The Things I Wished I Was Taught Early On

nikki espartinez
4 min readAug 6, 2021

I gave a talk a few months ago in Manila, Philippines called “INTRO TO UX: 2021 EDITION. How to:🚀 Build a Portfolio, Career and a Future in Tech” and I want to share a piece it with you all, particularly the learnings bit.

There were a lot of things I wished I knew very early on in my career. It took me a while before I actually started to feel a little bit more confident in the path I’ve chosen and I can’t emphasize this enough, it’s such a privilege to be here and talk about the topics I love the most: careers, tech, UX, design, among a few things. As a way to pay it forward, I want to share with you the things I’ve learned along the way. I am wrong about a lot of things but these are the things I know for sure are true and useful for folks who are starting out in their journey to this wonderful and fulfilling industry that is UX.

Cover Image for Presentation

1. Be Endlessly Curious

Follow local tech startups, read books, listen to podcasts. Feed your intellectual curiosity.

Education is beyond what you learn in school alone. It is everything from what you read to what you choose to spend your time on. In today’s world, we have a lot of resources available online for anything you can possibly think of. Never let any “hard” topic scare you from pursuing it, from reading about it.

Stack of books

2. Chase Real World Experiences

Find areas where you can help, virtually reach out to the local professionals, seek internships or apprenticeships whenever possible.

There’s no substitute for real world experiences and one of the best ways to get them is to be interested in people’s problems. Think about the things you would do on your free time. The things you naturally gravitate towards. Maybe it’s writing, maybe it’s creating motion graphics, maybe it’s through service. Whatever that is, ask yourself: “Which companies around me are trying to solve that problem I am mostly interested in?” and try your hardest to get involve with them through internships, part time work or simply just connection.

3. Start Building Your Portfolios

Learn by doing: experiment, fail and use the internet for resources. Got a website idea? Sketch it. Write it out. Build it with no-code, if you are not a coder.

4. Put Yourself Out There

Use LinkedIn for networking, Squarespace, Wix or Webflow to launch your websites, Medium, Wordpress for your blog. Whatever that is, start creating them now.

Use social media to your advantage: ask yourself the following questions:

“Who am I?”

“What skills do I have now that is going to be useful in the future?”

“What type of companies do I want to be a part of?”

“Why do I want to work for those companies?”

Find out what you can do today that will put you at a greater advantage to reaching those goals.

5. Be Tirelessly Sensitive to Problems

Find opportunities to SOLVE them using design thinking and the technologies you have at your disposal. If you can’t do it alone, work with people who are solving those problems.

6. Always Design with Humans in Mind

The world needs more mission-driven designers.

Speaking of becoming a better designer, my last advice is the simplest yet it’s often the most overlooked: Always design with humans in mind. In your career, you will work with a variety of things. Some are mass produced now like smartphones, desktop computers, smart watches, smart TV’s. Some are on the verge of becoming more and more mainstream like Voice, AI, AR/VR. Don’t get carried away with the tech.

Let design dictate it. And in the heart of design are humans. We are designing to meet a goal and a user need, to make someone’s life easier, to make the whole world far more livable. Always design with Humans in mind. Have that as your north star, and you will never run out of things to work on.

Design is more than just what you see on the screen. It is both problem finding, and problem solving through creativity, all for the goal of improving humans and lives. Thank you for listening and I hope you get to work on designs that will change the world, or at least a part of it.

For more information on my speaking portfolio, please visit this new page on my site: My plan is to do more of this because I believe in inclusive design literacy. We, as practitioners, have a huge opportunity to contribute to its role in the future through education (academia, talks, writing, youtube channels etc). If you want to collaborate more on this, please reach out:

Thank you for reading,

Nikki Espartinez



nikki espartinez

I write about Design, Technology and everything in between. Subscribe to my newsletter: