Tag Archives: interaction design

The 30-Something and the Maybe MBA

Since graduating from college nearly a decade ago (holy hell), my career trajectory has been anything but expected or planned. I’ve been very fortunate in being able to continually move up the ladder despite some setbacks, and one can say that fortune comes with tenacity, grit, and the irony of lack of belief in oneself to forge ahead without any sense of entitlement getting in the way.

At 30, I look at the last ten years of my career and think, wow, there’s a true story there, one which wasn’t at all expected. There’s logic to the journey – basically, despite initially enrolling in school for theatrical design I quickly found my talent for the written word far surpassed my ability to sew in a straight line. Four rough years of college later, in a bit of a clinical depression funk, I realized that I was not meant to do entry-level work. My bosses realized that as well, and at first, not in the happy smiley everything worked out sort of way. But as I got my footing I also managed to have this crazy career in marketing. I found out that many college graduates, even those who could whip up fancy spreadsheets like no one’s business, had no idea how to write a damn sentence that someone else would want to read. My writing became my M.O.

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Getting from point A to point A+

Not to belabor the point of my insatiable quest for the ideal long-term career, but I can’t help but find my desire to use technology to build products that help people is only getting stronger over the years. Marketing is a great tool to have, and one that I’m happy to hone at this point in my career as I still have a lot to learn, but I can’t see myself 10 years from now working in marketing. I’m not sure what the right role is for me, but ultimately marketing is too far outside the product and even product marketing doesn’t have enough say in the details of how the product works and what the user experience is like.

My friend recently wrote on Facebook that he’s “convinced that being a good designer and making products means being like a teenager: impatient and always a little bit annoyed.”

That sums up my persona perfectly, as terrible as it sounds. I’m annoyed by poor user experiences. I’m impatient because I hate seeing time wasted on poor solutions when there (at least in my head) is a much better way to solve a problem. Not that I’m always right — there’s a lot I need to learn regarding how to test and iterate instead of being stubborn about one solution, but I’m confident I have good intuition with interaction design, I can easily put myself into someone else’s shoes (as an actor or director) and think through their entire story in my head, how they would use a product, and where the experience is broken.

So, yes, I’m often annoyed, and impatient, over poor design. I’m not sure I could handle a career there because it requires the ability to be able to compromise with people who probably don’t know any better than you do, but who have more power in their managerial roles. Unless I build a product from scratch and manage the entire thing myself, it’s tough to have enough power to be a designer or design-thinking manager that people trust.

But then there’s my life, which is flying by quickly, and everyday filling with new experiences that may or may not get me to where I want to be. I’m ok with waiting until I’m 31 (3 years from now) to make any major changes, but I’m also worried how that aligns with the same year I plan to try to have kids. How can I plan to go to grad school and have children in the same year? Talk about going into massive debt… but I don’t want to be a straight up marketer for my entire life, I want to be a product/interaction designer, or maybe a hands on entrepreneur, but I want control over the product experience, not just how it’s hung like a carrot in front of prospective purchasers in order to get them to buy.

jumping off the career plank

I often write about how I have a great job, yet I still feel like I haven’t found the position where my talent can best contribute to a company or cause. I can get by in marketing… I’m decent at telling a story about a product, understanding how people might want to use it. But I’m by no means a brilliant marketer. In this career, I can only go so far, and it really shows everyday at work.

Every year, every month, every day, I come back to wanting to be on the product side of tech divide. I highly value my experience in marketing and know it will help me in the long run, but I honestly do not want to spend the rest of my career as a marketer.

While I’m dedicated to my marketing role at my current company, at some point things will need to change. I’m 27 now, and I’m dedicated to this role until I’m 30 or 31. At which point, I need to figure out what’s next. And that time will be here before I can count 1. to. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Continue reading

How long would it take to save $150k?

All of the graduate programs I’m looking at will cost about $150k for 2 or 3 years. Thus, I want to save $150k before applying. Is that possible? How long would it take to, realistically, save $150k?

If I cut out things I don’t really need… voice lessons, dance class, gym membership, etc, I could get my monthly expenditures down significantly. Still, $150k is a lot of money.

I don’t want to take out loans. I don’t want to graduate from grad school in debt. That seems counterproductive to fiscal growth.

I have $30k saved now, though half of that is my retirement savings. Do I want to touch my retirement savings? At least that doesn’t count towards my FAFSA AGI.

Ok, so to save $150k …

$12500 / month for 12 months (1 year)
$6240 / month for 24 months (2 years)
$2500 / month for 60 months (5 years)
$1250 / month for 120 months (10 years)

I bet I could save $1250 a month, but that means I won’t be going to graduate school until 2020. And by then, tuition will cost much more. So this saving up for my tuition seems impossible.

Right now I’m taking in between $3,000-$4,000 / month.

Cutting out all extraneous costs, $1250 / month would be possible to save.

But then… I won’t be saving for retirement in the next 10 years. I won’t be saving for anything else. And I won’t be living life. Oh, and I won’t be able to afford to have children. Which all kind of sucks.

How on earth does anyone justify graduate school (unless it’s all paid for?) How does anyone justify any education (I can’t believe how much my parents paid for my undergraduate degree!) Then again, at the time my dad was making over $200k / year, which, even after taxes, made it possible to cover my $120k undergraduate education. They really should have made me go to the equally–good state school that I got into that would have cost a lot less, but I’m glad they didn’t.

Now, looking at my future, I’m trying to balance how much my career is worth versus being in debt for the rest of my life. I realized that I missed the mark in terms of my undergraduate major, though even with the right major I lacked the maturity at the time to make the most of my education. Not that I partied a lot or anything, I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t know what I wanted. I felt like I had to be in college because that’s what you do after high school. I didn’t really know WHY I was there. To get a liberal arts education? To get a technical education? Yea, it wasn’t clear. I got a taste of a few different things, but now I really need some sort of focused trade-school-esque education to get where I want in my career.

Speaking of, I’m contemplating seeing a career counselor to help me figure out where that is. I went to my career counselor in college quite a bit, but he wasn’t much help. Maybe the ones that cost $100/hr are better? Apparently it’s normal for an INFP like myself to spend way too much time thinking about all the possibilities without ever acting on them. So I just need some guidance. An adult guidance counselor. I’m starting to think I need that more than therapy. I mean, I know my issues. And yes, I can work on them all my life. The daughter of an upper-middle class everything-is-fine-with-our-family sociopath and a narcissist is bound to turn out a little messed up, right?

I’m just SO TIRED of living my life afraid of failure in the eyes of my parents. I’m looking forward to paying for my own education because then, even if they look down on me for my choice, or roll their eyes at it, I know it’s coming out of my wallet. It’s my education to make the most of, not theirs. Not theirs to waste, either.

I went to a new therapist this morning… a first meeting intended to place me into a group for group therapy. I’m very interested in group therapy because much of my issues, especially those relating to my ability to succeed, are rooted in my complete lack of ability to communicate. It is painful because I know I come off like this conceited bitch because I’m terrified of giving compliments even though in my head 99% of what I’m thinking is a compliment and 1% is “you could just tweak this one thing and everything would be even extra special great.” How on earth do you say that without coming off like a suck up? Agggh.

Well, I know I’ve completely failed on the communication end in my current company. I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes, yet I still make them, and no one really wants to hear my thoughts anyway. Because they are often inspired by a gut feeling more than solid research, so their standpoint is beyond fair.

I just have concluded that ultimately I need to be in a job where I am a problem solver. I am always bursting with solutions and to not be allowed to say them (even though I often do anyway, to the disappointment of my coworkers) is suffocating. I know my ideas are not always right, but I love to collaborate and throw ideas out, bounce off other people, turn an idea into a solution.

I’ve spent my free time this week reading about countless masters programs. MBA programs. HCI programs. ID programs. Design masters programs. With a foundation year for people who didn’t major in design in undergrad. International programs. Online programs. Part-time programs. Dual degree programs. Weekend and evening programs. Programs that can only be completed if you stand on your head and clap five times while hunting wild boars. (Okay, okay, I haven’t found that last one… yet.) I am overwhelmed by all the options and the potential cost of all those options. Any of those options.

All the stress is enough to have me retreat into the status quo forever. And maybe that’s what I’ll do. Or maybe I don’t need grad school to do what I want. Maybe if I can just believe in myself enough I can take a few design classes, get a portfolio together, and shift my career trajectory. I don’t know. I’m obviously more confused than ever. It’s the typical quarter life crisis. Except I kind of know what I want. Or at least I know I want to be solving problems. To be in charge of solving problems. Creatively. I’m most comfortable as a leader, not a follower, but I need a team of equals. I wish I had some realistic support. I won’t get any from my parents and my boyfriend doesn’t understand the financial consequences of grad school… his mother is going to pay for him to get a graduate degree if he doesn’t get a full ride (his undergrad education was much cheaper than mine, so it makes sense that his mom still has money left over for his graduate education.)

I just wish someone sat down with me in senior year of high school and forced me to take a year off and work before going to college. I wish someone explained why despite “liberal arts” magical allure, ultimately you should be using college to get the skills you need for a job. A job that you’ll actually like. Not just one you’re qualified for because you have a BA.

Anyway, that’s enough rant for tonight. I hate that I always sound so spoiled. I just want to pay my way through graduate school, work hard, and feel like I own my successes and my failures. I want to own… me.

Professional Roadblock

For the first time in my life, I like my job a lot. It pays well, I work with really smart people who I admire, and I’ve managed to secure a full time gig… which means they like me, or at least the work I do, at least in the sense that I’m not that easily replaceable. All that is good, great, even, yet I’m still not doing exactly what I want to do.

I really want to do a good job for a long enough amount of time to prove I can stick it out. It’s just hard because I get a bit frustrated when I have no right to be frustrated. Basically, what I want to do isn’t in my job description. It is apparently in everyone else’s. I’m also a tad bit annoying in that I haven’t mastered the art of speaking yet… I talk too much, I think everyone dislikes me for it, and sometimes I don’t talk enough, and then I feel like I just disappear. Why can’t I fit on some middle ground so I can be respected AND taken seriously?

All I want to do is design. Do user interaction design, specifically. But I’m completely confused over how I can make the career switch, or if I even should. Grad school seems to be the only possibility, but even that is a far off dream. First of all, I’d have to GET IN to grad school… there are only a few top programs for this new field and each of them are hard to get into. Looking at the people they seem to accept, they want people with experience in the field. While my experience is related, it’s definitely not in the field. It’s gazing on the field with envy, if anything. Does that count?

My passion is great user experience. I tried to be a writer but I’m not really that great of a writer. I tried marketing but I’m not the best at marketing a product that has all these details that I’d like to tweak. I can fake it. I can fake it all. But in the long run, I don’t want to fake it. I want to cease this frustration and have a job where I can actually make a difference in the development of a product as far as the ultimate user experience goes. I’m still thinking an MBA might be a better route to go – get more involved in product strategy, stay out of the details, but then I end up futzing around with wireframes all night dreaming of a day when I could design interfaces for a living. Will that day ever come? And how much debt will I have to take on to see it?