From Electronic DJ to Systems Architect for NASA: How One Alum is Crafting Her Dream Career


General Assembly alumni Jade
Jade Johnson is a recent grad of User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly’s Los Angeles campus, where she met “a crew of like-minded thinkers.” After graduating from GA, she briefly worked for NASA as a systems architect. Now, she is living in Berlin and pursuing her career in UX Design. Jade’s love for user experience has helped her build a rewarding career around her artist lifestyle.

What were you doing before General Assembly?

Schlepping custom leatherwear, DJing my party Goldcell, teaching product design, and really needing a change of pace of life.

What attracted you to GA’s User Experience Design Immersive?

After watching one too many TED Talks and initially planning to learn to code, I stumbled upon the principles of UX at a tech meetup and thought it might be a better fit.

Congrats on your recent move to Berlin! What inspired such a major life change? What are you up to these days?

Tech and techno inspired me. The best music, parties, and culture come out of Europe. It’s in the air, the aura of the people, the way the birds chirp as within a dream. The stuff that I thought mattered doesn’t matter. I’d been romanticizing moving to Berlin for years, and I finally got the courage to do it!
This month I’ve been digging back into my album, writing, polishing and tracking vocals. I also have some dream UX job interviews lined up *crosses fingers*.

What was your favorite part of GA?

I’d say, building a crew of like-minded thinkers, for starters. I learned a lot about myself and my MO. During the final weeks of the program, my brilliant team and I were given the toughest project to work on. At the same time, I was preparing to move out of the country and working for NASA. My only stress relief was meditation, working out, making sure I slept enough and a lot of crying (it’s like the best facial).

As an artist, why do you find UX design suits you?

As a designer, I understand the process before it’s written and what needs fixing. Seriously—so many things that do not function should. People shouldn’t have to suffer over poor design choices. I try to understand why basic systems break and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

UX is sequential, but also nonlinear—similar to writing electro and dancing at a rave until 9:00 AM. Within each sequence, I have to take “breathers” like coffee, meditation, and notes, so that I can cross-engineer my project and see which components require my immediate attention as a master planner.

It’s a lot like life, but in this case, you’re dealing with the shifting complexities of projects with a wide range of personalities that don’t necessarily understand what they need or want. But as a natural healer, my core burns to facilitate the success of products in serving their human-people-masters by helping them and their beloved products’ creators to desire, obtain, and cherish what they truly want and need.

Why do you love UX?

UX is incredible. I am helping people and staying connected to a community of compassionate, creative, witty, and eccentric problem solvers like myself. It’s brilliant that you can work from anywhere in the world as a UX Designer and that UX professionals are in high demand.

As an artist, I used to feel torn between all of my interests. With UX, I’ve found a way to connect my artistic and technical skill sets. I can handle shifting complexities with focus and feel rewarded at the end of each day.

What advice do you have for aspiring UX designers?

Learn from the best, trust your gut and never be limited by your gear. Ditch the haters and take it as a compliment if people take the energy to doubt you; it’s very common in the rise of entrepreneurial success. UX doesn’t have room for egos; we help ourselves so that we can be of service to others.

When you say “never be limited by your gear,” what do you mean?

Never be limited by the word “no.” Don’t let fears, projections, or tools like hardware and software limit what you think you can do. You can always find a solution and help others.

The bottom line is that I love working in UX and can’t wait to work and travel the world as a Big Boss Lady. You can see my website here!

Find a rewarding career in user experience design.

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