Making Money with your Adobe Skills: Julia Park, Boston University

by Maksim Starubinskiy

posted on 07-20-2018

Late in her college career, Julia Park abandoned the fine arts-painting track at Boston University in lieu of a graphic design major. Less than two years later, she was crushing a post-grad UX design program, and racking up enviable freelance jobs in the process. She gave us the scoop on how she did it. But first, there are two things you should know about Julia.

Thing number one: Julia is confident. And not in the cocky way that makes your eyes roll. She’s confident in an easygoing, matter-of-fact sort of way. She sees challenges that stop many people in their tracks as items on her to-do list, meant to be checked off efficiently before moving on to the next.

Thing number two: Julia is deeply kind. Born in Korea and raised between New Zealand and Southern California, Julia’s global upbringing has instilled a sense of empathy for others that radiates off her like a light.

Today, Julia has a full-time job doing user experience (UX)/user interface (UI) design for Philips in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And with all she’s accomplished, it’s exciting to think that she’s only just beginning. In our experience, kindness and confidence tend to take people really far.

How did you know that design was your future?

I’ve always been really passionate about painting, and I assumed that I’d get a fine arts degree. But when I got to Boston, I quickly realized the difference between painting for myself and painting academically. I’m the type of person who needs to love what I’m learning, and I was finding myself feeling pretty uninspired. I took a semester off to re-evaluate things, and during that time I started to explore the Adobe Suite. I came back to Boston with an interest in graphic design, and decided to go for it.

Taking a semester off is a bold move. What did that experience teach you?

My parents weren’t psyched about it at first, but in hindsight, we’re all so glad that I took the time. I went back to Korea, where I’m from originally, and taught English to kids while doing a lot of introspection. The space away from school was crucial to helping me come up with a new plan.

How did you discover your passion for UX design?

During undergrad I was required to take a web design course. With the projects I did in class, I got a job on campus creating a new user interface for the data services department. My supervisor did all the coding, and I did all the designing. I loved it, so after graduation I did a 10-week program focused on UX, and that’s when my career started to pick up some speed.

So how did you find your first client?

For our final project we were paired with a real client, and we worked as a team to bring an app to life for them. My project was with Skiff, a platform that pairs wedding photographers and videographers with new clients. The project went really well, and I ended up going back to Skiff as a freelancer after I finished my program.

How did you decide what to charge?

I tried to lean on the resources available to me to figure out my number. I did a ton of research online, and I bounced my findings off the career coaches at school. I started my negotiation at $50 an hour, which sounds like a lot, but after a few back-and-forths with the client, I ended up with an hourly rate I felt really good about.

You seem like kind of a design renaissance woman. Tell us how else you’ve made money with your Adobe skills.

I like to make travel videos for fun, so I taught myself how to use Adobe Premiere. A friend of mine works at a commercial real estate company, and referred me to edit videos that show off their properties. I estimated how long it would take me, and wrote a contract that included two edits and one final version. It’s been a great side hustle. I also did some UX design projects at an agency through a connection from a former classmate. The agency ended up offering me a full-time position, but I was fortunate to get an offer from Philips around the same time.

All the hard work paid off. Tell us more about how the opportunity at Philips came about.

The freelance work I did really helped build my portfolio with quality work, and helped me stand out to the recruiters at Philips. I created a profile on Handshake, which is a campus recruiting platform, and a recruiter from Philips reached out to me. A few interviews later I got the job. A lot of my projects are top secret, but most of my work is centered around UX/UI design for medical devices and the web applications that surround them. It’s a great use of the skills I’ve honed over the last four years, but, most importantly, I love that my work is making an impact. It feels good to know that I’m helping people.

What advice would you give current students looking to get their career rolling?

It’s true that the more you have in your portfolio, the more opportunity you’ll get. That can be a hard thing to do when you’re in school, so I think it’s important to show the thought process behind your work. Explain the problem and how you solved it with design, and your portfolio will stand out even more.

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud