Podcast Transcript – Matthew T. Rader

Today’s podcast features an interview with UNT alumni Matthew T. Rader. We asked him a few questions related to his program and to talk a little bit about his postgraduation career path. We hope you’ll stay tuned.

My name is Matthew T. Rader. I graduated with a MA in interaction design from UNT, their Frisco campus in December of 2019. My current job title is Product Designer at Skillful, which is a small startup in Plano, Texas.

When you started at UNT, what were your plans for after graduation? Have these plans changed, if at all?

When I started my plans after graduation was to just become a full line up designer. I wanted to move beyond just designing websites and coding and building websites. And I knew to instead of just waiting years of incremental growth within a company, if I went and got a master’s degree, that would help jumpstart that career pivot. And so I enrolled at UNT, took the course and graduated that pivot real smoothly, thankfully. And I was able to have a strong portfolio of strong knowledge to move right into the career I wanted to be in, which is now product designer.

And it’s been a great experience so far.

What advice do you have for current students as they decide their next steps after graduation?

My advice for prospective students is when you are figuring out what your next steps are, figure out where you want to go in the long run and just have to be real specific. In my mind, it was I am going to do a really cool job where I get to design stuff. And it wasn’t even I don’t know exactly what that look like because I knew that I started seeing jobs and opportunities at my job, you know, not really to my exact goal. It’s hard to get to design something and get to get feedback just in a project that started seizing every opportunity.

I could be creative to learn how to advance in projects we’re working on and also taking jobs that weren’t always in line with what I wanted to be. But those jobs had aspects to them that I was able to learn from, to continue to enhance my creativity, expanding my thinking and understanding of the business and products and how they impact people in a lot of those were just small steps in a journey. I learned to zigzag back and forth, up and down.

I was fast or slow. It was all that still ended up getting me to I wanted to be right now, which I’m really grateful for, and just be gracious to yourself and be open to letting things twist and turn and acted discouraged by that and just keep working incrementally towards your goal.

How did your program at UNT help you feel prepared for this role? In my program at UNT which I actually took at their Frisco campus.

It fully prepared me for as role. Prior to enrolling in my master’s degree and starting it, I had a little bit more simplistic view of design, I knew design and I knew it impacted people, I knew user experience was important and I knew the technology behind it as the developer. But what I really didn’t understand is a lot of like the psychology aspect of it, the business side of things, the business justification for the designs in that program in the research part of it that was another part.

So enrolling in that program really exposed me to all of that. It helped me understand how all the technology, design, business, research, psychology, people, how intertwined in no product exists without any of those. And so studying and researching in an amazing class. Mike, Keith and Troy really prepared me for this world in a way. I see other people who’ve never studied UX or got a Master’s Degree in it. Don’t really know don’t really seem to really understand the depth of that of that aspect of creating products.

And also then I would say the most important was communication. In that degree I learned to communicate design to people to receive criticism without it hurting my feelings or bothering me to get criticism in a way that was respectful and helpful. And that is like every day in my job, every day people are criticizing the designs and giving feedback, giving ideas, people are shoot down my ideas. People are embracing my ideas. I have learned to shoot down even my boss’s ideas. Sometimes they have their ideas or how to do that in a way that they’re willing to listen and trust me.

And I learned so much of that in that degree and which is extremely powerful and amazing. And I really appreciate that. How did you find your current role? Well, this is actually really interesting, I have a specific methodology that I look for jobs and it’s it’s unique for most people I have heard and how they look for jobs. I cast a massive wide net. So I’ll when I’m looking for a job, I apply to 50 to 100 jobs within a short amount of time.

And because I know most company, most companies use these resume scanners and if you don’t have the exact verbiage to write, they won’t even look at your resume. So it’s a numbers game. You are numbers to them. So I make them a number to me. And so I may apply to all these companies and really focus on very established job boards, primarily LinkedIn, Indeed and Zip recruiter. And after I stop, the calls are coming in, emails are coming in, interviews start happening.

And just last roll, last job search I had, which is about four months ago, I ended up getting three offers for jobs on the same day. And I got to talk about the money. Got more money. I got to do more what I wanted to do, it was just a really cool. Method has really worked out well for me. I’ve been offered several jobs in the past. What was the toughest question you have been asked during an interview?

One of the hardest questions I was asked was in an interview was recently actually during this recent job search. And the CEO of a company asked me what makes me qualified to design software for people who are not in the same demographic. And this was a company who makes software for people that were for 15, 20 years younger than me and mainly women were their audience. And the question took me back for a second, I had to really think about it. That was a really good challenging question. And when I came back to what I was taught as an UNT, my master’s degree was

really, I don’t know, even my own demographic I don’t know that well, right I can make assumptions, the assumptions can be wrong and assumptions are wrong with any demographic. And so what I learned in my research methodology is you get to know them, you research your demographic, you sit down with them, you listen to them, you listen to their needs. What is helpful for them? What do they understand? You prototype. Bring it to them, let them test it, let them see them use it and see what makes sense to them. You keep tweaking the product until they like it and they can use it.

And that goes for any demographic in any group of people. And so that getting answer is actually really impressive. They liked it a lot. And it was one of the companies that ended up giving me an offer but I didn’t take that offer though.

How has the career center helped you? I saw an email from UNT or something about the career center. It mentioned that they do resume reviews. And I thought to myself, I really think I should take advantage of this while I’m here. And fortunately, they had it right there on the UNT Frisco campus right by my classrooms.  One day I went early, I emailed her to schedule a time. And I went before class and I met with Amy Hicks, who was extremely helpful. She was a great listener.

She went through all my resume, she helped me to strengthen some of the verbiage, the organization of it. And I think she was very influential in making my resume more attractive and impactful to potential hiring managers.

Do you have any extra advice to share? One of the things my experiences, I learned, I would say my degree helped me with this, and a lot of on the job experience was being a product designer, I thought I had to be the guy with all the ideas that people were looking to me to solve all the problems. And yes people do look to you to solve the problem. But I learned that everyone has great ideas to solve product problems or business problems or any kind of problem that we encounter every day.

And so what I learned was, rather than making sure my ideas are heard, I made sure to make sure I hear everyone else’s ideas and also learned that sometimes people might not have the greatest idea, but I’ll listen to it and use that as a springboard for my ideas. So they feel heard. They’re more open to listening to my ideas because listened to them and I connected it to their idea. And it made them feel like their idea inspired me my idea. And something actually did happen, other ideas have inspired my career ideas.

And that opens people up a trust to a lot. So I started to see myself more as a facilitator of good ideas rather than the sole generator of good ideas. And. And that goes for anyone in the company, from leadership to your boss to someone below you, someone that is your peers, your fellow coworkers at all, it works the same everyone responds the same. And so I think it’s a way to really become like a leader in the product design world or any job world that you have.

You can that’s how you lead is people go to you for their ideas because they know you will listen and then you will consider it and see how you can implement it and you will start to see people come to you more and more and more thats a very organic way to build yourself into a leader and my experience and education, I learned how to do that well.