Radiology technician Sabrina Hernandez taught herself how to build websites for friends and family because she enjoyed the creative process. When she was ready to make a career change into UX design, Sabrina enrolled in Flatiron School’s Product Design bootcamp to get a handle on the concepts and tools used by today’s designers. At the bootcamp, Sabrina built up a portfolio and her confidence working alongside other career changers. Sabrina shares how her Flatiron School experience has prepared her for the job hunt, and how she’s keeping her new skills sharp.
What inspired you to pivot careers into UX design at Flatiron School?
Even though I was helping my friends and family build websites, I still lacked confidence as a designer. I decided to get a formal education to get some form of certification in the field and that’s when I learned about Flatiron School. I saw they had a Product Design bootcamp, and reading the course description, product design sounded a lot like UX/UI design – plus more skills. That’s when I decided to enroll!
What was the application process like for the Product Design Bootcamp? Did you need to have a background in design to apply?
You don’t need any previous experience to apply for this program. I had an admissions rep helping me through the whole onboarding process. We communicated through text, which was convenient for me and he let me know there were a few different scholarships that might help with tuition. During the application process, I took an interesting assessment that measured my thinking skills. I have a lot of test anxiety, but this exam was more of a breakdown of how someone approaches a situation. It helped assess how you would do in the program.
Did you have to complete any pre-work for the bootcamp?
We had a small project to get familiar with the campus board and to learn about Figma. Our project involved designing a few cards for an article about different kinds of birds using Figma.
Did you receive any scholarships to make the bootcamp tuition more affordable?
I got a Women Take Tech scholarship from Flatiron School, which was easy to apply for. I paid the rest of the tuition myself.
What was a typical week like in the Product Design Bootcamp?
Monday through Thursday, we started at 10AM with a lecture, where we learned the bulk of the material for the day and this would tie into our evening lab. After lecture, we had a standup with our team members and we talked about how we were feeling, what we were working on, and what we did yesterday. It was an overall check-in to see if we had pain points anywhere or needed extra support. From there we had about three hours of independent time to work on our projects, meet up with each other, get resources, or even just take a walk outside.
We would meet for lab around 3PM for an hour or two to take a deep dive into the lecture topic and do some exercises. The rest of our evening was spent doing whatever we needed to be prepared for the next day’s class.
On Fridays, we only had a stand-up to talk about the week and check-in or see what our plans were. We used that day to catch up on quizzes and any work that fell through the cracks.
What did you learn during the product design bootcamp?
I learned a lot about the design process, how to approach a situation with fresh eyes, and how to think critically. You learn a great deal of listening skills and how to learn from other people. You learn how to take constructive criticism and not take it personally. Learning these skills spilled over into my everyday life, and I don't take things as personally now! Soft skills and emotional intelligence were my biggest takeaways from learning how to be a product designer.
I also learned a lot about myself and the other people around me. I learned a great deal about empathy. I empathized a lot in my role as a healthcare provider, but learning product design was the first time I felt like my empathy was a superpower.
While I have prior UX experience but I never came to class feeling like I already knew everything. It was quite the opposite actually, the more I learned, the more I realized that there was so much to learn. This Inspired me to become a lifelong learner and student.
Since this was an online bootcamp, what was your community like at Flatiron School?
I was so connected to my cohort, which actually surprised me. Before the bootcamp, I thought I was going to have to grind through the program by myself, but Flatiron School did a great job setting the tone and making sure our Slack group was a safe community for us to connect. They let us know they were there to support us and to reach out to them and each other. I’m glad they set that space for us because in the beginning, it was a bunch of students from different states who didn’t know each other. Through Flatiron School, I made a lot of friends, and my cohort was fantastic. We still communicate with each other and most of us have met each other. We are legitimately friends now and this is our network as we continue to support each other throughout our careers. I don’t think I would have had this great support system if I didn’t attend a bootcamp.
What were the other students like in your cohort? Were they all career changers?
Pretty much everyone in my cohort came from a different field, which was refreshing. We had educators, hardware industry workers, entrepreneurs, and scientists. Everyone had their unique perspectives and approaches to different situations, which ended up uniting us and making our projects even better. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone because I wasn’t the only adult on their second career.
Who were your Flatiron School instructors at the bootcamp?
It was a great team that supported us through the process. Our instructors were both product designers outside of the classroom. We also had a cohort lead who made sure we had everything we needed to be successful in the program. Our cohort leader really helped me with my confidence. She made sure we were all proud of our work and she always made a point to help us with our confidence. I’m grateful for that because that’s exactly why I enrolled in a bootcamp.
Did the instructor’s teaching style fit your learning style?
Our instructors made it clear from the beginning that you learn how you learn and I appreciated that they were there for us if we needed help or support. This was different from my college experiences where I felt left behind in the classroom. I appreciated that the bootcamp didn’t follow the traditional way of teaching.
What kinds of projects did you work on?
A lot of the smaller projects were done in groups, where we would collaborate and support each other. The bigger project was done individually, which made it much more colorful and in-depth. This project was based on actual things we would work on as designers.
For our final project, I built an AI content creation app. For this project, we were tasked with making a user interface for technology that only existed in code and we had to come up with a plan to design this. We had a lot of creative freedom of what this AI would do and who it would cater to. We did our own research to see what the best plan of action would be, which was a big step for me. It was the first time I had researched something on my own from beginning to end and had to form an opinion. I then had to present my findings and figure out what I needed to do. That was a big moment for me because I’d never been in a situation where I had that much power over my own thoughts and ideas to a point where people would listen. I was really grateful for that opportunity.
What kind of career services did you get at Flatiron School?
Career services were available to us a few weeks prior to graduating. We had workshops on personal branding and portfolios before graduating, and then we were introduced to a career coach, who I’m working with now.
What kinds of tech jobs do you feel prepared to apply for since graduating?
I feel well equipped and prepared to take on a product design role that involves both UX and UI, which are equally important to me. I feel well-rounded in my abilities to curate solid research and support function design. I thrive in work environments where I have to wear multiple hats.
How did you keep your skills fresh during the job hunt?
The way to keep fresh is to keep in touch with your cohort and lecturers because they will keep you accountable. I practice what I learned at bootcamp every day. I have a friend who is a musician and she practices for four hours every day. She allocates time to practicing scales and things she already knows, and she leaves time to be creative. I thought that was inspiring so I adopted that method to my situation. I learn something new, I practice what I already know, and I’m watching tutorials and videos to keep myself in tip-top shape.
Looking back on this experience, was Flatiron School worth it for you?
I believe it was worth it because if I hadn’t gone to Flatiron School, I would still be applying for healthcare positions right now and I wouldn’t feel like I was ready to work in UX/UI. Since enrolling at Flatiron School, I feel like I have all the tools I need to get into the product design field. I’m always going to be learning and this is just the beginning, but I’m grateful that I got my certificate from Flatiron School, and have the confidence and knowledge to feel like I really belong in this community.
What advice do you have for incoming bootcampers on how to make the most of this product design experience?
Get as much out of this opportunity as you can! I showed up every day and told myself every day was game day. I paid out of pocket so every day I was spending money to be in that learning environment. I was going to extract every single opportunity I could every day.
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