From Journalist to UX Designer: Meredith Cohen’s Story of The Switch
Meredith Cohen wasn’t always a successful UX designer. Before she worked at companies like Oracle and taught UX design at Careerfoundry, she was a print journalist working in magazines. It wasn’t the job for her, and soon Cohen felt she needed to transition to a career with brighter prospects, better pay, and the chance to work more with technology.
She took the brave step and made the transition to UX design, tech’s fastest-growing field, and quickly realized she had exactly what it takes to succeed, thanks in part to some of the seemingly-unrelated skills she picked up in her previous career. We asked Cohen to share her story and some advice for others who’d like to make the transition to becoming a UX designer.
What first drove you to pursue UX design as a career?
In the journalism world, as much as I loved writing (and still do), I was especially drawn to the layout side of the newspaper, which was an art of balancing images and content. As a ‘people person,’ I also loved holding conversations with interviewees in order to write memorable news stories. So between that and a growing fascination in technology, the transition just made sense. I went on to pursue a master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction, which was a relatively new (but exciting) industry at that time.
Was it hard to make the adjustment from journalism to UX design?
Designing interfaces with a user-first mindset was not a challenge at all. After all, a good journalist must write without assumptions and fully understand the topic, as well as who they are writing about in order to tell a compelling story and engage readers.
Some of the technical skills initially took practice, though. I had to quickly learn unfamiliar software in order to produce wireframes and prototypes, which was challenging coming from a non-technical background. But like learning any new skill, practice and experience has helped me overcome the initial learning curve. That being said, software and technology continues to change, so I’m constantly learning new skills and I love it! Between that and working with so many developers over the years, it has really helped me understand the constraints they face when creating products, which is so critical as a UX designer.
How have the skills you learned in your past career helped you succeed in UX design?
As a journalist, I was dedicated to understanding people’s’ experiences in order to craft compelling stories. I apply these same fundamentals as a UX designer. Infusing empathy into the user-centered design process by holding back assumptions and really listening to my users, stakeholders/clients, and team members (both their verbal and nonverbal cues) are what ultimately drives memorable experiences.
How has your career progressed since you made the transition?
I started out doing UX design in the agency-world and then I moved to the corporate sphere. Over the past decade, I have worked in a wide range of industries, such as food, retail, social campaigns, software, and healthcare. Early in my career, I designed exclusively for desktop interfaces, but as technology continues to evolve, so do the mediums I execute experiences for.
What’s the best thing about working in UX design?
Creating experiences with the ultimate goal of enriching people’s lives is very fulfilling, and the work I do is so multi-faceted. I get to work in the best of so many different worlds ranging from design, research, writing, psychology, and technology. That, plus the constantly evolving world of technology is never boring!
What’s your advice for others who’d like to follow in your footsteps and make the transition from journalism to UX design?
Always be learning! Technology is constantly changing, and sometimes it feels hard to keep up. But despite these evolving trends, always keep the same fundamentals you’ve learned as a journalist in mind — ; you’re telling stories by understanding people.