Careers are nuanced, and sometimes, complicated. While some of us may have always known what their dream career looked like, there are many more of us still figuring it out day by day.

Careers can also be evolutionary. You begin honing your interest and skills in one area and it may lead you into a whole new world. For Novia Lindsay, a User Experience Designer at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), art served as her guide.

What sparked your journey in technology? How did you get started?

I was an artist growing up. I spent a lot of time drawing and painting. I also had a strong interest and ability in math. While I was always drawn to art, my school schedule would always focus more on other advanced courses. However, despite this, I had a strong inclination to do something art-related.

When I attended Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU), my original major was architecture, but I was terrified of the woodshop. Soon thereafter, I shifted my major to graphic design. Upon graduation, I spent 5 years in Detroit as a newspaper graphic artist.

Around 2005, as the internet was becoming more prevalent, I expressed my desire to transition to web design. Since cross-training with the team wasn’t supported at the time in my role at the newspaper, I made a decision to move to Atlanta to pursue web design opportunities.

After spending 7 years in Metro Atlanta working as a graphic designer, I then enrolled in an evening program and completed a certificate in web design and interactive media. That certificate was pivotal in me transitioning to my first user experience (UX) role in 2014.

While overall it was a slow transition, everything in my journey felt like a natural fit.

What do you enjoy most about UX?

It’s a combination of many things I’m good at. While I consider myself a technical person, I love interacting with other people. I’m also able to use my strong art and journalism backgrounds.

What’s unique or special about tech in the hospitality industry?

During my first four years, I was part of a team that redesigned an enterprise application that had been around since the ’60s. In my current UX role, I’m designing for users that work for the hotel company, whereas in the past, I primarily designed for consumers. You have to be able to think like a user while also being able to capture all of the information your corporation needs to ensure success.

What were some difficulties you faced getting into your position?

In my role, you have to pay attention to detail. When it comes to any type of development, the smallest thing can result in a defect or misdirect the user’s attention. You have to be laser-focused on the minor details while keeping the big picture in mind, all at the same time. It’s definitely a balancing act. I had to work at it because, in my previous roles as a graphic designer, my focus was completely different. I was more concerned about stock photography, aesthetics and the feel of things. My new role required a complete shift in mindset.

What’s been the biggest triumph in your career thus far?

I was a key contributor to the authoring and prototyping of the user experience guidelines for our new guest reservation system. It’s a replacement for an application that was used for nearly 60 years by IHG colleagues. We launched in 2017. I was able to join the team during the early design phase and played a major part in its completion and success. That’s definitely been one of the biggest achievements of my career. 

What are three things you would tell someone who aspires to have a career in tech?

  1. Be open-minded. I’ve worked in many industries: newspaper, public health, telecommunications and hospitality. You have to be open to the different industries that could benefit from your skills. There’s a variety of experience and opportunities available if you are flexible.
  2. Network! Everyone knows someone that knows someone that can lead to your next opportunity.
  3. Never stop learning. Always stay current on what’s going on in your field and industry.

Three things to avoid?

  1. Don’t work in a silo. Receiving input from other designers and stakeholders is important for success.
  2. Avoid marrying yourself to your designs and work. There’s always room for improvement.
  3. Avoid thinking that you are the user. You are not designing for yourself. Keep the person who will be using this and what their needs are top of mind.