Daria’s career journey: from HVAC systems to UX research

Daria’s career journey: from HVAC systems to UX research

We’d like to introduce you to Daria. She’s an amazing Coursera learner, whose career journey has taken her from designing HVAC systems in Kyiv to UX design in California. She tells her story below in a series of chapters, and along the way, offers some valuable career advice for anyone who’s hoping to make a career change. 

I was born and raised in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. After graduating from high school, I decided to go to the biggest construction and architecture university in the country. That’s where I got my BA and MS degrees in system design engineering. 

I started working at a large research and design institute to help architect HVAC systems. I was collaborating with every possible kind of system engineer and helping teams effectively communicate.

I’ve always been an extroverted person and I became curious about people’s behavior and psychology. That’s when I realized I preferred observing people more than observing blueprints. So I went back to school and got my MA in psychology––I had found my new interest.  

I spent seven years working as a psychologist in a social rehabilitation center, counselling adults and kids. During those years, I conducted corporate trainings and lectures, and I diagnosed and tested mental and cognitive processes for more than 500 clients. I was also mentoring junior professionals in my field and helping them develop soft skills such as empathy.

When I came to the US, I began applying my psychology skills to raising my newborn and adapting to a new reality in a new country. I was also seeking a new career field where I could apply all of my different skill sets. 

That’s how I discovered the UX research field––it was a field where I could improve people’s lives by utilizing design informed by understanding user needs. So, bingo! I found my new passion, and spent all my effort learning as much as I could about UX research and the design field.

I turned to Coursera and completed the User Experience Research and Design Specialization from the University of Michigan to build my foundational knowledge. My main goal was to completely change my career path and Coursera was the only one platform that offered courses in UX research (UXR) rather than just UX design.

I also read lots of books, watched webinars, attended meetups and UXR conferences, and did everything I could to grow my UXR network. My main interest lies in qualitative research, because I could see how much useful information we can get from just one usability test. 

Here are the courses that I took as part of the User Experience Research and Design Specialization:

  1. Introduction to User Experience Principles and Processes
  2. Understanding User Needs
  3. Evaluating Designs with Users
  4. UX Design: From Concept to Prototype
  5. UX Research at Scale: Surveys, Analytics, Online Testing

I learned a lot from these courses. They helped me build a strong foundation for understanding UX design principles, user needs, and research methods. After finishing them, I basically only needed more practice in applying what I learned––which is what I’m doing right now. I’m working on my first real-world project, conducting UX research for an e-commerce website!

  1. Choose the right platform for online learning and read lots of books.
  2. Follow YouTube channels that discuss your field and industry.
  3. Attend relevant conferences and webinars.
  4. Meet people in your field and connect with them as much as you can (LinkedIn is your #1 friend, as are MeetUp groups, Slack channels, and more)
  5. Practice your skills.
  6. Find a career development mentor who understands your strengths and can advise you on how to speak about your achievements and transferable skills. 
  7. Find an industry expert mentor to understand how to switch to your specific field.
  8. Don’t be afraid to be a newbie—be open to opportunities and adventures. Life is an amazing journey!

Good luck, and I wish you all the best on your career journey!