When I joined GitLab over two and a half years ago as a frontend engineer, I brought with me a background in photography and an interest in art and design. In my last year of university, I worked at an art museum, and I’ve always gravitated towards the more design-y aspects of frontend. For each release, my assigned deliverables were usually focused on redesigns, and while I enjoy that type of work, what I really wanted to do was to help shape the look and feel of GitLab, rather than implementing the designs of others.
Making the first move
At GitLab, we're lucky to have the opportunity to transfer to a different department, if our interests or career goals change. I spoke with my frontend manager about my passions and shared my desire to start learning and working with the UX team. I then spoke with Sarrah, the UX Manager, about the next steps, and I started working through online tutorials, getting up to speed on Sketch, and attending the UX weekly calls. Once I acquired the necessary technical skills, I joined the Plan team, which is focused mostly on the prioritization of ideas, allocation of resources, scheduling, and tracking. It’s an area I’m really excited about, and we’re working on some incredibly useful management features (like improved issue boards, sub-epics, and value stream management) that will help make GitLab an even more powerful tool.
As a frontend engineer, I was fortunate to have developed many transferable skills which helped me tackle this new challenge. Attention to detail is one skill that has been particularly useful when working on a new feature. Since I’m new to UX, I’ve found it really helpful to have a technical background, especially considering that GitLab is such a technical product.
Advice to others
If you’re interested in making a similar transition, I encourage you to speak with your manager. I wish I’d done so sooner. I discussed my interests early last year, but after having a baby, I had this idea that I should stay in my current role, as I would never have time to learn a whole new practice. While I definitely don’t have any free time (I don’t know if you’ve heard – babies are quite time consuming), I’m so happy to be on the UX team, even though I have a lot of catching up to do. Everyone in both frontend and UX has been incredibly supportive of my switching teams, and I’m learning a lot as I go along. For now, I’ve got the best of both worlds – 50 percent of my time is focused on styling-related frontend issues and reviewing the CSS in merge requests, while the other 50 percent is working on UX issues.
By the way, we're hiring for loads of positions, across the company – check out our current job openings.