My first introduction to technology was at the mere age of 2 1/5 on a flight from Russia by way of Frankfurt, Germany to Logan Airport in Boston, MA. I was sitting on my new mother’s lap, gazing out the windows of a Lufthansa jet when a woman gave me a small hand-held console to play with. I could not speak English but I could figure out the controls from the very start. It was a wonderful distraction.
Technology continued to be a part of my life but more in the typical fashion… consoles, computer for IMing friends and later Facebook. I taught myself how to use Photoshop in high school, active in online gaming communities and a huge fan of digital art.
I never saw what I did on the computer as a career though. I didn’t know it could be one. I knew Web Development was something I could get into. I loved the idea of having the ability to build something from scratch, with code, and watch it come to life for all to use. That was absolutely thrilling for me. In my senior year of high school, I took a basic web course. I also took an Adobe Illustrator course as an elective. The web course drew me in. Illustrator was similar enough to Photoshop that I really had no interest beyond creating the posters they told us to create.
Upon graduation, I applied to Champlain College in Burlington VT for Web Development & Design. I loved it. My first website, totallykatyakins.com, was up by midterms of my freshman year and I was so proud of it. I wasn’t as much a fan of databases or Python courses though. Working on any sort of backend development had no appeal to me. In my second year, I had begun looking for internships. The websites of the companies I saw were fantastic. They drew the users in, flowed smoothly and had just great experiences overall. What we were building never came close to the design caliber that I was being sucked into.
I attempted to switch my major. I was denied to to the large number of Graphic Design students already in the program. I had no other real options. I transferred colleges in the fall of 2011 and also switched my major.
As I started learning more about Graphic Design the more I found that it had been what I was searching for all along. Design was a way of communicating with an audience over countless topics and issues. It could be fun, serious, educational, corporate… the list goes on and on. When I took Graphic Design II, I learned about UX design. Our task was to either redesign or create an app. The platform didn’t matter, nor did the subject. I created a Cupcake App (which I’m actually pursuing right now to get functional!). I was drawn to the idea that I could create the very things I was learning at Champlain but with a more professional visual eye.
During my time at UMass Lowell, I was also the Web Manager, and later Operations Manager, for the School Newspaper. I was in charge of design and upkeep. It was familiar territory for me and it felt wonderful to combine my new skills with those that I had learned in my prior schooling.
My senior thesis consisted of print material, an app and a website. I was clearly hooked.
A year and a half later and I’m working in Boston as a UX Designer in a mobile app company. I’ve worked on native applications and responsive web design. Day in and day out I get to work with other designers and developers to make products that truly help the users while giving them something attractive to play with. This is my journey as a Web Developer turned UX Designer.