An Unconventional Path

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Welcome to insights and stories from our wonderful UXPA Community! This new blog series is dedicated to showcasing our members and interesting UX topics. Our goal is to bring together various viewpoints from fellow UXers all over the globe. If you’d like to participate, please email

"The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one's life."

Life’s journey is a tapestry woven with unexpected challenges that shape our paths, and as C.S. Lewis eloquently noted, “what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”

My journey into User Experience (UX) took place along an unconventional path that harnessed the challenges and unfolding of life. Along the way, I met mentors who pointed out signposts and helped me navigate a career change, and I embraced a wider lens to see the needs of others.

Harnessing the Challenges and Unfolding of Life

My childhood centered around our family’s downtown furniture store. The showrooms fueled my imagination. As a bonus, the third story was mainly storage. Bathed in light from the large windows, I could blissfully ride my bike on the old creaky, wood floors.

However, upheaval struck when the business failed, and my father passed away suddenly at the young age of 47, cloaking my formative years in vulnerability and uncertainty. These events dramatically changed the lens through which I viewed the world, and fostered a deep sense of empathy for the human condition and the diverse personal narratives we all carry.

Life continued. I advanced through high school, college, and graduate school. I embarked on a two-decade career in education, teaching art history and studio art across diverse ages, settings, and formats. At my core, I am an artist. I fueled my restless desire to create and grow through teaching. I married my husband and best friend and raised my boys whom I affectionately call my “Renaissance Men.”

Interruptions were the threads weaving my unique story together. Reflecting on my journey, I see these early challenges as the foundation of my deep empathy and respect for others.

Seeking Mentors that Served as Signposts Along the Way

As my children near the end of their time at home, I desire to embark on a new journey to leverage my gifts and talents. How would I use this next season of life? I took a break from education and did something completely different. I spent the next few years working at Trader Joe’s as a lead sign artist. A sign artist creates all signage and visual displays in whatever medium that is needed. Working as a sign artist provided valuable insights into skill translation. I drew daily upon my career in education and the arts and applied that knowledge in this fluid, fast-paced environment.

The artist in me values feedback, recognizing mentors as invaluable resources for that information. In a twist of fate, seeking a mentor for my son introduced me to the field of UX. UX seemed like a perfect match for my creativity involving people and innovative problem-solving. I passionately completed Google’s UX Design program. I sought wisdom from others, some dedicating hours, others exchanging quick emails. The mentors varied in age and experience. I reached out to anyone willing to share insights, learning something valuable from each encounter.

One such beacon was UXPA member Sogra Nishath. Sogra not only shared her expertise through the powerful medium of storytelling, she shared with honesty, directness, and a delightful sense of humor. One gem she offered resonates profoundly, 

“Take advice and feedback, but don’t change your heart. Be authentic, and don’t change who you are.”

Venturing into UX marked a significant change from my years in education. Mentors were vital to this process of transition.

Embracing a Wider Lens

Communication is hard. In our post-COVID world, many generations work side by side, creating a rich mosaic of perspectives and, inevitably, miscommunication. David Brooks in How to Know a Person (2023), discusses how we perceive the world not as it is but as it is for us (p. 120). We each see the world differently!

This thinking was evident in my UX/UI and web development project with StrongerLife, a fitness program for those aged 55 plus. The owners, both younger than their target audience, are trained Doctors of Physical Therapy with expertise in active aging. Dustin Jones, a co-founder, sought help to redesign the company website. Dustin said, “I am not the user. My likes and dislikes aesthetically are not what is important. How can I most effectively communicate with our user?” Committed to clear communication, Dustin knew he needed help to see the world through the eyes of his users.

Leading StrongerLife through the design process, my past experiences of story gathering and storytelling naturally transitioned into my new role. I immersed myself in StrongerLife’s culture by attending class and fellowshipping after class. Conducting user interviews and usability tests was a joy. I danced fluidly between the necessary conceptual and practical steps. I embraced feedback and iteration. I designed – not based on my aesthetics or the stakeholders’, but to utilize design to speak to the user authentically in their voice. I also presented as the “teacher” on generational design to the team.

Dustin said,

“Over the years, we’ve enlisted the services of several marketing companies and individuals, and while they could produce aesthetically pleasing designs, it was Meg’s commitment to user research and her genuine passion that truly set her apart. Through her unbiased understanding of our users, she skillfully crafted a design that authentically speaks to our audience — a rare talent that not many possess.”

David Epstein in Range (2019), emphasizes that when we fail to step outside our familiar domains, we risk becoming isolated in our thinking. Epstein asserts,

“Breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer. That is, the more contexts in which something is learned, the more the learner creates abstract models, and the less they rely on any particular example. Learners become better at applying their knowledge to a situation they’ve never seen before, which is the essence of creativity” (pg. 76-77).

When we live fully, we develop superpowers unique to our story that allow us to fluidly move between disciplines and situations and find innovative solutions.

In Summary

As someone new to the realm of User Experience, this is what I have observed so far. It involves harnessing your story to embrace the changes that come your way and utilizing these ‘interruptions’ to cultivate empathy and develop your gifts and talents.

It involves seeking wisdom from those around you to learn and grow. Illuminate and take time to invest in others, even if you feel too busy or inadequate. Mentors are invaluable as signposts for others on their journey.

Lastly, it is about widening your lens and being focused on others. Good UX is not about you. Good design takes the voice our our user’s narrative. Invest in others, and you will see more clearly.

May you embrace your journey and its transformative power.

Margaret Swayze (Photo)

Margaret Swayze

About Meg

Meg Swayze is a lover of people, stories, and win-win solutions. She has spent a lifetime painting commissioned works of art for her patrons. Meg is a fine arts tenured educator with two decades of experience teaching art history and studio art. Her next adventure was five years of creatively delighting her users as a Trader Joe’s sign artist.

Meg is a passionate, insatiably curious, and driven freelance User Experience (UX) Researcher & Designer, User Interface (UI) Designer, and Web Developer working with clients in health and fitness, mental health, education, and nonprofits.

She is a bridge builder specializing in crafting user-centric pathways that communicate effectively the heart and soul, value proposition, and goals of the stakeholder and authentically resonate, motivate, and delight the users!

BA Art; MA Gallery Studies; MFA Visual Arts Painting; Google UX Certificate Coursera; Google Data Analytics Coursera (April 2024)


Brooks, D. (2023). How to know a person: The art of seeing others deeply and being deeply seen. United States: Random House Publishing Group.

Epstein, D. (2019). Range: Why generalists triumph in a specialized world. Italy: Penguin Publishing Group.

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Margaret Swayze (Photo)
Margaret Swayze
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