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The Path to Finding Confidence as a UX Design Intern

5 MIN READ

The Path to Finding Confidence as a UX Design Intern

Finding Grace, Space, and Confidence in my Field

In my experience at MetroStar, I affirmed my idea that having room to be human, and “bursting your bubble,” is the best mentality to have during any new or unfamiliar experience.

The journey to my internship at MetroStar, unbeknownst to me, started when I took a blind leap of faith and decided to pursue my Master’s in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Maryland. My background in graphic design had only given me a surface-level understanding of the science behind UX design, so I had a lot of anxiety about what my experience in a new field during graduate school would look and feel like.

Once I entered my first semester, my anxieties did not, from my perspective at least, get any better. I fumbled through concepts, ideas, execution of courses, projects, and I experienced a high level of industry shock. I had so much self-doubt that I considered dropping out.

One night, I was up late cramming for a final assignment that I was struggling to complete. Hours had passed, and I found myself on the student withdrawal page anxiously staring at the button that would “free” me from all the pressure.

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Graphic by: KC Green (cropped webcomic)

After a few tense minutes, I said to myself, “you’ve made it this far; just give yourself one more day.” I decided at that moment to walk away from my assignment and start fresh in the morning. That was the best decision I could have made at the time.

Soon after, I met up with a friend who I had been relaying my experience to throughout the semester. We were chatting about how dissatisfied I was with my experience and how I wasn’t sure if I was even qualified to continue the program.

She started to ask me about the projects I had worked on and the assignments I had completed. When I finished telling her about all the things I had worked on, she looked at me and said, “Wow, you’ve grown so much.” I must have looked puzzled because she then proceeded to explain to me how, when I first started the program, I had expressed so much frustration over feeling like a fish out of water. Surprisingly, while I explained my entire semester to her, I was able to break down in detail everything I had learned. I was able to explain everything I did and why I did it.

I was shocked, to say the least. During the entire semester, I had felt a huge weight on my shoulders making me believe I needed to know everything presented to me the first time I heard it. I was afraid to ask questions because it seemed like everyone else was already on the same page. The amount of pressure I was putting on myself to be some all-knowing machine was, quite frankly, ridiculous.

After that conversation with my friend, I decided it was time to make a change. I began a journey to deconstruct my thoughts of expecting myself to be perfect and learn to be okay with my current reality.

This new thought process led me on my path to MetroStar. Like I said before, I was on a journey to making a change, and of course, to do that, I had to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I like to call this, “bursting your bubble.”

The first step to bursting my bubble was to look for internship opportunities. I found a few highlighted by my school and decided to review them, and sure enough, there was one that stood out. The qualifications were vague, but I thought it might be an adventure, so I put together an email of interest and sent it off. Despite doing that, I was sure my message would end up voiding my application, and I would never hear from them.

I was wrong.

My exact timeline of events is blurry, but I received a call from Pat, a lovely Talent Acquisition Specialist, who set the tone for what to expect at MetroStar. Before my interviews began, I spoke with Pat and told her how nervous I was about the process. She told me to “just be myself,” and everything would be okay. I took that as a sign to hold true to my current journey of learning to trust myself.

Following my interview experience, I was anxious to get the call that I had been accepted as a 2021 UX Intern for MetroStar. When I got the call, I told myself, “This will be new and scary, but you can handle all of the challenges as they come. You’ve got this.”

The MetroStar Internship

I started my internship in June, and we dove headfirst into our project. I have appreciated being the only UX intern on a team of developers. I have never had to work alone before, and I certainly have never had to figure out how to transfer my designs to be coded. I took the challenge head-on, and not to toot my own horn, but I think I did alright for my first go!

The opportunity to meet new people during this internship was also terrifying. In any other context, I would have been mortified to reach out to employees and executives at a company. Yet, everyone told me this internship was a safe place to learn, grow, and ask questions. So, I took their advice and ran with it. If someone wanted to discuss something, then I agreed to meet with them; if there was an opportunity to become informed on something new, even if I had barely any knowledge on the subject, then I went. I knew that being a little scared would help me learn.

I learned that even if something doesn’t interest you in the long term—that’s fine. It’s those conversations that help you learn, make connections, and figure out your true interests. I now have more knowledge and resources on topics I’ve never thought to investigate. If I had let fear get in my way, then I would have never learned first-hand how cool MetroStar’s sister company Zoomph is, or learn about the small, nuanced opportunities you can find in the cybersecurity field.

If I hadn’t taken a leap of faith, then I wouldn’t have met all the cool people I’ve met at MetroStar or have Debbie, MetroStar’s Chief of Staff, tell me she appreciates my “Grace and Space” mentality. I wouldn’t even be writing the blog you are reading right now (thank you for reading)!

My point is—it’s okay to fail and to be scared. It’s okay to make mistakes, but if you take a moment to look at where you are, then I think more likely than not, you’ll find that you have progressed way more than you expected to and done way more than you believed you could. Don’t dim your light when you walk into the unknown of an internship. In fact, you should make your light brighter and share your confidence with the world (even when you feel a little uncertain).

If I hadn't taken a shot at writing a scary email, then I wouldn't have been able to see the other growth opportunities that are out there waiting for me. Being at MetroStar as an intern allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and see my own growth as a UX Designer. I feel like I can now go into any workspace and feel okay, even if it's a little bit new and scary.

Picture3Graphic by: Jillian Kaye (@pbandjillian, Instagram)

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About the Author

Bree is a multidisciplinary designer, studying Human-Centered Interaction at the University of Maryland. She is interested in developing brand voices and improving user experiences. On top of her internship with MetroStar, Bree has designed and developed the website for Educators International Services. In addition to re-developing the visual experience of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., their branding guidelines, and stationaries.

In her spare time, she is currently enhancing her skills in front-end web development and running a startup mental wellness website.