MORE THAN JUST A MUSICIAN
Today was my first day as a UX Design student at Lambda School. To properly describe why this is both unbelievably nerve-wracking and incredibly exciting, I have to explain a bit about my background and how I got here.
Hey Man, I’m Just a Singer.
I wish I could say I’ve had this bursting passion my entire life to be a UX designer, but I’m afraid I can’t. I come from a family of musicians from south Louisiana. My grandpa was a locally well-known Cajun fiddler, singer, and songwriter. My father currently has a reputation for being the best Cajun drummer (possibly ever). The women in my family typically remained homemakers of some sort. I sing, play some guitar, and have been in a few rock cover bands. I suppose music runs through my blood, but I would consider myself to be more of a performer than a songwriter. I love creating an atmosphere where someone who is having the worst day can have the best time, if only for an hour or so. I love the energy of a room full of people singing along with me to songs that make us all feel good.
Most of my family is probably considered to be technologically-challenged by today’s standards. Some of that is due to having a low-income, but part is simply from being unwilling to learn, adapt, or change what they’re used to doing. I didn’t actively use a computer until high school, where I got accepted into an IT program. I learned basic concepts as well as more advanced skills like HTML, C++, and PHP.
I decided that I wanted to create websites. The problem was that everyone in my class already knew how to build a website. There were also websites like Wix that made creating websites super easy for people. I decided to reconsider and ended up getting my bachelor’s degree in Music Business. I thought I would become a tour manager, which would involve creating itineraries, maximizing merchandise sales, taking care of musicians, and ultimately making sure the show goes on.
Welcome to Waitr
While in college, I began working for a new start-up called Waitr. I started as a food delivery driver, then worked my way up into customer service, brand ambassador, and finally an account manager for over 400 restaurants. I was the 28th employee, so I had the privilege of watching this little startup grow into a giant corporation and go public four months ago. As an account manager, I got to train people from all walks of life on how to use Waitr’s hardware and software. Some lived here their whole lives, some did not speak English, and most were not tech savvy. It was always the best feeling when I could get someone who had never used a computer to confidently say, “Oh! I got this!” after I trained them. That feeling drove me to explore the world of product.
What started as a dinner with Waitr’s Product Manager, lead to lunch with a Product Owner, which lead to taking a product owner course on Udemy, which lead to taking the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Product Owner I exam, failing it, driving to Houston to take the PSPO course, re-taking the exam, and passing. In all that research about product ownership, I learned that most product owners had experience in either software engineering or design. I didn’t feel like I could actually lead a development team without truly understanding what they do.
Around Christmas, my boyfriend showed me a tweet from Austen Allred talking about Lambda School. My immediate reaction was, “Yeah that’s great, but I can’t quit my job. I can’t really code. I can’t blah blah blah.” Then I saw the option for UX Design and the gears started turning. I did my research, completed the pre-course, applied, got accepted, quit my job, then took a three week trip to South America. It’s been a crazy few months, to say the least.
Let’s Get to the Point…
To me, it’s obvious why I would be nervous about starting Lambda School. I quit my job, but that doesn’t stop my mortgage or car note from arriving every month. I’m a performer on stage, but actually really shy when it comes to talking to people. I have no previous UX design, graphic design, or really any web design experience at this point. If I fail at this, I’m basically screwed.
…But that’s also what makes this really exciting. I have no other option but to give this program my absolute all, network, and soak up as much knowledge as I can. Despite not having any “real” previous UX design experience, writing this blog made me realize that I’ve actually done a lot of things that help make me a valuable UX designer. Through performing, I try my best to create a great experience through live music. Learning about tour managing helped me understand the importance of keeping touring musicians (users) organized with itineraries (user flows). Training restaurant owners how to use Waitr’s iPad taught me how to empathize with users and learn how to cater what I was explaining to their specific needs.
Overall, the excitement outweighs the nerves of how I feel about beginning Lambda School. I believe that over the next several months I will push my limits, try harder than I ever have, feel like I’m failing, but finally have that “Oh! I got this!” moment just like the restaurant owners I’ve worked with. My goal as a UX designer is to create a product that’s so easy to use even one of my Cajun restaurant owners would not only understand how to use it but also enjoy doing so! Creating experiences through technology that positively impact people’s lives is what excites me in beginning this journey with Lambda School and my career in UX design.