From Artist to UI Designer with Ironhack Berlin

Hear from Ironhack Berlin alum, Amr Alhayek, on his transformation from artist to UI designer

Our students come from all over the world, united in two things. First, their love of tech. Second, their desire to chase the job of their dreams and build a life they love.

We got to chat with recent graduate, Amr Hayek, who graduated from Ironhack's UX/UI bootcamp in 2021 and is now a designer at Icon Incar. He talked to us about his experience as an Ironhacker, his love of art and design, and the incredible ways he overcame adversity when he immigrated to Germany from Syria.

About Amr

Amr Hayek is an artist and a User Interface designer with a lengthy background in graphic design. Studied Visual Communication at the Faculty of Fine Arts in the University of Damascus in 2010, born and raised in Damascus. Syria.

As an artist, had his first gallery showing “Surrealism” in 2018 in Berlin, experimenting with both digital art and photography in 7 pieces. Carrying a deep love for psychology and philosophy, he immigrated to Germany 11 years ago due to the ongoing war in Syria.

The Journey from Artist to UI Designer with Ironhack Berlin

What encouraged you to apply for a UX/UI bootcamp with Ironhack?

Having a lengthy background in art and graphic design I wanted to level up by taking the next step and entering the world of tech. I have a big love for psychology and while researching which career path I wanted to take for the coming years, I found out that UX/UI is the future. I’m personally passionate about it as it combines both Visual and Psychological aspects.

With some more research I found out about Ironhack, and I was able to get a feel of the experience there via the website and some photos within the website. As a person who cares about visuals I can say that I had a fantastic experience on Ironhack’s website in both user experience and user interface, the color choices were fantastic and the functions on the website kept me engaged and I was like, this is where I want to be.

What was your experience like?

A 10/10 experience. From day 1 until the end, our coaches Milan Vukelic, Mariana Schmidt, and Rafael Borges, all of them were extremely passionate and friendly and gave their absolute best. I love them so much. One of the most incredible things to see is how we had students from different backgrounds, some who had nothing to do with design before, and how they all grew and were able to create some amazing projects!

Did you enjoy being part of the community?

I absolutely did enjoy it. During the pandemic I didn't get the chance to go to the campus, but during the graduation ceremony I did, and it was incredible to meet all the stars in person. It felt like a big family.

What is it about UX/UI that you love the most?

Psychology and visuals and how they alter each other. The impact of color on the user in both behavior and choices, and the impact of the psychology behind creating a path for the user which will lead him to reach what they want, but with a little twist that can be in the benefit of both the user and the operator.

You’ve recently started a new job as a UI Designer at icon incar. Congratulations! How do you feel?

Thank you! I feel extremely proud and happy, the feeling of 'I made it' after creating a long-term plan and being devoted to achieving what I want and overcoming challenges along the way.

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You've spoken about your experience of leaving Syria to escape the war 11 years ago. How did that impact the trajectory of your life?

I was 22 when I left. It has impacted me on so many levels, both physically and psychologically. A traumatizing experience on so many levels.

At first I thought, Syria is a very safe and boring country nothing will ever happen. I never thought that I would be going by sea on a boat of 7 meters with 32 people on it, in the sea for 7 hours, in the middle of nowhere and no one knows where we are heading, under the mercy of death itself. Everything in me was broken, not knowing if I would ever see my mom again and more.

Long story short, I survived that, and there were even more traumatic experiences in the woods afterwards, for 3 years until I arrived in Germany. I never thought as a student of Fine Arts that I would end up in such situations, a prisoner in Greece, Albania, and Macedonia.

I survived all of this with scars on my mental health, but it made me realize how short life is and how things can change dramatically in a matter of seconds. Despite all that I became even stronger, more believing in myself and no matter how tough things could get I know I will survive and reach exactly what I want in life, no matter how much it will take. It made me discover how to touch the warrior in me, believe in him and to embrace him.

You’ve overcome incredible adversity, which takes a lot of mental strength. How have you managed your mental health to get to where you are today?

There’s no special recipe here. Living in Syria where power and corruption thrive, and going through tough childhood memories, taught me that there is no chance of breaking down because if you do, you’re doomed. It felt like I was in a survival mode since day 1, and I think my mental toughness came from knowing at a very young age that I will need to protect my mother and my sisters from society and my father. I simply found myself in a position where I’m destined to be.

What projects/services/initiatives would you like to see from the tech industry, to help refugees break into their dream careers?

I think the tech industry is already providing enough by simply being neutral to politics. Entering the Tech industry in my opinion should be not be influenced but rather be a choice, and in 2022 it’s more desired than ever, there are already tons of videos and articles. All it needs is someone to make a choice and make use of these instruments.

Finally, for anyone struggling to break into Design, what advice do you have?

Without getting there, taking the risk, and experiencing there will never be clarity about whether this is good for the person struggling to break into design or not. There are many interesting paths in design, from Coding to UX/UI.

My advice is lengthy research that takes weeks or a month, writing down what they’re skilled at, their likes and dislikes, and what people compliment them on frequently, like 'you’re caring, you've got good taste in colors, you are able to analyze and make sense of things, you’re a peacemaker and able to keep cool in tough situations'.

All of this can give a hint about what you’re capable of doing, especially when comes from people because we tend to doubt ourselves a lot as human beings. Therefore when it’s a frequent compliment from someone this means that it’s a solid fact, and that’s all you need to bring to your awareness so you can take the next step in life and in career.

So yes, research and a lot of self-reflection on skills and abilities and most important of all is willing to go through the adventure and have the will.

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