A Musician Changes Her Tune to Become a UX/UI Designer
By Elizabeth Nelson
Johanan Eunice Livioco grew up surrounded by music.
Born and raised in the Philippines, she and her siblings all played instruments from a young age; Eunice studied violin and piano. When she enrolled at the University of the Philippines, she majored in violin performance and minored in piano—but by the time she graduated, Eunice was already thinking of a different career path.
“Somewhere in the middle of my undergrad, I knew I wanted to shift course, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I decided to finish out my music degree, and right before graduation, I decided to pursue something in the technical design field,” she explains.
Unsure if she would have to complete another under-graduate degree, or whether she could just enroll in graduate school and take prerequisite courses to fill in any gaps, Eunice threw herself into researching the possibilities. “I did a lot of research,” she says. “I called a bunch of different schools, visited a few more, and went to the Idealist Grad Fair in September 2016.”
That’s where Eunice met Nataliya Klymenko, Assistant Program Director for Touro Graduate School of Technology’s Master of Arts in Web and Multimedia Design program, which would prepare her for a career as a UX/UI designer. Touro GST offered Eunice a chance to complete her Master’s degree in less than three years, while working as a Graduate Assistant and earning money to put toward tuition and other expenses.
The path to a new career
A few months before graduation, Eunice began putting together a portfolio to show prospective employers. “I had to make sure it was really quality content, so recruiters and interviewers would be excited about my work,” she remembers. “My thesis advisor, Renata Rocha, gave me input on what to include, and my sister, who works in product, also offered a lot of helpful feedback.”
Once her portfolio was in tip-top shape, Eunice started applying for UX/UI designer jobs, aided by her professors and mentors at Touro, who introduced her to recruiters and suggested people to contact.
Just three months after receiving her Master’s in Web and Multimedia Design, Eunice started working at Erdos Technologies as a UX/UI Designer. Just seven months later, she was promoted to Project Lead, guiding designers and developers from initial product design idea all the way through to delivery.
“UX/UI design is kind of like being the architect for a digital product,” she explains. “It starts with trying to figure out exactly what the client wants, and then working as a team to figure out the best approach. We brainstorm ideas, create prototypes, and then build the actual product.” Eunice likes that she gets to work on products from across a variety of industries, and says that while it’s challenging, “I enjoy the challenge. There’s no complacency, it’s ongoing.”
Music is still a big part of Eunice’s life, as well. “I play violin and piano at my church, and help out leading the choir,” she says. “I love music and always will, it’s just not my career anymore.”
Working on projects that make a difference
When asked what experiences at Touro stood out as being most useful in preparing her for her new career, Eunice remembers presenting her designs to a panel made up of advisors, professors, and peers. “When I did my thesis presentation, there were probably 70 or more people there,” she says. “When I started working at Erdos, I got into preparing presentations to communicate ideas to colleagues and clients, and having already done that at Touro was super helpful.”
Eunice also liked that she worked on “real projects” at Touro, specifically an app she developed for her Manhattan-based church, to help members across the five boroughs and New Jersey to connect, communicate, and access information online. (Note: this interview was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic.)
“My goal was to help the community grow closer, even though many congregants are far apart geographically,” she says. “I conducted a survey and dug into the data, did research, and designed a mobile app for the church. That was a really special project for me to work on, because I wanted to create something that would actually help people, and this was for a community I’m part of.”
Overall, Eunice says attending Touro GST—and working in the Graduate Assistant program there—was an invaluable experience because of the opportunity to “work with all kinds of people, manage projects, do design work, and work on projects that were meaningful.”
She says anyone considering getting their Master’s degree at Touro GST should be prepared to “work as hard as you can. Take advantage of the hours you have in class, but don’t be afraid to bug your professors outside of class when you need to. They’re there to help and will be open to your questions.”
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