On a busy day in downtown DC, we sat down with Marie Claire, a UX Designer who also recently graduated from General Assembly’s UX program. She shared her thoughts on finding a home in UX after living abroad in Ethiopia, and her take on the need for diversity and inclusion in tech. Here are excerpts from two of our interview clips.
On transitioning back to the States while encountering the cycle of comparison
It’s bad… you’re not supposed to to compare yourself, but you start to like look at your friends, and like how successful they are, and like how they’ve stayed steady in their jobs, and then some people were like, “Wow, you’ve been on all these adventures. That’s really cool,” but they don’t know how much money I was actually making or the fact that like it was really difficult for me to transition to get a job with that experience [from Ethiopia].
So I actually applied to the Discovery Channel, and I made it to the third round of interviews and when I didn’t get the job, I was severely crushed. I was just like–“Why… why not? [laughs] I was so close!” And one of the things they told me was that I didn’t have enough tech experience.
And at the time I was like “Well, fine. Like… [laughs].” But I started driving for Lyft, and while I was driving, one passenger told me that there’s a job for everybody in IT and I was like “What are you talking about?” He was like “You don’t have to code or network. Like, you could be doing sales or HR.” And then that started getting me more warmed up to IT, cause I was like “Oh… okay maybe it’s not just all coding. Maybe I should consider this IT thing more. [laughs]”
On making the next step
I had the opportunity to be a part of this group that’s called StreetWise Partners, and it was an incredible resource for me. What they did was provided professional mentorship. Being given the opportunity to be in that kind of situation was something that I like really needed because I felt like a foreigner.
Also at the time I had just recently gave birth, so there’s like postpartum, I’m like having career crisis, so [laughs] being surrounded by just like this really loving environment was exactly what I needed and they gave me SMART Goals and tried to help me like figure out what I wanted to do.
On finding a home in UX
I was a part of this workshop [during AIGA DC’s DC Design Week], which was just an incredible opportunity for me to actually go in hands on, and some of the people that I met at the workshop I am still friends with to this day, so it was a great opportunity for me to not only learn the basics of what UX design was, but also have the opportunity to network and meet other women in tech who were super supportive. That workshop really like changed like my life in the sense of like… I… taking part in that workshop… I was like “Okay, I can find a home in UX design. Like there’s no more like question about it.”
At the end of the course [laughs] we did superlatives, and I got the superlative of “Most Likely to Write on Any Surface” and “Most Likely to Use Their Hands” and something that my teacher said was that I was really inspiring to the other students… and that I was able to really encourage everybody, and that was a crazy feeling for me… because just a couple of months ago, I was feeling extremely lost and confused about my identity, and what I was doing, and then to be able to be in a space where people are looking up to me, and like I’m a mentor?–or like I have something to give?! Like, that’s an incredibly empowering experience, and so for me, I’m very happy to find a home in UX design.
I don’t know what my title will be in the future, but I know that the design thinking will never get out of me, and it’s something that’s going to stay.
On the need for more diversity in tech
I’m such a huge advocate for this. When I see a person of color, when I see a woman, when I see somebody that would be considered I guess like “other,” whatever other means, whether it’s like wheelchair, like veteran, handicap, even like sometimes in UX design it’s a guy, and in data science, it’s a girl. It depends on what the subject matter area is. But there definitely needs to be more diversity. There’s no question about it.
I think, very similarly to what the revolution is that we’re seeing in Hollywood right now, where the Other is finally celebrated and the Other has a voice, tech definitely needs to catch up.
On how DC fares in regards to diversity and inclusion
Now, we are fortunate because DC is super diverse and DC is one of the leading places for women in tech, but I would be remiss to say at any company where that’s still a debate… it doesn’t need to be a debate right now.
On opportunities and representation
When you give mothers the opportunity to have a job in technology they’re going to work harder because they’re supporting families. Their motivations are different. They’re hungrier. They want it. I’m speaking for myself [as a mom]. I know. [laughs]
When you give the opportunity to people who don’t have or weren’t given a silver platter income (who might even be on food stamps)… they’re hungry. They want something better for their life. And they’re going to work really hard, and any employer who doesn’t realize the kind of quality employee you actually get from diversity… they’re blind. There’s so much work that needs to get done. And now more than ever we need to have people of diversity… the Other’s voices. We need to be the majority, because we are. We need to be represented.