Alumni Spotlight

How a Painter Became a Product Designer after Flatiron School

By Jess Feldman
Published on August 24, 2022Last updated on August 24, 2022

A classically trained painter, Jessica Roderick’s art career came to a halt when the pandemic struck in 2020. When she discovered product design, Jessica realized she could pivot her art career into a creative tech career. At Flatiron School’s online Product Design bootcamp, Jessica dedicated herself to learning today’s top design tools and processes from instructors with years of industry experience. Now Jessica is a Product Designer at Tibles and a Branding & Identity Designer at Knowcap, and she has no regrets about enrolling in the Product Design bootcamp. Read on for tips to find a design job in 2022 – as Jessica says, “It’s a full-time job to find a job!”

What inspired you to pivot your career from art to product design? 

Art was always a big part of my life. Growing up in the Boston area, I loved going to the art museums and admiring the paintings of the Old Masters. As an undergrad, I attended   Simmons College and studied Biopsychology, thinking I would go into the medical field and that it would be a more financially realistic career. But I continued taking art classes during and after college, and eventually decided to pursue it full-time as an Artist. My teachers recommended I go to Florence if I wanted to seriously pursue classical art training, so I did! I moved to Italy and attended The Florence Academy of Art. I lived there for four years, studying and teaching classical painting and drawing techniques.. When I returned to the U.S., I was working as a Portrait Painter and also as a Scenic Artist for Adirondack Studios, painting the attractions at Disney and Universal Studios. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, my scenic art career halted, and although I had my own art business, I was feeling stuck.  

During that time, my best friend from college was planning on making a career pivot into software engineering and was applying to Flatiron School. I saw how happy and passionate she was about pursuing a career in tech, plus she told me of other relatives who had made the lucrative transition into tech — my interest was piqued! 

I started looking into Flatiron School, not knowing anything about tech. I knew nothing about coding, so I started reading about Product Design and I knew without a doubt I was interested. Product design offers creativity, visual design, and research, which is something I love to do! 

What convinced you to enroll at Flatiron School?

I only looked at Flatiron School because of personal rave reviews from my best friend and her family, who had great careers from taking the bootcamp! I trust the people that I was getting the recommendations from, and right away the people at Flatiron School were kindred spirits. It just felt like the right place to be.

Flatiron School also offered me the Women Take Tech Scholarship!

What was the bootcamp application process like for you as a complete beginner to Product Design?

I was in the first cohort of the new Product Design program. Once accepted, there was pre-work to prepare for the course, which got me used to Figma and some of the other tools we’d be using in the bootcamp.

What was a typical day like in the Product Design bootcamp

The first thing my instructor said was, “What you put into this program, you will get from it.” I took that to heart and I took my availability of time to really dive in. 

A typical day was like a regular 9-5 work day. It was all project-work, so much of the effort and time was on improving projects. I was in class at 9am, but I kept working after 5pm most every day and over the weekends. I took time outside of class to watch YouTube videos to dive deeper into concepts I needed more time with. 

What did you learn in the Product Design bootcamp curriculum?

Besides learning how to master the art of Figma, we worked on the continuous development of products starting from a place of research, ideation, wireframing, prototyping and constantly iterating on our product with user testing. We went through that process repeatedly and gave each other feedback on a regular basis. The repetition and thoroughness of each step is something I'm so grateful for now as a product designer.

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

For my program, we did a lot of individual projects, and we worked on them from start to finish. We met up with our classmates all the time to give each other feedback, which was very important. During our classes and workshop-time, we worked mostly collaboratively. 

Did your bootcamp instructors have UX design experience? 

Yes! Our main cohort instructor was a product designer for many years and all of our lecturers were also experienced product designers. Everybody had that invaluable real world experience.

Since you were in the online bootcamp, what was the community like at Flatiron School?

I was surprised by the real, intimate, active, responsive, and welcoming community at Flatiron School. Since I’m still on the Slack channel, I get notifications for meditation classes, show-and-tell, and meetups. Our cohort had 12-15 people, some of who I am still friends with today! 

Was the rest of your cohort mostly career changers?

Most everyone was making a career change. There were some younger people, too— some  had just graduated high school and a couple of students were just out of college. But most of the students were transitioning out of a lot of other career fields.

How did Flatiron School prepare you for the tech job hunt

The career services team at Flatiron School were amazing! I love my career coach, Rick Dobbis. After graduation, my career coach was there to get me into a routine of job searching, which is such a big process, emotionally and mentally. I was grateful to have that solid support system from him as my guide. 

What kinds of tech roles did you feel comfortable applying to after the bootcamp?

I felt so confident in my abilities after the Product Design program at Flatiron School that I felt comfortable applying for any design-related role, whether it was product design, UX design, or UI design.

How long did it take you to land your first design job?

We graduated in January and I began working freelance for a friend’s online business coaching company, designing an app to help her increase her clientele. In April, I was hired part-time by KnowCap Interactive as a Brand Designer, creating the branding and UI Design for startups from overlooked communities. During this time, I was also applying to many jobs and interviewing every week for Product Designer roles. It’s a full-time job to find a job! In June, I finally landed a full-time Product Design position at Tibles.  

You work as a Product Designer at Tibles and a Branding & Identity Designer at KnowCap! What kinds of companies are Tibles and KnowCap? Are they startups?

KnowCap helps startups from underprivileged and overlooked communities grow and succeed. At KnowCap, we get paid in equity and we are only allowed to work ten hours per week. Although I love KnowCap, it was necessary for me to find a full-time position and also a UX/UI Product Designer role. Tibles is a startup that creates fun and engaging experiences for digital collectors. 

How did you land these jobs after bootcamp? 

Since branding is a huge part of every product, we covered brand design in each of our projects at Flatiron School. I started applying for brand design jobs along with the others because it was something that I wanted to do, and this led me to the brand designer position at KnowCap.

Since graduating from the bootcamp, I've been helping create brands for some amazing startups, and I think that’s what helped me land the position at Tibles.

Were either of these companies interested in your Flatiron School bootcamp experience? 

I learned about Tibles through Flatiron School’s Career Services. Tibles actually reached out to Flatiron School to let them know they were actively looking for Flatiron School grads! Tibles knows that Flatiron School students are quality designers when they graduate from the program, so they specifically seek them out. 

Did you feel prepared for the interview at Tibles?

I had gone through so many interviews since I graduated from the bootcamp, so by the time I got to Tibles I felt pretty comfortable in the interview. Interviewing for months gave me a lot of experience! 

What is your advice to other product design graduates on the job hunt now?

If you can, put all of your energy into finding a job. Apply to as many jobs as you can, go on as many interviews, even if it's not a job that you're interested in or doesn't even seem like it could be something that you're going to get, just go and do it anyway! It will help you gain confidence, and get you more comfortable with talking and being able to talk about your strengths. I knew that how hard I worked (just like with the bootcamp, putting 200% into it) would be what I got in return. I feel like I got that out of the program and the job hunting process. 

What kinds of projects are you working on at Tibles?

We create awesome digital environments for digital collectors, where people can buy, trade, and have a place to display and collect their digital collectibles. Currently, we have launched Seussibles!, an officially licensed Dr. Seuss NFT collecting experience.

Are you using what you learned at Flatiron School on the job?  

Oh yes! I am so grateful to have the UX/ UI Design skills that I learned from Flatiron. In my job, we do have a very collaborative team of around 30, and all departments work together on a daily basis. I have such a strong foundation because of everything I learned at Flatiron School and it helps me everyday as a designer.  

Looking back on this experience, was enrolling at Flatiron School worth it for you? 

Absolutely. I'm so happy I did! It was totally unexpected to be suddenly working in the tech field — someone who was literally out painting on my wooden easel! To be doing this is so crazy, but I am so grateful for Flatiron School. With a lot of hard work, it was the perfect learning environment.

How are you using your previous art experience now in your role as a Product Designer?

I am using my previous art experience in every way. I’ve taken away so much from my art background and use it especially in my role at Tibles. The whole process of art training was to train my eye and my brain to see color, value, and proportions in a natural way. It became a part of who I am. When I’m working on my designs, I slip back into the same zone as when I'm working on a painting. It becomes a natural process when I’m in that momentum, working with  color, typography, designing patterns and creating exciting and impactful visual experiences. 

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

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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