- Divya Hariharan

Term : October, 2015
Department : Engineering
Program : User Experience and Web Design

Divya Hariharan started her career in print graphic design in India before moving to California with her husband in 2012. While searching for new opportunities in Silicon Valley, she realized that if she wanted to get ahead in her field, she’d have to learn to design for the interactive Web. One day while attending a networking event, she met a professional who had recently completed UCSC Extension’s Web and Interactive Design certificate, and she was instantly intrigued. She enrolled in January 2015, and by the fall, had completed the program and landed a job as a user experience designer at a Bay Area startup.

What interested you in Web and mobile design?

When I moved to the U.S., there weren’t many opportunities in graphic design. I noticed that print is dying; everything is about tech. I wanted to transition from print to Web or mobile design. I had been looking for a program that would offer the fundamentals of Web and mobile design, because I had no idea what it took to be a UX or UI designer in the Bay Area. I was glad to see that at UCSC Extension, I could complete the program in nine months, and I knew I would have to work really hard. I liked the fact that the program offered credit for internships, because I wanted to get practical experience too.

What courses stood out to you?

I really enjoyed the “Mobile Interface Design” course. The instructor was great; because he works in industry, it was useful to get his insights on Bay Area startups, including their design process. We had to complete a design project that was modeled on how professionals design in industry. Before I started the program at UCSC Extension, I applied for an internship at a Bay Area company that focuses on mobiles, so the class really helped because I could apply whatever the instructor taught to what I was doing at my internship.

I also thought that “HTML Fundamentals,” “HTML 5: The Living Language” and both CSS classes were really awesome. The teacher was excellent. I hadn’t done any coding before, and I was amazed at how much I learned in her fundamentals and advanced classes.   

What kinds of projects did you complete?

In “Mobile Interface Design,” we had to come up for an idea for an app, then design and prototype it. It was really interesting, because the instructor gave us a lot of insights. It was a lot of team learning and getting feedback from peers. I designed and prototyped an app that would help you find a museum according to your liking, based on which exhibits are available in your area, and how you would plan your day.

“User Experience Design Fundamentals” was an interesting class, though it was very intense. We had to create a website for kids’ educational toys, and it was not easy. UX design is more than visual design; it’s all based on the user, and what the user wants. The end result has to be numbers; you have to show how the user can have a good experience and also end up buying your product. We had to interview users, and create personas, user flows and flow charts. I use all of that in the work I do now.

What skills do you think UX/UI designers need to have today?

The program covered most of the skills that I required to be a UX/UI designer, and made it possible for me to transition from print to Web design. The trend now is to hire designers who also know coding, and our teachers really stressed that. I know how important that is now, and having an understanding of it really helps. As a UX designer, you also need to be able to sell your design. You need to talk about why you chose certain colors, or placed buttons in certain places. You need the communication skills to present your design to your stakeholders. That can be challenging, because in addition to making it look good, you have to make sure it is really functional.

Our instructors also gave us very good pointers on how to present yourself and how to market yourself online. In the “Creating an Effective Online Portfolio” course, they discussed what jobs are out there in industry, including salary expectations and how to interview.     

What advice do you have for prospective students?

If you’re an international student, take advantage of the internships that we can do along with the program. Even though they’re unpaid, the experience counts. You lose out if you don’t do an internship.

Visit our Web and Interactive Media page to learn more UCSC Extension’s unique offerings. For information on services and programs for international students, please visit our International Programs page. Browse upcoming Web and Interactive Media coursesRead more international student stories.

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