Learning and Gaining Confidence through the Interaction Design Foundation
This post was written in response to a request by the IDF, but opinions are my own.
Last February, I found myself forlornly scanning job postings. I was looking for a UX position, and was worried my resume didn’t reflect my interests or abilities.
I knew a keyword-sniffing algorithm was just going to pick up “product strategist” “business analyst” and “innovation consultant” and miss all I could offer their company as a designer.
In an attempt to overcome some imposter syndrome, I started looking at the LinkedIn profiles of people in the roles I was interested in. I started noticing references to an “Interaction Design Foundation” (and recognized the logo from other long-form content I’d previously read online).
I checked it out, and was drawn to the classes they had to offer, as well as their model. Simply by joining, I felt like a more ‘legit’ design candidate. 😀
I could take as many courses as I wanted on my own time, increasing my skills and abilities, and publicly demonstrate my commitment to ongoing professional development.
The first course I completed was “UI Patterns for Successful Software.” This was a reasonably straightforward class for someone who’s been working in software for over a decade, but there were some nuances to some of the design choices that I hadn’t previously been aware of. I liked the fact it was a formal course: I could just skim through a post and say “I know all this”, I had to respond to posts and assignments and really check my understanding. It also gave me a chance to learn from others enrolled in the same class, as opposed to just reading articles on my own.
After slowly working my way through this course, I managed to land a sweet UX Design fellowship with Code for Canada — due in part to my confidence and fancy certification? Who knows? 😀
I had about a month between jobs where I dove into more coursework — as much as I could, at least.
One shortcoming with the way Interaction Design Foundation rolls out courses is that lessons are generally released a week at a time. For someone like me who was super motivated to take classes and had a lot of time on her hands, I found myself tearing through the lessons early in the week, and then being a bit blocked. So I thought it’d be a good idea to enroll in multiple courses at once.
I signed up for “Information Visualization” and “The Brain and Technology: Brain Science in Interface Design” and worked through the two of them concurrently. Note! The Brain and Technology course is really interesting, but the material is DENSE!
I completed the Information Visualization course a few weeks after my fellowship began. In the role I’d left to take on the fellowship, we were really digging into data visualization, and this course was interesting but really only scratched the surface of a fascinating field. Thankfully, the instructor provided tons of links to further reading to follow up on.
I *ahem* still haven’t finished that Brain and Technology course, although as I write this up, I’m thinking I really need to get back to it! 😒
I also signed up for a few more courses simply to reserve my spot, although I haven’t really dedicated the time to making good progress. It’s difficult to make the hard choices when you have such a selection of courses to choose from!
It’s ironic, I guess, that once I had the confidence and credentials to land a great job, I neglected the site and the coursework that got me there in the first place. But that’s also the great thing about the membership: the course materials are there for me when I have time for them. As the summer comes to a close, I just may find myself exercising my mind indoors and focusing on my professional development again as the Canadian winter settles in!
There are a lot of articles or books you can read on UX on your own, but it was the more formal structure of coursework, assignments and lessons that gave me the confidence that I was really competent. I’m glad I signed up for the IDF, and it’d definitely be a decision I’d recommend for others interested in breaking into the field of user experience and design.