Design roles within the tech industry are an excellent option for people seeking a mix of art and science in their job. Product design (with its sub-fields of UX design and UI design) is a prime example.
Without a technical background, former math teacher Lenora Porter pivoted to product design by networking her way in and learning on the go, starting by attending meetups and making connections (one of which led to an interview and ultimately a first job).
She’s a great example of someone who didn’t have extensive training in the field she wanted, but seized available opportunities to pursue her goals. Currently, she holds the title of Senior Product Designer at Heroku/Salesforce, so her go-getter attitude certainly paid off!
Listen to more of Lenora’s story in the episode below.
This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos. Laurence Bradford 0:07 Laurence Bradford 0:23 Laurence Bradford 0:47 Laurence Bradford 1:32 Laurence Bradford 2:55 Laurence Bradford 3:43 Lenora Porter 3:46 Laurence Bradford 3:47 Lenora Porter 4:05 Laurence Bradford 4:54 Lenora Porter 5:05 Laurence Bradford 5:56 Lenora Porter 6:02 Lenora Porter 6:59 Laurence Bradford 8:20 Lenora Porter 9:16 Laurence Bradford 10:49 Lenora Porter 10:54 Laurence Bradford 11:44 Lenora Porter 12:21 Lenora Porter 13:45 Laurence Bradford 15:08 Lenora Porter 15:24 Laurence Bradford 16:01 Lenora Porter 16:07 Laurence Bradford 17:24 Lenora Porter 17:39 Laurence Bradford 19:02 Lenora Porter 19:32 Lenora Porter 20:43 Laurence Bradford 21:39 Laurence Bradford 21:45 Laurence Bradford 23:01 Lenora Porter 23:20 Laurence Bradford 24:48 Lenora Porter 25:18 Laurence Bradford 26:09 Lenora Porter 26:13 Laurence Bradford 26:16 Lenora Porter 26:31 Laurence Bradford 26:33 Lenora Porter 26:37 Laurence Bradford 27:23 Lenora Porter 27:47 Laurence Bradford 28:33 Lenora Porter 29:15 Laurence Bradford 29:35 Lenora Porter 30:01 Lenora Porter 31:32 Laurence Bradford 32:34 Lenora Porter 32:59 Lenora Porter 34:04 Laurence Bradford 35:36 Lenora Porter 35:53 Laurence Bradford 37:11 Lenora Porter 37:50 Laurence Bradford 37:52 Lenora Porter 37:59 Laurence Bradford 38:10 Lenora Porter 38:12 Laurence Bradford 38:19
Hey, thank you for tuning into the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. In today's episode, you'll learn more about becoming a product designer. That's all coming up after a quick word from our partner for this episode, Interview Cake.
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All right, let's get into this week's guest Lenora Porter. Without a technical background. Lenorah hustled her way into tech and redefined what it means to be an artist in the world of technology. During the day, she's translating business requirements into beautiful app design at Heroku as a senior product designer. By night, Lenorah is inspiring others through her Instagram tutorials and local meetups. We chat about her career journey transitioning into design after attending a coding boot camp, how she landed her first design job, what proc design actually entails and so much more. Lenora shares tons of helpful and inspiring information. I think you're going to love this interview. So let's get into it. Enjoy.
Hey, Laura, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Hey, how are you?
I'm doing great. I'm really excited to talk with you today. UI and UX design is a topic that I get asked about all the time and it's not something that I've covered a whole lot, so I'm really excited to dive in, but first I would love if you could share with the audience more about your background before getting into technology.
Okay, so before getting to technology, I was a teacher taught math at a school called my McCarroll city senior high. It was awesome. That was one of my main things I really wanted to do. I wanted to spend a year giving back to my community. So I decided, well, what's the best way to give back, you know, directly and not indirectly and I thought being a teacher would be the perfect way. So I signed up for this organization called city here. And I did a full year teaching inner city you about math and algebra one, how to mix that with coding and all that kind of stuff. So the teacher before this, and then I transitioned on right after that year of being the teacher into tech.
Got it. So it's funny cuz you're the second person we had on in season five cool As a math teacher, before getting into tech, how old were the kids that you were teaching?
So they were in ninth grade. And most of them were between like 14 and then some were like 17 is they stayed back, or different things happen in their life that kind of caused friction. So honestly, it was the most amazing thing ever. Last year, my students graduated. So I went through their graduation, which was awesome. Just to see them walk across the stage was just kind of like, Wow, I've been I've given something to the world. And these are the students that I've given it to. So I thought it was amazing to watch them transition, even though they probably already seen me transition into tech. They kind of be like, Oh my god, Miss Porter, you did it, you became this engineer or this designer that you talked about, and that's amazing. We just graduated. So it's kind of like a win win of that, just to watch that scenario.
So when you were teaching you knew already that you want to work in tech after that.
Oh, yes, I mean, before teaching, I was always into art and design as well. But also into that entire character design and animation, I was really into that my dad bought my first Nintendo think I was about eight years old. And from there, I just always played video games always do the characters. And then one day, I decided to play this game called Second Life, which was a virtual life game online. And from that game, you could create your actual character, you could create meshes of clothing, and I started to make the meshes of clothing using Maya Autodesk. And then from there, I realized I had to coat portions of it because as the character move and want, and the clothing moved with the character, and I'm like, Oh my gosh, I want my clothing to move like this. So I wanted to do that. And that was all Python code.
I wish I had No, at the time. So googling and trying to figure out how to make a better avatar led me into design and coding. And then once I became a teacher, I'm like, I want to go do that what I used to do when I was a kid, I want to focus again on learning how to code which wasn't really easy. I tried to do it in college, but I failed so bad. It didn't really work out for me. Oh, no. So in college, what did you study then? So I study this thing called family, youth and community sciences, to his fullest psychology below human behavior, and how to create services for communities. And after the entire, I guess, my entire course than learning all that stuff. When I went over to the UX department, I'm kind of like, wow, this is almost the same exact thing that I was doing for communities, but I'm doing it for apps. I'm doing it for users. I'm doing It for technology and not for. I mean, he has still a community though. Just the tech community. So it's funny how different things doesn't seem as though they're in line but when you start playing with it is actually in line with one another. So yeah, everything worked out.
Yeah, no that is that is really interesting. I actually thought you studied something else in college so that that that surprises me, but I can see how they would be related especially like the psychology aspect and yet building communities and working with people obviously, that's an important skill. Yeah. For for any job that a person is in. So okay, so just to just to backtrack, you were always fascinated by like design and art and you loved video games and you were experimenting with that when you were younger. When you were in college, you study so could you repeat that again? What What was the name of the program is called family youth and community sciences. Family. Okay, family, you think community scientists Got it? Okay, and then after that you went to teach for a year. And you taught math and you were working with kids around the age of like 14, give or take. And after that, what was your next step? Then you knew you want to work in tech? Where did you go from there?
So that was probably the most the hardest decision I had to figure out within a year. I didn't know which way to go. I already had a bachelor's degree. And I call that hey, I want to get into your computer science program. And they let me know Yeah, we don't do second bachelor's here. And I'm like, Oh, okay. So I don't have that option. I only have going to another school. So I was thinking about Georgia Tech because they allow second bachelor's. So thinking about doing a computer science degree there. Option two was a coding boot camp, and option three was learning on my own. I picked option two, two, I went to win Code Academy here in Miami and I think when code Well, when code taught full stack development, they taught and focused on Ruby on Rails. My opinion on that experience was, I think, because I'm such a visual learner, that it, it was the wrong way to teach me like, you know, the way I learned how to code. It was really, I couldn't use anything. I felt like I kind of wasted my money and time doing the coding bootcamp. And then also felt like once I got out of the vocab and tried to get a job there there's no companies here as they are no Ruby shops, no, Ruby on Rails, nothing. In that kind of category. Most mostly it was kind of like cobalt or very old language it.
Could you just share with us where you where you are based and where when Code Academy is?
Yeah, I didn't even say that. I'm in Miami, Florida. When code is here, Miami in the wynwood dish. I'm born and raised here. And I've kind of always been here. Miami is kind of like a tech desert in a way, where we don't have those big large corporations like Facebook and things like that. We have more the older companies, and it goes based on our industry. So our industry is basically healthcare, hospitality tourism. So you'll find tech there, and not so much in the tech that everyone wants to be a part of, which is like, you know, social media kind of tech and like the hype in the known pack mainstream tech, we're not, we don't have those kind of roles here. So most of our technology is very outdated, very old. So learning Ruby on Rails, does not what I was supposed to do.
I feel like that's like a really good lesson though. People can learn from like, learning like if you know, you want to stay in a certain area like geographically like knowing what languages and technologies and whatever the companies there are using. So you can get those things and not the wrong thing and make sure you you're aligned with the jobs because yeah, that's definitely like a really interesting lesson. Like maybe if you were like open to moving to New York or San Francisco that those skills could have came in handy. But anyway, don't want to veer off too much. So you ended up going through this program learning Ruby on Rails companies aren't hiring for Ruby on Rails. What happened then?
Yeah, so I'm like, oh, my goodness, I have this $10,000 loan that I have to pay back and I don't have a job. Um, during that moment, my mom also had an issue where she almost lost her house. So I'm like, okay, I don't have any more options. I really have to find a backdoor some kind of way. And I realized that I had to use my personality. I can't just rely on my talent because clearly a didn't really have that at the time. Um, so I had to just figure out a way to network and get to know more people and let them know that I'm a great person. And from there on I went to a few networking events using meetup.com and Eventbrite. And I would look at the meetup list and see who's coming. And I will Google them. I'm like, Okay, so this person come in let me go over them. Let me look at their Twitter. Let me see how I feel about that person. It pick up little things about them. So when I see them in person, I can be like, yeah, so I saw this on your Twitter. That's very interesting that you're doing that. Tell me more about that. You know, I want to talking points. Because I wasn't too good at networking at the time. So I had to kind of like teach myself how to be vulnerable in a crowd. Um, so from there I met this guy, his name is Jeff fudge. And I looked his name up because I thought it was kind of funny name budge as the last name like, Wow, that's so weird. Last name.
So from there, I'm like, Oh, I'm gonna look him up on Twitter and look him up on like, did I realize he was the VP of a company called subtle global solutions. And I had to find out a way that I could talk to him basically. So Went to the meetup he was a part of, but everyone was surrounding him. Like everyone knew him. Everyone was talking to him. I'm like, wow, this guy's popular. I can't get it, you know, in the circle. So what I'll do is I'll go to him. Hi, my name is Nora and so glad to see you here. And I'll come just back out, like back off, I wouldn't stay in the crowd, let everyone else talk. And I really relied on Twitter and LinkedIn and email to interact with him, rather than trying to interact in person to around like, the third time I saw him, he was kind of like, Oh, I remember you from the very first meetup that we met at, how are you? And I'm like, Oh, my God, he remembers me, you know, like, yeah, menorah just trying to get into the tech industry. And from there, he invited me to come to his office just for an office tour, because I've never seen a tech a tech company before, like the insides of the tech company. So he's like, Yeah, come by and I'll show you around. And I went around there. And I saw the design department and fell in love. It was like, Wow, this is so awesome. So yeah.
Oh, awesome. That was gonna be my next question was how did you then get into product design? So was this like the beginning of your, of your design journey? So so so what happened that did you end up like working at this company as a designer or did a few zigzags happened before that?
Yeah. So, um, after that initial invite, he invited me to come back for a formal interview. I came back for the formal interview, he asked me, hey, do you know Photoshop, you know, these, you know that thing? And I just learned full stack development. So of course, I don't know that. But I told him I did, right. And I'm like, Yeah, I know that, you know, I've been doing that for a while. And I've done Photoshop, but not in that kind of way. I was doing Autodesk Maya not Photoshop. So I basically lied or my interview which is bad, don't do that. But I had And
Then you could just go home at night and like do a course on Photoshop or like a six hour Photoshop course.
Exactly. And that's exactly what happened. I'm like, Oh my god, I need to learn this right now. So I went to Lynda went to Udemy. And I learned as much as I could within like, the next two days, came back. That was my first day Monday was my first day there. And he's like, yeah, so start working on this project. These are the first things I want you to do. But he didn't really put me on a project, like the very first thing that I was doing was learning the systems and learning the product. And I was kind of being that person. When a customer will come in. I will be the one in the showroom, showing off the product and he's like, I want you to be here. I want you to listen to what I'm saying to the customers and learn how to speak to the customers. So I was doing that like the first two or three weeks where I would show up, hey, these are the products that we have for healthcare. This is how you do Work this and this is the issues we're dealing with with asset management. This is how we handle retail stores. And I was just going through the different sectors that we had in the company, and learning how to talk to customers. And from there, I'm like, Okay, I got enough information. I did my research. I did my UX research. That's essentially what it was. And then I was ready to jump into real design, which was Photoshop at the time.
Okay, so you so you got your first design job in this way that you just described, which is really awesome. And I really like that story. And you taught yourself these skills by taking like online courses like Photoshop and other kind of Design Technologies.
Exactly. I took that time out, because I'm like, you know, at the time, I think sketch was kind of new to sketch with it. The main thing at the time, it was Photoshop. So Photoshop is very, very cluttered as a lot of different things to use for Photoshop. So I'm like, oh my god. This is what you guys use to treat After, this is horrible, you know, but I had to learn it. And I learned it using Udemy. I learned it using different YouTube tutorial, especially those sped up tutorial, I would go on there and slow down the tutorial. And in a towel, they would build out different UI. And I would just practice over building out the same UI they were building to just learn the tools and learn how to do gradients and learn how to do colors. And really, it was about learning the tool and in the beginning, it wasn't about like the How do I link in my psychology knowledge with creating these these UI mock ups it was more about how do I make them and then from there, it was kind of like, Okay, how do I make them functional? How do I make sure that yes, it's visually attractive or the aesthetic is great, but how do I also make it user friendly to a graduate it as time went on, but it definitely started off with how do I use it? tool and how do I make things with this tool?
Right, right. So could we talk about that a bit? Like, what is product design? What is UX design? What is UI design? What is web design, right? There's all these terms. There's all these terms. And there's all these different job titles. And I know there can be tons of overlaps. And it definitely depends on the company that you're working at what your job title might be. And it could be two different things that two different companies, but you're essentially doing the same thing. Because you just walk us through these different areas of design and what these different things are.
Definitely. So you're right, the design industry, I think we need to understand what we want to call ourselves. And it all started off with like the whole graphic design, everyone was a graphic designer. Now it's more into the UX UI product design, and sometimes information architecture, UX research keeps going. But we're going to stick to those three, the UX, the UI and the product. So UX in my opinion, is the how It basically explains the how and the why. So how would this work? Why are they working that way? What is the psychology behind this particular design? So that's the UX the UI is, what does it look like? When I get to that screen? What visually like what visual design? Do I see? What? What colors? Do I see what visual hierarchy do I see? How, what does it look like? And then the product design is more of the business aspect. What does the business need? And what does the user need? And how do I mesh all those things together? Now product design can be very tricky, because it depends on the role that you're in, like Heroku.
I work at Heroku, which was acquired by Salesforce. And Heroku is part designers all know how to code. So they're the layer of front end development that you have to know how to do and it's called, you know, UX or UI engineering where you have to understand development because we're working with developers with our platform. So most of our product design is understanding the business need, understanding the user need, but also understanding that area when no one really focuses on so speed of the website, accessibility of the website, how to code that it does the ability to make sure screen readers could pick up, I guess, elements on the page. And really those areas that no one ever thinks those hovers and things like that. Those are areas of design that most of the time we don't think about as designers, most of the time the developer thinks about that.
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So at the last company I was working at, like we had product designers, and they didn't code. They worked with engineers very closely and all of that, but they weren't actually building the front end. So I think it's really interesting that you as a product designer are building the front end, would you mind sharing, like what technologies that you're using?
Definitely. So remember, I'm like three months in. So I don't know everything about what her job is doing. And that aspect, I'm just kind of like, navigating the space now. Because I just got the job. And we should definitely talk about how I got that job, honestly. But yeah, um, so with Roku, what we're doing is working on just the HTML and CSS mostly, and understanding how to add accessibility to those measures. There's also an aspect of our, I guess, our component, so we're using Ember and react components that makes up our page. Which is the human interface guidelines. And we're creating this higg for our front end developers to just grab the pieces and create our, our layout. So without having to say, Oh, this is this amount of pixels from the left, blah, blah, we create those things, it's like, Alright, here is our entire document, just grab the code a go, don't worry about you know how look, we already created the code for it, all you need to do is just grab it and put it in UI, you make the functions for it. And then we you know, come back together and talk about how those things all work together and make sure that these are our intentions and as designers, these are the way the these things flow. But most of it is just kind of like we create the entire component list and how things look and pass it off to developers to develop.
So I'm just curious because it's like this is like so different from like the company that I was working at and I'm in like in like, how the rules are broken down by no again, as we said, Every company is different and titles are different responsibilities are different. They can overlap and whatnot. So do product designers then where you're working now? Do they actually design the components? Or is there like a whole other designer that designs it, then you build it with like HTML, CSS, and you think about the speed and accessibility, but someone else designs it? Or are you doing the design as well?
We're doing the entire thing. And that's what product design really is understanding the entire flow of an entire user experience. Not just you know, how it looks, but also how its functioning, you know. And that's why I love this company so much, because I've been trying to get into a role like this forever. So to be here, now my oh my gosh, I can't wait. I'm going to work on this. I'm going to work on that. I think I'm kind of like stretching myself thin. But that to have the possibility to work on different aspects of the component list that we have designing those things out in sketch, and then going into, you know, visual code and coding those things, making sure it's accessibility meets the web standards and accessibility standards. And then passing it to the developer, so they don't have to think about that stuff. We still own that entire user experience is everything to me. I love it.
So is there a separate user research team then?
Yeah, okay. Yeah, we don't do that part, thank goodness.
Because again, I know it's some companies like product designers can be really involved in like user research and user interviews, and, and all that, but Okay, so you there's a, there's a separate user research team. And they do what they do.
And they and then they pass that knowledge off to you guys.
Exactly. So right now because Heroku and Salesforce, how would I describe this? So Heroku -- Salesforce is the umbrella. So it has a lot of brands underneath this entire parent brand. They'll work her up with his own little island. And for a long time, we've been doing our own user research and things like that. But because we're trying to mesh together and become one brand, we're starting to branch off with the Salesforce UX researchers and explain to them our use case. What sometimes doesn't always come off correctly, because designing for developers and designing for regular users? That is totally different, you know?
Yeah, that's a really that's like such a good point. And you're at Heroku. you're designing for developers? Yes. Yeah. Whereas I know Salesforce acquires tons of different companies. And I'm sure some are more technical than others. The user base is more technical than others. But yeah, that makes a ton of sense. I didn't even really connect like those dots. But yeah, like the, like who you're designing for is so important. But anyway, continue so so.
Yeah, so like with Salesforce towards their users are, they're not really developers. They're just people who uses drag and drop a platform that create apps for applications versus with developers. mean, that's the whole new use case, developers, what I've noticed with our developers is they will create, let's say, the designers broke something, something doesn't work, they will create a run around or walk around on that issue, and create an entire new flow for themselves. So just get through with that. They'll create their own path, their own happy path. So it's kind of like, usually when you have users, they'll call in complain about it. Developers never complain. They just make a solution.
So funny. Oh, my gosh, I actually was doing and my last job, we would do user interviews a lot and we would watch people use the product. And we would sometimes have people on or do them who were act like developers because you could use the product as a developer as a regular user because there was like a Power Editor anyway, but like watching a developer use it, they were so fast I couldn't follow that knew how to booboo and they had all these they would like build things on top of it. And I was like, They just do that. I was like, no, it's like it. Yeah, it is like not a normal like user like the norm. Good. You know, like that, like the average person watching them use is so different than watching a developer use something. Yeah, that's really funny. Yeah.
Yeah, I feel like Salesforce, the UX researchers can't always help us. They can do certain things. But sometimes I feel like we probably need to still own that space, a lot more than we are currently. Because they only know that normal user versus our users are just totally like left field for them.
Yeah, Salesforce user could be like an account manager or a sales rep at Salesforce. And you guys, your users are, yeah, like engineers or startups, CTOs or something? So yeah, that's really that's really interesting. Um, so I definitely would love to get into how you got this job. At Heroku. You said it was an interesting story, and you just got it fairly recently. So could you share a bit about that.
Definitely. So, um, social media having a personal brand is basically the story. Um, so went to this conference called Afro tech last year. And oh, my gosh, it was so amazing. I've never been at a tech conference like that ever, where it was just hip hop and r&b playing in the background. And when people will come on the stage and talk about code, they'll come on, on a hip hop song, as you Everyone knows, and it's just like a family kind of environment where there are people that look like you that was just coding and making things because usually, you know, in the tech industry right now, it's only like 2% of African Americans or black people have in the tech atmosphere. So to go to that event and see so many I'm like, What pipeline problem, you know, like, What are they talking about? There's so many of us. And so yeah, it was amazing to be around it. But also just to experience it was phenomenal In my opinion, because I never did it before. But I met this guy, his name was to bars. And we follow each other on Instagram. I didn't think anything of it. I'm like, Oh, this guy. He's a great person network than Microsoft right now. All right, cool. Oh, I'll follow him. Um, so a year later, I think I started posting things about design. I know what I'm doing and all the different illustrations I was creating and how that can help the user.
And he's like, Hey, Lenora, are you looking for a dog right now? And I'm like, working somewhere. But I mean, I'll entertain it, you know? And he's like, yeah, a rock was looking for a new park designer, and it's gonna be remote. The companies in San Francisco, you can work anywhere you want, but they're really looking for someone in the US that are really looking for a female. And I'm like, Oh, okay. I would put in my resume. He's like, no, we're your portfolio and I'm like, oh, about that. I need to spend, you know, fix it or finish it. He's like, No, do it tonight. I'm going to send over your name and come in for you know, do an interview online and did that interview. I spoke with my current boss Roberta. She's like, Oh my gosh, I want to be everybody. So next thing you know is in like, interview with four other people and talking about my experiences as a designer. And long story short, I got the job like three months ago, and it's been a May Day working here.
That's awesome. And I love like the portfolio bit like you're like googling, like how to make a product design portfolio in six hours, right, kind of like your first job like learning Photoshop. Like once you already got the interview. That's really great, though. Um, so that's awesome. And I didn't realize it was remote too. And I know there's a lot of folks who listen to the show who want to work remote. How is that going?
Oh my gosh. mean, it's amazing. I get to work anywhere. Like last week, I decided to do a get my ish together weekend, where I went to a place in Naples and just stay there for like a week just to focus on other things, but not having to be in Miami. And I was able to work. And there's so many times where I'll be like, Yeah, and I need a break. And they're like, What do you mean? be here tomorrow at, you know, nine o'clock and I'm like, I don't like go to work. I just like to wake up and turn on my computer. This is so much easier if you've made a lot of people this way as well. Because there's so many people it's also remote. So you have to be present and in the moment, and always down to have like a FaceTime or a Google Hangout just to talk about different products. So you're able to touch the entire company without having to see them face to face all the time, which isn't bad. I do travel to Sam Cisco quite a bit and we do see each other it's like oh my god, everything. yours You know, I mean, for me is like I haven't seen you in a month.
But um, yeah, it's awesome. I think having remote team understand the dynamics of time zones. And once you're good over that, everything else is a breeze we have a lot of times we really work on product. Oh, that's awesome. And we don't have too much time. There's a few more things I want to ask you. So I'm gonna move real quickly here. But what advice do you have for someone listening who wants to pursue product design or a related field? So I would definitely say use online resources. That's what I did to learn as much as you can, learning the tools first, and then going more into the how the why the visual design, my main place that I go to his Twitter, honestly, Twitter and YouTube. So refactoring UI is probably one of my favorite places to go to get design inspiration. Because the refactoring UI discusses how to think about design from a development stance I think that's really beneficial for all designers. So they're Udemy is another place, Linda. I also use YouTube quite a bit podcast. There's a few. I don't have a better speed up. But anyway, she's just a few like podcasts that I'll probably send to you, just so you will be able to send it out. But um, yeah, there's a few design podcasts. I really, really love design better co was probably my favorite one. And just learning from the industry leaders. That's probably the main thing that I would say to start doing.
Okay, I think it will definitely include links to these things in the show notes. And if you send me them after this interview, I can throw them yeah, in the show notes and listeners can go there on the website and find all that. Now as far as getting a job goes like a design job. What advice do you have for that?
So I really think my personal brand and my portfolio has really set me apart and always talking about what I'm doing, like my design work on medium and things like that became a portfolio for me. So I would definitely say, to get a job in this industry, go to networking events, for sure. Go to events that's online. There's a lot of networking events. It's online. I know it's kind of weird, but like on Hangout, where you can just go in there and say, Hi, I'm whoever and I'm just here for to learn about design for me guys, um, a lot of different areas where you could go to San Francisco conferences, right from your computer, not having to move anywhere. And then following up with those people on LinkedIn. So yeah, meet up event bright. I'm going to different conferences really works. What else? I guess indeed, and LinkedIn is probably one of your best choices. So looking on the job listings, they're applying, speaking to the recruiters going to the hiring manager and say hi, you know, I just applied or blah blah blah job. And I want to know more about the role. So making sure that you follow up. Do a lot of interactions with people can really help you land a job in the industry.
Yeah, I love one of the things you said earlier like, right when we started chatting about how you had to use your, I think it was like I had to use my personality instead of my talent or something when you first design job. And I think a ton of guests upon the show have said the same thing. Like they relied heavily on their personality and engaging with people on being communicative and putting themselves out there. And I think you're just a great example of that working and in the design space, because a lot of the people I spoke to said that they've been working as software engineers or QA testers or something, but same thing can apply to working on a design team.
Definitely. Totally agree with that.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show. It is a pleasure to have you. Where can people find you online?
My website is Is lenoraporter.com. My Twitter is LenoraPorter_, and Instagram is lenora.porter. Those are all the places you can find me.
Awesome. Thank you again for coming on.
No problem. Thank you.
Thanks so much for tuning in. If you missed any of that or like a recap, the Show Notes for this episode can be found at learntocodewith.me/podcast. If you're listening to this episode in the future, simply click the Search icon in the upper side navigation and type in Lenora's name. If you're a new listener at the best way to stay up to date with all that we're doing at Learn to Code With Me is by getting on our email list. We're going to be doing a lot of awesome things in 2019, you definitely don't want to miss out. You can join the list easily by going to learntocodewith.me and signing up. You'll see the form at the top of the homepage. In this way, you'll just stay up to date with everything like the special promotions The new content that we put out. And if you're a regular listener, please do consider supporting the show on Patreon. You can do that at learntocodewith.me/pledge. There are lots of goodies available as my thanks to you. See you next week.
This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.
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Let’s look at some of Lenora’s insights about the field and advice for those considering product design, UX design, or UI design as a career path.
Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!
What Is Product Design?
Lenora identifies three separate components to the idea of product design as a whole: user experience (UX), user interface (UI), and product design.
- UX “basically explains the how and the why. So how would this work? Why is it working that way? What is the psychology behind this particular design?”
- UI is “what does it look like? When I get to that screen, what visual design do I see? What colors do I see? What visual hierarchy do I see? What does it look like?”
- Product design is “more of the business aspect. What does the business need and what does the user need, and how do I mesh all those things together? Now, product design can be very tricky, because it depends on the role that you’re in. For instance, Heroku’s product designers all know how to code, so there’s a layer of front-end development that you have to know how to do because we’re working with developers with our platform. So we’re thinking about the speed of the website, the accessibility of the website, etc.”
Here’s a quick glimpse at how Lenora describes her duties as senior product designer:
“Product design really is understanding the entire flow of an entire user experience—not just how it looks, but also how it’s functioning. We’re working on the HTML and CSS and using Ember and React components to create our Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). We’re designing components in Sketch and then going into visual code and coding those things, making sure its accessibility meets the web standards, and then passing it to the developers so they don’t have to think about that stuff.”
Every company assigns its design and development roles in their own way, of course, or you may specialize in a different area—so a future product design role for you might look a lot different. Your ideal role may include development, or may be all about navigating the business side of things, or may be totally about visual design. The beauty of it is that there are plenty of different directions you can go in!
Important Product/UX Designer Skills
Here are four skills to learn if you’re thinking about a career related to product design.
1. Sketch/Other Design Tools
One of the biggest design tools today is Sketch. “In the beginning, it’s really about learning the tools,” Lenora says. “How do I make mockups? How do I make them functional? How do I make sure that it’s visually attractive? How do I also make it user-friendly?” Here are some tips for using Sketch.
2. Psychology/Human Behavior
“[In college] I studied this thing called family, youth and community sciences. So it’s full of psychology, human behavior, and how to create services for communities. When I went over to the UX department, I thought, wow, this is almost the same exact thing that I was doing for communities, but I’m doing it for apps, I’m doing it for users, I’m doing it for technology.”
3. Principles of Visual Design
“Go more into the how, the why, the visual design.” (Here are seven basic visual principles to start with!)
4. Basic Web Development
“I think it’s really beneficial for all designers to learn how to think about design from a development standpoint.”
How to Become a UX Designer or Related
Thinking of pursuing a job in product design? “I would definitely say use online resources,” Lenora suggests. “Learn as much as you can.”
Here are some specific resources she recommends:
- Refactoring UI: “Probably one of my favorite places to go to get design inspiration.”
- Twitter: “My main place that I go to is Twitter, honestly! Learning from industry leaders.”
- YouTube: “I also use YouTube quite a bit. I would go on there and slow down tutorials, watch how they would build out different UI”, and practice building out the same UI to learn the tools, gradients, and colors.”
- Lynda (now LinkedIn Learning)
- Designbetter.co podcast: “Probably my favorite one.”
Aside from learning the necessary skills and tools, Lenora highly recommends networking and building a personal brand. “I really think my personal brand and my portfolio has really set me apart,” she says.
Attend meetups and conferences (and follow up with connections). “I would definitely say, to get a job in this industry, go to networking events. Meetup, eventbrite… going to different conferences really works! There’s a lot of networking events that are online too. I know it’s kind of weird, but it’s like on Hangouts where you can just go in there and say ‘Hi, I’m whoever and I’m just here to learn about design from you guys.’ You could go to San Francisco conferences right from your computer and then follow up with those people on LinkedIn. Making sure that you follow up on a lot of interactions with people can really help you land a job in the industry.”
Lastly, be active on social media in a way that provides value. “I started posting things about product design and what I’m doing and all the different illustrations I was creating, and how that can help the user.”
One of her connections from a tech conference saw her posts and got in touch to offer a job referral—to Heroku, where she loves her job today! Putting value into your industry will often come right back to you.
Links and mentions from the episode:
- City Year
- Maya Autodesk
- Lynda (which is now LinkedIn Learning)
- Refactoring UI
- Lenora on Twitter @Lenoraporter_
- Lenora on Instagram @lenora.porter
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