Web design : from zero experience to a high paying job

Richard Yang, a UX designer at Sony, shares his path from a guy with zero experience in design to a respected professional with a high paying job.  Much like with any professional, in the past, present or future, it wasn’t an overnight success, but an inhuman amount of work and dedication, with plenty of failure.

Here are some examples.  Working on the mobile app:

Nonetheless, at around 4 to 6 hours per day, it took me the rest of the remaining internship to create my first iteration of Joinmi.

Creating a portfolio, preparing for the job:

Powered by a concoction of coffee, insomnia, and passion(?) I chose to forgo 48 hours of sleep and put together a portfolio from scratch.

Oh, the waiting …

After waiting nervously for a few weeks, the stars aligned and I somehow landed 9 design interviews. Spurred on with a newfound confidence, I decided to skip my classes, drop my extracurriculars, and dedicate every waking moment on interview preparations.

Here is a big part of what it takes to become good in anything:

Another thing I did that was very helpful was paying special attention to every single piece of user interface I interacted with on a daily basis. I focused on questioning their design decisions, and thinking of potential ways to improve the gaps in user experience.

Without exaggeration, I read during class (when I bothered going), while eating, on the toilet, and in bed until 2AM every night. I tried to absorb as much as humanly possible to increase my chances.

The rejection is always in the air:

Of course, I was immediately rejected from most companies once they found out I had 3 weeks of design experience.

And then more work:

I spent the next few months continuing my hell-like grind, just reading and designing even in my sleep (which I rarely got).

By then you’d usually figure out what passion is and where it is coming from:

I lived my entire life without understanding what it meant to be passionate. I had always assumed that passion was some inherently magical fuel that successful people were just born with.


After being immersed in design for a little while, I found out that I had been wrong all this time. Passion must be discovered. Passion is when you give up sleep, skip meals, and ignore your friends — just to fit a few more design hours into the day.

There were more nights than I could count, where I’d think of an idea, open up Sketch, and then within a blink of an eye hear my 8:00AM alarm ringing.

If you have passion for something, here’s how your schedule will probably look for the first few months or years:

I gave myself a pretty harsh schedule to adhere to. This is not sustainable nor healthy. Do not do this:

  • Read 10 articles a day
  • Create at least 1 new user interface screen a day
  • Go to 1 hackathon every weekend
  • Work at least 10 hours each day
  • Take on every possible design opportunity available

This reminds me a lot of the time I was learning programming and system administration. This still happens today, but mostly on a month basis, not daily.

Then there was more rejection:

My interview process was not smooth sailing. Out of the 100 applications I sent out, I was met with almost all rejections. One thing I did that helped motivate me was print out all the rejections I got and nail them to a wall as a reminder to work harder.

And then, with more work and a bit of luck, things are starting to turn your way:

Eventually — after several interviews every week — I got an offer from a top tier Toronto startup for 85k base salary + stock options.

I was ecstatic. It was like a mountain had been lifted off my shoulders.

A quick summary:

The moral of this story is, try and go above and beyond intern-level tasks. Take an important role in high profile projects during your internships. And have at least one solid offer in your back pocket before discussing transitioning to a full time role.

If you’re just transitioning into design or any other field don’t have the mentality that “this is pretty good for the “x” amount of time I spent learning,” instead you should be comparing yourself to the top people in your field around your age.

I’ve done something very similar myself.  I saw other people do that too.  But I wish more people had passion for what they are doing in life.  The world would be a better place.

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