As 2022 rolled in, we saw economic prosperity, unlike anything we’ve seen before .Getting a job in tech was the most prestigious industry one could work in. Getting in as a new UX designer felt impossible. We watched video after video of successful YouTubers telling us “How to break into tech” and how to ace “design challenges”. That one day you too could have your dream job at your dream company.
Is it still fulfilling, a good way to be creative and also pay rent and eat dinner every night? Absolutely.
Thankfully, hard work pays off. And eventually, you’re able to create some version of that yourself. You got your tech job, and we can finally call you an official UX designer.
Then, 2023 rolls around, and your company’s doing layoffs. One wave. Two waves. You’ve been more or less able to avoid it, until wave three.
When the wave of layoffs drowns you too Losing a job is a jarring experience. You can’t help but think about what you did wrong. That it’s personal.It’s additionally awkward when you’re not fired. When your manager tells you how great of a designer you are, while also telling you they couldn’t or didn’t, advocate for your position.
Much of the time, especially in 2023, it feels like the writing is on the wall. That you should have known this was coming. So many tech companies have been purging their employees, from designers to developers to marketing, to writers, to HR people.
It’s also awkward upon leaving, how quickly everything happens. Do you say your goodbyes, get angry and start talking badly about your company, your boss? What exactly do you do?
What it’s like to do UX Design in 2023.
UX Design had a very unique, and interesting blow-up. There was an intense influx of people getting into the industry around 2018. This was the wave associated with tech jobs in general.
Everyone was advised to get into tech. Not because it was inherently safer than other jobs, but because it was the only industry keeping up with the times. The only companies with new enough ideas to make good money, and pay their workers as such. You didn’t have to be a developer or get a four-year computer science degree to have access to this money, either. You could do the very same job at your Big 5 company at a tech company, and double your pay.
The offices looked cool, the company’s had perks, young people and a contemporary feel. It felt like the fun-enjoyable job of the future. But, its dark underbelly is that it came with a risk. A lot of instability.
UX Design fell into most of our laps. For the most part, many people had never heard of it before being told to get into it. Most people’s journey into UX Design was having a creative hobby, wanting a creative job, and realizing their best bet was UX Design.
There are a lot of creative jobs, but many of them require connections, friendships, money and a network. It may be impossible for an average small-town person to have. They require unpaid internships, that you couldn’t afford to leave your paying service job to pursue. UX Design equalized that. With a strong portfolio and an eye for web design, anyone had a shot. And, you’d make a generous, livable wage.
You could use your creativity to some degree, though it isn’t painting, art, or writing, and you would be able to live a lot more comfortably than a painter, artist or writer. It felt like a no-brainer. But, then enough time passes and it starts to feel like any other office job. You must convince your PM to do your projects, even though they’ll take more than one sprint. Your manager is constantly breathing down your back for updates, on a project you’ve already updated her on. She’s constantly a roadblock. Budgets are tight. Your team is shrinking. Everyone around you is deprioritizing design, while you’re advocating for the existence of this position endlessly.
You must convince your PM to do your projects, even though they’ll take more than one sprint. Your manager is constantly breathing down your back for updates, on a project you’ve already updated her on. She’s constantly a roadblock. Budgets are tight. Your team is shrinking. Everyone around you is deprioritizing design, while you’re advocating for the existence of this position endlessly.
You’re defensive of this position, you never knew existed 6 years ago. And now, you’re fighting tooth and nail to survive in it. Getting into UX requires at least two years of complete submersion. You go to every event, and hackathon, and join every design discord you can. You live and breathe product design like it’s more than just a job. It’s a purpose. It becomes a weird part of you.
It’s not an ugly or beautiful part of you, but it’s painful sometimes. Most of the time you don’t need to pay attention to it, but sometimes it gets irritating. Sometimes it hurts.
So is it still worth it? Yes, it’s always going to be worth it. Firstly, because we exist within capitalism. So, having a job that pays you competitively will always be worth it. Is it still one of the better industries to be in? Also, yes. It’s not perfect, but the competition when it comes to ‘the best way to compete within capitalism’ isn’t crazy. Is it still fulfilling, a good way to be creative and also pay rent and eat dinner every night? Absolutely.