Creativity and curiosity have been integral traits in Alexis Foster’s (’12) life and career, and definitely played a role in her becoming a senior product designer and content strategist for the Disney+ and Hulu. Her work in the field of user experience (UX) design, including her previous position as a lead content designer at Paypal and Venmo, resulted in her being one of the 2023 Volunteer 40 Under 40.
For Foster, finding her way into her current field of work wasn’t a straight line. Even while she was at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, she remained undecided about what she would do for quite some time. As a Knoxville native, Foster wasn’t sure she would get the full college experience if she attended UT, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that wasn’t the case.
“The professors and a lot of the people I met at UT encouraged me to intern and they said, you don’t have to figure it out, this is the time to experience all of it,” she said. “You don’t have to go away to get a sense of growth and development, you can get it at UT, but you have to stay active. I was active in a lot of groups. I was also in a sorority, and we did a lot of community service, and those are people that I still connect with even with being out in LA.”
As Foster gained a variety of experiences in college, her vision of the big things she wanted to do continued to evolve. She was encouraged by Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations Professor Mariea Hoy to apply for the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program, which she did, and was placed in New York City; the internship allowed her to experience big city life and work for the first time and learn more about what her future could look like. After that, she moved to Atlanta in social media and then discovered UX design.
Foster underwent a certification program in UX design and began pursuing her career in the field, eventually finding her specialty in content design. Content design combines a lot of the skills she gained through her classes at the College of Communication and Information with what she learned through her certification program (which, Foster was thrilled to learn CCI now offers a major in UX design). She said content design focuses on partnering with various stakeholders on a project, such as product managers, analytics specialists, and UX designers to ensure business goals align with customer goals, and to make a product very customer-centric.
“It’s such a niche practice but it’s growing, and because I have such diverse writing experience, I don’t want to let that go. I want to partner with the designers and the product managers and also do the content strategy and writing piece. It is very similar to our public relations curriculum, and that’s what I liked about it,” she said.
Foster loves that her job allows her to flex her creative side along with collaborating and problem solving. For a while, her family didn’t quite get what she was doing, but once she started working for the Disney streaming portfolio—which means working horizontally on Disney+, Hulu, and Star+—it started to click. She also said that getting the Volunteer 40 Under 40 honor was really significant because, even though it’s a nascent field of work, it’s an important one.
“I was really happy to get this award; my family is full of doctors and engineers and I’ve always been this creative and this artist, so I’m really happy to find this career in user experience design and content strategy and get an award and show my parents that I made it. Now I work for Disney and it’s something recognizable and they’ll send me screenshots and say, ‘Do you work on this?’ So it’s nice to put a face on that and get recognition and that stamp of approval from UT,” Foster said.
While she’s happy in her field and position, Foster looks back at her education and career trajectory and knows that the future could hold many new creative endeavors for her.
“If I had to give any advice to any current students in the college, I’d say to stay curious, there’s so many opportunities within the college. You can really make your specialty and watch your career grow. Stay true to you and what you enjoy and let that curiosity lead you on. People make it sound like you have to choose a major and stick with that, but that’s not true, you can experiment and grow—even five years out or 10 years out. That fluidity is your superpower. I felt that fluidity meant I was confused or maybe unsure, and now it’s how I’ve built a career,” Foster said.