How I Became a UX Person, or Why You Don’t Need a Perfect CV to Be Successful – Part 1

Text on image: how I became a ux person or why you don't need a perfect cv to be successful - part I. Illustration of young Mimi.

How I Became a UX Person, or Why You Don’t Need a Perfect CV to Be Successful – Part 1

Are you beginning your UX career or planning to move there from another discipline? Is your CV not perfect – at least by the standards of others or society? Don’t worry; I was at the same point many years ago. But I made it. Today I’ll tell you the first part of my story.

I see you

There is still a widespread opinion – in Germany at least – that straight, clean CVs are necessary for making a career – or perhaps even for finding a decent job in the first place. Unfortunately, not all people are perfect, and many of us are not straightforward. Life also often presents us with challenges that make us change our direction. So there are both extrinsic and intrinsic factors that make some lives a little more “multicoloured”.

And I say “multicoloured” deliberately. I think it’s a beautiful word and one of my favourite colours, by the way. Because multicoloured stands for diversity – as does the rainbow flag, for instance. So if your CV is also multicoloured, like mine, and you have been criticised for it so far and have had to listen to sentences like: “now finally do something with your life” or “just finish something” or “we can’t pay you any more money, just take a look at your CV, you haven’t even completed your education”, then you will definitely find an open ear with me and today also my personal 2 cents about it.

The school days

Yes, I’m sorry, but I must elaborate more on the big picture. I was always rather middle class at school. You could say I muddled through. I had a hard time with some subjects and with learning in general. It wasn’t easy to make friends; I was rather shy, hardly ever brought a sandwich to school (so I was always hungry) and was afraid of being called on in class for 6 hours every day. Actually, there was only one teacher with whom I got along well, who understood me and with whom I also got good grades – that was my English teacher Mr Meyer. He not only instilled in me my love of foreign languages but also a great deal of wisdom. He was not well received by the parents. Too esoteric, too strange teaching methods, too soft … I think he was decades ahead of his time. In my daughter’s school today, he would be very welcome. Unfortunately, I don’t know if he is still with us.

By the way, I also had incredible exam anxiety. So much so that after the 12th year, I decided to drop out of school and do an apprenticeship. Anything, but not having to do A-levels with an oral exam. Just the thought of it obviously sent me into sheer panic. 

It wasn’t yet the time when you could find out about apprenticeships on the internet. So I went to the employment office. During the conversation, it came out that it should be something creative. So I did an internship in a flower shop during the summer holidays. I enjoyed designing and tying the bouquets and working with the flowers and the other girls. But after a few days, I realised I was not made for the rough tone (by my standards) that prevails in such an apprenticeship. The school’s headmaster probably never thought I would really drop out anyway, so it was no problem to simply continue with the 13th year after the summer holidays.

And there was the first detour in my curriculum vitae – even though no one could really see it there before: now, at least you know about it.

The start of my first degree

Despite the incredible exam anxiety – by the way, I managed to avoid presentations so well my whole time at school that I can only remember doing one (can that be true?) – I managed to do my A-levels. As expected, with an average result. Later, by the way, I also passed my driving test the first time with rubber-band-soft knees … but to this day, I don’t know how I managed that.

We weren’t really prepared for the time after school. In the 13th year, people from the university came to our classes and presented the most common courses of study: Law, medicine, teaching … and that was it. And the internet still wasn’t ready to be of any help. My boyfriend at the time started a school-based apprenticeship as an IT specialist – intending to study computer science afterwards (unlike me, he had actually dropped out of school and therefore didn’t have a school-leaving certificate). I found what he told me about his training very exciting.

On the campus in Kiel, a person did student counselling for the employment office in a tiny little room (at least in my memory). I told her I would like to do something with language and computers. I had read something about computational linguistics (but that must have been on the internet then 🤔 … God, it was all a long time ago). She told me there was no such thing (which is and was, of course, not true), but in Hamburg, there was a course in phonetics. Maybe that would be something.

Phonetics – the study of linguistic sounds, a Master’s degree course – did indeed sound exciting. And so, about 1 year after my A-levels (yes, I allowed myself an extensive break!), I started my first degree in Hamburg. And let me tell you: I was completely overwhelmed from the first moment. At the time, there were fat little books in which all the lectures and seminars for all the degree programmes were printed. I spent days working through everything so as not to miss anything interesting. I was absolutely unable to find a focus. And besides, it always took me weeks to put together courses that didn’t overlap.

I wanted to try everything, and I did. But I didn’t have a specific goal. In fact, for years, I couldn’t really imagine what I wanted to do with my future. But I just loved learning (without exams, of course!).


Sorry friends, we already have over 1000 words. So I’ll make a cut at this point. In the next part, you can read about what happened in my studies, how and why I dropped out and what awaited me in my first real job (as a developer). 👉 How I Became a UX Person, or Why You Don’t Need a Perfect CV to Be Successful – Part 2

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