“I Ran Away from Programming and Stayed on UX Research.”

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

“The Long and Winding Road” is not only a song from The Beatles but also a perfect picture of “my winding road” before entering the UX world.

Chapter 1: “Yesterday”

As far as I can remember, technology has always been a part of my life.

I could spend hours playing Puzzle Bobble on my uncle’s computer when I was only three.

I loved playing HTML and CSS codes on my blog’s layout setting during middle school days. (Yes, I had a personal blog when I was thirteen 😂)

I enjoyed exploring Adobe Photoshop, which led me to become a bulletin editor in my early high school days.

All the things in my life made me believe that I was destined to be a so-called “tech person.”

Finally, when I almost graduated from high school, I decided to pursue a technology career — to be a software engineer. I said to myself, “It would be very cool if I can make my own program! Plus, doing what I love for a living would be a great pleasure!“

I applied to one of the universities that has a well-reputable computer science major and got accepted. I was surprised because the overall process was smooth and made me even more confident that I was living my destiny.

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…”

I thought my life would be perfect as I become a computer science student. Apparently, it became the beginning of “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Chapter 2: “A Hard Day’s Night”

When I started my journey as a computer science student, I felt that the practice session was the worst nightmare. Each practice session felt like a programming competition, where I had to race against time to solve certain cases with lines of code. I had a tough time figuring out what lines of code should be implemented to solve a particular case. It seemed like my brain wires were unable to connect to find a solution for a problem.

Over the years, I kept feeling the same. No matter how hard I tried to learn programming (and no matter how many tabs of Stack Overflow threads and YouTube tutorials lined up in my browser), I still could not find “that click” with programming. Every time I saw my friends rapidly type lines of code and successfully produce the output that they asked for, I said to myself, “How did they come up with that?” I envied them because their thought process was like a flowing river when mine seemed to be blocked by a huge stone.

The last year of my university life became the moment when I was so done with programming. I went through countless sleepless nights and hopeless cries because I kept finding hard times (way harder than most fellow students in the same semester) to make sense of programming. For the first time, I solidly found myself not meant to do programming.

As time went by, I realized that programming is not about memorizing syntax and its function.

It is not as simple as showing “Hello, world!” on the computer screen.

printf(“Hello, world!”);

(Note: That line of code must have appeared in the “Introduction to Programming” subject. It must have made the students think, “Wow, programming is so easy and fun!”)

Programming is about shaping the logical thought process and systematic problem-solving, which I personally found difficult to accomplish.

It might be ridiculous to say, but as a computer science graduate, I have the lowest level of passion for programming.

Chapter 3: “Here Comes The Sun”

Just like every university student that has just graduated, I had some big questions in mind, “How should I continue my journey? What career path should I pursue?”

I tried to find inspiration by browsing through various job vacancy sites. At that time, what I had in mind was to find a job in the technology sector with very little activity related to programming.

After hours and hours surfing the internet, I found a UX Researcher Intern vacancy at an Indonesian unicorn startup. When I opened the page, my eyes went straight to the job description. “Thank God, there is no responsibility to do programming,” I said to myself after reading the details. Not long after, I decided to apply for the job. I really did not have any expectations. If the company did not respond to my application, for me, it was just bad luck.

Nearly a week after submitting my application, I received an email. It said something similar to this.

“Dear Karina,

Thank you for your interest in applying as a UX Researcher Intern.

Based on your resume, we are interested in inviting you to join our selection process.”

Yay, I got an invitation for a job interview! ✨

Without further ado, I replied to that email, expressing my interest to join the selection process.

After I went through the process, I got accepted for a three-month internship. I was surprised because I received that good news just hours after my interview. Of course, I was overwhelmed with so much happiness. But deep inside my heart, I was still questioning myself, “Did I already found what I want for my future?”

Fast forward to post-internship; I got an offer to become an Associate UX Researcher in the same company. I immediately accepted the offer with no doubt (probably the quickest “yes” of my life). After drowning in frustration during university life, now I felt like I had found my true call.

Chapter 4: “We Can Work It Out”

2020 marks the second year of my career as a UX researcher.

Do I find happiness during my journey in the world of UX? Of course. For me, the best part of being a UX Researcher is that I can help people. It always brings me so much joy when someone says, “Hi, your product really helped my life. Thank you so much!”

However, there were times when I face challenges. To this day, I am still learning how to build empathy — putting myself in someone else’s shoes — so that I can provide relevant, actionable insights for product improvement. I am also still learning how to make stakeholders buy-in to research — to continuously grow stakeholders’ interest in research as the foundation of a product.

After going through several ups and downs, I have learned that there must be challenges in all fields of work. In my case, for instance, I found that even UX research has its own challenges.

Being in a UX world is not an escape from programming languages and lines of code — it does not guarantee our life to be easier. All we need to do is to find our purpose, walk the path, and embrace the challenges.

I have learned my lesson. Have you?

***

Disclaimer: This story is based on my personal experience. If you like this post, please share this with everyone, especially with people you know are experiencing the same story as I do. Also, since this is my very first post on Medium, do not hesitate to give your feedback in the comment section :)

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