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Starting your first UX writer role (remotely) from a class of COVID grad

Cayla thought she was going to start in-office at Microsoft, enjoying the perks that come with joining a major tech company. However, as a class of COVID graduate, she found herself starting her new, big role working from home. She shares her insights and lessons she's learned along the way.

Being a new graduate (Class of Covid – I see you) and joining remotely in a pandemic has added more complexity to starting my first UX writing role. 

I expected to be starting off at Microsoft on the main campus in Seattle, making new friends and enjoying the perks that come with joining a major tech company. 

Where I’ve found myself (and a lot of others in my situation) is upstairs in my parents’ house in my hometown using my younger brother’s desk for my WFH setup. Starting a new role this way made me feel vulnerable, to say the least, and it’s harder to even begin to feel confident in your new role when all your first interactions are behind a screen.   

However, what I’ve realized in my first 90 days is that our “newness” as UX writers is our biggest strength. With our fresh eyes, imaginative ideas, and lack of time, writing for our product gives us a huge advantage.

 We have a lot of perspectives to offer as new writers because at this point, we are closest to the user and farthest from the product. It’s important to take this time to speak up and tell your product teams your initial opinions as it can be beneficial to call out initial trouble spots, confusing aspects, or areas where the team can make their product more human. 

For my experience so far, this means a ton of trial and error, but the reward of working on a high impact product and getting to see the results of your work is meaningful.  

Here’s my mini survival guide to your new role:  

1. Advocate for your ideas, they do matter.

At a new job, especially one where you meet everyone online, it can be hard to speak with your teams openly and honestly. It was anxiety-raising joining my first few meetings through Microsoft Teams. I felt the pressure of making a good first impression, but it’s a little more challenging without being those in-person social cues. 

Everyone is still adjusting to this work from home “normal” and your fresh ideas are welcome. It also shows that you care about the success of the product you work on early and can help you be looped in on future projects and features where they need your perspective.  

2. Write it once, write it twice, and write it again…  

The best ideas take time. Breaks are necessary, and I’ve always had the most success when I walk away from the computer for a little while, then come back to it. 

 3. Find your writer friends, you need them!  

I didn’t realize the importance of having great writer teammates by your side is the secret to having amazing UX writing. We can’t always make magic happen by ourselves, ask your writer friends for a second, third and maybe even fifth opinion. 

This isn’t a reflection of your lack of creativity or skills, just most of the time two writer brains is better than one. 

How does one find writer friends? Try setting up virtual lunch dates with various UX writers across your company. The UX writing community is still small, so I’ve found so far that everyone is very welcoming and helping you start your journey in the industry.  

4. Don’t let remote work discourage you from building genuine connections.

I never imagined that I would be starting my first job at a huge tech company at home like this. Sometimes I feel a little disadvantaged not being able to feel fully integrated into my team and company’s culture. 

There’ are a lot of questions that I have, that aren’t always easily answered or hard to convey over chat. We’re all trying to make the best of it through unique ways to bond and network. 

Additionally, remote work requires a lot of self-discipline. I’m learning to set boundaries and figure out a good working style. My phone is off or on do not disturb if I want to have a productive day!   

5. Understand your impact, and the impact of your team—but don’t expect to know everything by day 1 (or even day 90).  

It can seem like everyone is a world-renown expert at what they do, but the truth is there’s still so much for us to learn (at every skill level). Especially in tech, the end goal is always expanding and changing and there are always more problems to solve. 

My manager was great at assuring me that it’s ok to “not know” and the best way to understand the big picture is by talking to others and gaining their perspective.

Know that your manager can’t help you unless they understand what your personal and career goals are and what you want to achieve. 

Together you can set up a plan for success and start by celebrating little achievements along the way.

Looking back on these past 90 days the amount of growth within this short period of time is huge. I’m so proud of what I’ve done so far, and the opportunity to do even more is greater than I ever would’ve thought.  

Cayla Dorsey is a UX Writer at Microsoft. Connect with her on Medium and LinkedIn.

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