This post is part of the A Day in the Life series

Today’s interview is with our first official UX designer, Cate Hayes. Cate talks about how she first got into UX design and what she loves about working at Simpatico.

I have way too many hobbies and not enough time – I love painting, crocheting, reading, writing, spending time outdoors, fitness, and travel. A fun fact about me is that I’m left-handed.

Meet Cate Hayes

Hi, I’m Cate! I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and always loved being creative from a young age. I went to Emerson College in Boston and studied Writing, Literature and Publishing, with a minor in Marketing Communications (thinking I would start a career in book or magazine publishing). I absolutely loved living in Boston, but after graduating college in December 2020, I decided it was time to start fresh and I moved to Michigan to be closer to family. I have way too many hobbies and not enough time – I love painting, crocheting, reading, writing, spending time outdoors, fitness, and travel. A fun fact about me is that I’m left-handed.

What is your typical day at Simpatico like?

I start a typical day at Simpatico by logging onto Slack and checking my calendar, Basecamp to-do list, and email for any updates. Then I get to work on whatever needs to be done that day – usually it’s wireframing or designing, but I also help out the development team with content migration and quality assurance closer to project launches. I also work on Simpatico’s social media and blog content with Mingwei, who is our PM.

You originally went to school for writing, so what led you to UX design?

After I graduated from college, I was working as a freelance writer and felt that there was something missing in my career. While I enjoyed writing, it wasn’t feeling like my passion. When I thought about what I loved to do and what didn’t feel like “work” to me, I thought back to a few design classes I had taken in college where I was excited to do every homework assignment (that was my first clue). My sister and brother-in-law suggested I try UX design – I had never heard of it before, but decided to take a chance and enroll in the Google UX Design Certificate program. I continued freelance writing while I studied UX design, and eventually was able to quit my writing job to focus on prioritizing UX design as my career path.

My favorite part of UX is the feeling of creative problem solving. UX is never a linear process and I think that’s what makes it so exciting for me to come to work every day. There’s always something to be considered, new challenges to be solved, and new stories to be told. The end result of figuring out a UX problem is always worth the frustrating moments of creative block it sometimes takes to get there.

What led you to interviewing at Simpatico?

During my job hunt for UX design roles, I was applying to UX design jobs across several job board websites for a while, but then I decided that I wanted to switch gears and reach out to UX design agencies. I felt that having agency experience early on in my UX career would be a valuable learning experience. I came across a website called Clutch where UX and web design agencies promote their work for potential clients, but I used it to search for agencies where I could apply. That’s how I found Studio Simpatico! I reached out to Tamara and the rest is history!

What’s the hardest part of being a UX designer? The easiest?

The hardest part that I’ve had to learn about any design work (but especially UX design) is the phrase “you are not your idea.” When I first started working in the role, especially since it was my first professional role as a designer, it took me a while to separate my worth from my ideas. It’s so easy to let your ego take control when you’re brainstorming and ideating, so that when you’re told “your idea won’t work for these reasons” you’re just left totally doubting yourself. And another large part of UX design is that you’re not designing for yourself, you’re designing for everyone. Using that technique of shedding some light and perspective on the situation has helped me overcome my doubts and fears of being wrong.

The easiest part for me is having such a great team of designers, developers and PMs to work with. Since Studio Simpatico is small, it makes it so much easier to collaborate and to communicate ideas, direction, and implementation. Not to mention having Tamara as my UX mentor has been the most amazing learning experience – I’m so lucky to have started my UX career learning from her!

Is there something unexpected outside of UX that you do as part of your job that you enjoy?

As I mentioned earlier, Mingwei and I work on Simpatico’s social media accounts and I discovered that I really enjoy creating animations using Adobe After Effects. I’m definitely not a pro at it, but trying my hand at making animations for social media has helped me improve. I really enjoy helping the visual design team with various projects and I love working with a team that encourages me to pick up new skills and learn for myself. I love feeling like I can help out the team in many different ways, so any skill that I learn outside of UX design is something that I enjoy.