What sort of advice do you have for an independent mobile app developer looking to switch to a product design/interaction design career?
I love this question. As a product/design person who’s spent the last several months shifting into focus on writing and helping people reach their personal and professional goals, and self-proclaimed heart-follower, I couldn’t be more thrilled to offer a few thoughts.
I’m going to take a leap and make an assumption that if you’re looking to switch career focus, it’s probably coming from some burning passion within. Right?
It’s of my nature to always ask and wonder the big ‘why’ about everything, and I have to make the disclaimer that I’m jumping right into an answer without really knowing your specific situation. I sure hope that’s what it is for you, though. A burning passion! Because I think that’s where it starts. Something in your guts that you believe in and love, and can’t stop thinking about. You want to make the world better somehow, through the tools people use.
I think it’s important to be realistic to your current situation, whatever that may be. All I mean by that is to take the leap of faith responsibly. Me, for example, I’m a single mom of two very young girls. I tend to take more calculated risks than if it were just me, solo. In the realm of me solo, I’d throw caution to the wind a heck of a lot more than I already do (which is actually kind-of a lot.) But at the same time, don’t be SO afraid to give up perceived “security” that you let it hold you back from reaching your goals. Dreams and happiness come from hard work, focus and taking some risks. You know your situation and I totally trust you'll make good healthy decisions that take you as far as you want to go in life.
Whether you are in the ‘just starting out’ or ‘been doing it a bit for a while’ category, my advice is fairly similar. If you’re already taking on work as a product/interaction designer, it’s really a matter of continuing to take more and more of that work on until you entirely shed the development work (if that is your bigger picture plan) and never look back. Your experience as a developer will bring so much value to your work and expertise as a product/interaction designer. Conversely, it can occasionally box-in your thinking, too. I was never a hardcore coder or anything but I have to admit, I struggled for a while back in my web design days (where I used to design and code my website projects) I often designed knowing I was going to have to code it later, and I’d occasionally shy away from pushing my own coding boundaries/abilities. DON’T DO THAT!
If you’ve not yet started taking on work as a product/interaction designer, look for opportunities that will allow you to participate in this sort of work. That can be in terms of volunteering time with team members, co-workers or friends you know already doing this sort of work, learning all you can and actually jumping in to doing as much as you can, and sharing your work for feedback. Getting into the habit of gathering feedback early and often in this line of work really can’t be stressed upon enough. Read, study, learn, listen and most importantly (imho) observe.
Another thing, if you’re interested in a little more reading, I wrote an article a few months back that talks a bit about the shift I’ve been going through this year and how I approached it. It’s almost due for an update but I may wait until year’s end to get on with that.
I’d really love to hear more about where you’re at in your process and to stay in touch about how it’s going. The struggles, the wins, the unexpected stories that shake out. Seriously, please keep me posted.
Hope this post has offered something useful to your journey. I wish you all the success in the world!