Kim Jung-hwa, UX designer in the growing tech titan, San Francisco
Home to many well-known corporate headquarters, real-estate firms, banks and finance companies, it is not difficult to guess where the financial district of San Francisco got its well-known nickname, “Wall Street of the West.” Surrounded by towering buildings and bustling with commuters, the high-rise JP Morgan Chase building stands on the border of the financial district. Although finance and user experience design (UX) may at first seem like an odd mix, with mobile applications becoming a must for banks, the creativity and design technology of UX designers are pivotal. Currently a Mobile UX Team Lead at JP Morgan Chase, Kim Jung-hwa characterizes user experiences of over many customers, and designs mobile applications. Having majored in Foreign Language Education (French) at Ewha and Information Science and Learning Technology at the University of Missouri, she asserts that not having an art-related background is not an obstacle to enter the UX design industry. “People working as UX designers come from all fields,” Kim said. “From graphic design, computer engineering, business, psychology and more, the field is open to many majors. Having an art background can of course be an advantage, but creativity and innovative engagement in solving everyday user problems is the most prioritized skillset.” Kim also added that adjusting to fast transitions in the market is another valued asset in the field. “UX design is a field where trends and mediums are quick to change,” Kim said. “To keep up with the transition from installed software, to web, then to mobile and now to the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s important to keep up with the news and stay in tune with the newest technology. Even though I’m not a big fan of SNS, I always check Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, musical.ly and much more.” As much as Kim puts in effort to excel in her field, JP Morgan Chase also does its best to assist its workers to develop their own careers. It is usual for companies in the U.S. to assign projects according to an employee’s personal interest. For Kim, when she stated that she wanted to further develop her strategy making skills, JP Morgan Chase is slowly assisting her transition to strategist. Another positive side of US companies is employee welfare. While employees at Korean firms avoid parental leave in fear of losing their job is a common story that discourages female students, the situation in the States is different. “In California, women get three months of parental leave,” Kim remarked. “Also, even though parental leave in Korea is a policy mainly for mothers, I’ve seen cases where fathers go on parental leave and employees go on leave to nurse their parents. Besides parental leave, I work three days a week at home because I have two kids and my commute to work is tedious. Such welfare policies show the company’s support and respect for their employees’ family relationships.” While working abroad has granted her many advantages, she admits that small obstacles do exist. While metaphorical phrases used by native speakers delivered emotions more clearly, direct and tactical words that international workers use limited communication. “At first, language doesn’t serve as an obstacle, but as employees rise in their field, there is a slight but certain difference,” Kim said. “In the cases where the designers have to persuade business partners, the most delicate nuance matters. Presenting an idea with a connotation neither too strong nor too weak, all while conveying a professional stance, is a key communication skill. I sometimes wish I had the communication skills of a native speaker.” However, Kim does not consider language a huge barrier for Korean students in finding work abroad but rather a mere inconvenience. In fact, she predicts a bright future for international students to seize job opportunities in the States. Although the Trump administration has possible plans to overhaul the H-1B work visa program, huge companies such as Apple, Cisco, LinkedIn, and the majority of US firms are showing support for immigrant workers. Many predict that for the sake of workforce quality, companies will still be willing to reach out to talented international employees. In such situations, being proactive is key. “It’s important to actively reach out for help,” said Kim. “After graduate school, I searched for internships through my professors and got a chance to work at a start-up company in San Francisco. The company didn’t know anything about me but was kind enough to pay me 800 dollars a month. It was a friendly gesture that opened me to many experiences.” Also, in a world where people regardless of their whereabouts can be connected through the Internet, Kim advises students to reach out using the Internet résumé platform, “LinkedIn.” Users can contact hiring managers via LinkedIn, send profiles and actively promote themselves to different companies. Not only is LinkedIn and other online platforms good to direct your own employment search, but recruiters are also keeping an eye out for online résumés. The common recruitment process in Korea, where students apply for jobs during the company’s open recruitment period, is seldom found in the U.S. In the States, if a certain position opens up, professional recruiters will go through LinkedIn profiles and contact possible candidates via email. Thus, a detailed profile and specific digital portfolio is crucial to open doors to new opportunities. Kim suggested that if students ask for information, workers abroad will be willing to answer their questions or try to introduce them to other people. While student proactivity can open new doors to job opportunities abroad, Kim expressed regret about the lack of communication alumnae abroad have with Ewha students. “ Universities like Stanford has one of the strongest alumnae connections,” Kim said. “As student interest and curiosity about overseas employment is continuing to rise, It would be great if there was a way for students to reach out to us or at least a digital Q&A forum organized by the school. Utilizing alumni connections can be great help for the students in need. We are all willing to lend a helong hand.”
General job interview process in the U.S.
First, the applicants are asked to introduce themselves for approximately an hour. Although the main focus should be on the individual, it’s important to integrate career-related stories into the conversation. Some necessary points to include are how and why one entered this industry, practical experiences, hardships and solutions encountered during previous experiences, and a detailed discussion of results.
After the presentation, the interviewer will ask questions regarding the self-introduction. This process also generally takes an hour.
Exams will differ by company and industry, but regarding UX designers, there will be a design exam. Challenging candidates to entirely re-design existing applications is a common question. This aims to capture the individual’s improvisation and problem solving skills. A detailed presentation about thinking process of the new design will be made, along with another Q&A session.
Lastly, the candidate will individually meet their co-workers and managers and have one-on-one time to ask questions and simply find out about each other. This process is to figure out if the candidate can work together as a group with the whole team.
Most interviews are conducted throughout the day, providing lunch breaks in between. It’s advisory to use this time to socialize with the employees and self-promote