Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
Dec. 8, 2022

Looking for your first UX job as an immigrant with Dorsa Mokhtari

Iranian-born architect and recent UX design graduate shares her experience of moving from Iran to the UK, studying UX at General Assembly and looking for her first UX job. Nirish answers her mentoring questions too.

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In this episode:

  • Moving from architecture to UX design
  • Creativity as self-expression
  • Overcoming the language barrier
  • The benefits of an interactive teacher-led course
  • Coming out of your comfort zone as a teaching assistant
  • Pros and cons of not being a non-native speaker
  • Looking for your first UX job as an immigrant
  • and much more!


Dorsa Mokhtari

@ux_land on Instagram

General Assembly

Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter

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[00:00:00] Dorsa Mokhtari: You always have this feeling on the back of your mind that even if I'm a better designer, than this person that is like originally from UK, who are they gonna choose? Is it gonna be me? Are they gonna like treat us based on our designer skills, our, abilities? Or is it gonna be based on who has been here first basically?

[00:00:23] Nirish Shakya: That's Dorsa Mokhtari. Dorsa is an architect from Iran who's recently moved to the UK with her husband, and after experiencing a lack of creativity in architecture, she bumped into UX as an intersection of her architectural skills and human ecology. In this episode, Dorsa shares her experience of moving from Iran, studying UX at General Assembly, and then working there as a teaching assistant afterwards. She also shares the challenges of looking for a first UX role as an immigrant and non-native speaker. and I also answer some of Dorsa's brilliant questions on creating portfolios and seeing yourself as successful.

[00:01:03] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:17] Nirish Shakya: Hi, I'm Nirish Shakya, and I'm a designer, educator, and the host of my new podcast Design Feeling. Most of the time, you'll probably find me helping organisations put their customers first, or you might find me teaching design thinking and creative innovation, but I'm on a slightly different quest here - to explore the human behind the designer - who you are, what drives you, what frustrates you and why, and ultimately how you can bring more impact and meaning into your work.

[00:01:51] On this podcast, my expert guests, and I will be uncovering ways to increase your self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning.


[00:02:02] Nirish Shakya: Mokhtari, welcome to Design Feeling.

[00:02:07] Dorsa Mokhtari: Hi. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

[00:02:10] Nirish Shakya: No. Great to have you on the show. 

[00:02:13] Okay. Dorsa, so you recently moved, from Iran to the uk and I met you at a recent, user experience design immersive course that we did at General Assembly, where you were one of my teaching assistants. and in Iran you used to be an architect, right?

[00:02:35] And now you are, looking to get into the UX industry. Well take us back to your origin story in Iran.

Moving from architecture to UX design

[00:02:45] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yes. Sure. so, I was basically born and raised in Iran, like in the capital, capital of Iran. the name of the city is Teran, so it's a really crowded noisy city. And, like being born and raised there, it's like a bit different between, it's a bit different than where I'm living at a moment.

[00:03:11] So I'm living in Manchester and it's just like Manchester is super smaller than where I used to live, so everything is a bit different in here. so if you, if I wanna give you a bit about myself and what I was doing back during Iran, so, as a young girl, I was always into like painting and I don't like designing these hand preface stuff.

[00:03:38] I think I've got this from my, mom because like she always used to like paint or do, I'm not sure if you have it in, like in English, but there is this art in Iran that they have. To like basically cut these small pieces of wood and have this make an art with it. I'm not sure how to explain it in English.

[00:04:01] Dorsa Mokhtari: So yeah, that's where I got this, like passion about art from my mom. And then, I didn't actually have many choices, to go to university and like choose, choose like proper major for myself because it's not how they do it in here. it's so different when you study in Iran. So basically when you are at a school in Iran, you study a lot of math and physics, which, when I came here I realized that they actually learn none of it in a school.

[00:04:33] And then when they, choose like their, university major, then they start like learning themselves by their own choices. So, yeah, we didn't actually know, what we are choosing, like for our university major. What is art architecture actually is, what is, I dunno. Physics actually is in university, so, for me the, biggest reason for me to choose architecture was that it was the nearest thing to being creative and, like being able to design and paint and then, mainly being able to, kind of help people. So, that, that was the reason I chose to be an architecture. Then I went to this university, which actually didn't, I'm not gonna say they taught me so much. I didn't learn much from university.

[00:05:25] Nirish Shakya: Don't worry. Neither. Neither did I.

[00:05:27] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, Yeah, like before I came here I was thinking that, okay, like universities in Iran must be divorced because they're not teaching us anything.

[00:05:37] Then I came here and I like talked to some other people. I realized that okay, this is something that is happening like all around the world, like not much is being taught in universities. So that's what I realized. I need to like start learning my by myself.

[00:05:55] Nirish Shakya: So why did you feel like not much was being taught at universities

[00:05:59] Dorsa Mokhtari: in Iran or,

[00:06:00] Nirish Shakya: just in general, like you, you mentioned that that's what you realize,

[00:06:03] yes. So realization.

[00:06:05] Dorsa Mokhtari: yeah, so like we have all these graduated people from different kind of majors. For example, like in architecture. and like they come out of university, you are like, in back of your mind, you're gonna be like, okay, so she knows, or he knows everything about architecture at the moment and like he can actually like design something, but then you see they basically know a sentence or two about architecture and it's like they are not actually architects.

[00:06:35] And that's the main reason behind that is that like they don't actually teach you how to design or like how to basically sort the process of being a designer. They just teach you this, teach you on these books that like are from, I don't know, like hundred, hundreds of years ago. Yes. And so my, my personal experience, I didn't learn anything from univers.

[00:07:00] the only thing that they've taught me, that I've learned by myself, by experience was that I need to go and look for it for myself.

[00:07:08] Nirish Shakya: mm-hmm.

[00:07:09] Dorsa Mokhtari: So I think that was the, like most important experience in my life because it really actually helped me after I moved to uk. Um, 

[00:07:19] Nirish Shakya: did you decide to move to the.

[00:07:21] um, actually, so I got married a few months before I moved to uk and my biggest reason for coming here was basically my husband, well, also because I had this in my mind like for a few years to like, move on to some other country, not specifically specifically uk.

[00:07:42] Dorsa Mokhtari: But, the main reason behind that was that I wanted to be able to expand my career and I didn't have that chance, in, I. So, yeah.

[00:07:54] Nirish Shakya: And, based on what you experienced there, what was the, the, the state of like creative industries, design industries, within, I.

[00:08:03] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah. So that's actually a good thing because it was the main reason I decided to, change my career from architecture to UX design because, after I graduated from, like architecture school, basically I decided to go into the like vile job board and start, like to the job board , basically.

[00:08:24] Yeah. And to start like learning how to be an actual designer. so when I went to this company, I, I've been there I think for almost, year or so.

[00:08:36] Nirish Shakya: This was in Teran.

[00:08:38] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yes. Yeah. . But the point was that like what I had from architecture in my mind was all about being creative and being user based. That's what I went for.

[00:08:49] But then I realized that this is not happening anymore. We are just like mainly copying, copying and pasting everything from building to the other one other so that, because they should have accepted and then they would only accept a few design points that weren't actually creative.

[00:09:09] So, yeah, like every country has their own policies and at least I can say in Iran, like creativity in architecture is almost gone unless you have your own business and like you are super rich so that you can decide by yourself what to do and what to design.

[00:09:26] Nirish Shakya: Hm mm-hmm. . Okay. so you moved to the UK and you then decided to pursue a career in, in ux. Tell us how that shaped for you. What did you do next?

[00:09:41] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, sure. when I first moved to UK, I had no idea what am I doing with my life. mostly career based. So, so I was an architect, but I knew that I wanted to be more creative. But again, like I, I've been in this, I've been in the UK for really short time and I, all I wanted to do is to find a job basically.

[00:10:03] So the first thing I did was to go, no, like in architecture.

[00:10:08] Nirish Shakya: Mm.

[00:10:09] Dorsa Mokhtari: So the first thing I did was to,go on different kind of platforms and looking for, architecture jobs, because that's what I knew I can do. And, when I took a, took a look at these, job ads, I realized that it's kind of saturated in UK as well.

[00:10:26] I mean like architecture and, the job titles didn't seem really creative to me, honestly. , like I could see the same job titles as I saw in Iran, so it got me thinking maybe I can do something else. Yeah.

[00:10:43] Nirish Shakya: So when you say it wasn't, it didn't seem creative, what did you mean by.

[00:10:48] Dorsa Mokhtari: So we have these different job titles in architecture. there are ones that are, basically rare that let you give you the have ability to like basically be a creative designer, but most of them are, I dunno,the ones that you need to go and like work in this big company under, a senior, ux, sorry, senior architecture architect that, gives you like a plan to do.

[00:11:13] And then like I was basically what the first thing that catch my eye in UK was that if you take a look. All the buildings like around, the uk mostly Manchester, but even if you take a look at the buildings in London, you actually can't see much creativity on them. Like most of them look the same and, they don't actually build new buildings in UK as much as they do in other countries.

[00:11:45] it's again, like the policy that they have. So there was to, to me, to my understanding, there was not much room for being creative here again, actually that, I dunno, it might not be true, but that's what I understood from observing everything.

[00:12:01] Nirish Shakya: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:03] Dorsa Mokhtari: And, yeah, so I started like looking for other majors to being able to continue my studies, basically get my masters.

[00:12:13] And, I couldn't find anything. So at the first thing that came to my mind actually was to be, to study psychology because yeah. So, it's, it might sound weird, but because all my life I wanted to be able to like, solve problems actually for people like in their daily life. I'm not saying by I dunno, designer or anything.

[00:12:37] I always had this thing that I used to talk to my friends or people that I had no idea who they are, just being, just to know what are they facing their daily life. even until this day when I like travel to somewhere, I just go in the middle of a baar or something like that and talk to like local people to see, okay, what are you doing?

[00:12:58] are you selling as much as you want? Or, , this kind of stuff to get to know what is happening inside of a society. 

[00:13:07] Nirish Shakya: Mm-hmm. 

[00:13:07] this is something that really interests me and when I'm like, when I actually help someone and when they say, oh, okay, thank you. it was really helpful. It just I feel relief.

[00:13:17] Dorsa Mokhtari: So yeah. So that was mainly the reason I decided to do psychology. But then when I did a little bit of research, I realized that, okay, so I'm gonna be able to help people, but where is the creativity on this? Like, when can I actually like design or paint or do something that I really like or enjoy? So then I like a con.

Creativity as self-expression

[00:13:42] Nirish Shakya: doa like, where does this need come for you? wha what, what is it inside of you that is basically pushing you to look for these, opportunities that you consider to be more creative?

[00:13:54] Dorsa Mokhtari: So honestly, I'm not really good with expressing my feelings. although like I'm a really outgoing person. I talk a lot. I used to have many friends back during my country, not in here. but I think it's a way for me to express my feelings somehow, to show my true selves self to like other people, to, at least to me, to myself. So, yeah, I think that should be the main reason I'm so into art and design

[00:14:23] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, that sounds amazing. And then how did she come across UX then?

[00:14:27] okay. So the first time I I came across UX was, by my husband because he's a data scientist, so like they're kind of related to each other. So they, he mentioned that, okay, you may wanna go and search for this major. I think it, it's, it can be a match for you. And then I went to this, Instagram page that there is actually a Persian lady living in Seattle.

[00:14:50] so she was doing UX and then at the moment she 

[00:14:54] Nirish Shakya: remember? What's her handle?

[00:14:55] Dorsa Mokhtari: sorry.

[00:14:56] Nirish Shakya: Do you remember her Instagram handle? We can put that in the show notes.

[00:14:59] fine. We can always look it up later.

[00:15:01] Dorsa Mokhtari: I think it's UX Land.

[00:15:04] Nirish Shakya: UX Land.

[00:15:04] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, I, so, but I, I need to go and check and

[00:15:08] Nirish Shakya: no worries. We'll put that in the show notes later.

[00:15:10] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah. So, when I first look around on her like Instagram page, I was like, what is this? what does even UX mean? Cause yeah, so because my, modern language as Persian, so I had no idea what is U N X com comes for?

[00:15:25] So what is this weird major that everybody

[00:15:29] Nirish Shakya: it was a,

[00:15:30] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah. 

Overcoming the language barrier

[00:15:31] Dorsa Mokhtari: So. and like I couldn't understand a word of what she was talking about. but then I just dig more into it. I I just search for it on YouTube, on Google. And then, like by the time I realized that, okay, that this sounds interesting, especially when I search for it, in Google I searched, if an architect can be a UX designer.

[00:15:51] And there was all these lectures about like how architecture and UX design are kind of similar and related. And it was really interesting to me when I was, reading this article selling, so basically y design is architecture, but in a, kind of like in a digital way. So to me, UX design sound like, a combination of architecture and, psychology.

[00:16:21] And it felt okay, this is what I'm looking for. this is a combination of what my, my pre, previous career and what I'm looking to do like on my daily life. So yeah, that's how I came across civic design.

[00:16:36] Nirish Shakya: That's fascinating. And then you decided to do a, a course, a full-time immersive course at General Assembly.

[00:16:44] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah.

[00:16:44] Nirish Shakya: how that went for you.

[00:16:46] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah. So basically I wasn't really sure if I wanted to do a bootcamp course or not. I even gathered all my materials even before I came to uk. I had this TOLE test. I'm not sure if you are familiar with this test. Okay. Cause like nobody else in UK knows about I and tole when I talk, talk about it.

[00:17:08] Nirish Shakya: Don't worry. I, I had to do that when I moved from Nepal

[00:17:10] Dorsa Mokhtari: Oh, okay. Yeah, so that's why, so I, I had everything prepared, but in the very last minute.

[00:17:16] Nirish Shakya: for, just for, the benefit of our listeners, what, Dorsa is talking about, the, are these, English language tests that you have to, take to prove that you, you have at least a minimum level of competence with, English both spoken and written and reading

[00:17:31] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah. And it's nothing about the date of birth of the royal family or something like that, cuz I've heard it before. You just need to answer questions like specifically in about the English language. So yeah, so I had everything prepared in Hannah. I wanted to apply for a master course. but in the very last minute I, realized that I just wanna be able to.

[00:17:56] start my career as soon as possible. So I just decided to go for like a boot camp course, and I searched for it a lot. I talked to many admission teams in many boot camps, but to me, like assembly was the best choice for some personal reasons what I wanted to get out of it. And yeah, so I started this course being super anxious and super nervous about it.

[00:18:28] Dorsa Mokhtari: I remember the first day that I started this course. I'm not sure who was it, but some, this lady came in and started introducing herself on the course to me. And I was like, so shocked. I just, turned off my camera and run into my husband and told him, oh my God, I don't understand a word that she's.

[00:18:49] Nirish Shakya: Oh,

[00:18:50] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah. And I was like, oh my God, I can't do this.

[00:18:53] Nirish Shakya: Do you mean like the language, what she was speaking or the, 

[00:18:57] Dorsa Mokhtari: Um,

[00:18:58] Nirish Shakya: of it.

[00:18:59] Dorsa Mokhtari: no, like the accent of

[00:19:01] her actions. So Yes. And I was like super shocked. I was like, oh my God, how can I like finish this course? And then my husband said, just give it time. After two days, I'm sure you're gonna understand everything. And it actually happened like after only one day, like the day after that I could understand every word of, she was like saying I was basically just super stressed about it. Yeah. 

The benefits of an interactive teacher-led course

[00:19:31] Dorsa Mokhtari: So, and actually it was a really great experience for me, like in many. I learned a lot. Basically I learned new design from this course. I have done, some self-paced course before this, like this, Google UX design course and some other course in course and other platforms. But because in this course I was able to actually communicate and ask questions and see other opinions, it was really, actually really helpful to me to understand youth designer.

[00:20:02] Nirish Shakya: mm-hmm. . So it was not just a kind of one way transfer of information, let's say from look at the course to the student.

[00:20:10] Dorsa Mokhtari: No, it wasn't, it was actually like, like a normal class that you have, in a university or in a school. And I think it was, yeah, I had a great experience there. and it really helped me to lose my confidence, because like when I was in Iran, I didn't have any issues with my confidence. I. This super confidence girl, that, had, I don't know, like tons of friends.

[00:20:34] I had my career. I had I don't know, I had my own car, so I didn't face any actually, like issues, with my confidence in Iran. But then I moved here. I needed to start everything from zero, like a new language, new culture, new weather, yeah.

[00:20:54] Nirish Shakya: Especially living in Manchester, there's like a new weather every hour, probably

[00:20:58] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yes. Yeah, . So everything was new to me and I realized that, oh my God, I don't feel confident anymore. I feel like I'm super lost. And what am I gonna do with my life? what am I doing? am I gonna be successful? Ever again.

[00:21:16] Nirish Shakya: Mm

[00:21:17] Dorsa Mokhtari: Um, yeah, so being in this course and being able to talk to others, I realized that okay, so although I'm not a native speaker, and I'm in a new environment, it doesn't actually really matter.

[00:21:30] I can keep up with others and also I can sometimes be better than them. it was really helpful. It was, yeah, a great experience to me.

Coming out of your comfort zone as a teaching assistant

[00:21:40] Nirish Shakya: mm And after you've finished the, the course, was it like a a three month course, right? Yes. and then you decided to become a teaching assistant at General Assembly.

[00:21:53] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah.

[00:21:53] Nirish Shakya: for you?

[00:21:55] Dorsa Mokhtari: So actually, that was me coming out of my comfort zone again. Cause as I said, like the first day of this course, I couldn't actually understand of work that the lecturer was talking. 

Pros and cons of not being a native speaker

[00:22:10] Dorsa Mokhtari: And then, yeah, and then like after that, during the whole time of this course, I was constantly telling everybody else in the course, oh my god, I'm not a native speaker, so sorry if I can't keep up with you.

[00:22:24] sorry if I cannot like, expand everything that I wanna say in a proper way. Cause like you have this thing in your head that, oh, I'm super smart in Persian, but I can't show it in English and it can be really hurt. Like it bothers me a lot even to this day. but then I realize that that's okay. I mean, like sometimes it's really good because, the thing that I cannot expand everything as much as a native speaker can, can be actually sometimes really helpful.

[00:22:57] Dorsa Mokhtari: Cause in the process of UX design, sometimes you need to be on time and quick. And you wanna get the results as soon as possible. So that's when I, when I come handy, basically. Yeah,

[00:23:13] Nirish Shakya: How do you mean? Could you elaborate?

[00:23:16] Dorsa Mokhtari: no offense to any native speakers, but sometimes when you are a native speaker, especially like in English, I can say it, when they wanna talk about, this is small subject, they expand it a lot. Like they're talking about, I don't know, like this doll, but they expand their sentences too much that you actually lost the main purpose of this.

[00:23:42] And it times goes on and on and then it just okay, you're out of time and then we, for the next level of the process, for the next step, we don't have enough time to do it.

[00:23:54] Nirish Shakya: Mm. I I do that all the time. Just keep talking and talking and someone has to stop me.

[00:24:01] Dorsa Mokhtari: I'm so sorry.

[00:24:03] Nirish Shakya: No, I think you're right, but I guess when. Maybe English is not your first language, or maybe when you have a limited, capacity for English, maybe, maybe we do tend to kind of go straight to the point faster.

[00:24:15] Dorsa Mokhtari: Mm-hmm.

[00:24:17] Nirish Shakya: Cool. I had never actually thought of that actually, I'll be, I'll be more mindful next time. Um, and so what's, what's been your experience being a teaching assistant? Because I, I guess as a teaching assistant, you get to experience the co course, the whole course again, but with a different perspective.

[00:24:38] Dorsa Mokhtari: Actually, it's been going amazing. Cause as you said, I'm doing the course over again, but in a different perspective, that I'm, I'm not as stressed about, I don't like the assignments or if I understand

[00:24:52] Nirish Shakya: don't have to actually do any work.

[00:24:54] Dorsa Mokhtari: yeah. oh my god. No But yeah, so, because I don't feel nervous, I actually can like process, see the process in.

[00:25:06] perspective and see, okay, so that's what it meant. that's what it meant to be. So it's, it has been really helpful for my learning experience, like learning pace and also being able to like, explain the subjects to other students that are experiencing basically the same situation as I had a couple of weeks, a couple of months ago.

[00:25:28] it's really helpful to me cause I actually think that you can never learn something unless you, you are able to teach it to someone else.

[00:25:38] Nirish Shakya: Absolutely.

[00:25:39] Dorsa Mokhtari: So it has been a great experience for me, to being able to explain this subjects of the whole process of youth design to others and sometimes share some ideas with them, help them to,decide better.

[00:25:51] so yeah, it has been amazing experience for me.

Looking for your first UX job as an immigrant

[00:25:55] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. Good on you. And, now you are kind of like in the process of, putting your portfolio together and, and looking for an actual UX roles in the industry. how's that process going for you?

[00:26:07] Dorsa Mokhtari: Well, it's kind of tricky the process of, landing your first job, as a UX designer. As a person who has only been in UK for almost a year, everything is hard to process basically. So I'm just finishing my portfolio very last bit. And then I'm gonna share my like portfolio and resume on my LinkedIn, ask others to like, gimme feedbacks.

[00:26:37] And, at a moment I am looking for like job ads, on LinkedIn, on all the platform. I haven't applied for one yet, but for me, if I wanna share my feeling, it's a bit stressful for me because as I said, everything is new. And as a foreigner, you always have this feeling that, okay, so am I gonna be treated as the same as person who is from UK or is it gonna be different?

[00:27:08] Like you have, you always have this feeling on the back of your mind that even if I'm a better designer, than this person that is like originally from uk, who are they gonna choose? Is it gonna be me? Are they gonna like treat us based on our designer skills, our, abilities? Or is it gonna be based on who is who has been here first basically?

[00:27:35] So yeah.

[00:27:37] Nirish Shakya: I, I guess also, who has more of a longer term legal right to work and live in the uk. Maybe that's

[00:27:43] Dorsa Mokhtari: That's also true.

[00:27:44] Nirish Shakya: employees consider as well.

[00:27:46] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, that's also true.

[00:27:48] Nirish Shakya: Mm. Cause I, I remember, like I, my wife and I, we moved here from Australia and initially we were on a two year visa, and after that my employer, decided to sponsor me. but if I were to kind of go look for, roles in other companies, then I had to basically severely filter out all the companies that didn't sponsor me because I was not from the UK or the eu.

[00:28:11] and the whole kind of, sponsorship process itself is a massive.

[00:28:14] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, that's so true. We're facing the same problem at the moment. So I haven't started my job search yet, but like my husband, wants to, basically level up his, career. So, we have been facing this problem of finding,sponsorship, although they have offered him and a sponsorship in his current job.

[00:28:36] But as you said, finding these other companies that are willing to give you sponsorship is really hard. Even for me, when I'm looking at these ads, I need to make sure that they are, giving me a sponsorship. Although this is not a MO for me because luckily I have my husband to do all this hard job. So, yeah, so like he's doing the hard work of finding a sponsorship for us.

[00:29:01] But again, like this feeling, inside me as a woman, I wanna make my own career. Like I wanna get my own sponsorship one day. So it's still hard to.

[00:29:13] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. So if you're listening to the show right now and you have an opening for a junior UX designer, for a talented junior UX designer, well, you know who to call.

[00:29:21] Dorsa Mokhtari: Thank you. Thank you so much.

[00:29:23] so, Dorsa, I would love to also hear from you what are some of the biggest questions that you have at this very moment. for example, either, putting together a portfolio or looking for that first role.

[00:29:34] is there any questions that you might have that I might be able to help you with or I

Creating a portfolio: showing process vs showing your creativity

[00:29:38] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, sure. So I might have like tons of questions, but, so in fact when you, go and look around how a portfolio should look like, there are different kind of lectures about it. They, some people say it should be, all of them should follow the same process. But some others say to just be creative and add your own side to it and just don't follow the process at all.

[00:30:07] So I was wondering, which, which one should I like, which patch should I follow? Should I be, like putting my own side to my portfolio Or should I just follow the process and add some bits of my own side to it?

[00:30:22] Nirish Shakya: That's a great question. And it, it is a very valid question because there are so many different examples of, great portfolios out there. And also there's so much advice out there on the internet around, how to build the perfect portfolio. I think my first advice to you is to be honest with what you actually did, right?

[00:30:43] So if you followed a process, we'll talk about that process. If you didn't follow up the process, then talk about what you did instead, right? So I think for me personally, honesty would go a long way in terms of just telling is that, telling it as it is, right? secondly, obviously when you are first starting out, you gotta show evidence that you have the foundational building blocks in place for you to be able to. Kind of do similar work in the company that you're applying for. And a lot of time these foundational building blocks are the things that, we, for example, learn at university or at, boot camps, or at other, UX roles. So how, how do you, engage with the business to learn more about the problem from the business point of view?

[00:31:29] How do you then go out and engage with, real humans and customers and understand their needs? How do you then synthesize those needs to prioritize what needs to be fixed, right? And how do you then come up with ideas to solve some of those problems and then pick the best ideas to then prototype?

[00:31:45] How do you then do this in collaboration with, other stakeholders in the company and even maybe users? And how do you then, validate this within users? So these are the foundational building blocks of any, UX and design process that you obviously need to show evidence that you know you can do.

[00:32:01] Right? So I would not skip on the process. Definitely. Right, but although the whole UX process is taught as a linear journey in a lot of the UX courses, but obviously that's not how things work in reality, right? And this is where you can bring in your own, personality, your intuition, how you think, how you work, how you make decisions in terms of how you've been, you've managed to jump between these different steps, right?

[00:32:29] Maybe you've had to skip certain steps because, for example, you ran out of time or maybe because, you already had some of the, the, the research data from some previous research, for example, right? So it's also about then, again, telling that on a story about what are some of the unique design decisions you made to, yeah, move in between those different, steps in the process to make it less linear, right?

[00:32:56] It's, and more The design squiggle that we see, where things are so chaotic and messy, but then you still manage to,pull the, the signal from the noise. So it's about how you, do Moari did it in that particular project. That's, that's what I would be, interested to learn more about because we'd just want, just another mechanical process done by another robotic designer.

[00:33:18] Right. We want how you solve, solve that problem from, with all the, the life experiences you've had, not just academic, but also experiences with, family and friends and your upbringing and moving from, from Iran to the uk that those all add up to how you see the world and your perspective, how you solve problems, right?

[00:33:39] And people love to hear about that, and that's what makes your portfolios more.

[00:33:45] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, that was actually really helpful. Yeah. So like, the thing that I think is missing, in, most of like design mergers, it doesn't matter if it's architecture or if it's you, design is basically as you said, kind of like empathy and looking at it at as a human being. Cause I can even see it in our students at ga, like sometimes there's so much digging into the process.

[00:34:13] In the labels. Okay, I need to make a problem statement. I need to make a job to be done. Then how might we, they don't even put time, like some, not all of them basically, but some of them, they don't put this actual time to see what is the actual problem of the user. like basically to put, you put themselves in their shoes on the user's shoes to see what, what problems they're actually facing daily.

[00:34:38] And I think it's the very most important part of being a UX designer, which is, although we keep mentioning it to people, but sometimes I can see that they don't pay enough attention to

[00:34:51] Nirish Shakya: hmm. Yeah. Cause I guess, I've, I've done that myself in my career where I was so hyper focused on ticking the boxes and getting to the outputs as quickly as possible. That although you are doing a human centered design process, you end up, forgetting about the humans you're designing for, right?

[00:35:07] Cause you just literally wanna get to that solution and get it, shipped as quickly as possible.

[00:35:11] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, exactly.

[00:35:12] Nirish Shakya: I think a lot of that will come from experience. Cause init initially, like you, as a, as a junior designer, you really want to, learn the process, learn the ropes and prove that you can actually do it.

[00:35:25] and, being able to, yeah, tick those boxes in the process, I guess does make it easier to prove that, you can follow the process. Whereas if, where to for example, spend that time, deeply empathizing with the cust with the users, it might not be as easy to kind of translate that into, something that you can prove that, it's gonna help the company,build a product or, make more money.

[00:35:48] Nirish Shakya: So I wouldn't stress too much about, what you're doing and whether you can do it. I think each one of us already has a very unique way of going through the process, the design process ourselves. So I think that uniqueness will come out. you, I think you have to let it come out.

[00:36:08] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, that's true. Awesome. Thanks.

Seeing yourself as successful

[00:36:11] so one more question that I have from you is that , it's a tricky one, so I just wanna know if you see yourself as a successful person in your career, obviously. And if yes, I just wanna know, how did you land to this point? Like how did you basically land your first job and what did you take to, what took you to come to this?

[00:36:37] Nirish Shakya: Hmm, that's an excellent question, dosa. you ask really good questions. Actually. That's the first tick box. I can tick, So do I see myself as a successful person now? It's taken me years and years to start to move that answer from no spectrum to the yes, spectrum, right?

[00:36:56] Because, throughout my career, I never thought I was doing good, doing good enough, or there's always some, even if I was, there was always something better to aim for. and I remember having this conversation with one of my guests, earlier in the season, Ben Peko, and I told him basically, every time I, achieve my goal, then that goal post I had already moved to something else.

[00:37:19] So he was saying, we, we literally move our cognitive goal post. Do something into the future. And we never get to that vision of success that we are aiming in our head because that vision always changes, right. So I still, struggle with seeing myself as successful because again, my cognitive goal post has already moved to something else that I need to be achieving, right?

[00:37:44] And that's something that I've had to consciously work on, through like mindfulness practices and, and a lot of, self work to accept that, wherever I'm right now is where I need to be, right? And wherever I'm going from here is where I'll need to go and just have faith in the journey you're taking.

[00:38:04] So I would love to say that, yes, I do think I'm successful. My mind is still playing tricks on me and telling me not to say that because it's like,yeah, but you haven't achieved that. And then that, and then that, right. So I'm still finding an answer to that question. to your, second question around like how I got started.

[00:38:26] So I started my career in, computer science. So I did an undergrad in computer science and maths, back in Sydney. And the reason I decided to do computer science was because I used to love, love to play computer games. And I was like, oh yeah, if I did, if I did computer science, I can make computer games.

[00:38:45] But then I didn't realize that, I actually didn't enjoy programming like coding. I just didn't have the brain for it. Right. and, but after I finished my undergrad, I just, did what all my other friends were doing, which was look for a, a programming or an engineering job, which I did manage to find in a startup in Sydney.

[00:39:04] And I worked there for five years as a coder, but I didn't really, feel myself, part of that world where you basically constantly,getting requirements from the client, constantly coding as, as fast as possible and shipping it as fast as possible. And in the whole process, I didn't actually see like real humans that were using our products, like who was using it, why were they using it, right?

[00:39:29] What kind of problems they had. And I remember the only time we actually heard from real humans was when they had complaints to make about our product, right? They're like, this is too big, this is too small. This doesn't make sense. And the only conclusion that, me and our team got to back then was that these, these people who are complaining must be stupid , 

[00:39:49] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah. 

[00:39:50] Nirish Shakya: right?

[00:39:51] Cause in our office, like it was so easy for us to do everything, just press that button, enter that data, boom, done. Right? And around that time also, did my masters and part of their masters was, a course on interaction design, which is basically human computer interaction. And that course basically taught me, you know what, for example, what you learned at General Assembly in terms of how do you start with the users first, not the technology or the business, right?

[00:40:20] How do you go out and speak to people that understand what they need? How do they make your design decisions based on all those learnings? That just totally blew my mind. I was like, whoa, there's actually a better way to build products and services. And I couldn't go back to the way I was doing things before as a coda when I was literally just blindly, coding the requirements, shipping as possible, and then moving on to the next thing.

[00:40:46] Right? And after I finished my master, I started looking for,a role as a UX designer. And this was, back in 2008, 2009, there weren't really many UX jobs out there. In fact, now not many people even had heard of, things like UX design or anything like that. so, but I still did some research and I found I think two or three companies that were actually hiring for UX designers back then.

[00:41:12] And I applied for the first one. and I never heard back from them. Apply for the second one. went for an interview and they basically told me, I just didn't have any, any experience, which I didn't . Right. and then I was just about to give up and then I saw another company in Sydney. their name was Objective Digital.

[00:41:29] they called Objective Experience now was, it's a UX consultancy based in Sydney. And I was basically talking to people on their website and I went to the, the LinkedIn, LinkedIn profile of the, the CEO of the website. And I found that he had a common contact with my, tutor from university. So my interaction design tutor.

[00:41:50] Nirish Shakya: Right. 

[00:41:50] Dorsa Mokhtari: Hmm.

[00:41:50] Nirish Shakya: And. We had, I had a good, really good relationship with my tutor at university because I was a bit of a nerd , right? So, she liked me. cause I used to, be really passionate about UX and I, I put a lot of hard work in university.

[00:42:05] So I basically asked my tutor to, introduce me to this, the CEO of the company and which she was, happy to do it. So she sent an email to, him, his name is, his name is James Breeze. and, and he basically, invited me for coffee. so it was meant to be an interview.

[00:42:20] So this time I basically took a slightly different strategy. so I basically put together a portfolio. And in this portfolio I had included some of the work that I done at university. Plus I focused on all the, the user interface design work that I did as a coder. Right. all the design decisions I had made, how I had thought about users at different points in the process, and the, the final outputs as well.

[00:42:48] And also because I had a, an engineering background, at the same time, he was actually looking for someone with a more of an engineering background to join, his team. So also because, I was from Nepal and, he wanted people from different parts of the world to join the company. So I guess all these kind of converged into him, then making the decision to offer me the role.

[00:43:09] So I guess I was kind of like the right place at the right time. but at the same time, um, I think we, we cannot discount the value of networking. Um,throughout my career, I find really hard to, apply for, or, or get a. Just by clicking on a LinkedIn ad, right? you gotta know real humans who know real humans who might be hiring for a role that is perfectly suited for you.

[00:43:31] And that's why it's so important to put yourself out there, talk to people, tell them what you're looking for, and then I think that will open up a lot more doors than just, blindly, pushing buttons and hoping someone will reply on LinkedIn or any, platform.

[00:43:46] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, that sounds awesome. I need to work on my networking sales.

[00:43:51] Nirish Shakya: I think we all do. Right? I think

[00:43:54] Dorsa Mokhtari: that's.

[00:43:54] Nirish Shakya: it's a, we, we all feel nervous about, reaching out because, we, we always place, people who are more experienced than us on a higher pedestal or like,oh, they're so much better. 

[00:44:07] Dorsa Mokhtari: Mm-hmm. 

[00:44:08] Nirish Shakya: Well, they might have more experience.

[00:44:10] Doesn't mean that there are a better human being than. Right. We're all different human beings with different skill sets and different experiences, not just work experience, like I said, also your life experience and, we all bring such unique perspectives and thinking in the way we, see the world in, on, onto the table, which makes us all, valuable, parts of the community and, and the team.

[00:44:31] And I think if we go in like that, that it's not just them, giving you something or you asking them for something, they also learn so much from you as well. Right. For example, like iMentor and Coach, a lot of,younger designers, right? obviously I help them answer some of these questions like I am now.

[00:44:49] But at the same time, I learn so much about, the challenges that, they're facing at the moment, how they're solving it, which helps me see things from different perspectives, right? It actually helps me, create content. To cater to those different perspectives, right? So it's always a, a two-way street.

[00:45:08] So, don't be afraid to reach out, cuz you'll be benefiting, both sides.

[00:45:12] Dorsa Mokhtari: Mm-hmm. . That's true. Yeah. Sure. so yes, I think that that was all of my questions for now. I can think of anything else to ask you,

[00:45:22] Nirish Shakya: Awesome, man. That's some brilliant questions there, Dorsa. So I'm, I'm really impressed I would've never been able to ask those kind of questions when I was starting out.

[00:45:30] Dorsa Mokhtari: Thank you.

Dorsa's biggest advice for an aspiring UX Designer

[00:45:31] so what's your biggest advice for people who, are starting to go on the journey like you did a year?

[00:45:41] Dorsa Mokhtari: So I would say, I would wanna mention a couple of things. First of all, it's really important that don't be afraid to come out of your comfort zone. Cause anything that is good and might happen to you, it's comes after, the time that you came out of your comfort zone. Because if you wanna stick to your comfort zone, stay there and feel safe, you were not gonna see any challenges to face.

[00:46:13] And then like you cannot find success. That's what I believe in. And what I've experienced. Cause it was really hard for me to come out of my comfort zone. I just love to stay there and live there for the whole time of my life. yeah. , one more thing is, that I actually used to do this a lot.

[00:46:35] Don't compare yourself to anybody else in the industry, in your, like the area of your classroom or like in your life between your friends. I don't know. It doesn't matter if your friend is like, to keep it simple. if your friend is married and has a really great love life and they're really successful on your career, on their career, it doesn't matter that you're less than if you don't have this at the moment.

[00:47:05] So, I would say you are you and you're gonna reach that point whenever you are ready for it. yeah, and also, One more thing that I actually face after I came here is that confidence is something that you need to build it. It's not something that is like there for you. Then you, you say, okay, so yeah, I choose to be a confident person.

[00:47:31] You need to build, your confidence self basically. And then when you get to that point, that like how to build a confidence, confident person, like confidence self, then you start like being a successful person. I think so.

[00:47:50] Nirish Shakya: Love it. Love it. Thank you so much for sharing those, Dorsa and something that, I need to also remind myself more of as well. So it's, it's something. That's gonna help me as well. Thank you. is there one resource that has helped you the most in your life or career? Could be a book, could be a person, could be a mindset or a philosophy or anything else, any other resource that I might have helped you the most in your life and.

[00:48:21] Dorsa Mokhtari: Mm. I mean, I can mention a book because I'm actually like a real life person. So like I, I think people can have the most impact on you. So recently, the one sister I can mention could be my husband because I think he has helped me a lot with giving me different perspectives of how a career can be. How can I, push myself out of my comfort zone?

[00:48:56] Like to see him dealing with the same basically experience, like same problems of landing the first job and then trying to expand his career has helped me a lot. And he's kind of like a nerd So Yeah, sometimes I read, yeah, you guys can be friends , but, yeah, so sometimes like having a person that is like really into, I dunno, like researching and really into this narrative stuff can be really helpful for, for a person like me that I'm totally not a nerd. Yeah.

[00:49:36] Nirish Shakya: Cool. Awesome. He sounds like a really awesome human being. So, yeah. so tosa, is there a question that you'd like to ask yourself that I haven't asked you yet?

[00:49:47] Dorsa Mokhtari: Hmm.

[00:49:47] yeah, kind of like, I would like to ask myself, what should happen in your life for you to start believing yourself like a hundred percent. Cause I always have thoughts about myself. Am I enough? am I doing a good job? Am I, successful as you said? But I really want to like land that position that I see myself a hundred percent enough, like in any aspects in my love life, in my career, so,

[00:50:21] Nirish Shakya: I think my answer to that would be, well, first of all, how do you define a good job?

[00:50:28] Dorsa Mokhtari: mm-hmm.

[00:50:28] Nirish Shakya: Right. Because a lot of times we don't have that definition, right? We don't have that actual metric somewhere,on the ground. So it's such an amorphous concept, right? And even if we were, we were doing a good job, that line has already moved

[00:50:46] Dorsa Mokhtari: Mm-hmm.

[00:50:47] Nirish Shakya: right?

[00:50:47] So hence why, probably we always feel yeah, less than good enough.

[00:50:54] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, that's true.

[00:50:55] like recently I started, I, I've been doing like a weekly review on Sundays just to kind of review my week and plan for the next week. And I never thought I was doing good enough. There's always more 

[00:51:05] Dorsa Mokhtari: Mm-hmm. 

[00:51:06] Nirish Shakya: So what I started doing recently was to define what good enough looks like, So, and then I started to kind of prioritize my task. I was talking these are the most important urgent ones. These are the less urgent, but important ones. And these are the, Urgent, but less important ones. And these are the not important and not urgent ones. Right? So I started categorizing all my things I needed to do for the week, those different four quadrants.

[00:51:29] And even if I didn't do, most of the things on like the not important and not urgent category, then I could say to myself that I did, the things that are good enough, right? and I think just fencing that, that concept in your head of what is good enough as clearly as possible, I think for me has worked in terms of making my mind belief that I'm doing good enough.

[00:51:55] Right? So defining good just like we do in, in a product development. but defining that for your own life think, is something that that's worked.

[00:52:05] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I mean like only to have this in mind that you don't need to tick every other box, so, but to be enough to be successful, that can be, yeah, a good step to take. I'm working on it.

[00:52:23] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Yeah. And, and that is part of, adopting a growth mindset, right? you don't have to be good to get started. you don't, you don't even have to assess how good you are in the present moment, as long as you're doing what you need to be doing, right? Being good is an outcome that is beyond our control, but what is within our control is the effort that we are putting in, in the moment.

[00:52:48] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah.

[00:52:48] Nirish Shakya: So why be obsessed about things that are beyond our control? Let's just focus on the things that are on our control.

[00:52:55] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah.

[00:52:57] Nirish Shakya: So to also imagine it's your last day on planet Earth. I know it sounds a bit crim,

[00:53:03] Dorsa Mokhtari: Oh,

[00:53:04] we will all get to that day some . But imagine it's, it's the last day on planet Earth and someone came up to you with a tiny piece of paper, so imagine like a tiny PostIt or something and a pen, a sharpie, and asks you, dosa.

[00:53:19] Nirish Shakya: Would you write down your last words for him, humanity on this tiny piece of post-it? What would you.

[00:53:29] Dorsa Mokhtari: Okay. I can think of, wow, that's an interesting question. I mean, if you would've asked me, what do you wanna write for your loved ones? It was super easy for me, but for human being.

[00:53:53] I basically, I would just write, I was here and I live the life.

[00:53:59] Nirish Shakya: Love that.

[00:54:01] Dorsa Mokhtari: That's all I can imagine. Telling some other people that I'm not gonna see, or,

[00:54:08] Nirish Shakya: And that's what matters, right? Cause it's not, a lot of times we're so obsessed about, solving all of the world's problems and, thinking whether we're, getting any close to that or not. But sometimes it, it is about doing that, like being where you are. And doing what you do and living the life. I think that's actually really deep. Love it. Cool. Like we should probably print that out and put it on on t-shirt and sell them

[00:54:36] Dorsa Mokhtari: Imagine. Imagine that.

[00:54:38] Nirish Shakya: Cool. That might be a new business idea for you. Awesome.

[00:54:42] Dorsa Mokhtari: Not


[00:54:43] Nirish Shakya: Great. So I'm gonna do a quickly recap of, our conversation, today. Yeah. I loved, how you said you, want to use creativity as a way to express yourself because, especially being in a new country with not as many friends, How do you then enable your yourself to express yourself? And, maybe creativity is one of those ways, right?

[00:55:04] And that's one of the reasons that you're actually moving from, being an architect where you didn't see a lot of those opportunities for creative expression into ux. And I love how you said like how, it's the interactions within a course, for example, a boot camp that can actually help you, reinforce a lot of that learning rather than when you just learn from like a one way source.

[00:55:24] For example, let's say watching videos or just reading books, right? Cause there's, there was no kind of interaction or feedback mechanism, right? also something that I found really, intriguing was what you, yousaid around,sometimes we feel smart or maybe we are smart in the language that, we are good in, for example, in your case in Persian, but maybe not so in English when you know English is not your first language.

[00:55:47] and I think. That is something that we all need to be mindful, as, as teams, as team members where, different people might come from different backgrounds with different, language skills and just cuz they cannot express themselves as clearly and articulately in English doesn't mean that they're not smart.

[00:56:04] Nirish Shakya: Right. Maybe's just, the, the medium of delivery is not suitable for them. Right. And that's, I think that's something that we tend to forget a lot of times. also the, the, the fear, that you had around, will I be treated the same when you're applying for jobs as, other people who don't have had to, go through the same huddles as you, especially around, visas and immigration and sponsorships.

[00:56:25] And I think that is a fear that, is there for a lot of people who are moving in countries and looking for jobs in other countries. And maybe that's something that,companies also need to be mindful of as well. and I'll, I absolutely love the, the three pieces of advice you, you gave us here.

[00:56:39] don't stay in your comfort zone. Don't compare yourself to others, and confidence is something that you need to build. It's not just, you're not born with it. So thank you so much for sharing that Dosa. I've learned loads, speaking with you over the past hour.

[00:56:56] and like I said, any conversation that you have with anyone in, within the network will be a two way conversation, and that's what it's been for me. So thank you so much for sharing your insights and your experience and your wisdom.

[00:57:08] Dorsa Mokhtari: Thank you. It was a pleasure actually having this chat with you. I also learned a, And, yeah, it was really nice to being able to like, share my story. So thank you for that.

Finding Dorsa online

[00:57:20] Nirish Shakya: Thank you. So, doa, where can people find you or follow you online?

[00:57:26] Dorsa Mokhtari: Yeah, so, you can find me on my LinkedIn. It's Dorsa Moari. So, I have shared my, portfolio link over there. you can see my website and the ways to contact me please.

[00:57:38] Nirish Shakya: Yes. do, contact Dosa, if you have any questions about, being a UX designer or at least starting out in that journey and or if you're an employer, Looking for, know, talented, diverse, and amazing designers. We're also great human beings. so we'll put the links to both do's LinkedIn profile and her portfolio website in the show notes. 

[00:58:00] So Dorsa, what's the, the next most exciting thing that you're looking forward to in your life?

[00:58:05] so basically the most exciting thing for me is to land my first job as a UX designer. this is like the most important thing that I have in mind at the moment. So that would be really interesting for me to see where I land. what am I gonna do? 

[00:58:22] Nirish Shakya: Amazing and all the best.

[00:58:24] Dorsa Mokhtari: Thank you. Thank you so much.

[00:58:27] Nirish Shakya: Great. Thank you so much Doser. thank you for joining us, today on the podcast and I hope you have a great day.

[00:58:33] Dorsa Mokhtari: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. And I wish you the best day. 

[00:58:37] Nirish Shakya: Thank you so much for joining us in this chat. if you are enjoying listening to the Design Feeling podcast, please do consider leaving an honest review on Apple Podcasts. It'll really help get this podcast out to more people. And please do share the podcast with a Design Thinking friend who could benefit from these conversations. See you next time.