and not short term. You’re talking like a month?

Nicole
That’s right. Maybe like half a year, projects and stuff. It’s one thing to travel for pleasure, but it’s another thing for business. 

Hitomi
So you’re basically, like, semi nomadic, which is interesting. 

Nicole
Yeah, exactly. 

Hitomi
So you guys all have various reasons that you decided to make the switch, and for a better life experience, I imagine. How did you actually make the switch? What was the process like, say, Nicole?

Nicole
Yeah, that’s right. Coming back at me. I was lucky enough that I could actually internally switch my roles from marketing into UX Design. But even then, it wasn’t the industry that I really wanted to because it was so technical and it’s quite a traditional industry, the water pipe business. Yeah. So I think after that, I definitely joined a bootcamp, which is Design Lab, to kind of learn a little bit more about the whole design thinking process. And, yeah, it was really nice, especially since the industry is changing so much these days. It was kind of nice to learn, like, all these up to date methods and everything and made a lot of friends along the way. And I think afterwards, when I was back in Japan, I started freelancing to kind of focus in learning, I guess, like, the behaviors and tendencies of Japanese users. So most of my projects I did outside of Japan worked with, I guess, like, North American participants. And I know that wasn’t going to be the same thing happening in Japan. 

Hitomi
Yeah. Interesting. Okay, so you did Design Lab and you made an internal company switch, like you were a UX designer there. 

Nicole
That’s right. For a very short time. Yeah. But again, it was more B to B, and I wanted to kind of go more into B to C. So, yeah, at the same time, when I was wrapping up my old job, I was doing Design Lab. I graduated, I came back to Tokyo and I could find my first client. 

Hitomi
Wow. Awesome. What about you, Lulu? 

Lulu
I was at first figuring out if UX UI is my thing. So that’s why I researched a lot about what is UI UX designer doing. And then I started researching about how to be a UI designer because I was curious enough to change my job as a UI designer. And afterwards. Oh, yes, this is my thing. And I studied a little bit about HTML, CSS, kind of a little bit coding. And I create my first lady very simple website, and I learned how to use figumer, and I read the books and fundamental design principles that’s really helped me to kind of move forward. My first step. 

Hitomi
Okay. So you delved into books? 

Lulu
Yes. I’m not like Nicole. I didn’t have any design or artistic background. I was studying business communication when I was in college, so I started from zero. I studied, what is design? What is UI UX. But thanks for the technology. Thanks for YouTube. You can search everything on YouTube, and it’s all free. So I think we were born in a very nice era. Yeah, the education is just out there if you go looking for it. 

Hitomi
Wow. Just out of curiosity, are there any specific YouTube channels that you followed that were particularly useful? 

Lulu
Yes. Actually, AJ & Smart is a very famous YouTube channel. Right. AJ & Smart. I think a German agency. 

Nicole
I also watch them too. Yeah, it’s a Germany UX agency. 

Lulu
And the one video was very popular because it’s about the old steps, how you can be a UX designer, what should do study and how to approach these companies when you are interviewing. And it was very helpful. 

Hitomi
Awesome. I love how you’re utilizing these free resources to really make the switch. How about you, Kathryn? What was your journey like? 

Kathryn
Yeah, my journey was maybe more similar to Lulu’s journey and that I didn’t do like a boot camp or anything like that. At the time that I decided to make my career switch, I had limited resources, so I had to kind of just figure out how to get there within those constraints. So I actually ended up doing the Google UX Professional certificate, which I’m sure everyone has heard of by now. So I did that. It took me about six months to complete that, and it was really useful. It was a really great foundation. So taking the learnings from that course and then building on it with just some experience, like grabbing some pro-bono work or trying to do internships and participating in other volunteer opportunities just to kind of get stuck in. I guess that’s my style. It’s kind of like just throw myself in there and see if I can figure it out. Yeah, that’s what I did. It was really awesome. 

Hitomi
You reached out to folks and got your first design engagement, right?

Kathryn
Yeah. 

Hitomi
I think my next question is about that. What was your first one, your first design engagement, and what are your takeaways? How does that happen? You want to start, Kathryn? 

Kathryn
Yeah, sure. My first design engagement in this world of UX UI was actually redesigning a homepage for a log house or, like, cabin resort in Karuizawa. So I had stayed there with my husband, and when we were there, they have a sauna that you can book, but you have to go to their website and reserve it. So I checked the website and I was like, oh, I can see a few ways that I could potentially improve this. After we went home, I thought about it for a bit. Then I approached the owner with a proposal. I contacted him by email, and I just said, “hey, I’ll do this for you for free if you’re okay for me to put it in my portfolio as some experience.” And he was totally fine with that. So that was a great experience for me to have some exposure, like working with an actual client, even though it wasn’t making me any money. It was quite different from just learning from the course. You’re actually like, you’ve got the client who’s got needs, and you’ve got the users there who’ve also got needs. And it’s quite a different scenario to the strictly learning environment. So that’s what I did. And I recommend, like, anybody kind of reach out for pro-bono stuff. 

Hitomi
I just wanted to reiterate – having actual needs to solve – I think that is pretty much key. Let’s pass the baton.

Kathryn
Yeah, sure. How about Nicole, what was your first experience link? 

Nicole
Yeah. Oh, wow. I think in some ways, my experience parallels yours a little bit. Like I told, as soon as I was starting to do client work, I was telling everybody and their moms about it, and that eventually kind of got back to me, like a friend of a friend who was in contact with a tea ceremony school teacher. And that became my first client. And basically as a UX designer, I helped them make a website in order to help them connect with their current and prospective students a little bit better. And the main takeaways of that. Oh, wow, so much. I guess I really wanted to dive into the tendencies and the behaviors of Japanese users and I guess I got what I wanted. I did like all the research, all the usability testing, all the user interviews in Japanese, and that was a lot to handle. But in the end, it was a great learning opportunity and I don’t regret it. It was kind of like trying to navigate that space where Japanese isn’t my native language, but I did have enough command that I could really extract insights. And thank God, I always had my Japanese friends to double-check in case I misinterpreted anything. So yeah, it was good.

Hitomi
Yeah. And you’re bold to actually go and interview users. 

Nicole
And yeah, I was like, oh, I took too much. And also I love tea. So I thought like, oh, this is great. But wow, like the tea ceremony world. I really went down the rabbit hole with that one. I learned a lot of new terminology, like there’s like different disciplines like Omote, Senke and Urasencke, and they have different names for utensils and everything. I wouldn’t call myself a teaser Maroney master. But I’m like, I can follow what you’re probably going to say. 

Hitomi
I love how you really got up close and personal with the users there.

Nicole
Of course. Oh, yeah. And it’s so interesting too, I guess, because I’m a Canadian lady comparing, how can I say, user behaviors between North American participants and Japanese participants, but that’s for a whole different session. 

Hitomi
Yeah. They actually read things in Japan. Awesome.

Nicole
How about you Lulu?

Lulu
So my first design engagement was non paid freelance volunteer job. So I didn’t have any design background friends around my circumstance. So I was asking my friends if you have a design job or someone who wants to hire a designer. And I finally got a freelance volunteer job after three months. I started to study UI UX, and I was just doing really small things like improving the product information architecture or creating simple wireframes. And I didn’t really do a lot of UI, but it was a really great first job because actually it was a really small step, but it was great first experience. 

Hitomi
Yeah. Awesome. You also went down the pro-bono route.

Lulu
Yeah.

Hitomi
So I guess everybody started out with a first free freelance and that kind of like helps with your portfolio. Nice. 

Hitomi
Now that you’ve made the switch, assuming you’ve interviewed successfully with various companies and found like the one, at least for now, what’s it like being a designer? What changed? What’s different about it or what’s not? Let’s go with Kathryn. 

Kathryn
So what’s different about being a designer versus being an English teacher? My job is a lot more interesting and a lot more challenging. Personally, I feel like it was the right choice for me, so it’s easy for me to feel really engaged by my design work and fulfilled by that. I’m really motivated by solving problems. So for me, every day is exciting. Even when I’m making a sign up form, it’s like it’s still really interesting to me. So I love that aspect. I guess the maybe like slightly negative side to that would be that I do end up working a lot more than I used to. So when I was an English teacher, I had like a start time and a finish time and that was it. I would go home at the end of the day and I would never think about it again. Now I have my work laptop that’s with me all the time. And then because of that and because I do find it so interesting, I usually end up working quite a lot more than I probably should. But maybe that’s my thing to sort out. Maybe I have to set some boundaries there. How about Nicole? 

Nicole
Yeah, I guess comparing now to back then, yeah, I’m completely satisfied where I am right now. It’s exactly what I was looking for and I’m happily working remotely. I completely understand what you were kind of mentioning before, Kathryn, but yeah, definitely making those boundaries. Like not answering any emails or any messages after a certain amount of time or even on the weekends. Yeah. But I think for me it was worth it.

Hitomi
Yeah. What’s your experience like, Lulu? 

Lulu
Like Nicole, I’m also really satisfied with my current job and I can also work remotely and it’s amazing field. But there is something I didn’t expect when I was studying UIUX is that working with engineers. I never experienced working with engineers before and for the first several months it was difficult because I need to learn their language. I necessarily didn’t need to run code or didn’t need to know everything about back-end front-end. But still I need to learn how to communicate with engineers and move the project forward. And I needed to break a lot of my designs. Also like, I need to improve with a lot of designs and it’s a lot of things like ups and downs. But anyways, I learned so much and now I feel like this is a real in house UI UX product designer’s job. What I was doing when I was studying UI was, creating a persona, creating user journey map. And it’s very much like a case study, very fundamental. But in the real world it’s not really like that. You sometimes really just need to focus on working in the team and you need to run a lot of stuff, which I didn’t expect when I was just studying. So yeah, you should expect you have to learn a lot after you actually become a UI designer. But I don’t want to scare you guys.

Hitomi 
It is true. Like as you said, learning stuff is very different from the actual work and definitely working with developers, like if you don’t know what they’re talking about, all the code and whatnot and various terminologies. Then you’re like, what are they talking about? Props to you guys for going through that and learning that on the job,

Hitomi
Okay, so I guess Lulu and Katherine are in house designers, and Nicole is in an agency. Right. So I guess kind of leveraging your experience. Do we want to open it up for the audience to ask some questions to you guys? 

Nicole
Yeah, absolutely. 

Hitomi
Throw some questions into the chat and see.

Nicole
Can be about anything. Work, boot camp, learning, job hunting. 

Hitomi
Oh, yeah, Vin, do you have a question?

Vin
Hello. So I thought I’m Vin. I’m just going to ask a question here. So it’s interesting to hear these stories right now because I’m kind of going opposite route. Like, I’ve been in IT for about 20-25 years, so I’m trying to move away from that. And the one thing that’s really challenging right now is I kind of forgot how it is to not being good at something. So sometimes it’s quite discouraging. So I was wondering if you had similar experiences when you went through you were a career change.

Kathryn
Hi. Sorry. Yeah, that really resonated with me, actually, since I studied art and design at Uni. And I do have a creative background, like with drawing and especially fine arts as well. I guess I just had this impression that moving into anything creative would come naturally to me. And especially as an adult with, like, a fully developed taste and vision, it’s really hard to reconcile what, you know, looks good and what you produce. And, you know, it doesn’t because, you know what good is, but you’re not doing that. And you’re like, I’m an adult. Why am I not just good at this? For me, it was really hard to kind of deal with that discrepancy until I got my skills up. Anybody else? 

Hitomi
Anybody else who has a big gap? I don’t know, I feel like Lulu, maybe because it’s completely new, right? Does that feel, like, intimidating or anything? 

Lulu
Yes. Again, I didn’t have any artistic design background, so I was really not sure if UI UX is for me or not. But this is, like, the one thing I did want to tell you. I questioned myself. Do I really want to keep working in sales or did I want to change my job? I was asking this question to myself, like, which way I can be happier? And the answer was yes, I want to change my job to be a designer. I believe that I will be happier. So there was, like, there’s only one way in front of me. There’s only one thing that makes me happier. So there was no way I keep doing a sales job. I couldn’t make a reason why I kept doing a sales job. But if I ask the question in front of me, okay, I could be happier if I changed my job as a designer, so. Okay. Yeah, just going. Yeah. Does it make sense to you? 

Vin
Yes, it makes sense to me quite a bit. So, yeah, I really want to change careers. So I just keep going at it and a bit like what Kathryn said right now, I’m doing a lot of photography, for example. And I mean, I don’t think what I’m doing is terrible, but there are times when I’m like, is that good enough? But like she just said on the chat, so I’ll just keep going at it. Then someday I’ll say bye bye to IT, I guess. Thank you. 

Lulu
Yeah. You’re welcome. It was very difficult for me to push myself to what I was not really good at. English is my second language and everything. Like, I need to learn from Internet and every resource is in English. But I believe my 6th sense knew that this is the right way. So if you have that type of sense, I want you to believe you are Karma or. Yeah, just I want you to believe your way. 

Vin
Well, thank you. And I must say, since I’ve been wearing all sorts of hats in IT, I went at the beginning, there was no such thing as back-end, front-end, and whatever. It was just the end. It was just the thing. But I’ve done the back-end, front-end, DevOps and UX and everything. And I think you’re on the right path. No problem there. It’s interesting for me to hear the story because when I started learning all of that when I was back as a teenager, back in high school, it was super slow. You just had dial up and you didn’t really have a set path to learn everything. And I think it’s a little bit easier today because now you have all those great resources for you to learn, which is good. So if you’re doing well, I can see you’re doing all well when it comes to that. But yeah, thank you all for the answers. 

Lulu
You’re welcome. 

Hitomi
Thanks, Vin, for the question. So we have a question from Yoshie.

Nicole
There’s a question from Lydia. 

Hitomi
Let’s go from top to bottom. So how do you overcome your imposter syndrome?

Kathryn
The short answer to that is I don’t. And I think that’s true for a lot of people, even people who’ve been doing it for years and years and years and years and are like experts, like, I think it still even affects them. So as much as you can try to silence those voices and just like I said before, just keep going and just know that you’re always improving and every project you make, your skills get better and better and just try to stay positive. How about you, Lulu? 

Lulu
Wow. So the question was how to deal with imposter syndrome? This is like a huge thing for me. I’ve been suffering this for a long time. Yeah. Sorry, I don’t have a good answer. But I think to have a good friends and supportive family is I think it’s significant. It’s very difficult. I think this one will not be cured completely if you bring this failing all the time, because obviously there. Right. If you do hard work, you accomplish something. But somehow, maybe like tomorrow. No, the day after, maybe a week later, you feel like, okay, I could do it so everybody else can do that type of things. Right. So, yes, you need to have definitely community that supports you. I think that really help you. Sorry, I really don’t have a good answer for this.

Hitomi
But you make a good point, like having people around you who are validating.

Lulu
Yeah. It’s definitely tiring you think like, you are not enough all the time. So definitely you have a community that support and encourage each other. 

Nicole
I’ll quickly just chime in with I think something that helps me is just practice, just constantly keep practicing. And I think this constant exposure builds up your confidence and also, you know, what to expect, or you start to kind of expect the unexpected, basically. And I know a lot of I think at least in the bootcamp when I took it at the time, like, a lot of people read a lot of UX books, but they don’t do. So I would focus on the doing. 

Hitomi
Yeah, definitely the doing, because what you learn in books, the experience is very different from the real working world.

Lulu
Yeah. We should remind ourselves that we should not really compare with others people a lot, because in this industry, when you look at UX portfolios case studies, there are so many fantastic designers out there. And when I compare myself with them, it’s terrible. So just to make sure that you celebrate your progress, you celebrate everything you accomplish. Yeah. I think that’s very important. 

Hitomi
Yeah. Being positive about it definitely helps. Okay, let’s move on to the next question from Yoshie-san. As an English Speaker or foreigner, getting a job or career in Japan. Like, what were the main obstacles? 

Kathryn
Can I go? 

Hitomi
Yeah, I think it’s particularly you guys, Nicole and Kathryn. 

Kathryn
Yes. I mean, I faced a lot of obstacles, and some of them are specific to me. Those would be I think it was speculative, I guess, but based on some things I’ve heard or other people have experienced and told me about job hunting in Japan. My age. So I’m 41 and I changed my career in my late 30s. That was probably an obstacle in Japan. The fact that I have changed jobs a few times also was a little bit of an obstacle. Of course, the language barrier was big. Yeah. So the language barrier is huge. Also, applying to a lot of companies, like a couple of companies just straight up told me, sorry, we want to hire a Japanese person so there is that as well. And I ended up working for an international company. So I still don’t even know if it’s possible to break into an actual Japanese company. And I don’t really have to use Japanese so much at work. But my Japanese level is around daily conversations. So if I do need to communicate with people in Japanese, I can I don’t have to deal with clients because I’m in-house. So that also helps. I’m only dealing with my close co workers and stuff. So that’s okay for me. How about you, Nicole? What kind of challenges did you face? 

Nicole
Yeah, I think for me it was definitely the language barrier. I think for me I kind of aimed in the middle. Like, I would really like to work for a bilingual company or if I have to pick probably English, just because there’s so many unspoken rules, unspoken etiquettes that I don’t want to really stress out over. And I want to be a good UX designer. I don’t want to worry about, did I offend my boss? Did I offend my clients? So, yeah, I think that’s what I kind of strategized when I was doing my job hunt, focusing on a bilingual company or international company. And definitely the language barrier was a big one. And I think it’s not maybe because it’s like an English speaking problem, but maybe it’s just the industry in Japan as well. I think a lot of Japanese companies, I’m not sure if they’re aware the differences between some things in the UX industry are like, I would apply for UX designer jobs, but once I was in the interview process, I would find out like, oh, this isn’t UX. This is UI. I’m like, do they know that? I don’t know if it’s a miscommunication or maybe how they interpreted what a UX designer is. So, yeah. 

Kathryn
I do think there’s a lot of misconception, maybe globally, but I mean, my experience is Japan. So I’m going to talk about that, that a UX designer is someone who makes things look good or is a graphic designer or does video editing or is like an After Effects wizard. But people don’t realize that the main part of our job is like solving problems creatively. So I think that gets lost and people kind of just say, oh, you make this look good, right? So I think there is a kind of disconnect about for sure. 

Hitomi
Oh, man, definitely. I think that the job title and job description mismatch is like huge. I see it in the US, but it’s definitely pronounced in Japan, especially when you realize, oh, UX designer, really? And then you look at the JD and it’s like, oh, they just want a graphic designer to make banners. Definitely. That was a great question. Thanks Yoshie.

Hitomi
What keeps you motivated? Setting can be endless. So how do you keep going? I think Lulu said I prioritize my happiness. A or B. That’s a very good point. How about you two? 

Kathryn
I also prioritize my happiness, but I do get quite focused in what I’m doing something. But the other thing is that sometimes, as I said before, there’s a point where I just kind of get tired of studying and I drop studying in favor of pursuing some actual, like, try it and find out experience. So I guess that was my motivation. It’s like, okay, I’ve got enough of a background. I’m just going to dive in, see what happens if I fail. Okay. Then I’ll learn from that. I think that’s more motivating to me to kind of learn that way after a period of studying. But I couldn’t just sit there and study for the whole day. I wouldn’t be able to do that. I’m very bad at that.

Nicole
Yeah. What keeps me motivated, I guess that’s interesting. Probably. Maybe would be like, whatever the problem is, if it’s something like my first client was like the tea ceremony. That’s a space that I was super interested. So I got 100% absorbed into it, even though it was a lot of work. But also, like, the people, I feel like not to throw any shade at the marketing or sales Department, but I felt like that space was very competitive. But comparing that to the design community, it has been completely different. Everybody’s so warm, so welcoming, and I think those people really inspire me to keep going and to become the best that I can be. 

Hitomi
Yeah. The people around you in the same industry, I think that helps a lot. The designers I’ve met, they’re like, Everybody is so chill. It doesn’t matter. They’re not like, oh, I’m better than you or whatever.

Hitomi
Awesome. That was a great question as well.

Hitomi
So this is Jay – continuing on what’s been asked, did anyone get feedback or mentorship along the way to build or refine the skills, or is it more common to be just self made? 

Nicole
I can probably speak to the mentorship part, but to the self made, I’m going to leave that to Kathryn and Lulu. So, yeah, I guess I’ll quickly explain what kind of happened on my side. Yeah. So I did design that. So it’s a wonderful thing. And I think one of the biggest reasons why I joined that was that they did provide mentorship, and it’s great because you basically kind of get matched according to what your learning style is. So not to sound super hardcore, but I wanted somebody super challenging, structured and organized, and that’s exactly who I got. And yeah, I think they really made me grow in such a small amount of time because I’m not going to lie, he was tough. He gave a lot of tough love, but. Yeah. And I think that feedback was not that he was rude or disrespectful in any ways. Sometimes I thought like, wow, I did an amazing job at this and he’ll point out the little flaws in it. It hurts sometimes, but yeah, that’s what it I guess being a designer is all about trying to absorb that feedback objectively. And yeah, I think in the end I did it.

Nicole
How about you, Kathryn and Lulu, how’s your self made experience? 

Kathryn
I wouldn’t say I’m entirely self-made. And I don’t think anybody could really claim that they are. You would encounter some mentorship along the way. Initially, I do tend to do that. I do tend to kind of be like, I’m going to do this myself. I’m quite independent. But I set up with a Google course. I made a portfolio and it was rubbish. I sent it out to a bunch of jobs, got rejected millions of times. And I was like, but I finished this course and I made this portfolio. Why isn’t it good? Because I had no other input from anybody else. I only did what they told me to do and then created this thing, which was terrible. And after that I realized, okay, maybe I need to kind of like branch out. And then I did sort of branch out network with other designers, like doing some internship projects. Also, I had a few mentorship sessions with someone from ADP list. So that was really helpful. It’s a really good resource. It’s invaluable you need other eyes on your work to just kind of criticize it. And you need to take that on board and that feedback on board and you need to improve. How about you, Lulu? 

Lulu
Yeah. Okay. So I think I will talk about very practical, affordable, way, affordable skills for you to find a mentor. So first of all, I would try to reach out people on Twitter. Maybe it may sound crazy, but I created my portfolio and I sent my portfolio to someone who looks very professional on Twitter and I ask them like, hey, I will send you a ¥500 Starbucks gift for you. So could you please review my portfolio? And actually it worked. Several people like gave me a review and it helps me a lot. And also LinkedIn like you guys mentioned before, but think things are very good place to network. You can find a very professional people and you can ask for interviews and how to get in the job. And also I think Facebook is fantastic because there are so many UI communities on Facebook. And actually I joined one community and I posted about I want to be a designer, but I didn’t have any resources in Japan. So how can I be a UI designer? I posted it on Facebook, just one UI community and one of them, they find me like, hey, do you want to do personal projects with me? He is living in Maryland in the United States. And we were actually doing separate like meetup. We ended up creating only by a friend. But still it was like a great mentorship because he’s studying UI UX in Masters in Maryland College, and it’s one of the best school in the States. So, yeah, I was using a lot of social media to try to reach out to people because during the callback, I was no connection with people. And, like, in person Hangouts or in person meet up. So, yeah, that’s the only way I could survive. Yeah. So I think you guys should do if you like me, don’t hesitate. Yeah. Does it make sense to you guys? 

Hitomi
They’re all very valid points. Like, you should definitely get a pair of eyes on your work, because of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Right. If you think it’s like, oh, this is so amazing for sure! And you haven’t shown it to everyone, it could just be because you don’t know. So the more impostor syndrome you have, it’s actually a good sign that you’re taking a good objective look at your work. And you probably had some people look at it and be like, opportunities for improvement.

Lulu
In my early stage of studying UI UX, I joined Creative Tokyo’s Meetup several times. And I remember I got the feedback from you Hitomi-san and Terry. And that time I remember I showed you, like, WordPress, just the template. I don’t know, it was maybe cute, but I didn’t. I was really like studying from zero, but it was, I think, with progress. 

Hitomi
Yeah, definitely. Okay, so we got seven minutes left. 

Nicole
I think Christina asked about – She’s on a student visa, but she doesn’t plan on having a bachelor’s due to unable to afford finishing school. Is getting a job in UX and Japan difficult without a degree?

Hitomi
Okay. Interesting. I don’t know. What are you guys thoughts on that? 

Kathryn
That depends on your visa situation because. Okay, you won’t be able to get a visa work visa if you need one unless you have a bachelor’s degree. I think that’s a government regulation, so you might want to look into that a little bit further, but I think that’s as far as I know, that’s the case. But I don’t know what your situation is.

Hitomi
Okay. That may be good to look into the legal side of things. 

Nicole
Yeah. It’s crazy.

Hitomi
Interesting. 

Serin
May I share my personal experience about visa? Hi I’m Serin. Actually, I’m now UX designer, and I don’t have bachelor’s degree, and I applied for the visa change, and I got the visa. 

Lulu
Congratulations. 

Nicole
Wow, that’s great. 

Serin
My background’s in music. So it’s totally not related to design at all. But I successfully changed to the humanity engineering visa, so I would encourage everyone to apply and don’t feel discouraged about that. 

Nicole
So if you can get that visa, you just prioritize. And I think at least right now, businesses prefer experience over academics. So just get those clients and I think you’re going to be on a good track.

Hitomi
Interesting. Okay. So you guys actually have some legal advice a little bit, but all disclaimers. I don’t think any of us are actual visa lawyers here. Cool. 

Kathryn
Actually, I think Serena had a question there about process that I really wanted to get to because I think it’s really interesting. So can I go ahead? 

Hitomi
Yeah, go ahead. What’s the difference between the design process you learn from bootcamp and self study and the design process to use in a real company? 

Kathryn
I guess my answer is it’s really different, at least in the work I’m doing now. It’s quite a luxury to be able to go through all of these processes and test everything as the boot camp would tell you the process should be. So we’re quite an agile company. That means we release things quickly, we test them quickly, we work things out really quickly. So our philosophy is kind of like put it out there and get feedback. Basically, like get an idea, refine it a bit, put it out there, get feedback based on the feedback, we kind of adjust it, which maybe is a little bit different than learning stuff like going through personas and empathy maps and all of these things. So, yeah, for me, it’s quite a lot different. I don’t know about Lulu or Nicole.

Lulu
Yeah. It’s totally different from what I learned when I was taking the online classes, because now I skip a lot of things because now I’m working as an in-house. I have to deal with so many different kind of design work. So I sometimes skip making the personas because like personas are there. I work for B2B search product and there are already personas there. So we don’t create personas anymore because we already knew it. And for like UX research, I don’t usually ask customers directly to what is a product issue because already we have a customer success support people there and I can ask them directly what is the customer issue. So we design here from them and we edit, we create UI and we work with the the feature with the engineers and like. Yeah, it’s agile. It’s really like going so far, just like. Yes, repeating the process. 

Hitomi
Yeah, definitely different experience. Right. Study versus real life. So awesome. Since we’re almost at time, I think we want to wrap it up a little bit. If any of you have one word of advice to people, like keep at it, feel free to shout it out. 

Kathryn
Yeah, just keep going. Don’t give up. And make a good portfolio!

Nicole
Yeah, for me it would be network. There’s more allies than you think you have.

Lulu
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It’s your life. So, yeah, you deserve to be happy. 

Hitomi
Yeah. Awesome. 

Nicole
Sorry, Hitomi, can I quickly chime in? Yeah, actually, guys, my agency Publicis Group Japan is currently hiring they’re hiring for all levels so junior mid level designers are welcomed. I created a form so I’m going to drop it in the chat and yeah I think they’re looking for UX UI designers, UX strategies or any PMs so if that’s something that you might be interested in the future definitely for sure. Save it, or if you’re kind of prepared, feel free to send it out. 

Hitomi
Yeah awesome. We have a job board on Creative Tokyo as well so folks who are kind of in that process already and are good with their portfolio, definitely feel free to come in and check it out. 

Hitomi
So thanks for tuning in everyone and thanks to our panelists Nicole, Kathryn and Lulu. We will have a recording and transcript of as well as the takeaway blog post and at Creative Tokyo we host events at least monthly, so come in and hopefully we’ll have some in person eventually again. So we have an active Slack channel as well so join the fun. Otherwise until we see you next time, see y’all. Thank you for joining. Bye.