From Anthropology To UI Design: How My People Skills Translated Into UX/UI Work

As a researcher, Nattapon was in search of more fulfilling work. In this interview, he reveals how his passion for people led him to a career in UX design…

by Jaye Hannah on 29 June 2020

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As soon as I sit down for my interview with UI design graduate Nattapon, one thing becomes immediately clear: he’s a people person. After I learn that he obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in anthropology before stepping into working life as a researcher for an NGO in Thailand, Nattapon’s love of working with people becomes all the more apparent. “Understanding people is my passion,” he tells me.

A few years into his career as a researcher, Nattapon began to feel a dissonance between his work and his compelling passion for people. He felt that his work ended at the final report, without making any real change or lasting impact for the real people who featured in his case studies. It was this intrinsic sense of unfinished business that led Nattapon to begin exploring alternative career paths.

During his career as a researcher, Nattapon supplemented his work by taking on small graphic design and branding jobs on the side. Having always been interested in design, it seemed like a natural starting point in his search for a new career. The question that remained was which kind of design he’d pursue.

For Nattapon, his ‘lightbulb moment’ would arrive after a freelancing job brought him to Germany for translation work.

“While in Germany, I discovered UX design, and it seemed like the perfect balance between creating something and understanding people better—the latter of which is already my area of expertise. After failing to convince the German job center to allow me to do the UX Design Program for free with CareerFoundry, they suggested I do the UI Design Program instead—which, once I’d learned more about it, also felt like a great fit. The creativity and visual side was missing from my previous experience, so I was excited to bolster up those skills.” 

After learning that Nattapon was encouraged to segway to UI design to be eligible to enroll in the program for free with the Agentur für Arbeit (the German job center), I’m keen to understand his thought process. After having his heart set on UX design, how did he adapt to making the switch? Did he still feel that he would be able to foster a user-centric mindset with the UI Design Program?

“When I started researching what I wanted to do, the thing that really stuck out for me was that I wanted to understand the users. I wanted to do something meaningful and impactful, and I wanted to know that I’d have a supporting argument for my design decisions. That’s what I love about UI design. A lot of people think that UI design is just about doing something pretty, but it’s so intuitive.” 

Nattapon dived into the course with a rigorous daily schedule, keeping a steady pace as he strived to complete the course within the designated 3-month period. As I quiz him about his 40-hours per week schedule, it’s clear that Nattapon thrives under pressure. “Keeping a good pace is an essential aspect of learning for me.”

Talking me through his CareerFoundry experience, Nattapon highlights how much he enjoyed the interaction with his mentor and tutor. “My tutor was incredibly helpful,” He tells me. “Every time I got feedback, it was so well thought out—I was really impressed. My mentor was also super perceptive. Whenever we talked, it was clear that he was trying to understand me as a person and what my goals were so that he could advise me on what direction I should go down to achieve them.” 

Nattapon’s previous experience in both design and research meant he felt confident to begin applying for jobs as soon as he started the program. Though he admits that he often felt out of depth in his interviews, this proactive approach meant that he was nothing short of a UI design interview pro by the time the Job Prep Course rolled around. “At the end of the program, I was already at the final interviewing stage with three different companies.”

When I ask Nattapon to talk me through his current position, I’m surprised to learn that he was brought on as a UX designer.

“I got two job offers at the same time, and only had a week to choose between them. One was UX/UI at a startup, and the other was pure UX design at a more established company. I consulted the Career Specialists on slack, and they were so helpful in guiding me towards the right decision.” 

Nattapon’s new company is in the E-learning sector, which, given his passion for people, is right up his street. Nattapon loves the analytical nature of his work as a UX designer and feels that he can make a significant impact on people’s lives—something he’s wanted from the start.

“I like to understand things. It’s in my nature to be curious about the way people think and act. The job that I do enables me to understand people deeply rather than just creating designs. We start with the problem and design solutions. I also love how proactive we are on my team; my work requires a lot of autonomy and initiative, which I value a lot. To top it all off, my colleagues are really supportive. If something goes wrong, it’s always about what we can learn from it.” 

From initially pursuing a career in UX design, to doing a UI design program, only to land a job as a UX designer—it seems Nattapon has truly come full circle. While his lack of formal UX design qualifications initially led him to question his adequacy for the role, Nattapon was able to tackle his imposter syndrome by making full use of the CareerFoundry Slack community. Reaching out to fellow alumni and career specialists throughout the initial months of his new role meant he was never short on support and encouragement.

“What I realized I lacked was a few of the techniques. But other than that, the UI design program material prepared me well for the UX design mindset.” 

So, what advice would Nattapon give for people looking to make a switch into UI or UX design, especially through the Agentur für Arbeit?

“It’s important to know how your previous experience can be applied to UX or UI design going forward. Once you’ve identified your strengths, even as you begin your journey, you’ll have a better understanding of what you need to improve on.”

As talk turns to the future, it becomes clear to me that Nattapon’s bursting with ideas—though he also expresses how glad he is to be getting some professional work experience in UX design.

“Right now, I’m interested in exploring the different disciplines within design—like emotional design and gamification. It all comes back to my passion for understanding people, so I could definitely see myself becoming a specialist in the future.”

We can’t wait to see what Nattapon does next!

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by Jaye Hannah on 29 June 2020

About the author

CareerFoundry Marketing Content Editor Jaye Hannah

Jaye Hannah

Jaye is a London-based freelance writer and content strategist with a background in EdTech. When she’s not working on her UX writing course, you’ll find her nerding out over inclusive content.