How I failed Microsoft’s interview as a UX Designer, and what you can learn from it

Mehek Bassi

When it comes to dream companies, don’t we all have some? Apple. Amazon. Microsoft. Google. You name it, all the fortune 100 and fortune 500 companies are everyone’s dream companies to work in, and sometimes, dreams decide to walk into your LinkedIn inbox, and wake you up from your slumber!

This thing happened, when I was searching for a job, fresh out of college back in 2018 (April or May). I didn’t have a job, and I was too desperate to get one — who isn’t? I was applying everywhere, and anywhere. But I did not apply in Microsoft, because —

MISTAKE 1 — I thought Microsoft is too big of a company to consider a fresher. That was a mistake on my part because I thought that I need experience to get into Microsoft. Which was stupid, and I was proved wrong soon enough when I got a direct call from them!

A call from Microsoft was way too big thing, because it had always been my dream company to work for, and maybe because of all this, I was too nervous, and I wanted things to go perfect, and that is where I made —

MISTAKE 2 — Trying too hard to fit in! I forgot my own natural style and principles of design that I was following, and always went with, and started preparing too hard for the interview. I thought I should know everything, and by everything I should know about healthcare tech, FinTech, consulting companies, this that — you name it and I had researched about it. Every night I spent hours and hours only reading random UX Design related books and articles.

Some said this rule is right, some said follow your heart, don’t follow any rules. Everyone had their own principle to work on and everyone had their own style to work with. I couldn’t find a middle ground, because if one designer agreed to something, I would always come across another who disagreed. I was confused.

Before the interview they gave me an assignment to complete, and since I cannot disclose what exactly the assignment talked about, I can still give you an overview about it. It was to design a FinTech related app, an app that made sure that users had financial security with ease. Users who are totally alien with the terms like Mutual Funds, Systematic Investment Plan, SEBI and all other financial jargon. Here is where I made my —

MISTAKE 3 — More research than required! I agree that people would disagree with me here, because all of you would agree that research is an integral part of every project. I agree with you too. But when I started reading about SEBI, investment plans, market, finances, economy — I found no end to it. I had to complete and submit my assignment in 3–4 days and I was stuck with ‘market risks and economical jargon’! Of course you can’t learn everything about economics and finance in three days but I tried to!

More than design, I was focusing on economics. My focus shifted. I didn’t think about that user who might come to this app with a clueless mind, I rather became a user who knew a bit about everything and had so many questions in his mind! This not only made me confused as hell, but it also diverted me from the real task — the design.

I am a Bauhaus fan and as a UX Designer, I have always stressed upon this fact that functionality is always over form — that visuals come later, fundamentals and architecture comes first, and simplicity rocks! And that is what I learnt the hard way! I learnt it by completely losing Microsoft, although that was a golden opportunity that knocked on my door when I wanted it the most! And that became —

MISTAKE 4 — Focusing too much on beautifying the app, that the main architecture was a blunder. I was ready with my assignment, and I thought it looked great, it was beautiful, appealing, the icons were all colourful and 360 degrees different from what a boring financial app was expected to be! But when it came to the functionality, it was nothing short of a disaster! The simple questions like — how would the user come back to the home page from here, backfired. My information architecture had so many mistakes that I couldn’t even count them! Not only this, the app was complex as HELL!

If someone asks me today to use an app like that — I would throw away my mobile phone and go to the forest to restart my life!

And lastly — The application had EVERYTHING.

That was the biggest and —

MISTAKE 5 — Putting everything into any design or an app is always a bad idea. And that was when I learnt it! My FinTech app did everything, from mutual funds to smart deposits, to systematic investment plans to calls and puts, from share market evaluation to charts of various shares, from SEBI’s investment book to various articles and resource material on economics — you could find everything there. Every. Single. Damn. Thing. It was so complicated that while explaining it to the lead designer, even I got confused about what a particular feature did, and how another feature functioned! What could be the worst first-impression of a UX Designer than someone who can’t understand how her own app works?

The result was out within a couple of hours, but I was 100% sure that I would not get in, and the same thing happened.

That was when I finally felt RELIEVED and HAPPY and FREE!

If my interview had went well and I would’ve gotten into Microsoft, “maybe” I wouldn’t have had the chance to embrace my mistakes, learn and correct myself, because I would have come under more pressure of performing with people who were much senior than me, more experienced than me, and (as I would have thought) — better than me!

But, I believe that a rejection is more important than an acceptance, because it makes you value that acceptance in life, and it keeps you humble, grounded and hard-working.

But after that big blunder and a disastrous interview, I learnt so many things that finally almost one year down the line, I also found courage to share my story with all of you here, and tell you about my mistakes so that maybe, someone who needs that motivation right now, someone who has faced so much rejection recently, can understand and get inspired from it. If I had my designs from that assignment, I would have put them here as well for you all to see, but I don’t have them with me anymore, as I deleted them all.

But I do have that assignment that I wish to complete some day, and with a fresh mindset and thought process. The reason why I deleted the assignment was that I did not want to carry forward even a single speck from what I made — not because I was ashamed of it or something, but because when you make something, somewhere down the line you always try to ‘defend’ it saying that this part is right, or this is fine because you thought a certain way about it and the other person might not have that mindset. Not for once, did I think that defending that crap is justifiable under any circumstances, hence I thought that deleting it would be the right thing to do.

Even though Microsoft did not accept me a year back, I never lost hope. Because, I realized that more than the failure itself, it is the fear of failure that kills you inside!

I improved myself, worked upon every single thing that was wrong or that I lacked, and I got a chance to polish my skills in a small Healthcare Start-up in Pune (Maharashtra), India, where I was working as one of the two UX Designers that the company had. And when you are working in such a small team, you learn so much! For next six months, my life was nothing but a never ending circle of end-to-end wireframing, designing, execution and overseeing production of all the digital products that my company was building and even testing the products on various devices to see if the designs were perfect and to see if there were any responsiveness issues. All in all I learnt much more than I could have in a bigger company – that’s something I can say for sure!

And today, I can say that yes, I have improved a lot as a UX Designer, and as a thinker. When you are calm, your thought process is very much streamlined, but when you’re nervous, you think about everything and anything. And more than anything else, it was anxiety and nervousness, and fear of failure that ruined my interview with Microsoft.

But did that kill me? No. I am going strong, and towards a direction that I had always dreamed of. Working as a UX Designer was always MORE IMPORTANT than any company, brand or name. But when Microsoft came in, I was heavily distracted and only thought about the stature and brand name. I forgot that at the end of the day, I would still remain a UX Designer. I would still make sketches, wireframes and high-fidelity prototypes, doesn’t matter if I am working with Microsoft or any other company.

I should always feel blessed and lucky that I am doing the job I love to do, and I have never (not for a day) felt stuck or bored at my work place, because I feel that I have a lot to learn every day!

That’s all folks, that was the story I had to share with you all some day, and I am glad I did! Let’s share more stories of rejections and failures, and learn from each other’s mistakes, and meanwhile, let’s make this community more awesome! 😎

Author: Mehek Bassi

Collect by: uxfree.com

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