Burnt out from his professional cycling career, Addison’s path was rerouted to DevPoint Labs’ two month UX Design bootcamp in Salt Lake City, UT. Always an avid fan of the Health industry, he decided to turn his sights to tech in order to solve a deep problem. Since his brother had the coding skills, he decided to learn UX design in order to start their healthcare platform. See how he’s balancing the entrepreneur life (working on his startup called allday) and excelling in his new remote UX designer role for lolo.
What was your educational or career background before you attended DevPoint Labs?
I graduated high school when I was 18, and I didn't go to college. I was on my path to becoming a professional cyclist. Luckily I had support from family, but I was totally burned out by age 20, and I didn't know what I was going to do with my career.
I always had a fascination with personal health and what constitutes it; that slowly started to develop more after I stopped cycling. I had wanted to create a business around health, and initially thought it could be a blog or a book, but I decided that software was really the only solution to fix a large scale problem in the world.
I officially moved to Salt Lake City, and my brother had enrolled in DevPoint Labs’ Full Stack Web Development bootcamp about one year before. Our ideas for this software health startup continued to grow and I attended DevPoint Labs in April 2016 with the intention to create this company with my brother. Since he knew software development, I decided to learn UX design to complement his skills.
Where did your motivation to learn UX Design originate?
Since my brother had the coding skills, I felt it would be more useful for me to learn UX design to start our business. I'm definitely more of an artistic-minded person. An artist’s and engineer's minds are very different mindsets. Nonetheless, you do have to understand both sides. One of my DevPoint Labs teachers told us that you don't have to understand how to mix paints if you're an artist, but you can definitely create substantially better art if you know how. The same principle applies to tech: you don't have to learn how to code in order to be a designer, but if you understand the basic principles and fundamentals, you'll design products with engineer in mind.
What made you choose DevPoint Labs to learn UX design?
Logistically, everything fell in place for DevPoint Labs. I only live a block away from the school and I wanted to stay in Salt Lake City because the tech scene here is really cool. I’ve reached out to some potential mentors and CEOs here in Salt Lake City and they are totally willing to give you some of their time. For instance, I specifically asked one mentor about recommendations for books on being a CEO, and he took the time to hyperlink out four books on Amazon - little things like that are meaningful. The network here is very supportive of the next generation, which is nice. That was the icing on the cake.
Tell us about the application process for DevPoint Labs. What was that like for you?
I’ll give you a little back story, my brother Christian went through DevPoint Labs and then became a Teaching Assistant, and later a full-time instructor at DevPoint. So my process was different because he could vouch that I was a good fit for the course. I sat down with Nhi, one of the co-founders, and we went over my motivations. A big thing for DevPoint Labs is that they want to accept people into their cohorts that are eager to learn.
Could you describe what your cohort was like? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, & career backgrounds?
We had four men and two women, but it wasn’t very racially diverse. Nonetheless, everyone’s job backgrounds were pretty diverse. One of my classmates was a graphic designer, one was a content strategist, and one was an account manager. One of the ladies had a fine arts background and another was a copywriter, and of course, my background was cycling. It was cool that everybody had different backgrounds, so we represented very different motivations.
How did you like the learning experience at DevPoint Labs? Describe a typical day.
Our courses were Monday and Wednesday night from 6:00pm until 9:00pm; then we had class on Saturday morning from 9:00am to 12:00pm. Those were good flexible hours, but nonetheless they're pretty rigorous three hour classes with some small breaks in between.
In regard to the learning experience, their teaching approach was to throw you into the deep end, if you will. The class is such a short amount of time (two months). You essentially only have nine hours a week in class, so I personally believe that this is the only teaching methodology that would work in that environment.
I could gauge who in the class really applied themselves, because UX Design, like all things, is a field where you get out what you put into it. Like venturing out and trying to dissect software, applications, and websites because they brought back new examples to the class.
Also, we used a local software called [Instructure] for course curriculum management. It's a dual site where teachers can communicate directly with students and post assignments. That was the learning experience in a nutshell.
What did you like most about the DevPoint Labs learning experience?
What I liked about it most was that it wasn't really project-based in terms of doing multiple projects. It resembled working in a dev/design shop or at a company. You only have one big project that you're working on, then within that project, there's all these little subsets of different challenges that need to be resolved. For example, my team worked specifically on Search, so we built out all the functionality and went super deep into user experience design, which was fascinating.
I liked it because we weren’t working on all these different things, I think that if you do spread yourself too thin then you don't really learn anything. We got to go narrow and so deep that it really yielded us a good base to start building on. And that's what I noticed the most is that it's just a really good course to establish that base of working tools in the industry. Then it takes your own initiative, after that point in time, to learn, to read books, to find mentors, and to create things. That was the coolest part about going so narrow and going so deep under one subject.
Tell us about some of those projects!
DevPoint Labs finds real projects for students to work on. Ours was actually a project that a subsidiary here is developing. The project is called Grantminer, and the mission is to simplify the grant-searching process because it is currently extremely overwhelming. You couldn’t simulate the experience with real stakeholders by using books.
Also, our teachers took us through their personal process and their curriculum to show how they go about a project. They condense the material into about a two-month time frame, starting from scratch to building out a high fidelity prototype (which is what you would give to a developer). The process was very iterative. There are definitely principles that you can work through, but a lot of it is just trial and error. At the end of the project, the stakeholders of Grantminer selected their favorite prototype, and they selected my design. Recently, those developers told me that they officially launched Grantminer. That was cool.
What are you up to now that you’ve graduated from DevPoint Labs?
There’s a Catch-22 after graduating from a bootcamp, because you have this portfolio project, but you're not sure if you can actually provide tangible value to a company. You really have to hustle to create things and gain that experience as fast as possible. I was lucky that I had enough savings to focus on building my UX and UI base, so I did that for about three months while working on our startup idea, and getting prototypes in front of our users.
Tell us about the startup that you and your brother are working on!
It’s called allday, because we want to move the idea of health out of the old, compartmentalized experience that we all grew up in, in which you go to the doctor, or dietician or yoga class, and then you go home. We talked to a local health professional, who voiced how hard it is for her and her patients to connect outside of the office. And that sometimes they just have a simple question to ask, or need to get on a video call with her, but can’t, because the technology doesn’t exist, yet.
So we want to provide people and their health professionals with a communication platform that affords this ‘continuous experience’. On top of which, would be the necessary tools needed for them to better connect.
Is allday live yet?
It’s not live yet, but I've been working on it since I graduated from the UX course at DevPoint Labs. The class gave me the proper tools to be able to start prototyping and to get it in front of people. It’s so powerful to be able to show our prototype to professionals and get feedback on buttons, UX, etc. I had no industry knowledge, graphic design or software background, but I went from 0 to 60 because of the teachers and the curriculum at DevPoint.
While I’m working on allday, I recently got a UX position with a company called lolo which develops and maintains personal health applications. They have a suite of health applications in Apple and Android stores.
Congrats! Tell us about the interview process for your new UX role at lolo.
It’s funny because, again, my brother was the one who got me the interview at lolo (he works there with me). It's all about who you know! The whole interview process was over Slack and Skype.
People reading this may think this was an easy process, but I spent my nights and weekends refining this new craft. That’s what gave me the confidence to ask for a position, and guarantee that I could provide value to the company. It’s all about applying oneself after you graduate from a bootcamp and not having that college mentality that just because you've got this degree, you’re somehow entitled to a certain compensation. In the software world, both designers and engineers have to show what they have done. Not just talk about it in an interview.
During my interview, this is what got me the job, the CEO asked me, "What value will you provide for lolo?" So I told him that I would instead show him. I picked apart a mockup that lolo was working with and identified all the things that could be improved. I rebuilt the mockup and sent it to the CEO. He was impressed that I had already been thinking through the experience problems. If I had not put in those extra six hours of re-designing that mockup, I probably wouldn't have gotten the job. It's about providing value. Find a problem in the company that you want to work for, re-design a solution, and then send it to them. Show, don’t tell.
It's great that you have this perspective of being an entrepreneur and also working in a company as a UX designer. What’s your day-to-day like?
At lolo, we all work remotely, so it's an interesting workflow. We rely heavily upon communication tools such as Slack and Zoom. I’ve observed that they hire problem solvers, that get things done.
It feels like a small startup still. My brother and I usually work out of his apartment. He may ask me for design feedback, and I may ask him if something is smart to build. Being remote does add a layer of complexity. Our hours are flexible, which means that some of the engineers will be working different hours, and that makes it a little difficult at times, but at the end of the day, designers and engineers really love building things. It's all about the growth process of designing something cool, and then handing it off for them to build it. Even though there are hurdles, it’s inspiring to be in an environment with smart people that love building things.
Overall, how are you feeling about your new skills from DevPoint Labs and your new role?
I’ve definitely felt impostor syndrome. It’s funny, especially when you start at a new company, you think silently, "Wait. You’re actually going to build that now??” A few months ago, I was designing basic interfaces in class, and now it’s for a full Web, Android and iOS build.
Are you currently using the tools that you were taught at DevPoint Labs in your new job, or have you had to learn new technologies?
Yes. We use Slack for communication and Sketch and Invision, which is what I learned at DevPoint Labs.
What’s been your biggest challenge since starting at lolo?
I think the biggest challenge is just acclimating to what it's like to work with engineers and understanding how they think, and work. You have to know the simplest and most effective design that you can deliver to an engineer. For someone with a designer’s or artistic mind, we can be so focused on the design, that we forget about back-end functionality. It can be an interesting balance.
What advice do you have for people thinking about making a career change and considering coding or a UX design bootcamp?
Ask yourself “Why?” When you understand the “why” behind your career, then you'll actually be able to apply yourself. This industry can be very rigorous and hard at times, so I always think that the “why” is your lighthouse, metaphorically speaking. When you’re feeling burnt out in designing or coding, you can remember that “why” and it can help you get through those times.