After serving for five years in the US Navy, Josh Abenojar decided it was time for his next adventure. He'd been in charge of combat systems onboard Navy ships, overseeing the ship’s navigation, weapon and tracking systems. If anything broke down or required maintenance, he’d be the one to coordinate everything.
While military folk are known to adhere to strict schedules, Josh grew wary of living full-time in his work environment while on deployments at sea. His decision to pursue UX design didn’t come out of the blue. While an undergrad at the University of Washington, he initially wanted to major in human-centered design engineering, but when he didn’t get into the program, he chose a physics major instead.
Now, he has achieved his initial goal and recently landed a role at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton as a senior consultant in user experience design, where he works on government contracts. He’s currently working on a military intelligence project where he gets to leverage his military background. As a father to two toddlers, Josh loves that he now gets to work remotely and spend more time with his kids.
I served on the US Navy ships. It was a very fast-paced, high-stress environment because you’re what they call an “import.” You’re docked in a city and undergoing what’s called a maintenance phase to prepare for an upcoming deployment, so you’re working with stakeholders and contractors to get everything you need. Deployments can last anywhere from two weeks to several months. When you’re out at sea, the job is 24/7. You’re standing your watches, helping people, and doing what you can to fulfill the mission.
My frustrations started during my time in the Navy. The US Navy is the world's finest, but they still run on 1970s equipment and technology where it takes 5 to 10 minutes to power on a piece of equipment, or if you try to save a document, it shuts down on you and you have to redo the whole thing.
I did a lot of administrative work, so I needed these programs to function properly. These frustrations inspired my interest in simple, efficient design.
I’m a senior consultant in user experience design for Booz Allen Hamilton. My team gets hired on government contracts. We’re currently working on a military intelligence project. As a UX designer, my job is to take the data the UX researchers generate and turn it into tangible insights to present to our stakeholders.
Honestly, that was such a blessing. Now I get to work on projects where I can address the frustrations I experienced while I was in the Navy.
My mentor was Omar Sharif [lead product designer at Afar Media]. We had a really good relationship—more like a friendship than a mentorship. We would even chat about our day-to-day lives, our families and hobbies. He gave me a lot of insight on how to become a better UX designer from the perspective of someone who’s been in the field for years and years.
The importance of soft skills. A lot of bootcamps focus on hard skills—how to prototype, wireframe, and pass job interviews.
Omar showed me how important it is to be personable, to know how to break the ice, leverage a team, and present important information in a way that’s engaging and not robotic. I don’t think that’s something you would learn if you tried to study UX/UI design by watching YouTube videos or even going through a different bootcamp.
I created Tiny Tales, a reading application for kids. As the father of two toddlers, I read to my kids often. This project solved a problem I personally relate to and I can see myself working on it further because the world is moving towards reading on devices.
My approach was to help parents build a relationship with their kids through reading. The app is very child-friendly. It’s like picking cards out of a deck. The kids choose their preferred genre and then they can start selecting the books they want. The app curates book recommendations so you don’t end up scrolling aimlessly and you can have conversations with your kid about their book choices.
Absolutely. Of the 5.5 years I was in the Navy, I was physically away from my family for about 3.5 of those years. Also, by becoming a UX designer, I can share my passions with my kids because they see the artistic side of me that they haven’t seen before. Booz Allen Hamilton lets me work remotely, so I have all the time in the world now with my kids and I don’t think that would have been possible if I didn’t pursue UX/UI design.
If you suspect you’re in the wrong career, you probably are. I don’t regret joining the Navy, but a year in, I immediately knew this is not what I want to do for 20 years.
If you feel that way, take the leap. Use your time to learn what you want to learn. If you’ve already committed five years to learning how to do your current job, what’s another six months of learning something new? Springboard gives you a 9-month process. That’s time well-spent because you're putting your efforts, your emotions, and your blood, sweat, and tears into something that you believe in.