An interview with Jason McSweeney
At This is Milk we're all about upskilling and reskilling and our recent intern, Jason, was the perfect fit. Whilst running his own Thai boxing gym, Jason started studying UX and design in his spare time. He soon became passionate about UX - so much so that he recently shut his gym to retrain as a UX designer. We asked him about his journey up to this point, how the pandemic has affected his career, and the benefits of starting afresh at 40.
Tell us about your journey up to this point.
I moved from Ireland to Scotland 15 years ago to work as an admin manager for JD Gyms. This was followed by stints in Glasgow and London as a Sales Rep for Coca Cola and Vitamin Water. While I was doing this, I also started working as a personal trainer and running a Thai boxing gym. Redundancy gave me the opportunity to focus on the gym full time, which I ended up running for 10 years.
How did you end up in the world of UX design?
While I was running my gym, I started to take an interest in graphic design. I was hiring people to do promotions, social media and advertising. I’ve always had a creative side and realised that it would be much quicker if I learned those skills myself!
So, I signed up for some online graphic design courses and learned the Adobe Suite programmes. Before I knew it I was looking at Experience Design and it just progressed from there!
My perception completely changed. In the past, if I’d come across a badly designed website, I would’ve just left it. I started to understand why a website was bad. I started to see that no user research or usability testing had been done. It all started to make sense. I could see that so many websites were designed for the company and not for the user. I was hooked!
Did the pandemic affect your career change?
With my gym closed due to Covid, I could completely focus on learning about design. I was getting up at six in the morning and working until late - I was totally in the zone. I thought I could do this all day long. That was it. I’d found what I wanted to do.
I signed up for a six-month UX diploma course with the USDA Institute based in Dublin, which I'd discovered via the UX Scotland Facebook Group. I started messaging people – one of which was Angela, and that's how I ended up as an intern at This is Milk!
Covid has caused a lot of damage for a lot of people – job-wise and family-wise, but in some ways, it's been good to me. If the pandemic had never happened then I’d never have had the chance to go down this path. It’s my Covid Career!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of changing career at 40?
I think there are more advantages than disadvantages to starting afresh at 40. Obviously, I'm a lot more mature, I've had experience running a business for 10 years which is no easy feat. I've dealt with hundreds of people from all walks of life.
I think life experience is so much more valuable than just a qualification that you didn't really know why you were getting in the first place! So many 18-year-olds don’t really know who they are or what they like. I certainly didn’t. I just did what I was told I should do.
Things are changing all the time, jobs are changing all the time, so you have to be constantly adapting and changing too.
What have you learned at This is Milk?
I’ve been shadowing Morgane Tanguy, and have been involved in everything from user research to usability testing to feeding back to the dev team for the new learning platform, Neve. It's been a really exciting time, and I just soaked up as much as I could whilst I was here!
It’s been brilliant getting practical experience at This is Milk. I think learning and applying what I know to real situations is so important. I didn’t want to get a theoretical qualification without getting work experience at the same time.
Last month I shut my gym for good. I believe that if you want to do something you need to be all in. I’m fully committed to becoming a UX designer. I'll be looking for a UX role as soon as my course is over and in that sense, I think my internship at This is Milk will be invaluable. I can’t wait to get started.
Thank you and good luck Jason! If you'd like to contact Jason, click on his name to go to his Linkedin page.