I started my design career officially in 1998, ironically, it was before I began my college studies. It was all very sudden, my brother, a software engineer, had been working for quite a while and developed a good network of acquaintances in the industry.
This is a different approach from our usual feature on ABDZ but this might be greatly useful if you ever get this opportunity. Last week, I (François Hoang - Chief Editor on ABDZ) was on my flight home from an onsite interview I had in San Diego for a UX position. This was my first experience and I wanted to share my thoughts about the things I've learned and what I would improve if you ever get this opportunity. Beforehand, I would like to mention that I won't share any details about the company I was interviewed because of a non-disclosure agreement I signed. Also, I would like to send my regards to the awesome folks I've met along the way (Cheers!).
To be able to actually come to an onsite interview, you have to go through a series of phone calls and video conferences. It's usually about 2-3 meetings and if you made the cut. You will get to hear those words: " We would like to invite you to an onsite meeting". OH YEAH! Party time right? Not really, just hold off before you can say anything to your relatives or friends. This is just the beginning of your journey.
The waiting game, I think this is the most brutal part of my whole experience. The wait for email replies and checking your notifications all the time, it almost feels like your current life has been put on hold. The first tip, don't get alarmed about what might be going through your head or the thought about they might have changed their minds on you coming or not. People are busy and they will get to you when it's the time is right. You would rather take this energy and be focusing on doing your homework.
First Task: Homework
This is an interview but try to change the perspective as if it was a UX project. For this first task is all about research. We are grateful enough to have Google as being the biggest searchable library ever, use it for your own benefits. Try to learn and understand the company’s history, philosophy, products/services, marketing, target audience, design process, tools and etc. This way you will be prepared when asked: What do you know about our X company". This exercise helped me a lot because I was able to understand more things beyond the company logo. Don't forget that user experience is not related to interfaces only, it's all part of everything the users interact within reach of the company logo. For my case, I had the opportunity to own the product for a little while. I decided to use it every day and see what was my feedback as a user. What I would definitely improve on the design side and if I've found any bugs too?
It's NOT a vacation trip
We are pretty excited (including me) when you get the chance to fly for free to a destination that you have never been before. Remember that you are traveling for "work" and usually what you have planned to do like shopping, tourist stops never ended up happening. You can always ask if the company is willing to book you an extra day or two but you will pay the extra for the hotel fees. It's always good to ask.
Make a Presentation
For my onsite interview I never saw the mention of having a presentation ready, gladly I made the right move and had one ready. Don't forget that you are traveling all the way across and some people you are meeting probably didn't even read your resume. Play it safe and have one ready. Your presentation should be short, on point and playful. When you going through your portfolio; focus on the points that they need to hear about what they are looking for that UX position. I made a mistake when asked about: "What is the one project that you are most proud of", I decided to go with a project because it was a team effort and process, we had a beautiful outcome on the client side. I was in fact very proud of this project! But I should have stayed with a project that was more around UX and what was the whole process behind to achieve success. Your presentation should also reflect your personality because you will probably talk about yourself for 20-30 minutes. Remember that you are meeting the team that will potentially see you as their next colleague. No harm in slipping a few jokes!
Design Challenge or the Whiteboard Design Challenge
That famous whiteboard challenge, the exciting part. I was a bit scared and skeptical about this challenge but to calm things down. The whole point of this exercise is that your future team wants to see how would you react in front of problems. Are you a problem solver? In this case, there are many solutions to the problem. Don't be shy to ask questions, sometimes the task can be super vague. For my case, it was about: Creating our startup as a pet caring company. We went through different steps including our goals, customer goals, and business goals as well. We didn't get to the point where we would wireframe but overall I loved this exercise. It definitely helps you think about the problem instead of trying to find the obvious. If this is something that you are not good at, practice makes it perfect. Always try to balance questions with answers, it helps to enhance the collaboration in the room.
To end this article, I would like to share Fabio's advice. "Show that you are passionate about your work and simply be yourself". Don't try to be somebody that you are not. If they see you as a great fit for the company, well amazing news for you! If not, there is plenty of great companies out there. Take it as a learning curve! What you have learned from this experience and what would you improve on the next one.