On Answering a Different Call: From Pastor to UX Designer

By Stephanie Stevens

For Kristin Pedroza, the shift in careers from church pastor to user experience designer has been significant but not entirely surprising. She’s always been fueled by creativity and friendly curiosity about why people do what they do.
“I love digging in, getting to know people, and finding out what makes them unique,” Kristin said. 

An innate storyteller and naturally inquisitive, she found herself connecting with people through story. It was a passion but also taxing.

“Ministry can take a lot out of a person, and after 13 years, I decided to take a break from it,” she said. “I will always have that in me. I will volunteer and try to be a blessing where I can until I feel called back to it.”

Instead, Kristin decided to follow another calling as a visual storyteller. She discovered user experience (UX) design and decided to make it her next career choice. UX design involves using research and psychology in conjunction with graphic design to develop a product with the goal of creating a connection with people while making the product easier for them to use. 

In addition to working full-time as a user interface/user experience designer with Scott Safety, she’s also freelancing and developing a blog called DearJostin to answer relationship questions and give herself an outlet for her thoughts, insights and desire to help others.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My background is in personal development, organizational leadership and communications. I am ordained and worked for 13 years as a pastor. Part of my job was communicating through visuals, and I found I had a knack for graphic design. I am a creative and love finding creative outlets and problem-solving creatively.

That’s a long time as a pastor. What made you decide to leave full-time ministry for design?
Part of my job at the church was communications, which included designing for digital and print. I was pretty good at it and did some side work along the way. It seemed like a natural transition for me, and I freelanced for a while. One of the clients I did work for was a consulting firm of developers. They had me do some UX work for them, and I loved the complexity and intelligence it added to my design work. That was when I decided to go to UCSD Extension to learn all I could and make that my career. 

What advice do you have for others who might be considering a career shift that others might view as dramatic?
I think it is important to listen to yourself when you feel the need for change -- to take it seriously and put in the work it takes to make a new start. Also, often the things that make us happy are things we are already doing at some level. The challenge can be figuring out how to turn that thing into a fulfilling career.

What stands out about the UX program for you?
The instructors have all worked in the field. I even had one class where the instructor brought in professionals from different areas of the field each week to better understand what kind of work could be done and what that might actually look like.

What advice would you give to someone who might be interested in taking the program? 
You’re going to learn a lot. The more seriously you take it and treat it like real-world work, the more ready you will be when you get a job.

What do you personally find exciting, interesting, important or surprising about the field you work in?
There are so many different specialties within UX design. I especially loved learning about UX metrics and research and how we can make decisions based on data.

Are there any “tricks of the trade” that aspiring UX designers should know?
One of the things I learned in my UX metrics class with Mark Hall is how important it is for UX designers to understand business. To be able to speak to stakeholders and managers in ways that they can understand and show them how good UX design processes are essential and how they can directly impact business goals. 

How has your experience at Extension helped your career?
My instructors were not only willing to teach me in class but have also been available to answer questions and provide me with mentoring opportunities once I was working in a UX job. Having them as resources where I could go and ask questions has been invaluable. 

Did you learn something new from reading this blog? Let us know in the comments! Learn more about the User Experience program on our website.


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