User experience (UX) design has become an increasingly popular career. Brands are looking for problem-solvers to map out delightful customer experiences and ultimately improve the journeys people have on and off their websites. It was never my plan to become a UX designer, but all paths have led me to where I am today: Senior Product Designer at Hotjar. 

How I got into UX design 

My career has been anything but linear. I started off studying biology but never graduated. My major was ethology in zoology (which is the behavioral study of animals). I specialized in gorillas but did still study apes, including chimpanzees, but my specific focus was gorillas.   

The plan was to move to the Congo, but health issues put a stop to that. I decided that if I couldn’t continue to study gorillas and chimpanzees, I didn’t want to do biology anymore, so I quit and began working in visual design. It was an industry that wasn’t particularly big at the time—nowhere near as big as it is now. 

But I didn’t like digital design at all. It wasn’t for me. I loved materials and the printing process. My first job was what I call 3D UX because I ended up working in museums and exhibitions. You get a budget, they provide you with resources, give you a space, and then your job is to figure out how people are going to move through the space and experience it. 

This was the first time my brain started to link behavior and design together. I ended up moving to China. I arrived with no savings and no job but worked for two years on market research in an engineering company which gave me the understanding of how markets and companies connect as well as the impact it has on company strategy. 

After three-and-a-half years in China, I moved to London to work in luxury interior design and then finance. At the finance company, I was working in visual design and found it incredibly boring. But there was a product design team there who were doing something very different. They weren’t designing pretty banners—they were designing how humans would connect with machines. That caught my interest. I started to interact with the product design team and decided I needed a career change. 

General Assembly, a career development school, was running a night course in product design that I attended for 10 weeks. Then I found a job at a startup as a product designer working alongside engineers. This was a huge change coming from a visual design background—it was all about hardcore strategy. It broke my ideas about the design world and encouraged me to start thinking about constraints and making functional things. 

My journey was not fast or linear, but each experience I had, paired with my pervading interest in behavior, brought me to where I am today—working in product design for the payments and monetization segment at Hotjar. 

All this to say, there is no one route into user experience and UX design.

Hotjar’s hiring and interview process for UX roles

I’ve been on both sides of the table at Hotjar. I’ve interviewed, and I’ve been interviewed. Hotjar’s hiring process is one of the most respectful hiring processes I’ve ever experienced. 

I was lucky enough to be contacted by them through LinkedIn, but there are plenty of ways you can express interest, including applying directly from LinkedIn or responding to ads on the Hotjar site. 

Regardless of how you apply, every candidate goes through the same interview process: 

  1. Conversations with team members: aspiring product designers are introduced to the Head of Product for a short, informal chat. If that goes well, you’re put through to an interview with the manager or leader you’d be working with. 

  2. Paid task: applicants are then given a task to complete. The task varies, depending on the type of work that you’d be doing, but you will always be paid for the workable days you put into it. Hotjar gives product designers two weeks to complete a three-day task so you can work it around your other commitments.

  3. Company communication: during the paid task, you’re embedded into the product team. You’re in full contact on Slack because, as much as you’re being interviewed, you’re also deciding if you want to work at the company. This approach gives you time to consider whether you’re comfortable with the way Hotjar works and whether you like working remotely, using Slack, and the type of projects you’d be working on.  

  4. Task analysis: once the task is complete (or the two weeks are up), candidates are invited to analyze their contribution. This is your chance to highlight whether you did too much or too little and to explain why you carried out the task in the way you did. Hotjar is realistic in knowing that the outcome will be the result of only three days’ time allotment and limited resources.

How to become a UX designer: 7 Important skills every good UX designer needs

Humans don’t create, they discover. 

That’s our position as product designers. We’re not artists in the traditional sense. We can be artists in our free time, but as product designers, we have to work with budgets, constraints, and tight deadlines. We’re working with the benefit of the user in mind and are tasked with connecting the dots. 

It helps to have a few key traits in addition to understanding the practical elements of UX design:

1. We’re problem solvers, not pixel movers 

We need to juggle individual users’ needs, product parameters, budgets, time constraints, and what we’re physically (and digitally) capable of doing. We need to do all this and create a wonderful experience that solves a problem for our users. 

The solution isn’t always obvious. In fact, sometimes it’s not even screen-based, and this is something people forget about. We’re not pixel movers, we’re problem solvers, and I think this is an important phrase to remember when you’re trying to get into a job and choosing which company to work for. You’ll get more satisfaction out of a job where people understand you’re solving problems, not designing a screen. 

2. We need to be humble 

There are many ways to solve a problem. 

To figure out the best way, you need to listen a lot and communicate consistently with the end user. 

You also need to communicate with internal teams and different departments. These other teams have a ton of knowledge that can fuel your solutions. They know what can be done and what can’t be done, but they might also have insights into what the problem is if you haven’t yet worked it out. 

As UX designers, we’re linking all this knowledge together to create a solution that is the right fit for our users. This is why being humble is crucial. Something you worked on might not solve the problem. The problem you thought was the problem might not be the problem at all, and it’s important to acknowledge this. 

3. We’re observers as well as listeners

Listening is a big part of understanding what users want, but observing is critical. 

Users might not tell you the truth. They might tell you what they think you want to hear. Observing fills in the gaps and taps into actions rather than words. Data is pivotal for this, so it’s important you can understand data or are at least beginning to grasp it. Users might be telling you one thing, but if the data is saying something different, it’s up to you to discover what’s really going on. 

4. We have to stay open-minded 

UX designers have to be resourceful with the contradictory information they get, and it’s crucial to be open-minded to really understand what’s going on–especially if you’re working on a global product. Different people process things in very different ways.