// 14 mins read
I spent most of the holiday season reflecting on the past couple of years of my life. More specifically: leaving the military in 2018, freelancing, starting my MBA, welcoming my son into our family, relying on my faith and my official career transition into UI/UX design.
What a rush.
I felt the need to write about my journey and my redefined purpose to encourage other designers who are making the transition but also to show a brief snapshot of what’s next.
After getting out of the Navy, I had little to no idea of what I wanted to do regarding my next career. Should I focus on my art? Pursue business? Disappear into the mountain wilderness with a bowie knife and backpack in pursuit of an out-of-body experience of self-revelation revealing the secrets of the universe that occurred during a fever dream? Wandering the earth like Jules from Pulp Fiction crossed my mind once or twice… the options seemed endless and were overwhelming — even if they weren’t completely realistic.
What to do?
After carefully weighing our options, my wife, Kelly, and I chose to uproot our family of three (soon to be four) from classy San Diego to Birmingham, AL. We had family there who were pursuing their business degrees at Samford University and I felt that an MBA would help me take my freelance work to the next level. After grinding for a year and a half with freelance projects, graduate school and navigating the eternal labyrinth of VA followups and checkups, we sensed our souls being called back to our home state of Louisiana.
We moved back to LA for family support while I pushed pause on the MBA to use my GI Bill for General Assembly’s UX Design Immersive program in Manhattan. I know people probably questioned our mental stability, but I felt compelled to make the full transition into User Experience and knew this formal training would fill in the gaps that my freelance experiences lacked. The training paid off when I received a call from Tyler at Robert Half who told me about ThreeSixtyEight(TSE) — a design agency in the small state of Louisiana who was doing big things.
I soon found myself in the interview process for their UX Strategist position and later found out that I was in the running with 30–40 other applicants. In the week leading up to the interview, I tailored my resume, cover letter and mission statement to the company color — #ff2500, had a suit tailored, did extensive research on tie color: job offer statistics and generally tried not to throw up thinking about it all.
After two phone screenings, back-to-back in-person interviews with the founding partners and team members and finally, a design challenge, I was informed that I got the position! My boss went on to tell me that on paper, the other applicants were the obvious choice. So, what set me apart?
- Soft skills
- In-person interview
- Design challenge efforts
“We liked the way you presented yourself, how you think and how your personality matched the company. You have a big picture mindset.”
— Jeremy Beyt, Chief Strategy Officer, ThreeSixtyEight
He likened me to a dark horse that came from behind to win the race; the underdog that everyone hopes will win but no one expects to, much like Drew Brees, Joe Burrow and Louisiana itself.
I don’t have the words to describe the excitement I felt when I got the call. In short, the best I can do is offer a Pursuit of Happiness reference when Chris Gardner finds out he got the job. Ironically, Kelly and I watched that movie a week before we went to Disney World. Even more ironic is that we were at Disney when I got the call. I felt like I had won the Superbowl! I can neither confirm nor deny that I screamed at the top of my lungs while letting out a few celebratory fist pumps to the universe.
“Thank you, God.”
UX Strategist | First 30 Days
After the adrenaline simmered and my feet were touching the ground again, I decided to become a sponge and soak up everything the agency would throw my way. I took notes on everything from what the alarm code is to strategy sync process steps, Teamwork logins and everything in between. I’ve found my place lies somewhere between the design, business strategy, and marketing teams. I’ve had the privilege of working with highly talented designers in weekly design huddles, writing reports for the lead strategists and learning the ins and outs of design systems within the marketing team.
My three foundational principles for success:
- Stay hungry | podcasts + books + questions
- Stay humble | assume you’re the dumbest one in the room — there’s always something you can learn from someone
- Stay helpful | take initiative + offer your skills + support the team
The Prometheus Project
One of ThreeSixtyEight’s mission statements is “Do your life’s best work.” I am truly blessed to be part of a team that is allowing me to do just that. TSE has partnered with my home state to redesign the Economic Development Department’s content strategy and redefine what it means to do business in Louisiana. Years ago, the movie industry realized the potential benefits of filming here. I spent months doing work as an extra and eventually got a gig as a grip on a local film, 1959. I was so proud of the work I got to do and saw first hand the positive impact the movie industry had on the local area. Who would have thought they’d ever call The Boot “Hollywood South”? What film studios started to realize was that tax incentives allowed them to expand on their production capabilities and that Louisiana’s residents made stellar film crews. I believe that the same is about to be realized by big businesses and corporate America — specifically in the tech industry.
I remember a time that I wanted nothing more than to leave Louisiana behind and travel the world. I had this notion that the state had nothing more to offer and that the best choice would be to join the Navy and see the world. I don’t regret serving my country and I wouldn’t trade the surfing, snowboarding, cliffside hiking and paddleboarding adventures for anything, but I see now that I was mistaken. You see, even after visiting other regions of the world and experiencing them to the fullest, I still felt the magic of the bayou every time I came home on leave.
So after leaving the military, I find myself right back where I started, but this time I have this unstoppable drive to bring the vision of a tech-savvy and business-focused Louisiana to life. That’s what brought me to ThreeSixtyEight. I absolutely love that TSE embodies the fearlessly scrappy, creatively driven, vibrant spirit of Louisiana and we take pride in what we are going to accomplish. Here I have the opportunity to make a difference by applying everything that I’ve learned to this team. I think I’m going to call it the Prometheus Project: my personal mission to light the way for a brighter future. For a brighter Louisiana. For a brighter world.
Hopefully, I won’t be tied to a rock and have my liver eaten by a bird…
Moving forward, rebranding our home is vital to our success. It’s no secret that we rock at football, food, and hospitality. I mean, did you watch the Real Tigahs dismantle Clemson on Monday? What people don’t realize is that Louisiana is more dimensional than that.
The Bayou means business.
We have a long way to go in tackling negative perceptions and biases that are standing in our way, but that’s ok…Louisiana is no stranger to being the underdog. Every time we face insurmountable opposition — Louisiana finds a way.
The National Championship was just the beginning. For the first time in recent memory, I am optimistic about the future. Good vibes are on the horizon and the air is supercharged with creative, vibrant energy. You can feel it in the rain. Smell it in the mossy oaks. Hear it in the sweet Southern breeze. I believe that Louisiana is calling her sons and daughters home because it’s time to show the world that we’re more than swamp people and waterboys. We are resourceful. We are resilient. We are ready.
If you’re out there reading this, my hope is that you will join #TeamLouisiana to pave the way for a brighter, more promising future.