Launching Your UX Design Career: Advice from Industry Experts

At the recent ‘Discover UX Design Paths’ webinar, we were joined by industry experts Kate Parker, Kari Peters and Inez Patel to learn more about the day-to-day of a UX designer, what skills are required for the role and what the current hiring landscape looks like. 

Some questions that we unpacked during the webinar included:

  • What does the typical day of a UX designer look like?
  • How might this change as they progress throughout their career?
  • Which skills are most in demand in the UX design field?
  • What do you look for when you hire someone? 
  • How might somebody look to benchmark a UX Design salary based on the industry they’re currently in?
  • Can you work remotely as a UX designer?
  • How can you break into the field without previous experience?
  • Do you have to have a portfolio to land a UX job?

You can watch the full event recording here to hear in-depth answers from our panel or find a summary of some of the key takeaways below. 

Register for the next ‘Break into UX Design’ Webinar here.

We’ll be discussing the skills needed to get into UX Design, how to get them and demonstrate them when applying for a new role.

Meet our panel of UX Design experts

Our three guests have years of experience and come from diverse backgrounds: 

Kate Parker, Head of Product Design at LSG and a contributor to the King’s UX Design Career Accelerator 

Kate has worked in the product space for over 10 years, tackling a range of problems across different industries. She’s passionate about building great experiences and, in the process, evolving the expectations people have of product experiences. She says, “I often think of great experiences as going unnoticed because they are so perfect that they just ‘happen’. But there is also another dynamic, bringing enjoyment to the mundane and ease to the challenging – this is where we add delight.”

Kari Peters, Director at the UX Research Institute 

Kari has more than 16 years of experience in UX Research, Design, Copy and Research Operations. Like Kate, she’s worked across industries, with time spent at Luno and She loves helping tech professionals develop their UX and leadership skills through career development and career change coaching, courses, community and retreats. 

Inez Patel, Design Director at Absa Group and Founder of She Can Do 

Inez is an experienced product designer and leader with several years of experience in the financial services industry. She built her career specializing in UX, customer research, and strategy at EOH, 22Seven and Vitality Group. Over time, Inez developed a passion for community building, design leadership, and creating high-performing teams. She is currently the Design Director for Absa’s award-winning banking app. In 2019, Inez founded She Can Do, a non-profit organisation that helps women enter and excel in the design industry. The alumnae of She Can Do have gone on to land corporate design jobs locally and internationally. She is also a director of Girls Invent Tomorrow, an NPO that exposes young girls to careers in STEM.

A closer look at the role of a UX designer

Many people who are looking to launch or move into a career in UX design are curious about what the role entails. They also want to know how they’ll spend their time on a day-to-day basis, what salary they can expect to earn, how to develop their skills and meet people who can advance their careers. 

Here are some key insights from our speakers. 

Kate, what does it mean to be a UX designer, and how do you spend your days?

No one day ever looks the same. And that’s what makes it so exciting and interesting. If we take it at a broad level, a product manager will be trying to understand what to build, and you, as a UX designer, will be trying to figure out how to build it. A lot of your day-to-day work will be focused on getting to know the motivations and behaviours of your users and then understanding the logic and the feasibility of user flows working from end to end. For me, UX Design is actually more about thinking and problem-solving than it is about design – that’s often the last component of the process. Your day-to-day will involve a lot of communication because you’ll be working with a lot of different people, stakeholders and customers.

Kari, what energises you most about the work you do?

The collaborative vibe. The energy that gets going when you get a team together and start brainstorming solutions. I love facilitating co-creation designs and workshops and getting the team aligned on the same mission so that we can solve problems together.

Inez, can you tell us more about how the role of a UX designer evolves as someone advances in their career?

Speaking from my experience and the space I work in, which is financial technology, our progression path for UX designers splits at some point. You would either choose to go down a specialist route or more of a people management route. You have the option to choose what focus you want to have in your career. Personally, I’ve moved into more of a design leadership role, which means I’ve moved away from the direct ‘doing’ – I don’t even know how to use Figma these days – and now devote more of my time to more conceptual thinking and developing strategies that will inform future work. You can choose what parts of design you really like and where you want to be influential.

What do you look for when hiring someone for a UX Design role? 

Kate: I’m looking a lot at attitude because I think with the right attitude, you can learn anything from people around you. You can learn how to design and you can learn the processes, the frameworks and the toolkits, but for me, it’s all about storytelling and innate curiosity – having that desire to find out more and to think differently.

Kari: I look for someone with a growth mindset. I ask how passionate someone is about learning, about bettering themselves in the craft, about becoming a better leader, and about learning more about the strategy side of UX Design. Do they want to become the best at their craft? Do they want to become the best leader? When I was at, I learned that you need to be able to take feedback very well and be able to give feedback effectively so that you can help your peers get better at what they do on a daily basis. You need to actively look for feedback from others – not only at the end of the cycle but really on a daily basis to be able to improve incrementally as you go down your career.

If you were looking to move into UX Design, how would you benchmark a salary? 

Kate: The public resources out there, like Glassdoor, are pretty accurate, so I’d say that’s a good starting point. What’s really nice about getting into design is the sense of community. It’s the same with product roles – you can build up a lot of good, good friends and connections, whether it’s people you’ve worked with in the past or new people you meet. There are so many great meetups and resources, like Ladies that UX and Mind the Product, for example. Those sorts of things are really good places to learn from people and share experiences so that you can understand how different industries and different companies work. 

Kari: I think it’s handy to reach out to people. I know that when I was moving to a new country, I had no idea what the UX research salaries were like. I didn’t know what the cost of living was. So besides looking at PayScale, and Glassdoor, I just was bold, and I reached out to people on LinkedIn. I asked about what the different ranges were from research managers to research directors to researchers themselves, UX designers and UX directors and just really got a good idea within my network. I’m so glad I did that because networking like that opened up a lot of doors.

Inez: I’m in South Africa, and information isn’t as standardised as it is somewhere like the US. I’d recommend reaching out to people who work at different size companies because that will have an impact too. Big companies tend to pay more than small ones, so bear that in mind when doing your research.

Launch your UX Design career

If you’re set on moving into UX Design, the King’s UX Design Career Accelerator might be the programme you’ve been looking for. 

Co-designed by faculty from King’s and industry leaders from companies like Creative Navy, Dropbox and Atlassian, you’ll gain relevant knowledge that will help you secure a UX role, fast. Supported by a dedicated Career Coach and Success Manager, you’ll set career goals that set you up for success during your studies and as you advance in your career.

Download the programme brochure and book a call with an Enrolment Advisor today.