Joanna Ngai is a UX designer and illustrator originally from Hong Kong, now residing in the Seattle area. She currently works on Azure as a UX designer at Microsoft. Outside of her day job, she does freelance illustration and works on her writing by posting on all things design on Medium.
How was your University time?
The design program at the University of Washington was a great opportunity to learn the foundations of design, design history and practice the process in a supportive environment with like minded peers. It also offer helpful resources like career fairs, which can expose students to more opportunities after graduation. Design schools gives students a chance to develop a good work ethic and foundation in critical thinking and technical skills.
Why did you seek out a career in this field?
I had enjoyed doodling, arts and crafts as a kid, so as I grew up, it was a natural transition into Photoshop and later, Illustrator. I find creative work to be interesting and something I naturally enjoy—work as a designer is satisfying because you operate as the ‘glue’ between different disciplines (from Marketing, Engineering, Business, etc) all while thinking about human behavior.
What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you to get to where you are today?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think it’s natural as a new person to a company to feel overwhelmed by information and take some time to ramp up. If you’re joining a new team/project/company, ask questions and don’t be afraid to do so—it’s better to get clarity early on by asking for resources.
Set time to focus. It’s easier to get distracted by emails or your phone during a work day. It may seem like common sense but set time to do focused work during a time of day when you feel most energized.
Stay curious and passionate about what you do. Designers need to be comfortable with rapid change because that’s how the world is shifting.
Books that helped you?
I have a list of my favorite design books here: https://blog.prototypr.io/7-books-every-ux-designer-should-read-adf1ed4e68ae. One that stands out is the Universal Principles of Design –it brings together principles of design, using psychology, perception, behavioral research, backed with relevant examples.
Things are changing very fast in the industry, how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletter, podcasts, events etc
Advice for someone looking for job?
It really depends on the company/specific role you work for. UX Designer is a general title but the project you work on might require more technical or more design skills. It all depends on the company. I’d suggest looking for a job you really like and seeing what requirements they have. This will give you a good idea of what kinds of skills you’ll be expected to have.
To polish your portfolio and present yourself as a brand.