Under The Hoodie is a weekly series where we talk to people about their journey into tech. It focuses on the intersection between life and career. UTH Week 5.
Aderinsola Oluwafemi is a 22-year-old product designer at Eden Life. In this episode of Under The Hoodie, we talk to her about her journey into tech, and navigating the job market without a university degree.
Hi Derin. Thanks for doing this. 22 is really young age for any industry, how did you get into tech so early?
I wasn’t always a tech person. A few years ago I used to be a photographer. I really loved photography and had dreams of being the next TY Bello. Back then, I would do events for my family and a couple of people and would have to use design software like Photoshop to layout the images or design a cover. I could also design basic stuff like flyers or posters.
However, by 2019, I was tired of photography. It drained me, so I dropped my camera and decided it was only going to be a hobby to me; I only wanted to take pictures of my friends
Then one day, a new guy came to my church and I thought he was cute. After talking for a while, I discovered he was a very good designer. He wasn’t a UI/UX person though, he did posters and the likes. But his passion for design motivated me to learn it.
I first started learning with him—he was like a friend and mentor. During that time, I started to read a lot about design and the different aspects of it—brand logo, graphic design, illustration, motion design, etc.
Now, when I was in high school, I used to see all these Udemy courses, talking about building apps and websites. I always thought it was extremely complex and I didn’t want to do it. In fact, I had canceled UI/UX in my head because I thought it was too difficult.
I know right. It sounds like dy/dx…
When the time came to specialize, I choose brand and logo design. Remember, I still thought UI/UX was one complex thing. Well, brand logo and design was an epic failure for me. It was too hard for me and I couldn’t do much. Now that I think of it, if I had given it more time, I would have hacked it.
Later that year, I was going through design accounts on my Instagram when I found an account called Ideators. They had posted the link to their WhatsApp group which I was quite lucky to find—I was the last person to join, after which they closed the group.
The next day, they had a class for beginners coming into UI/UX on the WhatsApp group. I wasn’t there for the class; remember I still had a strong aversion to UI/UX. However because it was Whatsapp, I went through the texts and it appeared quite easy.
The classes were led by Bamidele Sowemimo, someone I admired greatly. He broke it down so well that it appeared “learnable.” It was my first encounter with UI/UX. A few weeks later, I tried my hands on my first design and I loved it. I really enjoyed the design process and I decided it was something I wanted to do more of.
Is UI/UX really easy or was it just well-broken down for you?
My first design seemed easy, but if I go back to it now, I’m sure there are a lot of errors. I wouldn’t say Product Design is easy or hard. Like any other skill, it requires you to dedicate time to learn it.
How long was it before you got your first job?
It took about five months from when I started learning.
You seem to be a big community person. Did design communities help with your fast development?
Definitely. Just before I got my first job, I joined Asa Coterie, a design group. Every day people would post UI/UX-related articles that they had read. You could also ask questions and get answers from experienced designers in the group. The answers were always insightful, so they left me thinking.
Also, a lot of people posted their work so they could get critique, and I learnt from all that.
Is Asa an open community?
It is open but access is closely guarded because we want to make sure everyone who comes in contributes to the discourse. We’re trying to put things in place, so it can be better though.
You mentioned that you got into tech five months after you started learning UI/UX, what was that like?
Finding my first job was hard. There aren’t really many opportunities for beginners. I didn’t go to the university, so I don’t have a degree. When I started looking for a job, most openings either required a degree or two years experience or both—for junior roles!
I got lucky after I put it out on Twitter that I was looking for a job. A mentor told me that he had a friend who was looking for a UI/UX intern for his design agency. That was how I got my first job.
What do you think could be done to ease the process for beginners coming into tech?
I used to be a Teaching Assistant at Stutern and they have a great thing going on with different classes and workshops that build people up in these specialties. These things can help build the portfolios of people who have no experience.
Also, Stutern helps its students land interviews with some of its partners. I don’t exactly know how the process works but it’s a great way to help people get their feet in the door.
Finally, people [hiring managers] need to understand that you do not need a degree to be good at what you do.
These things already exist but more people doing them would be great.
Do you still do photography?
Not really. I only take pictures of people once in a while. If I’m hanging out with friends and I think I might get nice pictures at the place, I take my camera along.