Alumni Spotlight

From Ballerina to Designer after CareerFoundry

By Jess Feldman
Last updated on June 22, 2021

In 2020, professional ballerina Rina reassessed her career goals and began to follow her new passion for UI/UX design. Rina explains how the multi-layered instructional support – from mentorship to tutor assistance to career counseling – at CareerFoundry’s online UX Design bootcamp played a vital role in helping her make a successful career pivot from dance to design. Find out how CareerFoundry prepared and coached Rina through her UX design job search, and what types of design projects Rina is now working on as a UX designer at Order Guru!

What inspired you to make a career change into UX design?

Before I pivoted into UX design, ballet was all I knew. I've been dancing ever since the age of five and training professionally since the age of 11. At the age of 19, I signed my first professional contract and moved to Spain. A ballet career doesn't give you time to pursue or dive deeper into other interests, but I was always interested in design. Ever since I was a young kid, I would be crafting or scrapbooking; I loved creating things with my hands. 

When I decided to pivot and make a career change, I did not know what field to enter. I never imagined going into tech, but I explored several industries, enrolled in free webinars, and participated in different activities. I most enjoyed webinars where I learned something about creativity or design. All my life, I thought tech was just computer science and coding, but while I was searching for my next career, I discovered that tech allows us to engage in design. I didn't know what UX meant, but the design terminology intrigued me and that was the beginning of my journey. 

There are so many UX design bootcamps now—Why did you choose CareerFoundry?

CareerFoundry was the first school that I found while attending webinars, but I also researched and read up on other design schools. I had multiple calls with a program advisor from CareerFoundry, and it felt very personalized. We talked about my background and how I could fit into UX/UI design. I appreciated that she gave me her time and explained the details of the bootcamp in depth to me. I also liked that CareerFoundry offers more than one instructor for support. At CareerFoundry, we have mentors, tutors, and careers specialists who help us along in our journey, and that was reassuring to me. 

What was the CareerFoundry application and interview process like for you? 

There was no interview, but the application process involved background calls and email exchanges with the program advisor. Other design programs that I tried applying to required basic knowledge and testing in the topic before connecting with an advisor. With CareerFoundry, they welcome everybody with any background, including those of us with no prior experience. They believe in everybody, and that was very welcoming. 

How did you pay for the tuition? 

CareerFoundry understood where I was coming from financially and gave me a discount for the course. Aside from that, I utilized CareerFoundry's monthly payment plan, which gave me more flexibility. 

What was a typical day like in CareerFoundry's UX Design bootcamp

The bootcamp is a flexible, online program, so there isn’t a set schedule. For me, I did the bootcamp full-time, and I was studying all day. I always looked forward to my weekly office hours with my career specialist, Sammy. She is one of the people that has made the most significant impact on my career journey. Attending her officer hours gave me so much value and inspiration. Aside from that, I would book calls with my mentor every week or so. 

What did you learn in the UX Design bootcamp?

CareerFoundry covers the essential tools that every UX designer needs and the curriculum gave me the knowledge that all UX designers need to have. There was a wide variety of tools to learn about and choose from that covered each part of the UX process. We had the opportunity to either read through the tools we weren't using or skip them. For example, we learned Sketch for wireframing, InVision for prototyping, Lucidechart for sketching out user flows. Aside from tools, we were taught basic design principles as well. 

Did you enter the bootcamp wanting to specialize in one particular aspect of UX/UI?

When I enrolled in CareerFoundry, I initially chose UI design. Being a visual learner, I channeled my focus there. They exposed us to UX design during the course, and it became clear to me that UX design was something I was more interested in rather than just UI design, the speciality I chose. No matter which specialty you choose, CareerFoundry makes the other accessible for you. Even if you choose UI design, they'll still cover some UX design and vice versa.

Since this was an online bootcamp, how did you interact with your mentors, tutors, careers team, and cohort?

There is a big CareerFoundry community. Our actual cohort of students has a substantial Slack community, where we utilize discussion boards and different channels to ask for help or reach out to mentors. We also had a job board where people posted job opportunities. One of my daily routines involved looking through our Slack conversations to check how everybody was doing. That sense of community was vital since I was unable to socialize in person due to the pandemic. 

As for mentors and tutors, I made sure to check-in with my tutors daily. Whereas your mentor is there to help you with interview processes and real-life experiences, your tutor is there to help you with your workload. I booked a call with my mentor every week or every other week, depending on how much help I needed. Career specialists were only available to us when we entered the Job Preparation Course. After that point, I booked calls with her every other week as well. 

What was your favorite project that you built at CareerFoundry?

My favorite project is one that I named "Coffee Hunt." It's a web application that allows users to find locally-owned coffee shops wherever they are. I enjoyed that project because I was independently responsible for its end-to-end process. The project was a huge responsibility and involved complex problem-solving. I couldn't have done it without my tutor or my mentors, of course, but it was the first time I could say to myself, "I did this all by myself!" I was very proud of myself, and it made my growth since joining CareerFoundry evident. 

How did CareerFoundry prepare you for the job hunt? 

CareerFoundry offers a unique Job Preparation Course at the end of your course. Once you hit a specific milestone, you get paired with your career specialist. At that point, the interview preparation and elevator pitch exercises begin. These help you craft your brand, get to know yourself, and present yourself to employers more effectively. I tried to prepare myself independently from the Job Preparation Course, too. I worked with Sammy, the career specialist, and that was the best decision I made. She was the person who motivated me to start utilizing my skills, chasing after passion projects, and crafting my brand. Because of her, I'm so passionate and expressing my personal brand as a ballerina-turned-product-designer. 

Congratulations on your new design job at Order Guru! How did you land the job?

Order Guru is a software company focused on restaurant management. My now-manager reached out to me on LinkedIn. At first, I didn't know that it was going to be a full-time opportunity, but I decided to hop on a call with him, and that call turned out to be the start of my interview process. I had independent calls with the COO, the CTO, and the CEO, who asked to see my design portfolio. In the interview process, I was able to showcase some of the projects I completed at CareerFoundry. 

What kinds of projects are you working on at Order Guru?

Right now, we are doing a revamp of the entire software. We just finished our profile revamp, allowing merchants to curate their profiles. Now, we are updating our whole menu, which is very complex and that’s the project I'm currently working on. There are many features we're building and rebuilding, both old and new. It's a journey, but a fascinating one!

As a new designer, what has it been like working with engineers?

Order Guru is a very engineering-heavy company, which felt intimidating at first. I'm one of the only designers working with a team of 15-20 engineers. The growth I've had, however, in the past four to five months is extraordinary. I'm very grateful for the opportunities that have come my way and all that I've learned about how to communicate with the engineers through working as a full-time designer. 

Are you using everything you learned at CareerFoundry on the job?

You learn more on the job than when you're at school, of course, but CareerFoundry gave me a leg up in the design position I currently hold. That includes the tools I use daily and the basic design principles that I refer to as I design solutions. Whenever I am faced with a tough decision at work, my knowledge base from CareerFoundry elevates my confidence.

So far, what has been the biggest challenge in this journey to make a career change into UX design?

Starting a career in a completely different industry and that feeling of starting from scratch were both terrifying for me. Many people supported me throughout the ballet journey that I wanted to repay and support in return, and there was no certainty that I would land a job doing this career change. I was also terrified because ballet was my everything — I needed time to get used to the idea of changing careers and doing something outside of dance. During my early days at CareerFoundry, as I got internships and more practice, as I began networking with other designers, I began to feel more comfortable that the transition was really happening. 

What skills from your dance career are you still relying on today as a designer?

Many soft skills transfer from ballet into my design career today, such as persistence, determination, and hard work. Ballet is a mentally and physically challenging art form. The things that I've learned over those 15 years of my life keep me strong throughout the challenges I now encounter as a designer. 

Another significant similarity between dance and UX design is creativity. In ballet, I was creating through movement, and in UX design, I'm creating apps and software that people use in their everyday lives. 

Looking back on this experience, was CareerFoundry worth it for you? 

I'm so happy that I took the leap of faith and chose to pivot into this industry. It's a world that I didn't know was possible when I was still a ballerina because the ballet industry is so very traditional. Having the CareerFoundry team believe in me throughout this process helped me overall. The whole experience was very worthwhile and exciting. 

To learn more about CareerFoundry, try out the free introductory UX short course and read CareerFoundry reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with CareerFoundry.

About The Author

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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