Spotlight on Adrien Colombié, CareerFoundry UX Design mentor and passionate freelance UX designer.

From founding a non-profit creative startup to publishing his own UX articles, we find out why Adrien believes UX design is re-shaping the way we see the world, and why we really need to put the user at the heart of everything we do.

Adrien Colombié’s pathway into UX came about very naturally. A young man during the digital revolution, Adrien found himself inspired by the many interactive possibilities the digital world had to offer. Although there was never a Eureka moment for Adrien, a moment when he suddenly knew “a career in UX is for me”, over time he became interested in how to connect online with offline, and people with computers in an enjoyable and intuitive way. He was further attracted to the industry by the creative and fulfilling nature of the UX design role, the added bonus being that working as a UX designer would allow him to do so in a fun and creative way!

For the last six months, Adrien has been a prized member of our mentoring team. He is currently working alongside four of our UX design students while dividing his time between Paris, New York and Montreal. Despite his extensive globetrotting Adrien’s dedication to mentoring students in numerous timezones is almost unparalleled. And there’s more. Not content with simply mentoring CareerFoundry students Adrien has a number of side projects which keep him busy the rest of the time. He is the founder of Creatives Without Borders and has a professional life that involves conceptualising for advertising agencies (working with prestigious names such as Publicis Barcelona, Fred & Farid Paris and Mother New York) and consulting on UX/UI for a variety of tech startups.

We all know, CareerFoundry students and mentors included, that changing careers is a daunting prospect to say the least, but Adrien’s attitude is to not only embrace the change but to celebrate it. Adrien’s own location changes every 6 months and it’s a mentality he’s adopted in his work life too. He strongly believes it is important to adapt to the market, have fun on every project and always follow your gut instinct. Success will inevitably follow!

Despite his own rather chaotic approach to the idea of ‘home’, the very reason Adrien is able to continue with his nomadic lifestyle is due to the stability of the UX industry: “UX Design has always been here and will always be here, period.” Adrien tells us with confidence. This confidence comes down to the fact that regardless of where you are in the world there will be interaction and communication, so UX will always be needed.

Adrien’s substantial travel experience has given him the chance to work with a variety of organizations of differing sizes and resources, from corporate businesses, startups, agencies and as a freelancer. Each one has its own challenges, but Adrien believes that working for a wide variety of firms and employers forces you to stay on your toes as you quickly learn to adapt to new situations.

“There is something huge happening and we’ve just begun to discover it. It feels like we are living an historic period in time, and it’s exciting!”

The challenges that come with working for different clients mean that you learn your limitations, something Adrien knows well. “You need to create constraints around yourself to generate creativity” he told us. In school, being given briefs that were too open-ended and creative could sometimes make things frustrating - with too many ideas and never enough time. The same can be said for real life and UX; the real freedom that comes with UX is deciding what you cannot do and working around it.

“Learning UX is also learning to actually listen to people, to observe and decrypt their behavior, and developing a true interest for humans”.

Adrien is excited to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of UX designers in his role as mentor for CareerFoundry, but what was it that motivated him to become a mentor in the first place? Having struggled personally in the past to find resources and knowledge on how to code and computing, he now wants to help people who are in the same boat he was. Having coached his four CareerFoundry students over the last few months he had this to say: “I greatly appreciate CareerFoundry; they allow you to build a very strong foundation, frame it to your knowledge and help you grow and implement it in your professional life without leaving any gaps in your autodidact education”.

It has been often said that the best way to learn something is by teaching it yourself. Mentoring is something that structures and solidifies a UX Designer’s existing knowledge, something Adrien certainly agrees with. His own knowledge has only strengthened and grown the longer he has worked with CareerFoundry students. Helping people is also a very fulfilling experience. He told us the most rewarding aspect of mentoring for him is engaging in a Skype session and having the student explain how learning UX Design is changing the way they see the world. It’s an inspiring process for both student and mentor and keeps the mentor’s knowledge and interest in the subject fresh. Adrien notes that “Learning UX is also learning to actually listen to people, to observe and decrypt their behavior, and developing a true interest for humans”.

What aspiring UX Designers can learn from this is to always be looking closely at the world around them - this means that working less on the computer, although paradoxical, can be revelatory. Adrien’s experience has meant that he has learned to distance himself from his mouse and keyboard and to go out into the world: “ UX inspiration is everywhere, in the street, the shops, restaurants and parks, you must look at people behaving and interacting with the world”. This interaction can then be reproduced online by understanding how people behave intuitively in a digital environment.

CareerFoundry believes that there’s never been a more exciting time to get involved in the tech industry, and looking to the future Adrien is most enthusiastic about “Uberization”. This is a word frequently used when speaking of the global success seen by the transportation network company Uber. Uber’s trajectory is not only startling, Adrien believes it is possibly yielding “the beginning of an economic revolution like the creation of the internet or even, prior to that, with industrialization”.

These key players in the tech industry have lead Adrien to create his own personal project, Creatives Without Borders, a platform that offers pro-bono projects to those in the creative industries. Launching in 2015 this site connects designers, thinkers and doers with non-profits in need of expertise. Adrien explained to us the ethos behind the company:

“We realized that on the one hand most nonprofits don’t have the creative resources needed to promote their work, and on the other hand creative people struggle to find meaningful projects and receive poor recognition for everyday jobs”. Values that CareerFoundry can firmly stand behind.

If you would like to find out more about Adrien and his passion for User Experience please check out his articles on UX Design.

Adrien’s story is the first of many mentor spotlights we will be publishing on the CareerFoundry blog. Our next story will cover the career of a very special Web Development mentor - we can’t wait to share their story with you!