Springboard recently launched their new UI/UX Design Bootcamp with the option to pay after getting a job. It’s an online, mentor-led program which can be completed in about 9 months. We spoke to Stephanie who is a student in the first UI/UX cohort about why she chose Springboard, how she is juggling her job with the bootcamp, and why UX design is actually similar to video game illustration.
What were you up to before Springboard?
I received a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts and my first job was as a portrait artist. I'm 38 years old now, and when I talk about my bachelor's degree, it feels like such a long time ago! My degree covered traditional fine arts, design, music, game design, and all sorts of creative things. The program was all over the place but I loved it! Since video games are my passion, I later did a certification for video game animation. It got me closer to the tech realm by giving me experience with 3D modeling and animation. I then did art and animation work on an indie team for a video game.
I grew up in a tiny town in rural Pennsylvania where there are very few career opportunities. I've done a lot of relocating in the past 10 years, and every time I've moved, I've snatched up whatever easy food service or retail job I could find. Now that I'm in Boston with plenty of career opportunities, I finally wanted to narrow my focus and settle down. That's when I started researching bootcamps for UX design.
Did you research any other bootcamp besides Springboard? What was important in your decision?
What struck me about Springboard in particular was how flexible it was. You're learning on your own with some help from mentors and peers. You can work on your own time, check in with your mentor, interact with your cohort, and that flexibility makes it more accessible. Other bootcamps that I researched like Lambda School meant that I would have to quit my job in order to attend, which I didn’t want to do.
Because I’m still paying off my bachelor's degree, attending a school that offered deferred tuition was also important to me. Springboard has an option for deferred tuition, and they also offer a job guarantee. You have six months after you complete the program to find a job. During that time, there is a checklist of things that you have to keep up with to qualify for the job guarantee. It's not a free ride if you slack off – you have to submit a specific number of applications every week and put in the work. Once you get a job, the repayment plan starts in installments. If you've kept up with Springboard’s qualification requirements and you still haven't gotten a job after six months, you won't be charged at all.
Why did you choose an online bootcamp instead of in-person?
Since quitting my job wasn’t an option for me, I was more open to doing an online bootcamp. Even though it's online, Springboard’s UI/UX course had the structure I needed. There’s a mandatory mentor call once a week, and knowing that I'm going to be talking with a mentor every week keeps me motivated. I don't want to slack off because I want something to show when we talk. I knew if I tried to teach myself without a program like Springboard, I'd probably end up getting distracted and making no progress. You don't know where to start if you don't know anything about the industry. You might start in the wrong place or skip things that are vital.
What did the Springboard application process involve? Was it hard to get in?
I started Springboard's UX program first and about a month into that program they released a new program that combines UX and UI. With my background in visual design, it was important to me to learn UI as well, so I transferred into that program. Much of the curriculum is the same, but Springboard added a lot more UI. When I was applying, there were exercises that gave you scenarios to test how you might redesign a simple, everyday object. There were videos of users describing issues, and you had to figure out their pain points, how you would address those needs, and what that process could look like.
Are you in a cohort at Springboard or are you working individually?
The course is more individual-focused, but there are Slack channels where you can interact with your cohort. I haven't worked a whole lot with my peers, but I do browse and contribute to the Slack channels. Everybody is sharing links and resources, which is helpful.
What does your typical week look like – how do you balance your job with Springboard?
I put anywhere between 12-24 hours into the bootcamp each week, and then work at my part-time job for about 24 hours a week. Springboard has a dashboard that links you to your curriculum, and from there you can read articles and Springboard documentation, watch tutorial videos from YouTube or Springboard, and then there is usually an exercise. I keep a link to my curriculum dashboard on the homepage of my phone. If I'm at my job or out doing errands and have 10-15 minutes of downtime, I'll try to get ahead on the reading. Generally, I have to wait until I'm at home to do the exercises because I need to be in front of my computer.
I do have to work to keep myself disciplined, but I still enjoy it because it's a valuable experience for me. I typically learn better in a traditional classroom setting, but this is definitely the best middle ground possible. Springboard expects you to have the course completed by a certain date, but it's also pretty flexible within that timeframe. There aren't any weekly deadlines and you can always apply for extensions if you don’t finish by their projected deadline. You can still have your life, work your job, and learn something new. I can't think of a better system, honestly.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering an online UX design bootcamp like Springboard?
Keep yourself disciplined and motivated. You also have to be able to learn on your own. You do have help and you have mentors, but a lot of it is reading materials and watching videos by yourself. You have to discipline yourself and find what learning methods work for you. If you need to, take notes or make audio recordings or submit things to your mentor. You have to figure those things out for yourself and then utilize them to your full advantage.
What have you learned about UX in the curriculum so far?
I've completed about a third of the program so far. So far, we’ve gone over user research, user interviews, some Adobe XD and Figma, wireframing, prototyping, designing, sketching, and competitor research.
I'm excited for more of the visual UI curriculum and getting into the nitty-gritty of putting together prototypes. I'm also interested to learn more about accessibility. It's an important aspect of our job. I'm curious to learn about how that process works and how to incorporate accessibility into product and app designs.
What types of UX/UI roles do you want to apply for after Springboard?
There are many specialties you can pick within this field, but UI Designer or Accessibility Designer would be perfect for me, I think. Much of the job is user research and testing, but I find myself wanting to do more of the actual visual design and putting things together.
Who is your Springboard mentor?
The UI/UX Design course is basically a mentor-led program. My mentor's name is Vanessa, and she's been working as a Product Designer for several years. She loves what she does and that makes me more excited for my future.
It's up to us how we use our mentors. Before our mentor calls each week, we can submit the things that we want to talk about with them. They can help with problems you're having, topics you're stuck on, or exercises. They can walk you through how to do something new or give direction for your project, too.
Can you tell us about the Capstone project you’re working on at Springboard?
A big chunk of the course is working on our capstone projects. We had to choose a problem that we wanted to create a solution for, and then work our way through the UX process with that problem in mind. I’ve noticed that many people don't seem to interact with their neighbors these days, so that’s the problem I chose. So far, I've done research and user interviews. I've been researching what things might affect whether people interact with their neighbors. I interviewed people in various residential situations to find out if they have the same problem and why they think they have this problem.
How does Springboard get you job-ready? Have you started doing career preparation yet?
Springboard integrates career prep all the way through the curriculum. Because Springboard offers a job guarantee and deferred tuition payment, they're invested in you getting a job. There are career prep units on informational interviews, setting up your portfolio, and how to optimize your LinkedIn profile. There are also Career Coaches that you can do calls with – so far, I’ve had a call with a Career Coach about networking, updating my LinkedIn profile, and interviewing. They encourage you to go out and do meetups and events on your own. For one of the first units, the homework was to find a meetup near you and write a brief summary to submit to your mentor. The program also includes several mock interviews.
Springboard also helps you put together your portfolio. And at some point, I'll be doing an externship with an actual company as a part of the curriculum! That is part of what made this worth the expense to me. If I were to teach myself UX/UI design, I probably wouldn’t have gotten in with a company to do an externship.
What has it been like being an artist transitioning from video game illustration into UX/UI design? Are there similarities between visual art and UX/UI design?
I was surprised to find out that a lot of UX and UI designers come from a fine arts background. I think that’s because artists naturally have the empathy which is needed for UX design.
I didn't realize how empathetic I was until the Springboard course started teaching topics like observing pain points. I'd basically been doing user experience design in my head my whole life! Plus, I've always thought about UI and UX design in the way that video game design requires.
And this job is still creative! You're still designing, solving problems, helping people. Even though I’m traditionally a visual artist, UI and UX design will be a satisfying career.
Jess is the Content Manager for Course Report as well as a writer and poet. As a lifelong learner, Jess is passionate about education, and loves learning and sharing content about tech bootcamps. Jess received a M.F.A. in Writing from the University of New Hampshire, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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