Kent State online Master of Science in User Experience Design (UXD) student Kendra Jobes, MS '19 candidate, has always wanted her work to make an impact on people. When her undergraduate degree in design led to an initial user experience job after college, she quickly learned that she enjoyed developing and using the artistic and technical skill set required for a UX role.
Below, read about the ways in which Kent State University has helped guide Kendra down her UX designer career path to her current position at Disney, and see how the online MS in UXD can help prepare you for a great user experience job.
1. What made you decide to pursue a career in user UX design?
I've always loved art and design. When I was in high school I took a graphic design course as an elective and discovered the world of digital art. I thought that I wanted to be a graphic designer up until my senior year of college. That's when I started working on more UX projects and developed a knowledge of basic web development. I found I really loved being able to combine digital art, psychology and logic the way that UX allowed me to.
2. How did you enter the UX design field? What types of jobs did you start out with?
My undergrad program had a strong alumni network. I was able to network and meet people in the industry pretty easily, one of whom offered me a job. My first position was as a UX designer working on websites for auto dealers. It wasn't a great fit. I wasn't interested in the auto industry at all. I quit within a few months and got a job as a UX designer at an education firm working on mobile reading programs. I really enjoyed that position. It was a cool experience working to further the education field.
3. How has your Bachelor of Fine Arts in design helped with your UX design career?
The connections that I made during my undergrad years, both with classmates and alumni, have been so valuable to my career growth. I'm usually able to find someone that I know who's either currently working at or has previously worked at any place that I'm interested in. This has created a network of people that I can always call on for advice when I need it.
4. How did you find this job with Disney?
I actually saw the job posting for months on Glassdoor before I decided to apply. I kept thinking about how cool it would be to work at Disney, but being in a master's program it didn't seem like a good time to change jobs. One day I just decided to go for it and apply. I also knew someone on the design team at Disney which definitely helped me land the first interview.
5. How did Disney feel about you working toward your master's degree while working for them? How have they supported you and your educational pursuits?
They have been so supportive of my program. A lot of the managers and senior level people at the company have their master's degrees so they see the benefit of it. The company actually offers every employee tuition reimbursement as part of their benefits package.
6. What excited you about this role with Disney?
The company has such a rich history. Ever since their founding in the 1920s they've been known for crafting magical experiences for their users. I love being part of that process. This role is also unique in that it's a 'product designer' title instead of UX. This means that I get to combine my knowledge of UX and visual design in my day-to-day activities.
7. What types of qualities and skills does Disney look for in their UX designers?
All of our designers have the title of 'product designer'. This means that we're doing both UX and UI (user interface) work. They look for designers who have combined experience in both of these fields. One thing that stood out to me in my first few weeks was how nice everyone is. I can honestly say I don't have one coworker who I don't enjoy as a person. They do a great job at hiring genuinely nice people who get along with everyone.
8. Was there anything in particular from your portfolio that you feel helped you land this job?
I wouldn't say there's one piece in particular that I feel helped me land this job. It's more that through my various portfolio pieces, I was able to show that I've been involved in every step of the UX process. I was never focused on just one single piece of it. Disney values designers who can show a holistic process and approach in their work.
9. What does the day to day at Disney look like for you? What sorts of projects, tasks or research do you typically work on?
It varies so much! Most of my mornings are spent in meetings with my teammates catching up on the previous day's work. It's a super collaborative environment so we work hard to stay updated with each other and critique each other's work. Throughout the afternoons I'm usually heads down on project work at my desk. This ranges a lot. It can be researching what competitors are doing, putting together user tests, wireframing or pure visual design. My team usually has a quick check in before we head out for the day. If we have a deadline we're trying to make I may work for a couple hours after I get home.
10. Disney is known for creating truly special experiences. How does this company value translate to the digital world?
There's a thing called "distinctly Disney moments" that we focus on including in our designs. There's an aim to not only provide a good experience, but to also provide one that's generally delightful to our users.
11. Has there been anything from your coursework that you've been able to immediately apply to your work with Disney
Disney does a lot of A/B testing. I didn't have a ton of experience with that in my previous positions. It's been great getting more of a background in that through my master's courses.
12. What has it been like balancing working for one of the largest companies in the world and working on your master's at the same time?
I'd like to say it's been easy, but it's not. It's hard balancing any job while getting a master's. It's a lot of work and you don't end up with much free time. I have to turn down a lot of invitations from friends and I don't sleep nearly as much as I'd like to. That said, I'm still glad I'm doing it. I know the long hours now are an investment in my future career.
Design Your Path to Your Dream Job With Kent State University
With engaging and practical coursework, multiple elective options and the opportunity to craft a professional UX design portfolio, the online MS in UXD from Kent State University can open the door to any number of desirable user experience jobs. Learn more today, and get started on your UX designer career path.