I had the joy of attending UXMad this past weekend, a two-day, single-track user experience and design conference based in Madison, WI. I've been really afraid of connecting with the UX community until now, because I feel a lot of internal pressure and resistance due primarily to my "complete novice" status. But after two days of incredible learning, connections, and growth I'm feeling energized, excited, and eager to begin finding my place and work in this community.
When I started learning about programming back in December, I really struggled to see my place in it all, but didn't much care because I was so focused on just learning. As time passed, though, and I was faced with choices and opportunities and adventures, I quickly discovered that some sort of direction would be valuable to me as I continued learning and began to work in the tech industry. Having a goal, without getting too encased in a niche, gives me the focus to tailor my learning while at the same time a freedom to explore and discover incredible things that are happening right now, around the globe.
After attending UXMad, I confess:
I'm not afraid of user experience any more.
I was incredibly impacted by many of the speakers, and I feel so lucky that UXMad was my first user experience conference. From looking at the way users feel during an interaction to taking the time to do nothing to understand your passions, learning from the great presenters there has energized and excited me about all the possibilities now in front of me.
Changing my entire career trajectory and focus isn't an easy thing. Just nine months ago, I believed with all my heart and passion that I was headed to law school this fall, focusing on constitutional law and electronic freedoms. I wanted to bring all the things I believe and value into a world where I truly believed I could make a difference. And while I never take anything off the table of possibilities, once I received that law school rejection letter (after spending three years preparing for an acceptance), I realized I needed to take back the reigns of my future. I can't to rely on outside forces to build the life I want.
I am not defined by my acceptance or rejection.
I am defined by the actions I take, by the grace with which I handle new and uncertain situations, by the choices I make to move forward in the world. After 28 years of living on the floating raft, I'm ready to step off onto the shore and make a difference in the world. And yes, it's definitely true that where I see myself heading now is NO WHERE I thought I would be headed. But when I look back at all the things I've experienced, when I think about the skills and tools I have now and how they benefit this new focus and endeavor, I realize that perhaps, much like Jamal Malik, my life has truly brought me here.
I don't think we discover our passions by accident. I don't think we're good at something because we just are but because we cultivate our experience and our passion into action. Being at UXMad this past weekend helped me see that my experiences, my passions, and my dreams can work together to help me create something extraordinary.