User Journeys feat. Nabila Hisbaron: Career Advice from a UX Mentor

Meet Nabila Hisbaron, a passionate User Experience Designer at the University of Bristol. With a background in brand management, Nabila discovered her love for UX through collaboration with design studios and embarked on a career switch. Her journey involved a commitment to a UX bootcamp, remote projects with startups and non-profits, and ongoing learning within the global UX community.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your current role?

My name is Nabila Hisbaron, and I’m a User Experience Designer for the University of Bristol. I moved from Indonesia to Bristol for this role as I wanted to be hands-on with user research to leverage insights in a high-impact workplace. Two years into the job, and I’m glad that my work allows me to do just that. I lead user research projects to inform design decisions, map out user journeys, create UX guidance for our web publishing community, and advocate for user centered design.

When did you first discover your interest in UX?

I’ve been working in higher education since 2017 in various roles like communications, branding, and marketing. When I worked in brand management, I collaborated with design studios and truly enjoyed the iterative, hands-on, and collaborative approach of their work. I wanted to take the most exciting part of my job and get better at it, so I was interested in upskilling. I never thought that it would lead me to a whole career switch!

For me, UX and design is more than just a profession – it’s a way of thinking that has permeated other areas of my life. UX has given me permission to experiment and fail to get to the best solution. It demands us to listen to the needs and lived experiences of others. It’s a problem-solving approach that decenters us from the solution itself, letting our users be our guide – and there is something magical and powerful in that.

What’s been your journey so far and how did you develop your skills in UX?

In 2019, I committed to a UX bootcamp while simultaneously working on UX projects with startups and non-profits remotely. Working with remote design teams early in my journey was helpful for me to work with experienced people in digital and strive for real business targets. It gave me confidence and material to work with in job interviews too.

Now with a UX design job, it’s just as important to keep learning. I’ve always admired the global UX community for being so generous with their time and expertise. I’ve had incredible mentors over the years who were not only experienced and knowledgeable, but kind and challenged me to do my best. Now, I’m on ADPList as a design mentor for career-switchers, and I get access to online events about various design topics ranging from the latest research methods to developing soft skills as a designer. I also try to have one UX or design book in my reading rotation, currently it’s the Empathy in Design issue from the magazine, Backstage Talks.

What would be your top 3 tips for people looking to secure a UX role?

– UX the hiring process: Turn the hiring process into a UX case study for you to crack. The user is going to be whoever is hiring you (e.g. UX lead, recruiter, team manager). They have goals, needs and pain points like any user. Your challenge is going to be about figuring out what they are and applying those insights in your job application, CV, and portfolio in a way that tends to their needs. Once you get an interview, you can apply the same approach to prepare for your meeting!

– Find creative ways to be memorable: As someone who’s been on a hiring panel a few times, standing out during the early application process is key. When I was job-hunting, I wanted to stand out from other portfolios who were using the same buzzwords, methods, and design tools as me without breaking the hiring manager’s user journey. So, I designed hidden ‘landing pages’ in my portfolio that I had made for specific job ads. By keeping those landing pages hidden, it allowed me to address the recruiter by name on my portfolio and tailor soft skills and work experience that was most relevant to the job ad. Albeit, it took twice as long to submit applications, but that’s when I started getting interviews. One manager even said that my personalised portfolio stood out and was a great point of delight and, while I didn’t get that job, she encouraged me to keep doing it. Experiment with ways to create delightful points in your application that are both memorable and helpful for the recruiter.

– Gain experience designing with real-world constraints: I would strongly encourage you to offer your UX services to the people around you who need UX work done. Start by asking your family and friends for opportunities. Non-profits and start-ups usually have an appetite for innovative work but have limited resources, so look for gigs there too. Learning the craft and literature around UX Design is essential, but getting that real-world experience takes your learning to a whole new dimension. You manage projects, collaborate with other designers and developers, and strive for real business targets. You can potentially use these projects as portfolio case studies; it gave me richer material to work with in my applications. Most of all, it helped me tremendously with building my confidence as a designer.

– BONUS TIP! Be kind to yourself: Job hunting eats up our time and energy and can take a toll on us emotionally and mentally. As you try to UX the hiring process, it’s important to humanise it too. Conserve your energy and try not to dwell on the outcomes of your application when the ball is in their court. Understand that hiring someone is not an easy process for anyone, and that there are multiple parties involved. When I’ve rejected an applicant, it’s never because they weren’t good practitioners, but simply because someone else has the specific experience and skills that the team needs at that time. I hope this insight shows how nuanced the hiring process can be. Try not to take rejection personally and focus on being a good and confident designer.


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Chris Nasrawi