Christine worked in sales before deciding to shift careers into UX design. She attended the UX bootcamp at General Assembly and took out a loan from Climb Credit, a popular bootcamp lending partner, to pay for the tuition. Christine tells us about paying off her loan while working in design and whether it was ultimately worth it to take a Climb loan out for a bootcamp!
Tell us what you were up to before you went to a bootcamp!
4 years ago, I was working primarily in sales and marketing for a pharmaceutical/biotech company, and it was very demanding. I got to travel a lot and the job was rewarding, but I was starting to get burnt out. I wanted a life change, so I started to prioritize other things in life and explore different careers.
I came across UX and Product design through a friend, and I talked to her about it and her journey into UX Design. From there, I started exploring more and setting up informational interviews about the job.
Why did you choose the UX Immersive from General Assembly?
I chose General Assembly for a couple of reasons. First, they offered the full-time immersive, and I knew, for myself, that I wanted to dive in and be fully involved in what I was learning. I also prefer in-person learning. I know that there are certificate programs and 2-year design programs, but it was important for me to learn the fundamentals to get working as soon as possible.
The million dollar question – how did you pay for General Assembly?
I paid about half of the tuition up front and I also needed money saved to survive. I also applied for a loan through Climb Credit and worked a part-time job. It was a mixture of a lot of things.
Can you describe the Climb loan process for you?
It was really quick. I went online and clicked a link to fill in my details. I got an immediate answer and a follow-up email with the amount offered.
How does the process compare to taking out student loans?
It’s been a long time, but this was definitely easier than in the past. I think it’s been streamlined to be quick and easy so it ended up being pretty seamless this time around.
The payment was interest-only during school and I had a six-month grace period before you started paying your loan completely off. My terms were two years – which was how long it took to pay off my loan.
What was a typical day like in the UX Design Bootcamp at General Assembly and what did you learn in the curriculum?
It’s definitely challenging because you’re learning new things. I feel like I was lucky because our class was really tight-knit and the teachers were awesome. It’s all about building those relationships and not being afraid to ask questions.
On a typical day, we would get started with whatever was on the agenda. Some days we would start with theory and go into design, other days we were collaborating. It depends on where you’re at, but it was a great experience.
We learned to build a basic desktop web design and a mobile application. You present your work and build your portfolio with those projects. You do a portfolio review on top of that and a sort of mock interview where you got through the process of presenting your work.
Any advice for a new designer who is going to a UX bootcamp?
My suggestion for anyone is to go in feeling prepared with some of the more popular UX design tools. Then you can soak in whatever you’re learning and apply it with the design tools you know how to use. This is helpful so you’re not wasting time trying to figure out how to make basic shapes. You can learn a lot with practice, along with Youtube and Sketch’s tutorials. Once you learn one tool, you can learn the others like Figma or Adobe XD pretty quickly.
How did you balance working with attending an immersive bootcamp?
I worked part-time and mainly on the weekends. It was challenging but possible, and I chose to do that. I recommend it to anyone that can handle it. I spent a lot of time preparing myself prior to the course by reading the recommended design books and learning the tools. I also spent time during the week reviewing everything we had learned.
What kinds of jobs did you feel qualified to apply for when you graduated?
When you look for jobs, you’ll see UX Designer, Product Designer, UI Designer, and other similar positions. I was qualified for all these titles, but it’s important to look at the details and how the job is described. At General Assembly, they teach you certain things to look for on the job search. I would look at roles that had the keywords: “UI design, user flows, customer interviews, survey research,” etc.
They also set you up with a career counselor, someone to talk with you about the steps you’re taking to look for jobs. The person they set me up with was good because he was diligent and positive to help me stay motivated.
He helped me track all of the applications I put out and he’ll help me with any I might do in the future. We look at things like who I applied to, what was in the cover letter, did I get a reply, how soon did it come, and did it sound like a real person?
I was setting up my own metrics so I knew how many applications should go out for me to get a reply. It was good to track that and I’m grateful that he got me to do that.
How has your career in UX design grown and changed over the past 3 years?
I started off doing freelance work and smaller projects. I wanted to develop my portfolio and discover what industries I wanted to work in. It was also good to distinguish myself by having work experience outside of a bootcamp.
From those freelance jobs, I started working for an agency. I worked for the city and moved to major media companies before shifting to advertising technology where I currently work. I love where I’m at and it’s been quite a journey, but well worth it.
I definitely use some of the tools and skills that I learned at General Assembly and apply it to every job. The design process changes every time; sometimes you do full research, interviews, design applications, iterate, and test. Sometimes you don’t, and you have to adjust every single time. Sometimes I have to Google stuff on the side because I won’t know a term – I’m perpetually learning in this industry. Things are changing fast, so you have to keep up and have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening.
What’s your advice for future UX bootcampers who are looking for a job in design?
I would recommend new graduates start building out that portfolio. If you don’t get a freelance project, then do a case study. I think a lot of these hiring companies get graduates from bootcamps and they notice the portfolios look very similar. You want to make your portfolio stand out in some way.
What are you working on at your current job?
I’m currently working on a customer-facing application that isn’t being received well. I’m improving the user flows and design to make it better. A lot of the work is fixing certain user flows or errors, and another side of the work is to research and improve the whole user experience.
What resources do you use when looking for a job?
I’ll use LinkedIn and reach out to recruiters. I’ll also go to UX events that are happening and reach out to designers that I’ve built good relationships with along the way. I use a little bit of every method – no stone is left unturned when you’re looking for a new work opportunity.
Were you able to pay off your Climb loan with your salary as a UX Designer?
Definitely. When I started my first job after a UX bootcamp, it was humbling to almost start over and have faith that I would earn more money with experience. I was able to pay off my Climb loan in two years, which was nice – it’s done and out of the way. I thought it was convenient with the terms they had for me.
With my previous field in sales, there’s the potential to earn a lot through commission. My salary took a hit, but that’s okay because I was starting in a new field and the UX design jobs are abundant. It’s well worth it in my opinion.
Was it worth it to take out a Climb loan to attend a bootcamp?
It was also definitely worth it to take a loan through Climb. It helped me out, and it was a little stress off of my shoulders. I worked hard during the program and after to make sure I landed a job as soon as possible. For anyone looking for a career change, I definitely think you should do it.
I absolutely feel like it was worth it, I love what I do and I love the people I work with. I love every aspect of it, from creativity to analysis and psychology. There’s a lot of collaboration and you’re working with brilliant people.
This sponsored article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with Climb Credit.
Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!
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