Alumni Spotlight

From Odd Jobs to Product Designer at Bank of America after General Assembly

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Liz Eggleston

Edited By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on January 3, 2024

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Jason Klundt was struggling to find a career he was passionate about when he learned about the UX Design bootcamp at General Assembly. He attended General Assembly in-person in New York City and almost quit, but the dedicated staff at General Assembly ensured that he finished strong! Thanks to the immersive program and robust career services, Jason used his newfound networking skills to land a contract design job at Bank of America that he later spun into a full-time Product Designer position!

What inspired you to launch a new tech career in UX design in 2020?

I was looking for a career that I enjoyed doing and that would support my growing family. I was also looking for a career that I could jump into quickly. After many jobs – from church ministry to refrigerator parts sales to working in a funeral home – I was offered a position at my friend’s small digital marketing company, building marketing systems for health practitioners. This was plug-and-play WordPress systems where I could build a website in an instant and customize it with their branding. That role morphed into account management and sales (without a pay increase). I realized I loved technology, but the job didn’t offer the pay or security that I needed. I then worked with the New Jersey Transit for three years cleaning buses, and applied to technology or supervisor positions within Transit, but nothing landed. 

My wife inherited some money that allowed us a buffer and a chance to change directions. We were speaking to a financial advisor on how to plan for the future with our kids. After I told him my background, he suggested going to a bootcamp for UX design. His daughter went to a bootcamp and landed a great job quickly after graduating! I didn’t know what a UX designer did, so after an initial search, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was exactly what I wanted to do! 

There are so many UX bootcamps — Why did you choose General Assembly?

The financial advisor recommended General Assembly, so I looked up what it would take to attend in-person at the Manhattan campus. Getting to the NYC campus from my home in New Jersey included a two-hour commute each way and several transit transfers, but I did it! I left my job in December of 2019 and enrolled at General Assembly in January 2020. COVID hit in March and we went remote for the last two weeks. 

What was the community like at General Assembly?

Our instructors, teachers assistants, and cohortmates were amazing! We stuck together and helped each other and we got through the bootcamp. 

Which technical UX tools did you actually learn in the bootcamp?

We were given a crash course in Figma and Sketch. It was a lot of work — a lot of new terminology and tools to learn.

How did GA support your learning during the bootcamp?

Midway through the program, I was ready to quit the course. I was worn out and struggling to grasp certain concepts that weren’t black-and-white. When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with a learning disability and I had to learn how to learn. I told the General Assembly staff that I had a learning disability and was struggling, and several of them stepped up to support me in finishing the program. One instructor said, “I will not let you quit. You were created for this.” They helped me rationalize and get a grasp on where I was in the class versus where I thought I was. I was so close to the finish line and they were amazing in helping me push through. 

What kinds of projects did you work on in the UX Design bootcamp?

Our first individual project was to redesign a feature in the Google Calendar app on a mobile device. I did a lot of research into how people take notes and realized many people still write on paper, so I did a proof of concept where you could write down on paper and scan it into the Google calendar. 

We were also given a team project, where we were to redesign a feature on a charity organization website. Our team was assigned St. Jude's Children's Hospital, which was near and dear to my heart because my second youngest child had a brain tumor when he was three, so there was a big connection that we were able to tie into the storytelling part of our presentation.

Plus, we worked on real world projects at General Assembly! We were also assigned a client project, where we worked with a local client based out of Newark, called PeduL. PeduL is a scholarship marketplace hub for inner city folks and people of color looking for scholarships. We redesigned their signup process to significantly reduce the amount of time it took to set up an account on the website. We did a case study on this one and I recently checked back on it and they are still using our designs for their login page!

How did the General Assembly prepare you for the job hunt? 

We were assigned a career coach who gave us 1:1 time to help us tailor our portfolio, LinkedIn, and resume. She taught us how to write personalized cover letters and was available as much as we needed her. The outcomes portion of the program was just as important as learning the skills for the job. Learning how to find a job was invaluable to me because I didn't have a portfolio or an optimized LinkedIn account before I worked with her and I didn’t know how to land a new tech job. I did what she told me to, applying myself and tracking every application. I wanted to maximize my investment in the program, so I took full advantage of the career services at General Assembly. 

Which tech roles did you feel qualified to apply for as you were graduating?

I was applying for anything and everything, from visual designer to researcher, mainly entry-level. I read each description and even if it said five years minimum, I still applied for it.

Any shot that I could get, I would take it and run with it. 

How did you land your first design role at Bank of America after graduating from General Assembly?

I went through countless interviews with companies and kept getting rejected. I was ready to give up trying when a friend referred me to a mutual friend that I knew from our kid’s Cub Scout program who worked at Bank of America. He said they were looking for a UX designer for a project and they thought I’d be a good fit, so I had an informal interview with him and his manager. Within a week I was hired on for a contract role and nine months later was offered a role as a full-time associate!

When you were on the job hunt, did you continue to work on your own projects?

General Assembly encouraged us to work on passion projects to keep our skills sharp and have more content to add to our profile and portfolios, so I was working on some updates for a Bible app that I use. I actually know somebody who works for that company and I got him to send my presentation to the product owner of that section and he liked what I offered! 

My instructor agreed to mentor me and we kept in touch through the process. I still keep in touch with a few of my classmates.

Do you recommend other recent bootcamp graduates consider contract jobs when looking for their first tech role?

Take any position you can get. Don't be picky. Someone before me was offered the role at Bank of America and she denied it because she didn't want to work on Windows. Take anything you can get. Companies want to have the flexibility of a contractor to cut ties if it’s not a good fit, but if they know who you are, how you work and how you fit within a team, it often turns into a full-time position. 

How did you move from Product Design contractor to VP Software Engineer III on the Product Design team at Bank of America?

I was hired onto a data team where there were no designers. They made a position for me on my team and didn’t even have the HR code for what I do! I'm the sole product designer on a tool that we're building for our credit analysts. 

What kinds of UX Design tools are you using now? 

The tool that I have access to is Axure, because of our firewall we only have access to certain tools. There was a learning curve, but I figured out how to use it the best I can!

Over the course of your career, have you continued to use what you learned at General Assembly?

All the time! I refer back to my notes and some of my decks and slides that I have kept and I still look at things to make sure I'm using best practices. There was so much repetition in this immersion program that a lot has stuck with me on the job. 

Are you using any AI tools now on the job at Bank of America? 

I’m not using any AI tools at this point. Banks are slow at adopting new technology and are still trying to figure out its place. BoA does use Erica (whose name is from the word America!) as a virtual financial assistant, though. 

What is the next career ladder rung that you're looking to get to? 

I’d like to head a design team within global technology. 

At this point in your career, was General Assembly worth it for you? 

Oh, absolutely. 100%. It was one of the best investments that I've ever made in time, resources, and energy. It was a rough four months — it was physically exhausting to commute 3-4 hours a day, plus the 8-hour course or longer with projects, then more to work on at home. Tools are tools. You can go on an online course and learn what UX is, how to design, and how to do usability testing, but the biggest thing that I got out of General Assembly was the confidence that I can do this!

Find out more and read General Assembly reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with General Assembly.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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