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How an Entry-Level UX Designer at Amazon Got Her Foot in the Door

Entry Level- Kiran Ramsey-AmazonEntry Level- Kiran Ramsey-Amazon

Fortune’s Entry/Level column is dedicated to people looking for and working in entry-level positions—read the full series here. We interview entry-levelers about their jobs, how they got them, what they want to do next, and more. The subject’s answers are edited for clarity.

Kiran Ramsey is a 23-year-old UX designer from Indianapolis working at Amazon in Seattle. She interned at the company the summer before her senior year at Syracuse University and was offered a full-time position at the end of her internship. She started in her current role in August 2018.

Here’s what Ramsey has to say about…

Getting her foot in the door:

I actually applied [for the internship] online. I’ve heard that’s pretty rare to not have a connection and to get an internship interview. So, I was pretty lucky. I think I can attribute it to my online presence. I had a portfolio online, a LinkedIn, and a BeHance. The recruiter was able to look through all of my design work just based on my online application.

Getting hired after her internship:

You either get a full time job or you don’t at the end of the internship, it’s never a question. So the whole summer, you know that there will be a final presentation. I had my final presentation my last week, [which] kind of told the story of my summer at Amazon. My manager came back and told me the same day [that I got the job].

Having a job locked down a year before graduation:

Oh my gosh, it was rewarding. I did work very hard in college and I really pushed myself. To be able to relax my senior year was really gratifying. I was able to study abroad. It was something I pushed off because I wanted to concentrate on classes, so being able to go to Italy to eat food and relax, and not have to worry too much was an incredible feeling.

What her job really is:

A UX designer is the voice of the customer. Our job is to look beyond the business goals. We’re not only designing what the experience looks like, but really questioning each part of the experience. We listen to what customers are saying about what we’re building and then go back and iterate on the product based on customer feedback.

The Amazon track:

I’m a UX Designer I. They actually don’t call an entry level UX designer a junior UX designer because they want everyone to be on the same playing field. On my job profile, it doesn’t even have the I, it just says UX designer. There is a distinction just based on pay level. There’s UX Designer I, UX Designer II, Senior UX Designer, and then Principal UX Designer.

Her daily grind:

I get in around 9 a.m. and then I leave by 5:00 or 5:30 p.m. Throughout the day I usually have a few meetings. I make sure to block off time so that I just have time to design. And then I have like half an hour for lunch. I have a pretty flexible team, so if I don’t have any meetings, I’m able to work from home. I do that once a week.

I work for Amazon fashion and I’m really passionate about clothing, and sustainable clothing specifically. I try to take an hour a week to work on writing documents for new ideas that I have in the sustainable fashion space. I hope that one day it could become a project and that definitely has happened in the past [for other people].

Amazon perks:

We don’t necessarily have the same perks as Google or Facebook. We don’t have gyms in our offices. We don’t have free lunch or free dinner. But I would say that the perks are the salary and stock options. Financial freedom is more important to me. I probably wouldn’t trade that for a gym or free breakfast. And as far as the work life balance that I get on my team, I would say that is a definite perk. The relocation package is also a great perk. Oh, and you can bring your dog to work!

The hardest part of her job:

[My boss] does not micromanage and I appreciate that, but it also means that I keep track of my own responsibilities. The ambiguity of the job and having to manage your own projects and set goals for yourself and not have them be given to you [is hard]. It gives you a lot of freedom and the ability to make your own timelines, but it’s also just an ambiguous environment. That’s a challenge for me because it’s very different from having a syllabus that you go through every week at school.

Her education:

I had three majors: photojournalism, graphic design, and information management and technology with a concentration in web design. So I had this background of coding, visual design, digital design, and UX and user research on the side. That’s the power of going to a liberal arts school. It makes you a more holistic and well-rounded professional. Where I see that come out the most is the ability to communicate across disciplines.

Her mentors:

Every intern gets a mentor, which is lovely. And now as a full-time employee, it’s not required, but it’s highly recommended. Right now I have a few mentors. I am looking for ones even outside of Amazon that can give me even more of a breadth of knowledge about the field of UX design or just design in general. As a woman, I am looking for the guidance in how to ask for a promotion or ask for a raise, things that women aren’t really taught in school. For me, it’s also about navigating Amazon because it’s such a huge company. Having a mentor that’s been through that and knows the ropes, it’s something that can really help you kickstart your career and kind of help you find your path.

Impostor syndrome:

Cliches are cliches for a reason. You fake it ‘til you make it. I was terrified to take the Amazon internship because I knew that it was going to be the biggest challenge I’d ever faced in my life. And it was. It was really challenging, but it made me grow as a person. Coming into this full-time position, I knew that it would be the same thing times 10. So I don’t see impostor syndrome as a bad thing. I see it as, you know, good for you for pushing yourself because a lot of people don’t do that. They don’t get out of their comfort zone. So own that. Own the fact that you’re young. My team loves to rip on me for being born in the late nineties. You laugh about it and you own that you have a different perspective because you’re young, you’re from a different generation, you have a different perspective. Especially as a designer. It brings a whole different creative perspective to the team.

Seattle:

I do not want to leave Seattle anytime soon. I love it. It’s an amazing place. I’m a big outdoorsy person, so I have been rock climbing a lot, I’ve been hiking, and in the summers the beaches are beautiful. Lake Washington is gorgeous and there’s so much to do. I wouldn’t move if anyone paid me.

Relocating for her job:

For most full-time jobs at Amazon, there is a relocation package. You’re able to choose whether you want them to help you find an apartment and move your stuff for you, or they will give you a lump sum of money to be able to help you do that yourself if you’re more of a DIY kind of person. I ended up doing [the latter] and I moved myself out here, shipped my car, and had three suitcases of clothes. The rest I got on Craigslist.

Her living situation:

I have a studio apartment in a neighborhood called Ballard. It was really nice to have the internship because I got to know about the neighborhoods [in Seattle] while I was living here. So coming out here [for my full-time job], it was a lot easier to say I want to live in this neighborhood. I kind of knew the city.

Seattle is a very expensive city. I’m paying more for my apartment than my parents are for their mortgage. It’s a little crazy, but Amazon does a great job at competitive pay. My apartment is $1,700 per month for an urban one-bedroom. It’s an open apartment plan but there’s a sliding door to the bedroom. Based on what I’m being paid, I’m able to live comfortably in a place that I really enjoy spending my time.

What’s next:

I’m really happy in my position right now. I don’t really want to put a timeline on it, but I don’t see myself here forever. And think if I were to stay at Amazon, I would definitely want to move laterally within the company. Instead of taking the traditional route, I would probably want to learn as much as I can within the different roles here at Amazon. I would want to dive into more coding, more user research, even get a taste for mentoring or management of some sort.

Her long-term goals:

My goals are to be in the nonprofit space. There are so many avenues to help people through design and that’s what I see myself doing. But I definitely don’t want to close myself off to any opportunity by pigeonholing myself into this one idea of what I want to do in the future. Because I have no idea what I want to do. I’m still a kid who’s growing and learning. And I love the idea of that and embracing that and just taking whatever challenge life throws at me.

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