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So you want to study HCI

As I get many questions by prospective students each year, I thought I would just put a Q&A in one page.

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Maria Teresa’s HCI Master course FAQ 👩🏻‍💻

Disclaimer

The course has (probably) changed quite a lot since I attended it. We were only the second cohort, and some courses/professors are now different. Before deciding, make sure that you have looked at the courses, the University in general and that you have (some) idea of what you want to/could do with this degree.

Q1: Is the Master course any good?

My personal answer? Yes!

A bit of background: I come from a Bachelor in Cognitive Psychology, so I had zero knowledge about terms like Human-Computer Interaction, UX or Interaction Design.

During the course I got good basics on these topics, plus:

  • Most courses have a predominant practical part. This means that you can put your skills and teamwork to the test during the semester.
  • Thanks to the internship, you can get work experience before graduation which will be great for that job hunt
  • If you'd rather become a researcher, that's great! In many courses you have to read papers, write essays, discuss research and you can graduate with a good research project for your thesis.
  • My favourite courses: Social Interaction, Prototyping Interactive Systems, HCI.
  • My least favourite: Mind-Brain interaction, Participatory Design

Q2: Do I need a background in Psychology? Or do I need to know how to code? 😱

You don’t need to, no worries! Whatever background you have will give you an advantage during course projects:

  • If you have a Psychology background, during the psychology-related courses you will already be familiar with part of the course content.
  • If you studied Graphic Design, you can improve your work by learning about usability and more.
  • If you come from Computer Science, you can use your knowledge of code to create more complex prototypes for coursework.

Q3: Is the University of Trento good? And is Trento a nice city?

UNITN is well organized and one of the best in the country. Some perks of studying and living here:

  • The University has extra lectures, conferences plus events organized by student associations
  • The city is indeed smaller than Padova or Bologna, but still there are also student parties and festivals organized throughout the year (check out Poplar Festival on Facebook).
  • You can travel around Trentino with your Mobility Card for only 50€ for the whole year
  • Interested in Tech, Startups, Entrepreneurship? Definitively check out CLab and Speck&Tech

Q4: Let's talk jobs. What do you do? How did you get there?

I am a UX/UI designer 👩‍🎨 at one of the best IT companies in Bolzano called ACS Data Systems. Things I do daily:

  • Plan and design (or redesign) company platforms based on what the company needs
  • Curate the visuals of several digital products
  • Test my designs with users to make sure the product is easy to use
  • Work closely with the developers during sprints
  • Pitch my designs to stakeholders

I was hired here after a 6-month stage (student-job).

Before that, I did my Master internship at InSites Consulting (Belgium, 4 months) and another extra one at Topp Design & Innovation (Sweden, 2 months).

Q5. Did the university help you with finding an internship?

No, I did that autonomously. But you can always:

  • Ask professors
  • Check the jobguidance office
  • Attend ICT Days at the Computer Science department.
  • Check out IT companies making talks at the Speck&Tech community events

My personal recommendation: look for a design agency / company with a strong design team. This way, you will learn even more by working together with senior designers!

Q6: How can I land an internship/job in UX myself?

Here are my top 10 tips:

N°1 Create a portfolio (website or PDF) with 3-4 key projects.

The course projects are great projects to start! Otherwise, you can check out the Weekly UX Challenge.

Make sure that your process,role and key learnings in the projects are clear. If you are more into UI and less into UX, check out the Daily UI challenge. Make your portfolio simple looking and don't waste too many months on it (like I have been doing 😅)

N°2 Update your CV.

I personally think One-page CVs like these are the coolest. You can use my template if you like. Also, don’t forget a good email/cover letter to go with your CV and portfolio when applying. N°3 To improve your chances, participate in Hackathons and other similar courses/events.

Put your achievements on LinkedIn or in your CV directly. N°4 Learn how to use prototyping tools.

I recommend Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD or Framer X for prototyping.

Everyone starts with Photoshop at school which is quite powerful but it is now obsolete in the industry when it comes to UX. N°5 Keep up with the latest products and UX/tech news.

I usually start my Monday morning with skilling with the newsletters by Product Hunt, UX Collective and NielsenNorman Group. Italians, check out also UX Gazzettino and Designer of what.

N°6 Make sure you know what a Design Sprint is.

N° 7 Curate your overall social media presence (LinkedIn, Instagram)

N°8 Send A LOT of CVs.

I mean A LOT. Be prepared that many will reject your or not even reply to your email, that is totally normal in the job-hunt world (though not very nice I know).

N°9 Don't send the CVs at the last minute!

I sent the CVs during Easter Break 1st year and was confirmed the internships in June for the following Academic year.

N°10 If your portfolio looks like this, don't hit send 😉

I hope this FAQ was helpful! If you have other questions, you know where to contact me 👋