Things That Make Hiring Managers Stop For A Glance

A few years ago, I became a judge at several international design awards.

One time, I was asked to judge over 1,600 entries at a huge award — in the span of a week!

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Photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash

Judging awards is usually a voluntary, non-paid activity experienced designers do as a service to the community and a way for us to discover new inspirations.

Judges at awards are very similar to hiring managers in companies.

We both determine the outcomes of candidates or entrants.

In the award world, it is a matter of winning or losing. …


Are you applying to “product visual UI/UX designer with kickass front-end skills”?

“Maybe this is a stupid question, but what is the difference between a Product Designer and a UX Designer?”

Every few days, I hear different students of mine ask a variation of the same question.

I was going to write an article to explain all of these confusing job titles, as I do know what they mean — generally speaking.

A woman biting a pencil looking frustrated in front of a laptop
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Having been in the design industry for the past decade, I had my fair share of “rip my hair out” moments when I submitted hundreds of job applications, hoping to land the one.

It was not because I studied so…


When creative education turned into assembly lines

These days, it seems like every other friend’s boyfriend’s colleague’s cousins want to become a UI/UX designer.

As a designer and educator that opened up a design school recently, I should be thrilled, right?

Not so fast.

A designer is working in front of the computer
Photo by ruben daems on Unsplash

When I decided to become an entrepreneur in my own industry, I became drawn to the education side of it accidentally.

I was looking to improve my public speaking skills for conferences and teaching was recommended to me as a way to practice speaking in public while getting paid for it.

Through introductions, I became an adjunct professor at several universities, an instructor…


My Desire For Control Almost Ruined Everything

Yesterday, I finally launched the first product of my almost 2-year-old creative education startup, Path Unbound.

As recent as a month or so ago, I was thinking of giving up and moving on to something else.

While I am relieved that it is finally going somewhere, there are so many lessons I learned in the past year that I wish I had known earlier.

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Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

The Curse Of “Do It All”

A while ago, I started to teach design as a way to improve my public speaking skills. That’s when I had the idea to start my own design school.


Culture shocks can sometimes last for over a decade

In the summer of 2008, I hopped on a plane for the first time in my life and landed in the U.S. sixteen hours later.

It was the beginning of an era. Like they said, I had my whole life in front of me.

Almost 13 years later, I’m still here.

Immigrants holding signs that said “Immigrants make America great”.
Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Reflecting back on my experience from a cultural perspective, I realized so much has changed.

Many people I met here have commented on how “American” I sound and feel. Personally, I admit that I feel the same way.

I have…


And I am paying it forward.

A person opening a book with pages in yellow showing beautiful typography

In the winter of 2012, I moved back to China for my first television job after completing my undergraduate studies in the US. That same winter was when I realized I made a horrible career mistake — I hated what I did.

Having majored in media production in college, I had always dreamed of getting into the film industry. If television didn’t work out, film seemed like a good alternative, or even better, a step-up.

With that in mind, I thought there was no better place to be than Hollywood. That’s when I started to plan a comeback to America.


America’s lack of universal healthcare isn’t the roadblock to entrepreneurship

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Photo: Noah Buscher/Unsplash

When I prepared to quit my full-time job, I was most concerned about what to do with my health insurance and all the supposedly great corporate benefits.

Like many others, I’ve heard horror stories about how expensive it is to get individual health insurance if you aren’t eligible to get on the plan of a family member or a spouse.

When you are newly self-employed, the last thing you want is a big medical bill that will bankrupt your savings account while you live on inconsistent income streams.

Then flashbacks from when I decided to purchase my first home back…


The secrets to getting your work noticed isn’t always the obvious.

After working “in the field” as a visual designer for almost a decade, I started teaching design in college and vocational schools. The number one question I always get from students is — how do I build my portfolio (so I can get a job)?

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Mobile view of stellaguan.com

I was tempted to give them the generic answers. You know, do great work; put them up on a website; design the layout nicely; write well thought-out case studies; create attractive thumbnails; add some interactivity and animation, so on and so forth.

I still give these advice to students. After all, they are the basics…


Yet somehow I’ve reached none of the goals I’ve set for myself

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In January of 2020, right before the global pandemic, I quit my corporate job for good. In less than 12 months, I have doubled my 6-figure salary by freelancing.

Before you roll your eyes and think this is another bragging article, let me tell you about my original plan and how horribly far I’ve strayed from it.

Corporate Burned-Out Turned Wannabe Entrepreneur

A few years ago, I started having the idea of building my own business, but I had no idea what I can sell. …


A view of the living room in my New Jersey condo

When I was in my mid-twenties, my living situation became frustrating. I had been living in an apartment in Queens, New York with a roommate and renting out our living room to lower our expenses.

After several horrific roommate incidents, including one that involved our living room subtenant almost burning down the apartment, I began to question my co-living situation.

I felt that it was time to move on. As to where, I had no idea.

One day, as I was talking to my mother on the phone. She asked me if I had thought about buying my first home.

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