I will soon be graduating with a BS in computer science with a focus in HCI. My goal is to land a job in the realm of user experience, but I'm not sure where I stand with regards to my experience and skill set.
As I said, I am getting my degree in computer science, so I have a strong foundation in programming. I'm skilled in multiple languages, and have worked on projects for multiple platforms including desktop, mobile, and web.
In addition to programming, I have about eight years of freelance graphic design experience including print and web design. I have held internships in both fields, serving as the sole designer of the website for a local private high school, as well as a software engineer for a large government contractor.
While I have no explicit UX experience, I believe that my extensive background in graphic design has helped me to develop a sense of creating usability, and I have served as the GUI designer on some software projects. I certainly understand that this isn't even half the story of UX, but it's something.
[People keep assuring me] that since I can "speak both languages"...that is, development and graphic design...[I would excel in UX]. I've heard that it can be very difficult to land a position in UX without experience, so I'm getting nervous since graduation is a year out on the horizon. I sincerely think that UX is where I should be headed.
I'm interested to hear the opinions of people who are currently employed in the UX field, and perhaps from people who have experience hiring. Do I have the right skill set for UX, and would I have a snowball's chance in Hell of getting a UX job fresh out of school?
Three years later and I have a couple years of experience as a full-time UX designer! My assumptions were right; I have turned out to be quite a useful asset [to my company...experiences may vary] given my skill set.
My title has been UX Designer for the past year and a half - I actually started in engineering and moved to UX when I realized I wasn't feeling completely fulfilled, and my manager(s) thought the company would be more suited to utilize the full gamut of my skills.
In the meantime, I have already received countless offers for Senior UX design roles. I'm continuing to hone my skills working for a huge enterprise company.
What I've learned:
Everyone wants a job on the West Coast at a sexy tech startup. After having worked on a small design team at a huge B2B enterprise tech company for a while now, I can say that I have learned so much more than I think I possibly could have at a startup or smaller agency. The UI and interaction challenges are innumerable. You learn business practices. The politics of business. You learn how many more fingers are in the honeypot (dev, architecture, QA, sales, marketing) and when it is and isn't appropriate to make design concessions.
But perhaps the biggest reason is a lot of enterprise companies operate on ancient designs made decades ago by developers. No offense towards developers at all -- they did the best they could with the tools at their disposal then, and the product (in-house or consumer-/client-facing) just never got a proper pass. So joining an enterprise level company may give you an opportunity to really make a deep footprint in the business.
Something to consider!