Kyung Euh is a natural storyteller. She enjoys engaging with the audience through her art and design and networking with anyone who appreciates a good narrative. She is the newest UX designer at Studio XID that developed an interactive prototyping tool named ProtoPie. ProtoPie is easy to use and a great platform to demonstrate design ideas without communication loss.
Q: Can you walk us through your journey in Korea?
K: Communication has been my core interest and strength. I engaged with the audience through my artworks while studying interactive media art in school. I immersed myself in design thinking, a communication-driven process of art creation, that blossomed into PurpleCoin, a startup specializing in design thinking workshops. As a co-founder of PurpleCoin, I hosted various workshops for a wide range of audiences from elementary students to working professionals, providing creative workshops for my community.
Q: How did your life change after moving to the U.S.?
K: I enrolled in the MA program called Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership at Arizona State University in hopes that I can continue PurpleCoin’s workshops in the U.S. But the language barrier and frequent relocation made things difficult. While I was struggling to come up with a solution, UX design popped into my head. Since UX design utilizes communication to solve problems and collaborate, it was a perfect way to pursue my passion. I spent seven months preparing and job searching, and I became a UX designer at ProtoPie.
Q: What made you apply at ProtoPie?
K: While I was searching for job openings in Seattle, I learned about an opening at ProtoPie through Simple Steps. I was drawn to the company’s famous prototyping tool widely used in the UX field. The position at the time was a sales position but I wanted to get the foot in the door to learn how the business operated, gain valuable insight into the relationship between UX design and sales, and network with great talents. Shortly after I started at ProtoPie, a UX designer position opened up. Knowing my passion for UX design, my colleagues recommended me to that position. After a successful interview and portfolio review, I was hired as a full-time UX designer. Timing and luck were on my side and I feel grateful that I grasped this opportunity when I did.
Q: From an art student to design thinking to UX design. It’s quite the transition. Can you share your career re-start experience?
K: A career transition is never easy since employers prefer experienced to inexperienced applicants. In some cases, this challenge is further complicated by a language barrier. As an immigrant job seeker, I simply did everything I could do to better prepare myself, participating in conferences or local meetups every week, and requesting advice from working designers. But what helped me the most was building a narrative, connecting the dots between my prior experiences and my target career. For example, I highlighted my ability to understand and interact with users by introducing my experience in interactive art. Likewise, I connected my experiences in design thinking and amateur UX projects to how I developed my problem-solving styles. This narrative not only filled my career gap but also helped me make a strong case for a career transition.
Q: What is a typical day in a life as a UX designer and what do you do to improve?
K: As a member of the Digital Experience team at ProtoPie, I design the information architecture of its website as well as each page’s structure and content. My favorite part of the job is telling stories to users-delivering them information in more effective ways while maximizing their convenience. I also like to analyze user data to provide the best possible improvements to user experience. As a new UX designer, I have much room for improvement compared to more experienced designers. I read books and articles and attend lectures to equip myself with more knowledge. Seeking help has also been a good way to improve my work performance; when I encountered a particularly difficult design issue recently, my coworkers’ advice helped me tremendously to find a solution.
Q: Since ProtoPie is based in Seoul, Korea, do you have any difficulties working remotely?
K: Remote work is nothing new at ProtoPie. Its employees are everywhere from Jeju Island to Seattle. Under the unlimited vacation policy, work schedules can be adjusted flexibly as long as you put in your hours of work. I’ve also been able to make quarterly work trips to Korea since the company covers business travel expenses for remote workers. The downside is less family time in the evening since most meetings take place at night due to the time difference. Sometimes I wish I were in Korea especially when I see the photos of the employees working together in the office or having fun at after-work get-togethers, although I’ve participated in the online get-togethers during the quarantine period.
Q: How did you join Simple Steps and what kind of support have you received?
K: I learned about Simple Steps during my job search and attended its first Seattle meetup in November 2019. As a female immigrant, I deeply related to the other attendees and instantly built emotional connections with them. Thanks to Simple Steps, I received practical job hunting advice and emotional support. A Simple Steps member who is also a UX designer at Amazon critiqued my resume and portfolio, and another member with an HR background prepared me for an English interview. Despite their busy schedules, they never hesitated to help me; their kindness boosted my morale immeasurably, enabling me to take one more simple step toward a new chapter of my career.
Q: Do you have any advice for other Simple Steps members?
K: If you are a job seeker, the first and foremost step to be taken is defining your approach to the U.S. job market. It is easy to think that with limited language skills, immigrants often feel the need to go above and beyond to prove themselves to potential employers. But believing in yourself and being able to narrate your story by connecting the dots between your past and future self will set yourself apart from the other applicants. Lastly, make sure you have a deep understanding of your abilities and be confident when you are interviewing.
Kyung lives and works in Seattle with her family. Her interests outside of work are visiting the museum and gallery exhibitions, painting, and communicating through art with Simple Steps or local community members. Her life story—centered around communication, interaction, and design—is still unfolding and will continue to unfold down the road. You can check out the amazing and extensive collection of the works by Kyung as a UX designer, media artist, educator, and entrepreneur here.
Interview date: May 24, 2020
Translated by Hyunjin Kim