The fear of starting over is overblown, call it professional development instead

In an interesting discussion on a Reddit thread on the concept of hybrid professions, I considered my own experience through life with childhood inclinations towards art and tinkering with electronics… through my college experience in communication design and now where I am in my career with circling back to computers, programming and application interface development.

Here’s the title of that post here, click the heading to visit that page on reddit:

Being 35 and not wanting to work in the field for which you’ve prepared is like being half way through an RPG and realizing you’ve built out your skill tree all wrong and you can’t respec and you can’t make a new character and there will never be another video game again

This heading caught my attention as a 32 year old designer with an eclectic background ranging from programming and electronics in high school, a 2-year college stint in pre-med course requirements, a mid0college shift to design school, a post-college shift back towards programming and web technologies and a history of intensely challenging self-education in human behavioral psychology in an attempt to deal with my own shortcomings and family relationship challenges. Needless to say I was conflicted about where to place my energy.

Through that experience I’ve found that I wasn’t alone. There are a ton of people who make these shifts as they grow throughout life. What I’ve learned from them is that there is no wasted time. The creative industry is filled with nurses who started a tech company to improve scheduling, psychologists who found a passion for artistic expression, developers who found love for the UX/UI side of things and more.

Commercial creativity is a unique field in this regard. Our job is to find alignment with many difference facets of life including various professions, social concerns, products, artists, writers, etc. You name it and it has a place in being communicated professionally.

In my opinion, this makes the shift in life purpose, meaning, mission and focus entirely necessary in the journey towards becoming a refined professional.

You can always find a way to turn your challenges into advantages – in fact, employers may be searching for just this quality in the creative industry

My reply to the post went something like this:

“I started with an interest in art, engineering and computers as a child, went to college thinking I’d be a psychiatrist so learned plenty about psychology and premed related classes… decided to be true to my passion and go to design school… got degree in communication design… got out of school and found there were far more jobs in web and apps… picked back up on programming… realized behavioral psychology is extremely useful in interface design… am now UX/UI Designer specializing in Human Factors.”

As of the writing of this post, I spent nearly 3 years working as a communication specialist for the advanced engineering division of a Fortune-150 company, and finally left to start my company where I hope to bring professionals together to provide a robust service for clients that has essentially been inspired by the perspective I’ve gained from seeing the various ways creativity and communication serve the needs of corporations and businesses around the world.

My reply piqued some interest, and a user asked me to expand on what I’ve found with the meeting of human factors and interface development. Here’s my response to that user:

“Well typically behavioral psychology as it applies to user interface leads one to create the constant process of observation regarding reaction to various types of interface actions… not unlike marketing working to collect metrics with regard to advertising or communication results for the purpose of creating more effective leads. In UX/UI testing the goal is to create a more efficient and repeatable interface for intended users. The observation of user interface behavior is best directed by various experiments in individual and group motivation, associative conditioning (applied to failure/success rate of various interface and experience concepts), efficiency tests such as creating purposeful distractions and measuring the rate of reaching a particular goal… and something I am not currently engaged in (and not sure how I feel in terms of ethics) is “the race to the bottom of the brain stem” as facebook, google, etc puts it. Essentially, how can we manipulate neurological risk-reward/fight-flight methods to create a persistent (albeit pathological imho) user engagement.

“The same tests can be applied to various visual identities to learn which create more of a sense of alignment in the user… in essence, which interface design most effectively becomes part of the user’s worldview. This is more in regard to gaming, web and mobile app design.

“If the same concept is applied to industrial equipment interfaces as machines and the way we use them get smarter (which is currently an accelerating trend also imho)… I can see the form of currently stagnant UI in industrial processes becoming more intuitive and engaging… giving a sense of alignment and reward in performing industrial, manufacturing or laborious tasks.

“In terms of job prospects… I think the prospects for user experience and interface design are only going to grow as AI and machine learning continues the push to saturated commercial and consumer availability. We’re relying on machine intelligence to reduce the need for direct human labor more and more… so there is a big mental playing field opening up towards how we interact with various platforms of machine and computing intelligence. User interaction and interface development will become a major part of how we live, work and play as this trend continues. It is also a great prospect for those who are in complicated industrial and professional fields to become consultants in creating the workflow of machine and computer assisted processes. It’s scary… but machines replacing human labor gives rise to the need for humans who can teach developers about their processes to ever improve efficiency. I can’t say I like that human involvement is decreasing as we learn to automate many human labors but I think it’s inevitable, so a lot of these considerations are forward-thinking in order to provide an honest opinion on the job prospects and trends.”

Without the shift in focus and creative roles, this perspective might not have developed

I used to have the same fear… that my change of focus over time could not cultivate professional acumen or mastery. I was entirely mistaken… it was the very thing that produced an accelerated acumen. The last 10 years of finding my place isn’t the exception, it’s the rule… at least amongst people who are truly trying their best to become a well-rounded creative professional. If you’re failing, you’re trying.

If you’re really trying and falling on your face often, you learn that failure is not a signal of uselessness or the end of things… it’s an indicator that you’ve broken through the indoctrinated sense that failure should be punished and avoiding mistakes should be rewarded. That old way of thinking is contrary to what the example of success might show us… that successful professionals got rid of the fear of failure and learned to embrace their failures as the best education they could hope to gain in their career. That is… if they learn from them.

Repeating the same mistake indicates you must change what you’re doing, but failing often at progressively different things means you’re succeeding

You’ve probably heard the old adage “Fail quickly.” That’s because failure is good, but only if you get back up and change what you’re doing. When you fail often and fail quickly, you learn what really works in the process. There is no end point in success. There is always struggle, and the only people without problems are those who are no longer with us. Success is learning to love failure so much that it teaches you to finally rejoice when something works. So if you want to be successful, get rid of that old fear of shifting and changing – embrace that it’s moulding your character, strengths and skills – then get back up off the floor and keep going.