Louise Ryan of Workhuman discusses her journey into product design and UX from a career in recruitment.
Louise Ryan is currently an associate product designer at software company Workhuman, but she began her career in a very different place – recruitment.
She told Siliconrepublic.com about making the decision to change fields, how her company helped her move to a very different area of the business, and what her journey to understanding user experience (UX) has been like.
‘My advice for anyone thinking of this career, or any other type of big career change, is to be brave and do your research’
– LOUISE RYAN
What first stirred your interest in a career in this area?
Moving from recruitment to product design was quite the transition, however, there are commonalities … in particular how both roles are centred around the human experience. In fact, throughout my career I have always had a people-centric approach, from teaching English to event management to recruitment.
With each of these roles I was always focused on the user – whether it was a student, attendee or jobseeker. I liked to think about it as, ‘How can I make this experience better for the user so that they can enjoy it more?’
On reflection, I think that this approach has been a great starting point to becoming an empathetic designer. The interest I have in making things work for people, and the satisfaction I get from seeing people enjoy the experiences that I have helped them with, was the foundation to starting my journey into product design.
What experiences led you to the role you now have?
To further my understanding of what a product designer does, I decided to complete a short online course that covered an introduction to UX with the University of the Arts London. During this course, I discovered a broad idea of the overall design process and how important it was for designers to solve the problem first, and then ensure it has a great design.
Upon completing the course I realised I had thoroughly enjoyed all the tasks we were completing and I knew that I was on the right path. Coming from a role that wasn’t in the technical or design field, I knew that I had a lot more to learn in order to bridge the skills gap and actually work in a product design role.
I decided that I was ready to take on a bigger study commitment and I enrolled in the postgraduate diploma in UX in IADT. I participated in group projects where we dived into multiple forms of research, different design processes and then started focusing on analysing and testing our solutions. We also explored cyberpsychology, accessibility, UX strategy and how the role of the product designer will evolve to solve the problems of the future.
I am continuing to learn independently outside of college by using Workhuman University, which is our own learning platform. I have completed short courses to help me upskill in design software, sketching and other areas of design that I felt I needed to learn a little more about.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?
When I moved into product design, the biggest challenge I had was accepting that there was so much I still did not know.
My course was extremely beneficial but there was still a lot I needed to learn about software development, how people like to work and the intricacies of the product area I was working on.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
For me I think it is hard to pick just one person as I have been extremely fortunate with my journey into product. From the moment I shared my ambitions with the team in HR, I have had so much encouragement and my managers ensured that I had the support needed to upskill myself into product design.
When I shared my thoughts with our VP of product design, his enthusiasm and support to help me make the move gave me the confidence that I could do it. Everyone in the product team and others in the organisation were so helpful in sharing their insights on my college work – sharing books and tools that would help me with my studies – and these contributions really made me feel supported in my journey.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love solving problems and seeing the impact of my work. When people come up to me saying they like the new additions, it is so rewarding.
I am lucky to be involved in the entire design process. I conduct research and test my solutions alongside our dedicated research team, so I’m working with developers to get the solutions live and we are tracking how our solutions are performing through data analysis. It is exciting work that is extremely varied and no day is ever the same.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
From my time in recruitment, I had to understand and empathise with a wide range of people. This has served me well in product design, from trying to understand our users through conducting research to building relationships with my internal stakeholders.
It’s always important to try and put your own biases aside and understand others’ perspectives.
How did Workhuman support you on your career path?
The support that I have gotten from Workhuman has completely blown me away.
I was extremely lucky to have so many great people around me to offer advice and to reassure me that it was normal not to know all the answers. This support allowed me to stop worrying about what I needed to learn and to just get on with my role and to try and absorb as much as I could, and to ask when I didn’t know the answers.
I really felt the entire company was supportive of my move to product design and I am so grateful to everyone here in Workhuman for giving me this chance, caring about me as a human and investing in my development.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?
My advice for anyone thinking of this career, or any other type of big career change, is to be brave and do your research. I felt that by completing the following steps I was in a position to make the move confidently and it really convinced everyone how serious I was about it!
- Research the area you are thinking of moving into – there are many blogs, articles and videos that can help build a picture of what the role would look like
- Talk to people that are in the role – ask them what a typical day is like and make sure you get an understanding of what they love about their job and what frustrates them
- Start learning – there are many online courses available that you can enrol in and you will learn very quickly whether the course is engaging you
If, after completing the above, you are still convinced that this is the career for you, start practising the skills that are essential for the career and, if required, start more in-depth courses to equip you to successfully move.
Following my passion was one of the best decisions I ever made. It wasn’t necessarily an easy decision or journey, but working in a role that excites me and is so fulfilling has been worth the effort.